Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller, produced by Byron Kennedy, and starring Mel Gibson as "Mad" Max Rockatansky, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, and Roger Ward. James McCausland and Miller wrote the screenplay from a story by Miller and Kennedy. The film presents a tale of societal collapse, murder, and vengeance set in a future Australia, in which a vengeful policeman becomes embroiled in a feud with a vicious motorcycle gang. Principal photography took place in and around Melbourne, Australia, and lasted six weeks.
The film initially received a polarized reception upon its release in April 1979, although it won three AACTA Awards and attracted a cult following, while its critical reputation has grown since. The film earned more than $100 million worldwide in gross revenue. It held the Guinness record for most profitable film from 1980-1999 and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films. The film became the first in a series, giving rise to the sequels Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior (1981), Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Fury Road (2015).
In the not-too-distant future in which society is teetering upon the brink of collapse, berserk motorbike gang member Crawford "Nightrider" Montazano (Vincent Gil) steals a Pursuit Special, which he uses to escape from police custody after killing a rookie officer of an Australian highway patrol called the Main Force Patrol (MFP). Even though he manages to elude other MFP officers, the MFP's top-pursuit man Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) then engages the less-skilled Nightrider in a high-speed chase. He breaks off first, but then is unable to recover his concentration before he and his girlfriend are killed in a fiery crash.
Nightrider's motorbike gang, led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry), run roughshod over a town, vandalizing property, stealing fuel, and terrorizing the population. Max and fellow officer Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) arrest Toecutter's young protégé Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns), who was too high to leave the scene of the gang's rape of a young couple. When neither the rape victims nor any of the townspeople show for Johnny's trial, the federal courts close the case, the attorneys releasing Johnny into Bubba's custody over Goose's furious objections.
While Goose visits a nightclub in the city the next day, Johnny sabotages his police motorbike. After taking a ride and being thrown into a field at high speed uninjured, Goose borrows a ute to haul his damaged bike back to the MFP. However, Johnny throws a brake drum at the windscreen, causing Goose to crash the ute. Toecutter forces Johnny to throw a match into the petrol leaking from the wreck, burning Goose alive. After seeing Goose's charred body in a hospital intensive-care unit, Max becomes disillusioned with the MFP and informs his superior Fifi Macaffee (Roger Ward) that he will resign. Fifi convinces Max to take a vacation first before he can make his final decision about leaving.
While on vacation, Max's wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their infant son Sprog (Brendan Heath) encounter Toecutter and his gang, who attempt to molest Jessie while buying ice cream. Max and his family then flee to a remote farm owned by an elderly friend named May Swaisey (Sheila Florance), but the gang manages to follow them. Jessie and Sprog escape from the gang, only to be run over by them.
With Sprog having been killed instantly and Jessie near death in a hospital ICU, an enraged Max dons his police leathers and takes the supercharged black Pursuit Special from the MFP garage to pursue the gang. He forces several gang members off a bridge at high speed, kills Bubba during an ambush, and chases Toecutter to death by a speeding semi-trailer truck. Max eventually locates Johnny, who is looting a deceased car-crash victim for a pair of boots. In a suppressed rage, Max handcuffs Johnny's ankle to a wrecked vehicle, and sets a crude time-delay fuse involving a slow petrol-leak and Johnny's lighter. Max throws Johnny a hacksaw, leaving him the choice of sawing through either the handcuffs or his ankle in order to escape within the given time-limit. As Max drives away from the bridge, the vehicle explodes, apparently killing Johnny. Now a shell of his former self, Max drives on to points unknown, pushing deep into the Outback.
- Main article: Mad Max (soundtrack)