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12 Movies to Watch After You See Mad Max: Fury Road

By  · Published on May 15th, 2015

Kino International

George Miller’s Mad Max franchise has been a huge influence on movies released in the 36 years since the first installment’s release. Now that he’s returned to the property with Mad Max: Fury Road, some of that legacy has likely come back around and informed parts of this new fourth episode. The cycle makes sense for Fury Road, the structure of which involves characters going back to where they came from (in more ways than one).

That idea of returning to the beginning, or at least to what came before, is what our Movies to See lists are all about. Once again, I’ve selected a dozen titles to recommend to you that I find relevant in some way or another. There are acknowledge influences on Miller and his post-apocalyptic franchise, there are unintentional references – films that I was simply reminded of during Fury Road – and there are some earlier works by people involved with the new movie.

Comments on the following titles may involve SPOILERS for the new Mad Max movie.

The General (1926)

Arguably Buster Keaton’s best movie, this silent Civil War adventure is also arguably still the greatest action movie ever made. Like Fury Road, it’s almost entirely made up of one long chase sequence, albeit involving a stolen train rather than a stolen tanker truck, and it’s similarly limited in dialogue. Miller is heavily influenced by silent films, particularly silent Westerns, of which this could sort of qualify, and he admits in interviews, “I learned to make Mad Max by watching films like The General.”

Duel (1971)

Miller also cites this early Steven Spielberg TV movie as an inspiration for the Mad Max movies, and Fury Road continues to show its influence. The most obvious connection is that both movies center on a tanker truck in a battle against at least one vehicle that keeps trying to get in front of it. In addition to endorsing Duel, I’m always one to recommend a bunch of other trucker movies, especially those with links to Westerns, like Convoy and the early John Wayne vehicle California Straight Ahead!

The War Wagon (1967)

Speaking of John Wayne, his breakout movie, Stagecoach, is often referenced as an influence on Miller and the Mad Max movies, as well as on Fury Road production designer Colin Gibson, and that’s certainly an essential if you’ve somehow never seen it. But rather than go with too many obvious choices here, I’m instead highlighting this later Western featuring Wayne and a stagecoach – this time with a gatling gun for more action. On the other side of time, if you can find it, see the 1915 Tom Nix silent Western The Stagecoach Driver and the Girl for even more non-stop action.

The Hallelujah Trail (1965)

The action isn’t non-stop in this silly Western comedy directed by John Sturges, but like Fury Road it involves multiple parties chasing after a cargo. The goods here is a shipment of whiskey, and the calvary-escorted wagon train attempting to deliver the barrels of booze is threatened by a Native Americans, a temperance movement leader and a militia. Like Fury Road, it has a lot more fun than most of its genre brethren.

Westward the Women (1951)

For this entry, I turn to David Ehrlich’s list at Little White Lies of six movies to watch before you see Fury Road (which also includes Stagecoach). You can just see it after (because you need to see Fury Road immediately). An excerpt from the entry on “William A. Wellman’s spirited quasi-feminist Western”:

Like Westward the Women, Miller’s film introduces pregnancy as a pivotal plot point, while also using his female characters’ growing sense of agency as the narrative’s central arc. Unlike Wellman, however, Miller would never be satisfied with the modicum of control that Wellman’s women wrest for themselves. Fury Road is more than a spectacle of female empowerment, it’s an urgent plea for female leadership, so if Imperator Furiosa’s journey follows a familiar template, her destination is unlike any place Roy Whitman could possibly imagine.

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

Ehrlich also includes this movie on his list, as it’s maybe even more obvious than Stagecoach, at least in terms of influences you can spot in plain sight. There’s no mistaking that the spiked dune buggy of the Buzzards, a vehicle officially labeled “Plymouth Rock,” is a dead ringer for the iconic spiked VW bug of Peter Weir’s directorial debut. Miller is likely paying homage to his fellow Aussie.

Wild Wheels (1992)

I included this documentary on my list of movies to watch after Fast & Furious 6 because of its vehicles that were more clearly inspired by those of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. If you didn’t catch it then, here’s another push. The doc is the first of a few films on art cars by Harrod Blank (son of Les), the others being Driving the Dream and Automorphosis. These are proof that the craziest customized and tricked-out vehicles aren’t necessarily to be found in Fury Road.

Revenge of the Electric Car (2011)

Let’s stick with documentaries for a moment. It’s interesting that the post-apocalyptic future of Fury Road is still the same gas-addicted one we saw in the previous movies. There’s been no attempt to adapt the series to at least acknowledge the electric and hybrid cars that have appeared in recent years. This particular doc by Chris Paine focuses on the automotive companies competing to become the leader in the electric car market. It’s a sequel to 2006’s Who Killed the Electric Car?, and not only is it more relevant than its precursor now, it’s also just a better film.

Locke (2013)

In honor of Tom Hardy’s entrance into the role of Max Rockatansky, I could try to recommend something from the actor’s early years. Or maybe his breakout role in Bronson. But it’s one of his more recent movies that I think is still just a tad too under-seen considering all its praise last year. The bonus is that it’s a movie where Hardy is even more linked to an automobile than he is in Fury Road.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Yep, I’m defending this one again. Not only does the revisionist fairy tale feature Fury Road’s Charlize Theron but it also similarly features an all-women community that the main group of characters happen upon. Fury Road has been universally accepted as being a feminist blockbuster, though, while it’s been up for debate regarding whether SWATH is or not.

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

It’s often forgotten that Miller has made movies other than those in the Mad Max, Babe and Happy Feet franchises. This adaptation of John Updike’s novel was actually his first feature that wasn’t a Mad Max movie, and it’s a very interesting movie to look at next to Fury Road. On its surface maybe it looks more related, with three women sharing an evil man who wind up (sort of) taking part in killing him. But it’s more complicated than that. Updike’s story is infamously and admittedly a chauvinist response, satirically so, to the feminism of the ‘80s.

The Vagina Monologues (2002)

In case you haven’t heard, Miller not just aimed to make Fury Road a feminist action movie, he went so far as to consult with Eve Ensler on the production. Ensler was invited on set to discuss violence against women with the cast, particularly the actresses playing the wives. Ensler, of course, became famous for her 1996 play “The Vagina Monologues,” which was later adapted into this movie for HBO.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.