The year was 1979...
And a small Australian film - MAD MAX - took the world by storm. Directed by George Miller, it followed police officer - MAX ROCKATANSKY - as he served vengeance on a biker gang during the last days of civilization's downfall. The film was a runaway hit. For decades it held the Guinness Book of Records for most profitable film ever made.
Besides being a smash, it and it's three sequels: MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985), and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) influenced Hollywood in major and lasting way.
How MAD MAX Changed HOLLYWOOD
Australian-American actor/director/producer, MEL GIBSON has been a Hollywood power-player for 25+ years. MAD MAX would bring a bright shining light to the young, fresh faced actor, who would go on to star in, direct and produce some of Hollywood's biggest films of the 80's through the 2000's: the LETHAL WEAPON franchise, AIR AMERICA, HAMLET, MAVERICK, BRAVEHEART, THE PATRIOT, SIGNS, PASSION OF THE CHRIST, APOCALYPTO. A two-time Academy Award winner, he wielded enough power to self-fiance and market the highest grossing R rated film of all time. Yes, there was the complete and controversial meltdown of recent years, but without a doubt, if there was no MAD MAX, we would not have the spectacle that has been Mel.
After the undaunted success of Mel Gibson, seemingly the flood gates opened. When Hollywood wanted or needed a new fresh face, unknown to American audiences they went searching the great Down Under. Just think, it it wasn't for MAD MAX we might not have: HUGH JACKMAN, NICOLE KIDMAN, CATE BLANCHETT, RUSSEL CROWE, CHRIS/LIAM HEMSWORTH, NAOMI WATTS, ERIC BANA, HEATH LEDGER, ROSE BYRNE, MARGOT ROBBIE, SAM WORTHINGTON, JOEL EDGERTON, REBEL WILSON, and oh so many more fantastic Aussie performers on our big and small screens. Australian has become a proving ground for many of Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars.
Admittedly, the ANTI-HERO - a flawed main character with ambiguous motives and typically a "the ends justify the means" attitude - has been used in Hollywood films before MAD MAX. Sparingly, because Hollywood establishment preferred the prototypical protagonist, i.e. the "good guy."
That is until MAD MAX became synonymous with Anti-hero, and Hollywood took note. So post-MAX (and in conjunction with Han Solo) the action hero has morphed away from being morally upright and incorruptible, and toward a more Max Rockatansky aligned character. A "hero" without flaws seems a bit antiquated today. Finding hints of Max in characters like: Chev Chelios, Frank Martin, Snake Plissken, John McClane, Rick Grimes, Malcolm Reynolds - should be quite easy.
Like the anti-hero, post-apocalyptic films where a part of Hollywood's repertoire. Prior to MAD MAX, the vast majority of these films fall into the sci-fi, B-movie, apocalypse genre (end of the world scenarios or dystopian futures). Purely P.A. films were few and far between.
It was MAD MAX that transformed post-apocalyptic films into a genre. And proved to Hollywood that as a genre it was profitable. Without it there would be no: Escape from New York/L.A., Waterworld, Cyborg, The Postman, Six String Samurai, Terminator Salvation, The Road, Reign of Fire, The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer.
There are also ALL the visual aesthetics that are frequently borrowed, copied to evoke an authentic post-apocalyptic environment. Simply put, All Hail MAD MAX!