There are filmmakers who have developed such a unique style throughout their careers where it has gotten to the point that it’s easy to figure out they are behind a movie, even when you didn’t initially know they were directing the picture. We see this with Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and even Quentin Tarantino, with their signature camera angles, stylistic devices, and editing techniques. Another name that doesn’t come up nearly as much as it should is the incomparable George Miller, who has long applied his one-of-a-kind techniques to massive action flicks like the MAD MAX movies as well as family-friendly romps like BABE and HAPPY FEET.
With the Australian filmmaker’s next feature — THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING — coming to AMC Theatres nationwide at the end of August, now seems like a great time to go back and look at some of George Miller’s best movies and talk about what makes them worthy additions to your must-watch list. Let’s take a trip down a memory lane full of talking pigs, dancing penguins, and raving lunatics in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The Mad Max Movies
Arguably the most well-known titles on George Miller’s 40-plus-year filmography are the MAD MAX movies, which follow the titular road warrior first played by Mel Gibson and later Tom Hardy as he goes from a highway patrolman on a path of vengeance to unlikely hero for various groups of people trying to survive in an Australia beyond repair.
The Original Trilogy
George Miller kicked off one of the most iconic film franchises in 1979 with MAD MAX, which was a more intimate movie than what would follow in subsequent installments. Set in a dystopian Australia that is teetering on the edge of collapse, the movie follows Mel Gibson’s Max Rockatansky, a Main Force Patrol officer who uses his skills and anger against a gang of bandits who viciously murder his wife and child.
Two years later, Miller and Gibson teamed up for a second time for MAD MAX 2, also known as THE ROAD WARRIOR, which happens to be the movie that comes to mind when most think of the franchise. Following the events of his one-man revenge mission, Max roams the highways of the wasteland until he finds new purpose in helping protect a small group of nomads against Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his band of marauders. Three years after that, the director-actor pair would reunite for the massive MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME which co-starred Tina Turner as the iron-fisted ruler of Bartertown known as Entity.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
After several attempts to revitalize the franchise failed in the decades following the release of BEYOND THUNDERDOME, George Miller brought it back with the Academy Award®-winning action-packed and octane-fueled thrill ride that was 2015’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. This time Tom Hardy stepped in for the titular role as a loner imprisoned by the vicious and power-hungry Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). One would think that the standout would be Hardy’s take on the character or maybe even the explosive practical effects, but no, that honor went to Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, and her incredibly moving story of rebirth and redemption. And in May 2024, the fearless imperator will get her own prequel film titled FURIOSA starring Anya Taylor-Joy in the titular role.
George Miller will always be remembered for his MAD MAX movie franchise, but the visionary filmmaker has also written, directed, and produced his fair share of family-friendly movies over the years – films that are rich in story, action, and even social commentary. The earliest of Miller’s films to fall into this category is the 1995 Oscar® winner BABE, which told the story of an undersized farm pig who avoids becoming a holiday meal by learning how to herd sheep, becoming a phenomenon in the process.
Featuring the voices of Christine Cavanaugh as Babe, Miriam Margolyes as his Border Collie mentor and mother figure Fly, Hugo Weaving, and several others, the movie also features a great human cast led by James Cromwell as Arthur Hoggett. It is the relationship shared by Hoggett and Babe that provides for some of the movie’s most touching and satisfying moments, especially when it comes to the final herding competition where the unlikely pair prove that looks can be deceiving.
A sequel titled BABE: PIG IN THE CITY followed in 1998, taking the action from the farm to a crowded hotel.
A little more than a decade after George Miller found success with the family-friendly BABE, he tried his hand at the genre again with the 2006 animated jukebox musical HAPPY FEET, which was an incredibly on-brand addition to his filmography considering the subject matter. The movie, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, centers on Mumble (Elijah Wood), an emperor penguin who lacks the singing talents of his parents (Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman) following an incident prior to his hatching. Instead of having a talent for singing, Mumble specializes in dance, which only angers the colony, for he’s not like the rest of them, resulting in him being exiled.
This is where the hero’s journey really takes off for Mumble, who meets a variety of eccentric characters, many of which are voiced by Robin Williams, as he attempts to find his place in the world. But on his odyssey, Mumble discovers an inconvenient truth, one that is frightening yet enlightening for him and the audience watching the movie. A sequel titled HAPPY FEET TWO was released in 2011.
These are just a few of the wonderful George Miller movies that have come out over the years, as titles like THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, LORENZO’S OIL, and 40,000 YEARS OF DREAMING are all great for one reason or another. And that list will get a little longer when THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING makes its debut in AMC Theatres nationwide.THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING