Mad Max franchise recap and timeline explained

From Mel Gibson to Anya Taylor-Joy, here’s everything to know about Mad Max

Mel Gibson in Mad Max, Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa and Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
Anya Taylor-Joy stars in Furiosa, the latest blockbuster in the Mad Max saga. (Alamy/Warner Bros)

Watch out because Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is speeding onto screens, leaving a scattering of glowing reviews in its wake.

A prequel to George Miller’s storming 2015 reboot Mad Max: Fury Road, this latest rollicking car chase epic follows that film’s metal-armed heroine Furiosa, with Anya Taylor-Joy inheriting a younger version of the same role originally played by Charlize Theron.

Read more: Everything we know about Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

If seeing the trailers for Miller’s latest guzzoline-powered prequel has revved your engine, then you’ll be pleased to discover it’s far from the only Mad Max movie lurking in the cinematic wasteland.

So without further ado, here’s a quick recap of everything that’s happened in the Mad Max franchise so far — from Mel Gibson’s Max to Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa…

Mel Gibson wearing a black leather jacket in the 1979 film Mad Max
Mel Gibson first played Mad Max in 1979. (Alamy)

Set “a few years from now”, Miller’s original Mad Max movie was released in 1979 and featured Gibson as a police officer turned hardened vigilante after a societal collapse and a lack of resources has turned Australia into a feral wasteland. The film is famed for giving us one of Gibson’s earliest breakout roles long before he was a recognised Hollywood name.

Gibson stars as “Mad” Max Rockatansky. As the film progresses, we watch as he tries to maintain order in an increasingly unhinged world. Just when Max feels all is lost, he embarks on a short trip with his wife and young child only to encounter a road gang led by a character named Toecutter who ultimately kidnaps and eventually kills Max’s family.

These events set the scene for a revenge mission, with the remainder of the movie following Max as he tracks down Toecutter and his gang to avenge his murdered family, assisted by his supercharged black V-8 Pursuit Special car.

Mel Gibson wearing a black leather jacket in the 1981 film Mad Max 2
Mad Max 2 was also called The Road Warrior. (Alamy)

Mad Max 2 — or The Road Warrior as it was later titled in places like America — finds Max helping to protect a group of peaceful settlers from a murderous motor gang.

While Max is still haunted by the death of his family in part one, Miller’s second film shares some DNA with movie westerns, with Max eventually rediscovering his empathy and humanity while helping to protect the innocent settlers.

When the wandering gang’s leaders, Lord Humungus and Wes, threaten to take the settlers’ supply of gasoline in exchange for their lives, Max helps the group evade these threats while keeping their supplies intact. By the end of the film, Max has allowed the settlers to establish a peaceful new refuge amid the chaos before disappearing into the dystopia.

Tina Turner wearing a chain mail dress in the 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Tina Turner starred in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. (Alamy)

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome brings singer-turned-actor Tina Turner into the franchise while marking Gibson’s final performance as Max to date. The film was released in 1985 and finds Max forced to make a trip to Bartertown after his vehicle is stolen.

Here, he meets Turner’s Aunty Entity, a leader who tells him he can have his car back if he kills one of her rivals — Master and his ‘muscle’ Blaster who acts as his bodyguard. Master controls a fuel refinery that Aunty wants and so Max sets off on a new quest to fulfil her demands.

Along the way, Max ends up sympathising with Blaster and is eventually cast out into the wasteland by Aunty when he refuses to kill him. Here, he meets a group of young survivors searching for a fabled oasis and eventually helps Master and the youthful tribe to outsmart Aunty and gain access to the refinery and its energy, allowing them to establish a new community. Despite his efforts, Max refuses to join them, confirming his status as a lone Road Warrior.

Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom Hardy took over from Mad Max in Fury Road. (Warner Bros.)

Released 30 years after Beyond Thunderdome, Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road serves as a franchise rewiring that sees Tom Hardy take the role of Mad Max from Gibson.

It also introduced us to Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, another wasteland loner who is forced to rely on Max’s assistance to help rescue a group of women from the stranglehold of a warlord.

Read more: What happened between Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy on Mad Max: Fury Road set?

The enemy warlord is known as Imortan Joe and he controls many of the resources that the population of his citadel rely on. When he discovers that Furiosa is attempting to smuggle his imprisoned ‘wives’ to an idyllic oasis and place of freedom, Joe pours all of his might and many war vehicles into tracking her down and bringing them back.

Hardy’s Max is haunted by the people who he has failed to protect and spots an opportunity for redemption by helping Furiosa in her fight against Joe. While they ultimately succeed, Max once again refuses to join them in their new paradise home, instead choosing a life of solitude.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga will be released in cinemas and IMAX on Friday, 24 May