6. The Road Warrior (1981)

Mel Gibson as Mad Max in The Road Warrior

Sequel to: Mad Max (1979)

Though 1979’s Mad Max technically introduced the now iconic character to the world, it wasn’t until the sequel that the franchise actually began to take shape. The first film followed Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky as he sought revenge in a dystopian future for the murder of his family. However, the sequel, The Road Warrior, upgrades the setting to a full-on apocalypse in which society has crumbled, and Max is one of the few people left that could be considered anything even close to a hero.

Almost every aspect of the franchise as it’s now known stems from The Road Warrior rather than from the original Mad Max. This is key in understanding not just how much better the sequel is than the original, but also the cultural relevance of The Road Warrior. With apocalyptic stories now increasingly popular, it’s worth noting that The Road Warrior inspired countless other pieces of apocalyptic fiction across the mediums of film, TV, video games, and more.

The Road Warrior took all of the most successful and popular aspects of Mad Max and rolled them into a sequel that shifted direction significantly. The character of Max changed a great deal from The Road Warrior onwards: the film was so much more popular than the original that audiences wanted to see more of The Road Warrior and less of Mad Max. In fact, the character owes his iconic nature to The Road Warrior as opposed to his first self-titled cinematic outing, and that should indicate just how much better the sequel is than the first movie.