I Rank Everything – The Mad Max Movie Series

The Road Warrior is one of my favorite movies and even watching it recently made me see that it’s not just nostalgia. For a movie well over 30 years old it has held up remarkably well. The latest movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, is one of the few movies I’ve made the effort of catching while it was in the theater. So how did they rate with me?

#4 Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome
Overall Assessment: Entertaining
After the Road Warrior this was a somewhat disappointing follow-up that had a silly and overly long subplot involving a bunch of kids. Trying to do Lord of the Flies in the Apocalypse isn’t really what I want in a Mad Max movie. If it weren’t for that gap in the movie, I think this would have been better. The problem is they kept teasing a different movie than what this turned out to be. Max was ridiculously heavily armed in the beginning and looked ready to kick all kinds of butt. Instead he spends most of the movie disarmed and involved with intrigue that doesn’t suit his character. Looking back on it I think the movie maybe doesn’t get enough credit, but it was too radical a departure from the Road Warrior.
Favorite Moment: Max disarming.
Worst Moment: Those dang kids!

#3 Mad Max
Overall Assessment: Entertaining
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t in love with Mad Max. The movie is definitely a product of its time and doesn’t hold up well compared to more recent movies. It’s a good freshman effort for George Miller and deserved a follow-up, but it’s clearly his entry level into bigger things. I do think it deserves to be held up as a classic in its own right, but for sheer enjoyment it’s not high on my list. While the sequels don’t always hold to a strict continuity, this is the movie that sets up the mythos that the rest follow.
Favorite Moment: Max taking the Pursuit Special out for the first time.
Worst Moment: I know it’s considered a classic, but the eye-pop was over-the-top.

#2 Mad Max: Fury Road
Overall Assessment: This is Actually a Pretty Good Movie!
From the trailers I thought this had a shot at dethroning The Road Warrior as my favorite of the series. It didn’t quite get there, but it’s still an awesome movie in its own regard. The much larger budget and more advanced technology gives it an edge, but the stakes are oddly not as high as they’ve been before.

I have to give the movie big props to keeping to the classic Mad Max character even with a new actor. He doesn’t really want to be involved but gets pulled into a conflict anyway and ends up saving the day. There is just a ton of over-the-top craziness in this movie and it all works without getting too bogged down with ridiculous details or distracting CGI.
Favorite Moment: The final chase with Max jumping from vehicle to vehicle
Worst Moment: “Former captive decides they were better off imprisoned” cliché!

#1 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
Overall Assessment: This is Actually a Pretty Good Movie!
I love this movie because when they aren’t fighting, chasing, or blowing things up, then it is moments of sheer desperation. The movie just has this ongoing tension so there is very little time to relax. I prefer a movie that keeps me engaged and never lets me get bored, and this does it well without beating me over the head. Not only do I consider this the best movie of the series, but it’s the movie by which I measure all apocalyptic films.
Favorite Moment: The final reveal. Once you see it, it is obvious, but they still did a good job of keeping it from the audience.
Worst Moment: Man, they showed just enough of that rape to be really uncomfortable. Yuck.

Definitions –
This is Actually a Pretty Good Movie!
Movie is actually well done and well acted. It’s no Oscar winner but still has cinematic merit and was enjoyable.

Guilty Pleasure
I define a guilty pleasure as a movie that I acknowledge is not a good movie but I enjoyed it anyway. These are some of my favorite movies though they will never top films that are both well done and entertaining.

Not a great film and probably what most people define as a “popcorn flick”. I might enjoy it enough to watch it more than once but it is not going to be considered great cinema by anyone.

Probably entertaining but not something I’ll watch again. Usually a movie I watched to say that I have seen it or part of a film series that I want to complete.

Barely Watchable
I didn’t fall asleep but probably left disappointed. The film had some entertainment value but was either forgettable or had some many inconsistencies that I find myself questioning its internal logic for days after seeing it.