Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

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Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is a Golden Globe-nominated 1985 film. It is the sequel to Mad Max 2 and the third installment in the action movie Mad Max franchise. The film was directed by George Miller and George Ogilvie, and stars Mel Gibson and Tina Turner. The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre.



Driving a camel-powered truck across the desert, Max is attacked by an aircraft pilot, who manages to steal both his belongings and his vehicle. Max walks and finally stumbles upon the only nearby human outpost in the wasteland that remains — the seedy community of Bartertown, founded and nominally run by the ruthless Aunty Entity (Turner), who is implied to have been a prostitute before the apocalypse.

In Bartertown, electricity, vehicles, functioning technology — all almost unheard of in this post-apocalyptic world — are made possible by a crude methane refinery, fueled by pig faeces, using a weathered semi tractor as the electricity generator. The refinery is located under Bartertown and is operated by the smart, diminutive Master, who is harnessed to his enormously strong, but dim-witted bodyguard known as Blaster. Together, "Master Blaster" hold an uneasy power-truce with Entity for control of Bartertown; however, Master is beginning to exploit his position with energy "embargoes," challenging Auntie'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 machinery that powers Bartertown. The controlled chaos of Bartertown is maintained by a set of inflexible laws, including one that states that no deal can be broken, for any reason. The punishment for breaking this law is equally inflexible and invoked with the simple phrase, "bust a deal, face the wheel."

Entity recognizes Max as a resourceful (if disposable) fighter, and strikes a deal with him to provoke a duel with and kill Blaster in the "Thunderdome," a gladiatorial-esque arena where conflicts are resolved, turning what is arguably a political assassination into a lawful act. Max goes to the Underworld, where he befriends a convict who was imprisoned for killing a pig in order to feed his children, and thus nicknamed Pig Killer (Robert Grubb). The rules of matches in the Thunderdome, as chanted by onlookers crowding the arena, are simple and singular — "two men enter, one man leaves." After a stunningly long and difficult match, Max defeats Blaster, but refuses to kill him when he discovers that Blaster is a mentally retarded simpleton with the mind of a young child. An enraged Auntie has Blaster executed and invokes their single law since Max broke his deal with her. The wheel, which serves as a judge and jury, turns out to be a large, spinning metal disc (similar to Wheel of Fortune) with an arrow pointing to one of several consequences. Possible consequences include Death, Hard Labour, Acquittal, Gulag, Aunty's Choice, Spin Again, Forfeit Goods, Underworld, Amputation, and Life Imprisonment. When spun for Max, it lands on "Gulag." He is cast out of Bartertown and exiled to the desert wastes.

The story radically shifts gears at this point. Some time later, Max, near death due to exposure to the hostile conditions, is saved by a group of children. The children, hardened to the desert environment, are survivors (or the children of survivors) of a nearby Australian Airlines Boeing 747 plane crash, and have formed a sort of tribal community in the sheltered desert oasis in which they live. Clinging to their hopes of rescue, they keep their fading memories of the past civilization alive in the form of ritualistic spoken "tells" which hinge on the return of a messianic "Captain Walker" who will repair their shattered aircraft and return them to civilization. The "tell" explains that Flight Captain G.L. Walker took most of the surviving adults to seek help, promising they would be back to rescue the rest. Max's appearance and physical resemblance to Walker make the children believe that he has indeed returned to take them to "Tomorrow-morrow Land," or back to civilization as it once was. After nursing him back to health, they are shocked to hear Max's account of the dystopic state of the world and become angry at his insistence that they all remain living in the relative safety of the oasis, knowing that the only "civilization" within reach is Bartertown.

Some of the children decide to leave anyway, determined to find "Tomorrow-morrow land," the mythic place they believe their parents left them to find. Max goes after them.

The third act begins as Max catches up with them at the outskirts of Bartertown. They sneak in, intent on finding Master. Without Blaster to protect him, the dwarfish Master is little more than Entity's slave. Max and the children free him (with the assistance of Pig Killer, who is also freed), but alert the guards, and a frenetic chase ensues, ending at the hideout of the recurring "pilot" character (played by Bruce Spence, who was also the autogyro Captain from Mad Max 2). Max coerces him to help them escape in the Captain's Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, but there is not enough room for them all. Max stays behind, heroically clearing a path through the pursuing vehicles so the plane has enough runway to take off. Having earned her respect with his bravery, Aunty spares Max's life, but leaves the desert to decide his fate.

The story shifts to many years later, when the much older children are seen in the ruins of a weathered Sydney, lit up by thousands of fires. Savannah, the leader of the children, recites a final "tell" of their journey.

The final shot of the movie is of a figure in the desert (obviously Max) walking toward the horizon and an uncertain future. The staff carried by Max appears to be representative/symbolic of him being a "shepherd" to the lost tribe.

This movie provides additional back story to the original Mad Max and Mad Max 2, showing a nuclear war following the energy crisis referenced in the beginning of Mad Max 2.

Additional scenes

Further scenes that would have fleshed out the character of Max much more than shown in the final movie were cut before international release for the sake of reducing the running time.

1. Max sleeps soundly for the first time in many years in Crack in Earth (the oasis) and wakes up after dreaming of his wife and son, murdered by bikers in the first movie and starts to cry, realizing that he is no better than the "human animals" that he used to hunt as a police officer.

2. Max takes Ghekko (the child from the tribe with the vinyl record tied to a stick) to the top of a sand dune at night, facing the lights of Bartertown and as the boy lies dying, tells him that they have reached Tomorrow-Morrow land and are home.

The first scene is to be found in the novelization, while the second can be glimpsed in the video for the Tina Turner song "We Don't Need Another Hero".


  • Mel Gibson as "Mad" Max Rockatansky
  • Tina Turner as Aunty Entity
  • Bruce Spence as Jedediah the Pilot
  • Adam Cockburn as Jedediah Jr.
  • Frank Thring as The Collector
  • Angelo Rossitto as The Master
  • Paul Larsson as The Blaster
  • Angry Anderson as Ironbar
  • Robert Grubb as Pig Killer
  • Helen Buday as Savannah Nix
  • George Spartels as Blackfinger
  • Edwin Hodgeman as Dr. Dealgood
  • Bob Hornery as Waterseller
  • Andrew Oh as Ton Ton Tattoo
  • Ollie Hall as Aunty's Guard 1
  • Lee Rice as Aunty's Guard 2

Critical Reception

George Miller, director of the first two Mad Max movies, lost interest in the project after his friend and producer Byron Kennedy was tragically killed in a helicopter crash while location scouting. Miller later agreed to direct the action sequences, with George Ogilvie directing the rest of the film. There is a title card at the end that says, "For Byron."

Critical reaction to the film was generally positive, 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. On the other hand, critics praised the Thunderdome scene in particular; critic Roger Ebert 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."


Capitol Records released the soundtrack album in 1985. It included the movie's theme song, Tina Turner's US #2 and UK #3 single "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)".

In addition to the original orchestral score composed by Maurice Jarre and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the album includes Tina Turner's US #2 and UK #3 single "We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)", released the year after her comeback with the Private Dancer album and its series of hit singles. "We Don't Need Another Hero", written and produced by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle who also wrote "What's Love Got to Do with It", appears on the album both as an extended vocal version and an extended instrumental, originally released as the A- and B-sides of the 12" single. The vocal 7" mix has since appeared on the hits compilations Simply The Best in 1991 and All the Best in 2004. The alternate 7" instrumental mix remains unreleased on CD. The song received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song in 1986 and a 1986 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

The second Tina Turner track on the album, "One of the Living" produced by Mike Chapman and composed by Holly Knight - the team behind "Better Be Good To Me" and on the original vinyl album also credited to Knight's band Device - was the follow-up single to "We Don't Need Another Hero" and was then remixed for both the 7" and 12" releases. The 7" Remix, 7" Dub, 12" Special Remix, 12" Dub and 12" Instrumental versions co-produced and mixed by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero all remain unreleased on CD. "One of the Living" won Turner a Grammy Award in 1985 for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.

The Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome album has been re-issued on CD by both Capitol Records, EMI Music, Fuel 2000 and GNP Crescendo, as yet with no bonus tracks.

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