Director: George Miller (Australia)
The debut film of former medical student George Miller, Mad Max is credited with bringing Australia’s New Wave to the attention of the world.
Made for less than $500,000, the film divided critics but went on to gross more than $100m and become the most profitable film ever, until overtaken by The Blair Witch Project in 1999.
In his first screen role, a clear-eyed, leather-clad Mel Gibson plays cop Max Rockatansky, patrolling a near-future Australia where oil is scarce and people are fighting over the scant remaining resources.
When his wife and child are killed by a violent biker gang who maraud their way through a small Outback town, Max hits the highway in an attempt to exact a brutal revenge.
Miller famously said he made Mad Max as a silent film with sound and, with cinematographer David Eggby, he captured the vastness of the Australian outback, setting the benchmark for depicting dystopian war-ravaged vistas in all their awful glory on the big screen.
Max’s descent into madness is mirrored by the collapse of society around him, which escalates in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
And by Miller’s 2015 chapter Mad Max: Fury Road, there is little left that is green, good or civil in the world. This latest film also further explores the 70-year-old Miller’s interest in gender and environmental issues; seeds that were sown successfully in the first film nearly 40 years ago.