Mad Max’s ‘Supposed’ 2021 Setting

Toward the end of last year, I noticed a few posts going around the social medias that were pointing out the movie Mad Max was set during 2021. What with all the shit that’s been going on the last twelve months… And still going on now, I wasn’t sure if it was an attempt at a joke or whether people actually think that Mad Max was set in 2021, and so applied that to the current situation. Seriously, there’s loads of them…

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But was Mad Max actually set in 2021? The short answer, no. But that wouldn’t make a very interesting article would it? Still, before I do explain the time-frame setting of the Mad Max films, a quick synopsis for those unfamiliar with the franchise.

So Mad Max (The Road Warrior for all the Yanks) was a film set in a post-apocalyptic universe telling the story of Max Rockatansky, a man who’s wife and child are killed by a gang. Driven by a thirst for revenge, Max goes a little mad and hunts down the gang that murdered his family, killing each and every one of them. It was hardly Shakespeare, but it was still an awesome slice of seventies low-budget cinema. It also introduced the world to Mel Gibson. The film was a hit and spawned two sequels in the eighties… And a sequel/reboot/’reimagining/whatever-it-is in 2015, now with Tom Hardy playing Max. The Mad Max films are action packed, violent, car-smashing heavy flicks and all four are pretty good entertainment.

Anyway, back to the point. The claims of the film(s) being set in 2021 are erroneous. But it’s not just as simple as pointing out a year in the films in which take place, because the films never mention a specific year. If they did, this would be a very easy article to write. Instead, I have to delve into the universe that the films take place in and dig up what info I can. So I guess I’d better start with the first flick, Mad Max, released in 1979. As I said, the film itself doesn’t mention any specific year. However, it does state the events of the film take place ‘a few years from now’. If we use the film’s 1979 release date as the ‘now’, a ‘few years’ is fairly open to interpretation. The word ‘few’ is defined as not many, but more than one. Generally, it seems that ‘few’ means three or more, but still not many. So I think three to five years from 1979 would be fair. Plus, the trailer for the film states ‘in the not too distant future’, so I think we can all agree that Mad Max must take place not too long after it’s 1979 release date. 

So, if the film is set a ‘few’ years from the ‘now’ 79 release date, then we’re looking at an early to mid eighties setting, 1983-84-ish sounds reasonable, as that is also ‘in the not too distant future’. While the film never states a specific year, years are still referenced in the flick, at least twice. There’s a road sign shown in the film and that road sign has graffiti daubed over it. Some of that graffiti says ‘December 6, 1984’. So if someone left that graffiti, then I think it would be safe to assume it was done after the date written. Then there’s the Halls of Justice, the HQ of the Main Force Patrol (MFP) that Max works for.


You won’t see it in the film itself, but that little plaque there also has a date on it, it says ‘est. 1983’. That info is taken from the movie prop as in-film, it’s impossible to see. Ergo, Mad Max must take place post 1983 and 1984. Still, 2021 is most definitely after 1984… but would you define 2021 as ‘a few years from’ 1984 or even the ‘not too distant future’ from 1984? No, I think most people would say that thirty-seven years is a bit more than ‘a few years’. There there’s this little tit-bit that claims the film ‘is set between 1983 and 1985, a few years after the 1973 oil crisis’. So going back to what I said before, ‘a few years from now’ of the 1979 release date could be an early to mid eighties setting. I think we can all now agree that Mad Max isn’t set in 2021, but more likely 1984 or 85.

On to the sequel, Mad Max 2. This one came out in 1981 and kicks off by most definitely using the previously mentioned 1973 oil crisis as it’s backstory and explanation to the desolate world the films are set in. Not only that, it also gives us a something else to work with. The film outright says that it takes place three years after the events of the first film, as do production notes. So three years after (let’s just say) 1985 would be 88… Not 2021 then?


The third film, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome was released in 1985 and is a little harder to find a time-frame for. Unlike the previous film, we’re not told how many years it has been between films. In the script, the date that Captain Walker (the founder of the lost tribe) left to find civilization was the 8th of November, 2005. However, in the film itself, a date can partially be seen that states he left in search of civilization on the 10th of September, 199X. The last digit can’t be seen. How many years have past since Walker leaving the tribe and Max finding them in the film is also not stated, but the fact they are all young-ish kids and young adults, would suggest it’s only been a short time. Months, a handful of years at the most. So, if Mad Max 2 was set in 1988 and Captain Walker left the tribe in 199X before Max turned up. That still has to be before 2021 going by the ages of the kids in the tribe. Some claim that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome takes place around fifteen years after Mad Max 2, which would put it in and around a 2003 setting… And that does sound about right too.

Still, regardless, none of the original Mad Max films take place in 2021 as the memes like to claim. You are looking at a 1984/5 to 2003-ish for the whole trilogy. As for 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road? I’m not even sure where to start with that one. Even writer and director George Miller has never explicitly said where that film fits in to the original trilogy, or even if it does. Is it a remake, a reboot, a sequel or something else? No one seems to know. Not that it matters as the meme claiming the 2021 setting was using the original film(s) as it’s reference point. And as proven, the Max Max films don’t take place in 2021.


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