In a post-apocalyptic Australia, law and order has begun to break down due to energy shortages, despite the efforts of Main Force Patrol (MFP) officers like Max Rockatansky. After Rockatansky encounters Toecutter's motorcycle gang, who are running runshod over isolated communities, he grows disillusioned with his role in the MFP. At first convinced by his superior officer not to resign, he is driven into a state of cold-blooded revenge when Toecutter's gang murder his wife and young son.
In this sequel to the original Mad Max, Max finds himself involved with a small group of settlers who live around a small working oil refinery, producing that most precious of products in a post-apocalyptic society: petrol.
Some fifteen years after the events of Mad Max 2, when civilisation has been all but destroyed by the nuclear war, former policeman Max continues to roam the Australian desert, this time in a camel-drawn vehicle. When father-and-son thieves Jebediah Senior and Junior use their jury-rigged airplane to steal his possessions and his means of transportation, Max makes his way to Bartertown. A cesspool of post-apocalyptic capitalism powered by methane-rich pig manure, Bartertown is ruled by two competing overlords: Aunty Entity and Master (a crafty midget who rides around on the back of his hulking underling, Blaster). Seeking to re-equip himself, Max strikes a deal with the haughty Aunty to kill Blaster in ritualised combat inside Thunderdome, a giant jungle gym where Bartertown's conflicts are played out in a postmodern update of bread and circuses. Although Max manages to fell the mighty Blaster, he refuses to kill him after realising Blaster has a developmental disability. Aunty's henchmen murder Blaster anyway, and then punish Max for violating the law of Thunderdome: 'two men enter, one man leaves.' Lashed to the back of a hapless pack animal and sent out into a sandstorm to die, Max is rescued by a band of tribal children and teens. The descendants of the victims of an airplane crash, the kids inhabit a lush valley and wait for the day when Captain Walker, the plane's pilot, will return to lead them back to civilisation. Some of the children refuse to believe that the glorious cities of their mythology no longer exist, and set off in search of civilisation on their own. Max and three tribe members subsequently set out to rescue them from Bartertown and Aunty Entity.
Despite post-dating the third film in the series by some thirty years, this instalment is said to fit in the timeline somewhere between films one and two.
Max Rockatansky, trapped in the citadel of warlord Immortan Joe, crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa, who is on a mission to free Joe's enslaved 'brides' and take them to the Green Place, the Land of Many Mothers.