Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Mad max beyond thunderdome.jpg
Original theatrical release poster by Richard Amsel
Directed by George Miller
George Ogilvie
Produced by Terry Hayes
George Miller
Doug Mitchell
Written by Terry Hayes
George Miller
Starring Mel Gibson
Tina Turner
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 10, 1985 (1985-07-10)
Running time
107 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $36,230,219[1]

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (also known as Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome or simply Mad Max 3) is a 1985 Australian post-apocalyptic action adventure film directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie, written by Miller and Terry Hayes and starring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. It is the third installment in the action movie Mad Max series, its story taking place 15 years after that of the previous film (20 years after the original film). The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre. This is the last film to feature Mel Gibson as Mad Max, who will be replaced by Tom Hardy in the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.[2]


Twenty years have passed since Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) avenged his family, and fifteen since he defeated the Lord Humungus. While riding a camel-drawn wagon across the Australian desert, Max is attacked by Jedediah (Bruce Spence), a pilot flying a Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, and his son, who steal his belongings and vehicle. Continuing on foot, Max follows a trail of his personal items left behind by his pet monkey, still on board the stolen vehicle.

The trail leads Max to the seedy community of Bartertown, the only active community in the Wasteland. Max is at first refused entry by The Collector, the gatekeeper of Bartertown, as he has nothing left to trade, but after witnessing Max's quick reflexes, and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds, he reconsiders. The Collector, and head of the guards Ironbar, bring Max before the founder and ruler of Bartertown, the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner). She offers him a complete resupply of his vehicle and equipment for if he completes a certain task for her, but seems skeptical of him, calling Max "just a raggedy man". After Max completes a deadly "audition", in which Ironbar, The Collector and Aunty's guards ambush him, Aunty deems him worthy, and explains her offer:

In Bartertown, electricity, vehicles, and functioning technology depend on a crude methane refinery fueled by pig feces. The refinery is located in the Underworld area beneath Bartertown and is operated by the diminutive Master, who is carried around by his enormously strong, steel-masked bodyguard, Blaster. "Master Blaster" holds an uneasy truce with Aunty for control of Bartertown. Master, however, is beginning to exploit his position with energy "embargoes," challenging Aunty's leadership. She is furious with him but cannot challenge him publicly, as Master is the only one with the technical know-how to operate the refinery.

Aunty instructs Max to provoke a confrontation with Blaster in Thunderdome, a gladiatorial arena where conflicts are resolved by a duel to the death. Max enters Underworld as a worker in order to get a look at Master Blaster up close; here he also befriends Pig Killer, a convict sentenced to life working in Underworld, for slaughtering a pig to feed his family. Max finds his stolen vehicle in Master Blaster's possession, and in order to get a conversation with them, he helps them disarm his booby-trapped engine. While doing so, Max discovers that Blaster is exceptionally strong, but extremely sensitive to high-pitched noises (the alarm on his booby trap bomb, as well as a high-pitched whistle Max carries).

The rules of Thunderdome, as chanted by onlookers crowding the arena, are simple: "Two men enter, one man leaves." After a difficult match with various weapons, Max defeats Blaster by using his whistle to throw him off-balance, and then hitting him in the head with a sledgehammer. However, upon discovering that beneath the helmet, Blaster has a developmental disability and the functional mentality of a child, he refuses to kill him, claiming to Aunty that "This wasn't part of the deal". Master is furious at this revelation, and vows to shut down Underworld, and by extension, Bartertown. An enraged Aunty has Ironbar execute Blaster, and as the crowd turns on her in favor of freeing Max, she invokes the law against him, since he broke his agreement with her: "Bust a deal, face the Wheel." The Wheel is divided into sections, marked with outcomes that range from acquittal to death; when spun for Max, it stops on "Gulag," meaning exile to the desert wasteland. He is placed on a horse, his head is covered to disorient him, and he is sent out of Bartertown on a random course.

Pig Killer, sympathizing with Max, manages to get hold of Max's pet monkey, and sends it out into the desert after him, with a canteen of water. As Max's horse perishes in the harsh desert climate, he frees himself and tries to press on. Max's monkey does manage to find him, and the water he brings keeps him going a little further. Back in Bartertown, the methane refinery is breaking down, and Ironbar brutalizes Master to force him to fix the machine, which he eventually agrees to do, out of fear of being fed to the pigs.

Some time later, Max—now near death from exposure—is found by a desert dweller named Savannah Nix, and she hauls him back to her home, occupied by a group of children and teenagers. The children, hardened to the desert environment, are descendants of the survivors of a nearby crashed Qantas Boeing 747; they have formed a tribe in a sheltered oasis. As they examine the unconscious Max, one of the kids attempts to use a "sonic", believing it to be some kind of communication device, to contact Max and wake him up. In reality, it is a vinyl record attached to a stick, which they spin, and attempt to use a patch-together headset to talk to him. After being nursed back to health, Max wakes up, confused and disoriented by his new surroundings, and the children's leader, named Slake M'Thirst, refers to Max as "Captain Walker". Believing Max's confusion to be him testing them to see if they have "been slack" or not, they organize everyone to prove they have not been.

To keep their memories of the past civilization alive, the group passes the information on in the form of spoken "tells," which include the return of the messianic "Captain Walker" who will repair the aircraft and return them to civilization. The "tell" explains that the original group of survivors had been aboard the plane, and that a nuclear bomb detonation (or "Pockyclypse" as the children call it) in the city brought the plane down in the desert. Flight Captain G.L. Walker led the survivors to the canyon, and they set up a primitive society. At some point though, the group became restless, and abandoned their children to seek out civilization, with Walker lying to them that he would return. They never did though. Believing Max to be Walker, the children beg him to take them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land", but are shocked that Max insists he is not only not Captain Walker, but that they remain in the relative safety of the oasis, knowing that the only "civilization" within reach is Bartertown.

Some of the children, led by Savannah, decide to leave anyway, determined to find "Tomorrow-morrow Land". Max stops them by force, but a strange member of the tribe, known as Scrooloos, sets them free during the night, and goes off with them. Slake asks Max to go after them, and he agrees, taking a few of the children with him as trackers and hunters. Max's group catches up to find Savannah's group in danger, and one of the children is lost to a sand pit before he can reach them. As night falls, they spot the lights of Bartertown, and with no supplies left, and no other options, they head for it.

They sneak in, and Max explains that they need to rescue Master, because "he's got the knowing of a lot of things". Max and the children free him, with Pig Killer's help, but the guards are alerted and give chase as the heroes escape in Master's train-truck, which had been the center of the town's generator. Ripping the train free results in a series of explosions in the methane refinery, and Bartertown is heavily damaged, prompting Aunty to organize the fleeing inhabitants to chase down and retrieve Master.

As the train speeds away, the children find out that the "sonic" is just an old French learning record by placing it on Master's record player. As Aunty's men catch up to the train, Max manages to keep Master out of her hands, Scrooloos hijacks one of the pursuing vehicles (which turns out to be Max's from the start of the film), and Max detaches the rear train car with Aunty and her men on board. This slows them down considerably, since they have to stop the train car and re-organize, but soon after their escape, the train is forced to stop by Jedidiah's son. Having set up a blockade on the tracks to rob people, he tries to stick them up, but flees as he sees the approaching attackers. Following the boy back home, Max coerces Jedediah to help them escape in his plane, but as they bring the plane around to the runway, they discover that there is too much weight, and not enough runway between them and the attackers' vehicles. Luckily, Scrooloos arrives just in time, driving Max's vehicle Ford F-150. Max dumps all the extra weight off the plane, and then uses his vehicle as a battering ram in front of the plane. He plays chicken with Ironbar, and neither man swerves to avoid the collision, with Max's vehicle ripping right through Ironbar's, and Max leaping to safety at the last moment. The plan works, and the plane has the extra few yards it needs to take off. Aunty finds Max, battered but alive, and her men draw weapons on him. She simply laughs, and spares his life, having come to respect him. Before departing with her men, presumably to start over, her last words to Max are: "Well, aint we a pair... Raggedy man".

Jedidiah flies the children (presumably under Max's orders) to the coast, where they discover the decimated ruins of "Tomorrow-morrow Land", which is actually Sydney.

Years later, the children have established a small society of not only themselves, but other lost wanderers, and are now living in the ruins, now lit up by hundreds of fires and lights. Savannah, now the leader of the children, recites a nightly "tell" of their journey, and the man who saved them as Max, still alive in the desert, wanders on to places unknown.


  • Tina Turner as Aunty Entity, the ruthless, determined ruler of Bartertown. Entity is a glamorous, Amazon-like figure who recognizes a strength of character in Max, and hopes to exploit him in order to gain sole control of Bartertown from Master. Despite her brutality and Bartertown's chaos, Entity is an intelligent, cultured woman, who holds a hope of one day rebuilding society to its former glory.
  • Adam Cockburn as Jedediah Jr., Jedediah's son, who often helps his father steal supplies, flying his dad's plane whilst Jedediah procures the goods.
  • Frank Thring as The Collector, head of Bartertown's trade and exchange network.
  • Angelo Rossitto as Master, a diminutive former engineer, who parlays his technical expertise into building the methane extractor responsible for Bartertown's electricity. When the film begins, Master has grown power-crazed under the protection of Blaster, and the reverence he receives from the people of Bartertown. Frequently humiliates Entity into acknowledging his power over her. When Blaster is killed however, Master becomes a far more subdued, humble character, and eventually escapes with the help of Max, Pig Killer, and the children.
  • Paul Larsson as Blaster, Master's silent, mentally-impaired bodyguard.
  • Angry Anderson as Ironbar Bassey, head of Bartertown's security and Aunty Entity's Number One Henchman. Despite his short height he is a fierce warrior figure, wearing a doll's head standard on his back, who comes to dislike Max more and more as the film proceeds. After several near-death incidents where his survival becomes more and more unlikely, he is eventually "killed" in the film's climatic chase sequence, though he is last seen giving the middle finger to the escaping heroes, so his ultimate fate is unknown.
  • Robert Grubb as Pig Killer, a convict in Bartertown sentenced to work in the methane refinery, shoveling pig feces. He befriends Max, and when Max and the children return to rescue Master, Pig Killer escapes to help them.
  • Helen Buday as Savannah Nix, leader of a tribe of child survivors (or the children of those survivors) from a crashed 747. Savannah is the one who ensures the tribe remembers its past through the "tells," and acts as a surrogate mother figure to many of them. She is also the partner of Slake.
  • Tom Jennings as Slake M'Thirst, the male leader of the child tribe.
  • Edwin Hodgeman as Dr. Dealgood, the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies and chief auctioneer of Bartertown.


The film was the first Mad Max movie made without producer Byron Kennedy who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1983. There is a title card at the end that says, "...For Byron".

Miller co-directed with George Ogilvie with whom he had worked on The Dismissal (1983) mini series. They used a group workshopping rehearsal technique that they had developed.[3]

The main location was at the mining town of Coober Pedy with the set for Bartertown built at an old brickworks in Sydney's western suburbs, and the children's camp shot at the Blue Mountains.[3]


Although the film's budget was more extravagant than its film series predecessors, its box office yield was only moderate in comparison[3] but critical reaction to the film was generally positive, it holds an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[4] although reviewers were mixed regarding whether they considered the film the highest or lowest point of the Mad Max trilogy. Most of the criticism was focused on the children in the second half of the film, which many felt was too reminiscent of the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.[5] On the other hand, critics praised the Thunderdome scene in particular; film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the Thunderdome "the first really original movie idea about how to stage a fight since we got the first karate movies" and praised the fight between Max and Blaster as "one of the great creative action scenes in the movies."[6] He awarded the film 4 stars out of 4 and later placed the film on his list of the 10 best pictures of 1985.[7]

American Film Institute Lists


Capitol Records originally released the soundtrack album in 1985. It included the movie's theme song, Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)", which reached #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S. and #3 in the British single charts; it plays over the end credits. Tina's "One Of The Living", which plays over the opening credits, was rerecorded for single release, and reached #15 in both Canada and the U.S., but only #55 in Britain. A double CD containing only Maurice Jarre's original music was issued in 2010 on Tadlow Music/Silva Screen Records.

In popular culture[edit]

Box office[edit]

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome grossed $4,272,802 at the box office in Australia.[10]


External links[edit]