A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
For kids who love sci-fi
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.