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Mad Max: Fury Road

R16: contains violence and content that may disturb

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road poster

Date registered: 30/04/2015

About the film

Mad Max: Fury Road is an Australian/US feature film 120 minutes long. The film is a reboot of the 1970s Australian classic Mad Max by George Miller, who has once more taken on the directing role.

Set in a barren post-apocalyptic future where water is scarce and armies of heavily modified vehicles control the wasteland, the story concerns Mad Max, a mentally disturbed survivor who is captured by the scavengers of an evil overlord, Immortan Joe; Immortan Joe controls the water resources of a ravaged community, Citadel. Mad Max is freed and reluctantly joins Imperator Furiosa, a mysterious woman, on her mission to free Immortan Joe's young wives. The narrative devolves into a lengthy and violent race across the desert.

A still image from the film - War Boys on the rampage

Classification criteria: Horror

Some of the imagery in the film is horrific; part of the detail necessary to fashion the post-apocalyptic setting. As an example, the war boys are painted white, with heavy scarification across their bodies and faces. In combination with their fanatical and ruthless characterisation, this makes them frightening in appearance and nature.

A still image from the film - Immortan Joe

Classification criteria: Cruelty

Cruelty is littered throughout the film to reinforce the grim setting and to reinforce the evil character of Immortan Joe and the nature of his rule.

For instance, Mad Max is captured, tortured, tattooed and branded. There is also a scene where women are shown being milked like cattle and scenes of the people of the Citadel, filthy, deformed and starving for water and resources.

Cruelty is built into the narrative. Immortan Joe's wives are kept to produce him healthy offspring and they seek solace from him; he expresses that they are his property and treats them as such.

A still image from the film - 'blood bag' Max strapped to the front of War Boy Nux's vehicle

Classification criteria: Violence

The film is a non-stop spectacle of fast-action violence. The violence is notable for its high extent; the vast majority of the film is violent content, but the film shows restraint in terms of manner and degree. There are very few scenes of blood and gore; occasionally injuries are shown to emphasise their seriousness for main characters. All of these depictions of injury are brief and fleeting, and at times only implied.

That said the sheer relentlessness of the violence will be very intense for most viewers. The fight sequences are a concentrated series of explosions, collapsing vehicles and bodies flying off the rig in pursuit. The result is compounding, with high octane sequence directly following high octane sequence and little let up or cathartic relief.

A still image from the film - War Boys attacking the War Rig by launching themselves through the air on long poles

Classification criteria: Suicide

A war boy is shown committing suicide, in a suicide attack on a vehicle. It appears the war boys believe they are martyring themselves by engaging in such conduct. The war boys are framed as sociopathic and fanatical, which gives some context to this conduct. However some younger viewers may find this shocking and disturbing.

A still image from the film - an injured War Boy lies across the front of a speeding vehicle

Decision summary

Mad Max: Fury Road is a well-produced high intensity action thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future. Viewers are likely to find the sensory overload of superior visual effects, fast-paced action and relentless violence gruelling viewing.

If a film is likely to cause injury to the public good its availability must be restricted. This goes against the presumption of freedom of expression as set out in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. This film's enthusiasm for slick fast-paced explosive violence is likely to cause such injury. Children and young teenagers do not have the mental faculties necessary to endure the sheer extent of this violence and the result would be the desensitisation of these viewers to intensely violent content. They would be likely to form harmful attitudes towards such violence, depicted for pure entertainment value and which pushes the limits of experienced viewers' stamina.

Older teenagers are in a much better position to identify and appreciate the fantastical and otherworldly context; this will go to mitigate the aforementioned effects in these viewers. The lack of any other strong impact content will also assist in this regard.

The film is therefore classified objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 16 years. This restriction balances the harms described against the right to freedom of expression and is thus demonstrably justifiable.

Contact the Information Unit if you require further information on a classification decision.

R16 label
R16: contains violence and content that may disturb