Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller, written by Miller and Byron Kennedy over the original script by James McCausland, starring Mel Gibson. It became a top-grossing Australian film, holding the Guinness record for most profitable film for decades and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films. It was also the first Australian film to be shot with a widescreen anamorphic lens. The first film in the series, Mad Max spawned sequels Mad Max 2 in 1981 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985. A fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road starring actor Tom Hardy as Max, is currently in production.
In a dystopic future Australia, after the Earth's oil supplies are nearly exhausted, law and order has begun to break down due to energy shortages. On the deserted roads of the Australian desert, motorcycle gangs have been settling, disrupting the remaining population and looting and stealing fuel, so a Main Force Patrol (MFP) has been created to take control of the highways.
Berserk motorcycle gang member, Crawford Montizano called "Nightrider", was arrested for a rampage in Sun City, then killed a MFP officer while in police custody and stole a Pursuit Special V8 (Holden Monaro) and ran away with his girlfriend. A unit consisting of Sarse and Scuttle follow him.
Meanwhile, officers Charlie and Roop are on break when called to the pursuit. While Charlie drives, Roop prepares his rifle in order to shoot Nightrider, but he spots them and brakes in panic, causing them to spin off the road. They quickly return to the pursuit, but with Roop at the wheel now. Soon after, Jim "Goose," a top MFP motorcycle driver, joins the pursuit. Another crash takes place with Roop and Charlie spinning again. They continue on in a badly damaged car untl a small child running on the road distracts the officers, resulting in Scuttle spinning his car up ahead, and Roop driving through an camper being stuck at the middle of the road, causing Charlie to slice his throat. Goose also crashes into the truck, but only with minor injuries.
Left with no options, Goose calls Max Rockatansky, the top MFP driver, to stop him, while Nightrider provokes him, calling him a "bronze" (a slang for a police officer) and himself "a fuel-injected suicide machine". Being far away from Nightrider, he positions himself on the road as he approaches, then engages him into a game of chicken. Nightrider panicks, and starts to weep in desperation. Max rams him a couple of times, and they arrive to a rig stuck on the road. Max manages to stop in time, but Nightrider crashes into a rig, exploding and killing him and his girlfriend.
Some time later, Nightrider's motorcycle gang, called the Zed Runners, led by Toecutter and Bubba Zanetti, is running roughshod over a town, vandalising property, stealing fuel and terrorising the populace, and they have arrived to the town for Nightrider's funeral. A young couple notices them, and seeing trouble, they skip town and leave away in their 50's hot-rod, but Bubba notices them. The gang chases the couple and ram them off the road. They vandalize and destroy the car, strip both of them, beat up the man and rape both the man and his girlfriend. Max and Goose find them, with the girl badly injured, and the guy running away in the field almost naked. They also find Johnny "The Boy", who was too high to leave on his bike, and arrest him. When the surviving girlfriend is a no show, with no witnesses appearing, the courts throw the case out and Johnny is released. An angry Goose is restrained while he and Johnny exchange violent threats. After Bubba Zanetti drags Johnny away, MFP Captain Fred "Fifi" Macaffee tells his officers to do whatever it takes to apprehend the gangs, "so long as the paperwork's clean."
A short time later, Johnny sabotages Goose's motorcycle to lock up at high speed and toss its rider off. Though Goose is unharmed, he borrows a ute to haul his damaged bike back. However, Johnny and Toecutter are waiting in ambush with the former throwing a brake drum at Goose's windscreen. After it crashes, with Goose unable to get out of it and being pressured by Toecutter, Johnny throws a match into the gasoline leaking from the wrecked ute. Though he survived with massive disfiguring burns, Goose eventually died from his wounds at the hospital.
After seeing Goose's charred body, Max becomes disillusioned with the MFP and the fear of losing his sanity convinces him to resign, but Fifi talks Max into taking a holiday before making his final decision about the resignation. Max also reports this to Jessie, his wife, at the remote farm where they live, who is happy with his decision so they could take care of their young baby son, and Max eventually decides to quit the force and relocate up north, away from the gangs.
While Max is away to buy supplies from a mechanic while on their way north, Jessie and her infant encounter Toecutter's gang, who attempt to rape her. She flees, but the gang learn of their destination from the mechanic and attack them at a remote farm owned by an elderly friend named May. Though Jessie attempts to flee with her son on foot, Max finds Jessie and son run over by the gang's bikes. With his son killed instantly and Jessie near death, a rage-filled Max dons his police leathers and turns vigilante. He takes a supercharged black Pursuit Special (Ford XB Falcon) from the MFP storage to pursue the gang.
After torturing the mechanic for information, and forcing several of the gang off a bridge at high speed, Max methodically hunts down the gang's leading members: killing Bubba Zanetti at point blank range with a shotgun and forcing Toecutter into the path of a semi-trailer truck, killing them both. Johnny manages to drive away.
Max eventually finds Johnny looting a car crash victim he presumably murdered for a pair of boots. In a cold, suppressed rage, Max handcuffs the pleading Johnny's ankle to the wrecked vehicle and sets a crude time-delay fuse involving a slow fuel leak and Johnny's lighter. Throwing Johnny a hacksaw, Max leaves him the choice of sawing through either the handcuffs (which will take ten minutes) or his ankle (which will take five minutes). Max casually drives away with Johnny's fate unknown after the vehicle explodes. Now a shell of his former self, Max drives on to points unknown, going deep into the outback.
- Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky
- Joanne Samuel as Jessie Rockatansky
- Hugh Keays-Byrne as Toecutter
- Steve Bisley as Jim "Goose"
- Tim Burns as Johnny the Boy
- Geoff Parry as Bubba Zanetti
- Roger Ward as "Fifi" Macaffee
- David Bracks as Mudguts
- Bertrand Cadart as Clunk
- Stephen Clark as Sarse
- Brendan Heath as Sprog Rockatansky
- Mathew Constantine as Toddler
- Jerry Day as Ziggy
- Howard Eynon as Diabando
- Max Fairchild as Benno
- John Farndale as Grinner
- Sheila Florence as May Swaisey
- Nic Gazzana as Starbuck
- Paul Johnstone as Cundalini
- Vincent Gil as The Nightrider
- Steve Millichamp as "Roop"
- John Ley as "Charlie"
- George Novak as "Scuttle"
- Reg Evans as the station master
- Nico Lathouris as Car mechanic