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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 04.26.15] post apocalyptic scifi action thriller adventure

There's no denying the impact George Miller's second Mad Max movie had on science fiction cinema after its release in 1982. Whether you knew it as Mad Max 2, or The Road Warrior, as it was called overseas, it was likely unlike anything you'd seen before.

A western at it's core, it was also a brutal vision of the future that pulled no punches. Life was tough in the wastland, its survivors even tougher. The Humongous haunted our dreams, his hockey mask predating Jason's by years. The loner, Max, was the ultimate anti-hero, only stepping in to help others when it suited his agenda to acquire more precious gasoline. The film's grungy, retro-fitted design of characters and cars was so radical in its aesthetic of coloured Mohawks, chains and shoulder pads that the look invaded the music and fashion industry in the early 80s (see: Sigue Sigue Sputnik) and how many scifi movies approached production design moving forward.

The wold was flooded with Road Warrior lookalikes, none quite living up to the stripped down adrenaline rush of Miller's film, but many very good in their own right. Essentially, we got some straight-up bonkers post-apocalyptic movies that may never have seen the light of day if it wasn't for Max's popularity, so I thought I'd break out some of my favourites here.

Obviously I couldn't think of every great, weirdo PA film out there while compiling this list, so feel free to leave your faves in the comments.


Taking The Road Warrior's western roots to heart, 1987's Steel Dawn is like a combination of Shane, Mad Max and a good ol' fashioned swashbuckler yarn. Here, Patrick Swayze plays a wandering loner named "Nomad" (yup) who comes across a group of settlers who are being menaced by a violent gang after their water they control. So, you see, instead of gas the punk-rock gang wants water.

What Steel Dawn makes up for in lack of car chases is a ton of choreographed sword fights like this one from the film's finale (spoiler alert). As you can see from the clip, director Lance Hool thinks he's a post-apocalyptic Sergio Leone, teasing out the tension before the battle kicks into gear.


Welcome to the jungle. Before directing Casino Royale or Edge of Darkness, director Martin Campbell helmed this forgotten apocalyptic gem which sees an A-list cast lead by Ray Liotta battle it out "Lord of the Flies" style on a secluded island where world's worst criminals live without any contact from the outside world.

Called No Escape in the US and Absolom 2022 overseas, the film is very inspired by the post-apocalyptic look made popular by The Road Warrior. Madness and violence reign on the island in a similar way as it does in the Australian desert. Produced for HBO in 1994, the film was released without much fanfare, but many who have picked it up on DVD (like myself) are often amazed at how well conceived, executed and acted it is. It's a mad film, but in the best possible way.


Because, guys, Waterworld is fucking bananas. Kevin Costner bet it all on our fears of the polar ice caps melting and lost, big time. But what we got was a vividly realized world where earth's survivors live on giant floating towns made of the garbage that floats up from the desolate city's below the surface. Dirt is the greatest commodity and humans are starting to grow gills. GILLS!

I never really understood the hate for Waterworld. Sure it bombed at the box-office, but it's a one-of-a-kind PA film and I, for one, am glad it exists. It's goofy in that summer movie kind of way, but it holds up better than a lot of 90s films.


And speaking of goofy in a good way! A mashup-up of Mad Max and Star Wars, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is truly a weird experience. Molly Ringwald makes her science fiction debut as argumentative Niki, who teams up with an interstellar adventurer (read: a Han Solo type) named Wolff to rescue three women who've been kidnapped on a planet plagued with a fatal disease.

Great Road Warrior style vehicles meet wonderful make-up FX to create a truly bonkers world that is hard to resist. Don't believe me? Check out this awesome trailer remix:


Billed as Dawn of the Dead meets Mad Max, the new Australian film Wyrmwood earns its PA stripes by being a ton of bloody fun. A fantastic fusion of black comedy and over-the-top bloodletting, the crazy, fast-paced indie is a not so gentle reminder that sometimes you just want to watch bullets fly and zombies die. This one will please fans of the Spierg Brothers' Undead or Hobo With a Shotgun.

Most the above was stolen from rochefort's Fantastic Fest Review.

Meet the "Mad Doctor":


Of all the countless Italian Road Warrior knock-ofsf, Exterminators of the Year 3000 is one of the better ones. Like many of the Euro "Faux Max's," the film is still a chaos of sand, car crashes and ADR, but manages to keep the action at a high octane. Like Steel Dawn, water is the precious resource at the heart of the conflict. A tanker, a secret spring. All could lead to the salvation of humanity and all parties want it.

I like that Exterminators has the wherewithal to bring in outside influence to give us mutants and secret powers. It's all good fun and available, thankfully, on Blu-ray from Scream Factory!


Look, we've had this argument before. I love Doomsday and you just need to look at that poster to know it's so inspired by The Road Warrior that it can hardly contain itself. The fact that Doomsday was a big giant high-five to all the films I love (read: Escape from NY, Road Warrior, 28 Days Later) seemed to put some viewers off, but not me. And why? Because Neill Marshall knows how to mix the elements together to make the mother of all exploitation movies. Plus, we get one of the best female action characters of all time in Rhona Mitra's Eden Sinclair.

We move to plague panicked London to apocalyptic Scotland to some kind of neo-medieval sanctuary all in a breakneck pace. We even get a protracted Road Warrior style car chase at the end. If you've come down with Fury Road fever, Doomsday is certainly the best cure.


From the writer of such untouchable genre classics like Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Leviathan, Ladyhawk, Soldier, and of course Unforgiven, Salute the Jugger (aka. Blood of Heroes) is Starring eighties genre mainstay Rutger Hauer, Twin Peaks' Joan Chen, and Full Metal Jacket's Vincent D'Onofrio, Salute of the Jugger is essentially an underdog sports movie in the apocalypse. Think a medieval Hoosiers with dusty scars and dog skulls and you'll get the idea. It's about good ol' small town boys who dream of making it to the big city finals and, of course, after giving 110% they get there.

The world's look, like the Jugger game itself, is convincingly designed with some amazing costumes and believable makeup work by Bob McCarron (who went on to work on Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, the above mentioned No Escape and The Matrix). All these bits and pieces make up as unabashedly gritty word where brutality is a way of life and violence has become a sport. A worthy appetizer before the Fury Road main course this May.

If you can find it on widescreen let me know. Supposedly its gorgeously shot, but you'd never know form the DVD releases currently out there.


Snowpiercer's messages didn't connect with some viewers. In some ways I think it was a victim of hype, but you can't deny the film is both PA, and bonkers as all hell. It's also incredibly ambitious technically and delivers some of the most twisted set pieces of the last few years at a breakneck speed.

If you still haven't caught up with Snowpeircer, now's the best time. It may not be a desert wasteland, but this snow covered epic will get your revved up for the next big helping of insane PA.


Cars, punks, 50's nostalgia and a dash of Repo Man make Brian Trenchard-Smith's ozploitation classic a must see for fans of 80s PA cinema. In the near future, destroyed by some economic collapse, drive-in theatres are turned into concentration camps for the undesirable and unemployed. The catch is, most of them are fine with it as it's better than the alternative.


Maverick Australian filmmaker Richard Stanley dreamed up the android from Hardware during a terrible fever and that's a pretty apt way to describe the overall feeling of experiencing the film. It's a like a post-apocalyptic fever dream that gets more and more surreal as it moves along until there's a killer android after you and no escape.

hardware is so punk rock that Iggy Pop makes a mad appearance as a cab driver.

In Hardware, Dylan McDermott collects an android head for his girlfriend's sculpture work. Things go downhill from there. It's not car chases, but there's no denying the film's link to Australian desert PA made popular by Miller.


You will believe a monkey can ride a horse in this too-crazy-to-work-but-totally-does insane movie from Matt Reeves. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proves that rebooting this bonkers franchise (again) was actually a really good idea. So, there you go reboot haters. Sometimes it can work!

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zaphod777 (7 years ago) Reply

World Gone Wild (1987)
Slipstream (1989)
Radioactive Dreams (1985)
Damnation Alley (1977)
Delicatessen (1991)
Omega Doom (1996)


Michael Allen (7 years ago) Reply

Do you remember Megaforce? I liked that one in my teens and The Exterminator. Christoph Behl's The Desert is one that I am curious about and have not seen.


Wumpus (7 years ago) Reply

There aren't that many genuinely *good* PA films, are there? Plenty of guilty pleasures, of course, but quality stuff is quite rare.


La Menthe (7 years ago) Reply

The Road, Akira, Delicatessen, Children of Men, Brazil and Twelve Monkeys are all great films. Valley of the Wind and Stalker are masterpieces. Films such as Escape from New York, Mad Max 2, The Time Machine (1960) are great popcorn flicks.

Those are the ones I can think of at the top of my head.


keys (7 years ago) Reply

It was actually called Escape from Absolom in Australia


RIII (7 years ago) Reply

A Boy and his Dog
Siam Sunset (not PA but Ausie bonkers)
The Quiet Earth...
The Divide
Roller Ball
The Worlds End
Soylent Green
Six String Samuari


Lenny (7 years ago) Reply

Agreed on Doomsday %100!! I love the hell outta that film. Need to see Blood of Heroes as I've never heard of it. Most of these are great as well but man did I hate Snowpiercer...
I would add my mainstays:
Escape from the Bronx 1&2,
The New Barbarians,
2019 After the fall of NY,
The Raiders of Atlantis,
and Warrior of the Lost World.


Michael Allen (7 years ago) Reply

Escape from the Bronx - it has been over 20 years since I have heard that title. Instant low budget classic.


billy (7 years ago) Reply

Wheels of Fire (1984)
Land of Doom (1986)
Steel Frontier (1995)
Neon City (1991)


donc48 (7 years ago) Reply

Omega Man (1971)
Stake land (2010)
The Last Days (2013)
28 Days Later (2002)
The Road (2009)
Zombie Land (2009)
Tooth and Nail (2007)

I just don't do bonkers films PA or other wise. Some of these will be an acquired taste.


Marina (7 years ago) Reply

I have a soft spot for Zardoz

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