Mad Max 2 (also known as The Road Warrior and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior) is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film written and directed by George Miller. The film is the second installment in the Mad Max film series, with Mel Gibson starring as Max Rockatansky. The film's tale of a community of settlers moved to defend themselves against a roving band ofmarauders follows an archetypal "Western" frontier movie motif, as does Max's role as a hardened man who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers. Filming took part in locations around Broken Hill, in the outback of New South Wales.
Mad Max 2 was released on 24 December 1981, and received ample critical acclaim. Observers praised the visuals and Gibson's role. Noteworthy elements of the film also include cinematographer Dean Semler's widescreen photography of Australia's vast desert landscapes; the sparing use of dialogue throughout the film; costume designer Norma Moriceau's punkmohawked, leather bondage gear-wearing bikers; and its fast-paced, tightly edited and violent battle and chase scenes. The film's comic-book post-apocalyptic/punk style popularised the genre in film and fiction writing. It was also a box office success and received six nominations at the Saturn Award ceremony, including Best Director for Miller, Best Actor for Gibson, Best Supporting Actor for Spence and Best Writing for Miller, Hayses and Hannant, winning Best International Film. Eventually, Mad Max 2 developed into a cult film: fan clubs and "road warrior"-themed activities continue into the 21st century. The film was followed by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, with a fourth film in the series, Mad Max: Fury Road, slated for release in 2013.
In a post-apocalyptic setting, following a global war and the collapse of civilization after Earth's oil supplies are nearly exhausted, barbaric anarchy has become the world's everyday law.Maximillian "Mad Max" Rockatansky, traumatised by the death of his family, roams the desert in a scarred, black supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food and petrol. His only companions are an Australian Cattle Dog, and a rare functioning firearm – a sawn-off shotgun – for which ammunition is very scarce.
After driving off a gang of marauders led by the unhinged biker warrior Wez, Max collects the petrol from one of their wrecked vehicles and moves on to check a nearby autogyro for fuel. The autogyro is boobytrapped, but Max overpowers the pilot hiding nearby; in exchange for his own life, the pilot tells Max about a small oil refinery nearby in the wasteland. Max arrives just as the marauders, a motley collection of cars and motorbikes, besiege the compound. Their leader, a large, muscular man with a hockey mask over his disfigured face called "The Humungus," tries to convince the settlers to surrender the facility in exchange for safe passage out of his territory.
A group of settlers attempt to break out of the compound, but the marauders capture, torture, rape and kill them. Max makes a deal with the mortally-wounded sole survivor: he will bring the settler back to the compound in exchange for a tank of petrol. The man dies shortly after Max returns him, and the settlers' leader, named Pappagallo, reneges on the deal; the settlers are on the verge of killing Max when the marauders return, and Humungus repeats his offer. Max offers Pappagallo another deal: he will retrieve an abandoned Mack semi-truck, capable of hauling the tanker trailer that the settlers use to store the fuel they refine, in exchange for petrol and his freedom. The settlers accept, but keep his car. Max sneaks out, joining forces with the autogyro pilot, or "Gyro Captain."
Max drives the semi back to the compound, evading Humungus' men. The settlers want Max to escape with the group, but Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. However, his attempt to break through the siege fails: Wez gives chase in The Humungus's nitrous oxide-equipped car and runs Max off of the road, wrecking his Pursuit Special and seriously wounding him. The marauders kill Max's dog with a crossbow and attempt to siphon the fuel from the Pursuit Special's tanks, but trigger an explosive booby trap that destroys the car. Max is left for dead, but the Gyro Captain rescues him and flies him back to the compound.
Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the repaired truck with the fuel tanker. He leaves the compound in the now heavily armored truck, accompanied by a "Feral Kid" he has befriended, and with several settlers in armored vehicles providing protection. The Humungus and most of his warriors pursue the tanker, leaving the remaining settlers free to flee the compound in a ramshackle caravan. Papagallo and the settlers defending the tanker are killed during the chase, and the Gyro Captain is shot down. Max and the Feral Kid find themselves alone against the marauders, who continue their pursuit. Wez boards the truck to kill the two, but a head-on collision with Humungus' car kills both Wez and Humungus. Max loses control of the tanker, and it rolls off the road. As the injured Max carries the Feral Kid from the wrecked tanker, he sees not oil, but sand, leaking from the tank.
The truck and its trailer are thus exposed as a decoy, allowing the other settlers to escape with the precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as their chief and leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the "Great Northern Tribe." Max remains alone in the desert, once again becoming a drifter, leaving the Feral Kid (as an adult and the Northern Tribe's new leader) reminiscing about him.
- Mel Gibson as "Mad" Max Rockatansky, a former member of the Australian highway patrol (the MFP). However, after a biker gang kills his family, he leaves the force and hunts down and kills all of the gang members. The trauma transforms him into the embittered, "burnt out...shell of a man".
- Bruce Spence as the Gyro Captain, a wanderer who looks for fuel and supplies. However, instead of driving a car, the Captain flies in a ramshackle old gyrocopter powered by a VW air-cooled engine. He, too, decides to throw in his lot with the settlers, and help defend their compound. A Time reviewer called the Captain "a deranged parody of the World War I aerial ace: scarecrow skinny, gaily clad, sporting a James Coburn smile with advanced caries"; despite his quirks, however, the Captain proves to be wily and courageous. After the death of Pappagallo, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as the leader of the settlers.
- Emil Minty as the Feral Kid, a boy who lives in the wasteland near the refinery settlement. His speaks only in growls and grunts. The boy wears shorts and boots made from hide, and defends himself with a lethal metal boomerang which he can catch using an improvised mail glove. The narration of the opening and closing sequences, provided by Harold Baigent, proves in the closing sequence to be that of the Feral Kid, grown to adulthood by then, and remembering the circumstances of his youthful encounter with "Mad" Max.
- Michael Preston as Pappagallo, the idealistic leader of the settlers in the barricaded oil refinery. Even though the settlers' compound is besieged by a violent gang, Pappagallo "...carries the weight of his predicament with swaggering dignity."
- Virginia Hey as the Warrior Woman, an Amazon-like female member of the settlers who initially distrusts Max.
- Kjell Nilsson as The Humungus, the violent, yet charismatic and articulate leader of a "vicious gang of post-holocaust, motorcycle-riding vandals" who "loot, rape, and kill the few remaining wasteland dwellers". Announced by the Toadie as the "warrior of the wasteland, the Lord Humungus, [and] the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah", The Humungus' "malevolence courses through his huge pectorals, [and] pulses visibly under his bald, sutured scalp." The Humungus' face is never seen, as he wears a hockey goalie's mask. In a 1985 interview with Danny Peary, Miller posited that he thought the character "was a former military officer who suffered severe facial burns," and who "might have served in the same outfit as his counterpart, Pappagallo."
- Vernon Wells as Wez, a mohawked, leather-clad biker who serves as The Humungus' lieutenant in the gang. Vincent Canby, the New York Times reviewer called the Wez character the "most evil of the The Humungus's followers...[a] huge brute who rides around on his bike, snarling psychotically." In the same Danny Peary interview, Miller states the characters of Wez and Max are near mirror images of each other, with each being chained by the leaders of their respective camps, and who both find themselves spurred on by the death of a loved one somewhere in their past, in Wez's case the relatively recent death of The Golden Youth at the hand of The Feral Kid. Empire magazine listed Wez as the greatest movie henchman of all time.
- Max Phipps as the Toadie, the gang crier. He is a thin, bespectacled man. He wears a decorated mink stole as a hat and has many automobile badges and hood ornaments on his clothes. His behavior with The Humungus and Wez make him a classic sycophant. Toadie takes pleasure in molesting helpless prisoners, but the gang has little respect for him.
- Arkie Whiteley as The Captain's Girl, a beautiful young woman among the settlers who became the Gyro Captain's lover.
- Moira Claux as Big Rebecca, a female warrior among the settlers who wields a bow and arrow.
- David Downer as Nathan, a member of the settlers who tries to escape the settlement and is fatally wounded by some of the Humungus's bikers.