Mad Max (1979) Story Recap – George Miller’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece

Mad Max

Furiosa, the prequel to the Mad Max movies, is in theatres at the time of writing so there is perhaps no better time than now to look back on the movie that spawned the action-packed franchise.

George Miller’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece stars Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky, a former police officer who seeks revenge on a vicious biker gang after his wife and child are murdered. 

The movie isn’t as balls-to-the-wall-crazy as the sequels that followed but it’s still fondly remembered, not least for Mel Gibson’s breakout performance as the lone wanderer nobody should want to mess with.

Below is a story recap for Mad Max. 

Mad Max Story Recap

Australia: The near future.

Fuel is scarce and there is a breakdown in law and order. 

Crawford “Nightrider” Montazano, a rogue member of a motorcycle bike gang, kills a rookie police officer working for the MFP (Main Force Patrol). He then flees from police custody with his girlfriend, using the dead officer’s car to make his escape.

Unluckily for him, Max Rockatansky, a member of MFP, is on his tail. After an adrenaline-filled chase, the lowlife crashes into a roadblock and perishes along with his girlfriend. 

That’s one gang member dead but there are still others out there, including Toecutter and Bubba Zanetti,  who vandalise properties and terrorise the people of the local town.

When the bikers torments one young couple, Max and his partner Goose arrive at the scene. They manage to apprehend Toecutter and his protege, Johnny the Boy, but the cretins escape jail time when nobody will stand as witnesses to their crimes. 

What happens to Goose?

One night, Goose’s bike is sabotaged by Johnny, causing it to lock up at high speed the next day. Goose is thrown off his bike but manages to survive.

When Goose tries to make it back to headquarters in a car, he is attacked by Johnny and Toecutter who cause him to drive off the road. He crashes, causing petrol to spill out of the vehicle. Toecutter urges a reluctant Johnny to throw a match into the leaking fuel. He does so and sets the car on fire, trapping Goose within. 

Goose survives the incident but is badly burned as a consequence of the fire. After seeing his friend in hospital, Max is enraged – hence the term Mad Max – and contemplates quitting the police force. However, his superior, Captain Fred “Fifi” Macaffee, convinces him to take time off work and go on vacation instead.

Does Max have a peaceful vacation?

Erm…no! Max goes on a road trip with his wife Jessie and young son. When he stops to fix his tyre, Jessie runs into Toecutter and his gang. She tries to flee with her son but in a tragic turn of events, she and her boy are run down by the gang before Max can help them. 

The boy is killed and Jessie is rendered comatose. She is taken to the ICU but there’s little chance of her surviving her injuries. 

Now Max is really mad!! He dons his police leathers and sets off in his powerful black Pursuit Special in pursuit of the gang members. 

Does Max catch up with the gang?

Max hunts down and eliminates the gang members, one by one. After killing several of them, he is caught in a trap set by Toecutter, Bubba and Tony. 

Bubba shoots Max in the leg and then drives over his arm. But Max, who is determined not to be written out of the sequels, retaliates by shooting Bubba with a sawn-off shotgun. 

Toecutter and Johnny flee the scene with Max in hot pursuit. Eventually, Max catches up with Toecutter who he forces into the path of an oncoming truck.

Max then begins his search for Johnny and finds him at the scene of a car wreck. Max handcuffs one of Johnny’s feet to the car and then creates a time-delay fuse using Johnny’s cigarette lighter and the leaking fuel. 

Max gives Johnny a way out. He hands him a hacksaw and tells him he can either saw through the handcuffs or his ankle to be set free. How thoughtful! 

Of course, Johnny doesn’t have a lot of time to work through either option. As Max drives away after completing his revenge-fuelled mission, the fuse detonates and Johnny is killed.


Read More: Mad Max 2 Story Recap

Are you a fan of Mad Max? Did we miss out any vital plot details? Let us know in the comments below.

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