Mel Gibson's 1979 original Mad Max is streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.
Before he starred as everyone’s favorite antihero Venom, Tom Hardy starred in Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie in which he played the title character alongside Charlize Theron as the intimidating Furiosa. Audiences rightfully flocked to this George Miller movie as a kind of action film renaissance, and if you’re interested in this famous film franchise, it’s important to know how it all began. And you can do so completely for free by watching Mel Gibson as Mad Max on Tubi right now.
If you grew up mostly watching Mad Max movies on television in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you may be surprised by how different the first film is. The franchise would eventually come to be known for its dystopian portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world which helped set it apart from lighter franchises such as Ghostbusters or Transformers. But this first film is very different, effectively showing us how Mel Gibson went from being a police officer determined to do the right thing to eventually becoming a violent vigilante uniquely suited to survive the trials and tribulations of a world gone mad.
This first entry in the franchise is a kind of origin story, both for Mel Gibson’s Mad Max and the truly apocalyptic world that we see starting in the second film (appropriately titled The Road Warrior for its United States release). While the later movies are known for their exaggerated and over-the-top storytelling, this first movie is surprisingly blunt about the bloody realities of a society on the brink of collapse. If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated that we don’t know more about how the zombie apocalypse started in The Walking Dead, you’ll understand director George Miller’s desire to start his own very human apocalypse at the beginning.
The reason George Miller made this first Mad Max film so bleak and often upsetting is that before becoming a director, he was a medical doctor who worked in an emergency room in Sydney, Australia. Bloody memories of what he saw in his time there, along with memories of car crashes he witnessed growing up, would partially inspire the creation of the Mel Gibson classic Mad Max. The rest of the inspiration came from Miller’s friendship with filmmaker Byron Kennedy and, of all things, a love of silent film.
Despite the ultra-violence of the Mad Max films, Miller wasn’t inspired by silent horror films such as Phantom of the Opera that preceded future horror films such as Dracula. Instead, he was inspired by Buster Keaton and other silent film comedians who could tell evocative stories even without sound, and wanting to create a “silent movie with sound,” Miller sought out a writer to help bring the narrative to life. Even before Mel Gibson was cast, Miller hired James McCausland, a journalist who had never written a screenplay before, to help handle the scripting.
This first Mad Max film and others are set in a world where oil is very scarce, and both Miller and McCausland were inspired by real-world violence and anger they had observed concerning previous oil shortages. They created a franchise based around society reaching peak oil and then collapsing, and they decided Mel Gibson would be the perfect face of a good man driven to violence and desperation by the chaos around him. In terms of casting, Miller was particularly interested in “spunky young guys” for the role, and Gibson almost immediately won everyone over with his audition.
In order to transform their vision into a reality, George Miller and Mel Gibson ended up borrowing some of the rebellious spirit of their title character. And to keep the film’s production cheap (it was made for about $400,000), the crew shut roads down without having film permits and avoided using walkie-talkies because they feared police could listen in. Considering that the movie ended up making over $100 million at the global box office, it’s fair to say that all of the gambles involved in this so-called “guerilla filmmaking” really paid off.
The movie was a major hit with critics, and it currently has a whopping 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It helped to solidify George Miller as a director and Mel Gibson as a major Hollywood actor, and he later went on to star in classic films ranging from Lethal Weapon to Braveheart. And if you’re interested to see where the story of Mel Gibson, George Miller, and Mad Max all began, all you have to do is head over to Tubi and hit “play.”