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
Produced by George Miller
Written by
  • Terry Hayes
  • George Miller
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by Richard Francis-Bruce
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • 10 July 1985 (1985-07-10)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $36.2 million[2]

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 co-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 after the original film). The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre.

Though uncredited, the film borrows "whole ideas, themes and characterizations" from Riddley Walker, the 1980 post-apocalyptic novel by Russell Hoban.[3]

This is the last film to feature Gibson as Max Rockatansky, who will be replaced by Tom Hardy in the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.[4] It is the first, and currently only, film in the series to be rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America; both previous entries and Fury Road are rated R.


Fifteen years after defeating the Lord Humungus, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) crosses the Australian desert in a camel-drawn wagon when he is attacked by a pilot named Jedediah (Bruce Spence), and his son in a Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, stealing his wagon and belongings. Continuing on foot, Max follows their trail to the seedy community of Bartertown. Max is at first refused entry as he has nothing to trade but, after witnessing Max's quick reflexes and courage, the gatekeeper reconsiders. Max is brought before the founder and ruler of Bartertown, the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner). She offers to resupply his vehicle and equipment if he completes a task for her, and after surviving the "audition" where her guards attack him, decides he's up to it.

Aunty explains that Bartertown depends on a crude methane refinery powered by pig feces. The refinery is run by a dwarf called Master (Angelo Rossitto), and his giant bodyguard Blaster (Paul Larsson). "Master Blaster" holds an uneasy truce with Aunty for control of Bartertown; however, Master has begun to challenge Aunty's leadership. 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 the refinery to size up Master Blaster; befriending Pig Killer (Robert Grubb), a convict sentenced to work for slaughtering a pig to feed his family. Max finds his stolen vehicle in Master Blaster's possession, and helps disarm his booby-trapped engine to converse with him. He 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).

Max faces Blaster and uses his weakness to gain the upper hand. He refuses to kill him after discovering he is developmentally disabled and has the functional mentality of a child, telling Aunty it wasn't part of their deal, revealing her plot. Master is furious, and vows to shut down the refinery, and by extension Bartertown. An enraged Aunty has Blaster executed, and orders Max be punished for breaking the law, by breaking a deal. His punishment is spun upon "The Wheel", and results in him being exiled, to the wasteland. He is bound, masked and sent on a horse in a random direction out of town.

As his horse perishes in the harsh desert climate, Max frees himself and presses on. In Bartertown, the refinery begins to break down and Master is forced to fix it if he wants to avoid being fed to the pigs. Near death, Max is found by a desert dweller named Savannah Nix (Helen Buday), who hauls him back to her home, a primitive community of children and teenagers living in an oasis. The children, survivors of a crashed Qantas Boeing 747, were left by their parents who went to find civilization. They believe Max to be the Flight Captain, returned to fix the plane and fly them to civilization. Max denies being the captain and insists 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 the prophesied "Tomorrow-morrow Land". Max stops them by force, but another tribe member known as Scrooloos (Rod Zuanic), sets them free during the night, and goes off with them. Their leader Slake M'Thirst (Tom Jennings), asks Max to go after them, and he agrees, taking a few of the children to help. They find Savannah's group in danger but are unable to save one of the children from a sand pit. With no supplies left they are forced to head for Bartertown.

They sneak in and with Pig Killer's help free Master and escape in a train-truck, the center of the town's generator, causing explosions heavily damaging Bartertown. Aunty leads the inhabitants in pursuit, catching up to the train. Max's group manages to slow them down while Scrooloos hijacks one of the pursuing vehicles (which turns out to be Max's from the start of the film). The group comes across Jedediah and his son, and Max coerces Jedediah into helping his group escape with their plane. Max uses his vehicle to clear a path through Aunty's men, allowing the plane to take off and escape, leaving him at Aunty's mercy. Aunty spares his life, having come to respect him, and departs.

Jedidiah flies the children (presumably under Max's orders) to the coast, where they discover the decimated ruins of Sydney. Years later, the children have established a small society of themselves and other lost wanderers, and are now living in the ruins. Savannah, now leader of the group, recites a nightly story of their journey and the man who saved them, while Max, still alive in the desert, wanders on to places unknown.


  • Mel Gibson as "Mad" Max Rockatansky, a former MFP officer and lone warrior, Max roves the desert aimlessly, his existence entirely based around self-survival.
  • 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. In regards of the character, Miller said, "We needed someone whose vitality and intelligence would make her control over Bartertown credible. She had to be a positive character rather than a conventional evil 'bad guy.' We had worked on the script with (Turner) in mind. But we had no idea if she'd be interested."[5]
  • Bruce Spence as Jedediah the Pilot
  • 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 film 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 1983 miniseries The Dismissal. They used a group workshopping rehearsal technique that they had developed.[6]

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.[6]


Although the film's budget was more extravagant than its predecessors, its box office yield was only moderate in comparison.[6] Beyond Thunderdome grossed $4,272,802 at the box office in Australia.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reaction to the film was generally positive; it holds an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[8] 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.[9] 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."[10] He awarded the film 4 stars out of 4 and later placed the film on his list of the 10 best pictures of 1985.[11] Variety wrote that film "opens strong" and has good acting from Gibson, Turner, and the children.[12]

American Film Institute lists


Capitol Records originally released the soundtrack album in 1985. It included the film's theme song, 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. Turner'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 Jarre's original music was issued in 2010 on Tadlow Music/Silva Screen Records.

In popular culture[edit]


External links[edit]