How ‘Furiosa’ Fits Into the ‘Mad Max’ Timeline

“Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” is roaring into theaters, widely advertised as a prequel to the director George Miller’s 2015 hit, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But that was the fourth film in a series that, until now, was chronological, so where does “Furiosa” fit in? How else do these movies intersect, with the numerous cast changes and recalibrations in the 45 years since the inaugural entry? Whether you’re approaching the franchise as a novice or looking for a quick refresher, here’s how it all fits together:

The Films

(All the older films are available for streaming on Max or for rental on most major platforms. “Furiosa” is in theaters.)

“MAD MAX” (1979) Miller began his saga with this low-budget Ozploitation hit, which is not yet in the series’s signature style of postapocalyptic action extravaganzas — it’s more indebted to the exploitation cinema standbys of revenge thriller, ’70s car movie and ’60s biker flick. A then-unknown Mel Gibson stars as “Mad” Max Rockatansky, an Australian supercop with the Main Force Patrol. The world of “Mad Max” is in disarray, primarily because of oil shortages, but it’s not yet the wasteland of the later pictures; Max lives a life of relative normalcy, with a doting wife and child, though a roving gang of biker thugs escalates into the murder of Max’s family, turning him into a lone-wolf vigilante.

In the first “Mad Max,” Mel Gibson played a relatively normal guy with a family.Credit…Film Forum/MGM

“MAD MAX 2” (1981) Released in 1982 in the United States as “The Road Warrior” (the earlier film hadn’t made much of an impression here), the first sequel finds Max roaming an Outback that has further descended into lawlessness. He is only looking out for himself, seeking food and petrol to keep moving, but he stumbles on a commune of survivors hiding out in an oil refinery, and helps protect them from violent marauders. This is what we think of when we think of a “Mad Max” movie: a barren landscape, Frankenstein-ed vehicles, improvised weapons, gnarly deaths and a thrilling road-race set piece that takes up most of the third act.

MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME” (1985) Max lands in Bartertown, a trading post for necessities like oil and water. Entertainment is provided by fights to the death in the Thunderdome. (“Two men enter, one man leaves.”) He later falls in with children orphaned in an airplane crash, whom he reluctantly aids. This is the only PG-13 entry in the otherwise R-rated series, and worse for it (Mad Max is essentially turned into Peter Pan). Given the budget and resources of a major studio, though, Miller experiments with the scale and scope necessary for his next entry.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD” (2015) After a 30-year hiatus, Miller returned to the series with this blistering bruiser, which plunges Max (now played by Tom Hardy) into the Citadel, controlled by the evil warlord Immortan Joe. One of his lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), sabotages a routine run for petrol and ammunition by smuggling out Joe’s five wives, promising to take them to the idyllic Green Place of her childhood. Max (as usual, reluctantly) assists, and when they discover the Green Place is no more, the group turns back to take down Immortan Joe and take over the Citadel.

“FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA” (2024) In “Fury Road,” Furiosa told of how she was taken from the Green Place and her mother, trying to rescue her, was killed. “Furiosa” relates that story in detail, as young Furiosa (played first by Alyla Browne, then Anya Taylor-Joy) was kidnapped by the gang of the Warlord Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) and made to watch her mother’s murder; he subsequently trades Furiosa to Immortan Joe as part of a deal for control of Gastown, and she learns how to be a road warrior so that she can exact her revenge against Dementus.

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