Mad Max

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Mad Max Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Outlandish post-apocalyptic action is too brutal for kids.
  • R
  • 1979
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 24 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The point of Mad Max is to rile up its viewers with outlandish portrayals of extreme violence. The bad guys seem to outnumber the good guys, and just about anything goes. The bad guys never seem to regret or reconsider their behavior. In fact, the crazier they are, the more followers they seem to have. The good guys do their job as if it's only a matter of time before they're killed; it's a rather hopeless movie under its good-time surface. The hero tries to get away from it all with his wife and child, but he is severely punished for thinking that there's a way out from all the violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

In spite of the overwhelming violence and hopelessness of this post-apocalyptic future, Max is a decent role model, if you can overlook the fact that his job requires high-speed chases, guns, and a great deal of violence. At home, he is very loving with his wife and child, and when things begin to get tough, his first thought is to try and protect them. When he quits his job he does it while he is still on the right side, and before he becomes just as bad as the maniacs he's trying to stop. Unfortunately, his last act in the movie's final ten minutes is violent, cruel revenge on those who wronged him.


A collection of extreme, over-the-top comic-book-type violence is slightly tempered by several scenes of the hero's blissful, relaxing home life. But during the violent parts, we get any number of car chases and crashes, guns, severed limbs, and gory corpses. A man is burned alive inside a car. A motorcycle runs over someone's arm. A bad guy shoots Mad Max through the leg. In what looks like a failed attempt at a stunt, a moving motorcycle actually smacks a man in the head. Rape is suggested but not shown. Children are sometimes in danger.


A naked couple has sex, but seen only from a distance, through a rifle scope. Mad Max and his wife kiss and cuddle on the shore, while Max is shirtless. A young couple is seen waking up in the back seat of a car, half dressed (no nudity). We see one naked male derriere. Some of the bad guys pretend to make love to a store mannequin.


A fairly frequent and assorted use of foul language, including at least one "f--k" and at least one "s--t." Other words include "asshole," "bitch," "bastard," and "Christ." It should be noted that the hero does not use foul language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Max enjoys a small glass of beer at home. Characters are briefly seen smoking and drinking in a cabaret.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this 1979 movie is a celebration and an onslaught of intense, cartoonish violence, though it's probably a bit tamer than some of today's films. The hero, Mad Max (Mel Gibson) is actually a good and kind soul with a loving family that he goes home to at the end of a long day of high-speed chases and shootouts. But he's outnumbered by the evil, sadistic people in this post-apocalyptic world, and despite the dark laughs and adrenaline bursts the movie inspires, the movie presents a more or less hopeless vision of the future. The laughs and cheers stop when characters are raped or burned alive, and the hero's "reward" for trying to be with his family is a terrible punishment; he spends the movie's last ten minutes seeking brutal revenge.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRadio Dask March 14, 2015

Not deserving of R rating (Star Wars-like violence)

This is a checklist of things your child should be/have done to be (in my opinion) ready for this movie.
He/She should:

-Understand that killing people is bad... Continue reading
Adult Written byDr3w November 9, 2011

Why Would You Want Your Kids to See This Anyway?

The R rating says Restricted Under 17 Unless Accompanied by a guardian. This film is not appropriate for children. I'm sorry, it's just not. They w... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byW0PR May 12, 2016

A meaning filled movie about keeping your humanity, losing family, and revenge

This movie is quite good and made well on a low budget. Max is a Good Cop and puts out many positive messages even though he gets mad and unleashes his fury thr... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byNo Name, for real. March 25, 2012

What's the story?

A lunatic called "Night Rider" breaks loose in a stolen cop car and leads several futuristic law enforcement agents on a high-speed wild goose chase. His eventual death brings a much larger gang of sadistic followers to town, where they wreak havoc and pose a threat to Max (Mel Gibson) and his colleague Goose (Steve Bisley). After the bad guys burn Goose alive, Max decides to take his wife (Joanne Samuel) and young son away, but the family soon finds itself face-to-face with the villainous gang. One hideous act later, and Max hits the road in a souped-up car, seeking his violent revenge.

Is it any good?

Mad Max is a memorable, groundbreaking low-budget exploitation hit that established a certain set of rules for action movies and inspired many sequels and knock-offs. Today, it's perhaps more interesting historically than it is aesthetically. Certain sequences still dazzle, and Miller's close-to-the-street cinematography captures the thrill of speed in highly effective way, but the film doesn't really establish the rules of its post-apocalyptic future, and it's too uneven in tone; the scenes of cartoonish violence are a lot more interesting than the idyllic home life images of Max and his family.

It's the least of the trilogy; the sequel, The Road Warrior, is darker and more streamlined, with a more sustained atmosphere, and the third film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, is more imaginative and fantasy-based.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the general lawlessness and violence of this post-apocalyptic future. Does it look like fun? Or is it a little scary? If you were Max, would you have tried to go away with your family as well?

  • This movie is known for its over-the-top violence, before the heydey of such films. What other movies can you think of like this today?

  • Are there any acts of kindness in the film? How are they received?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate