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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Max enjoys a small glass of beer at home. Characters are briefly seen smoking and drinking in a cabaret.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.