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Ridiculous Mad Max Ripoffs That Actually Existed

Released in 1979, the post-apocalyptic film "Mad Max," written and directed by George Miller, proved a groundbreaking Australian import. Despite a low budget and a simple story, it captivated audiences' imaginations with the tale of a lone wandering warrior who battled an evil warlord amid a post-apocalyptic landscape where oil was the most precious commodity. A sequel, "Mad Max 2" — released in the United States as "The Road Warrior" — quickly followed, and upped the ante, becoming an all-time classic.

Both were big hits with fans and at the box office, and with small budgets and simplistic locales, every indie producer sat up and took notice. Sparking an entirely new genre of science fiction, filmmakers began quickly slapping together stories set in the desert, in a vague post-war armageddon, where broken-down cars and leather-clad bikers fought for valuable and scarce resources, and an evil warlord threatened everything.

Some were sleazy exploitation, some tried to provide a fresh twist, but all were cheaply made, and none were any good. Well if you've never seen them, or even heard of them, you're in luck, because we've rounded up a few of the more infamous and ridiculous "Mad Max" rip-offs that you won't believe actually existed.

1. Hell Comes to Frogtown

One of the more unorthodox entries on this list, "Hell Comes To Frogtown" might not seem on its face like a "Mad Max" clone, but bear with us and you'll see where it clearly draws its influence from. Starring Roddy Piper and released in 1988 — the same year he'd star in "They Live" – the film is like any good "Road Warrior" knock-off set in a broken down post-apocalyptic future. But in this world, the precious commodity isn't gas, but men, as a nuclear war has wiped out most of the planet's virile men. At the same time, a race of mutant frog people have taken a liking to Earth's gorgeous young women. Yeah, you read that right.

Among the few men who've survived is Sam Hell — you're starting to see that like "They Live," this one has a bit of a tongue-in-cheek vibe to it — a tough-as-nails nomad. Wherever he goes, pregnant women remain, and thus he is easily tracked down by a group of mercenary nuns who want him to rescue a group of captured women from the frog people and later help rebuild mankind with them.

While the cars of "Mad Max" are not as prevalent, the dwindling resource — in this case men — the grungy, desolate landscape, and desperate people make it clear where they got their inspiration. At least this one had the smarts enough to do something a bit different with it, and for that, it was rewarded with a trio of low-budget sequels including "Max Hell: Frog Warrior" in 1996.

2. Terminus

In 1981, actress Karen Allen found herself in one of the biggest blockbusters in the Hollywood, starring opposite Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." You might think this would have catapulted her to a decades-long career as a leading lady in major movies, but that continued success never quite materialized. Less than a decade later, Allen found herself starring in "Terminus," a low-budget French/German production and clear "Mad Max" ripoff.

Set in the same kind of desolate post-apocalyptic world viewers should be well-acquainted with at this point, we meet a young headstrong driver named Gus (Allen). In this bizarre future world, a trans-national speedway league has been established as a kind of new world sport, where drivers compete to reach the terminus point, with a massive reward. The determined roughneck Gus is piloted a unique new truck, with an advanced computer nicknamed 'Monster' that has been designed by a super-genius kid.

At the end of the race, Gus hopes to~! win a stash of gold, but the villainous warlord who awaits wants to take over the world. Packed with every trope you can imagine, its otherwise lowly cast and pathetic performances make this another forgettable "Mad Max" clone, but at least with a unique spin, and a notable star in Karen Allen.

3. Equalizer 2000

This next film is a 1987 junker from the Philippines from producer and director Cirio Hermoso Santiago. Get used to that name, because it's going to come up a few more times on this list. But first up is "Equalizer 2000," starring Matthew Norton and Robert Patrick. Yes, that Robert Patrick, of "Terminator 2" fame. Just a few years before he suited up as the T-1000 in what was the most expensive film ever made at the time, per Yahoo, he appeared in what might be one of the lowest budgeted movies of its era.

In a war-torn future, society is gone and people fight for themselves, modding their cars and trucks with big guns and nasty weapons of all kinds. The world's supply of oil is controlled by a private military government called "The Ownership." As factions vie for resources, one man named Slade — a former Ownership soldier — joins a rebel alliance and builds the Equalizer 2000, a powerful weapon capable of stopping entire armies.

Though not the closest ripoff of "Mad Max," nor even the worst — if you can believe that — "Equalizer 2000" makes no bones about its inspiration. Star Matthew Norton admittedly makes a halfway decent wasteland hero, but the ridiculous gun and its seemingly unstoppable power makes it more laughable than the cheap costumes and amateurish acting.

4. Future Hunters

No, you're not seeing double. Yes, that is actor Richard Norton with a "Mad Max" style outfit and the same massive triple-barreled gun he toted in "Equalizer 2000," another foreign film directed by Cirio H. Santiago. This one, released just a year later, bizarrely also stars Robert Patrick."Future Hunters" opens in that same "Mad Max" future, a rocky, desolate landscape overrun by gangs, guns, and big trucks. There's even a very similar sequence where Norton fires his identical Equalizer and blows up a car. But in this film, an ancient spear is discovered that sends our hero back in time to 1989, "modern day" Los Angeles. In the past is where we spend the rest of the movie, as a dying Norton gives the relic to Robert Patrick, and sets him on a mission to change history by uniting the spear with a second piece.

From there, there's plenty of b-movie action, including some awkward kung-fu and fights with Neo Nazis, Amazon tribes, and the Japanese army. The weirdest part though? Patrick's character is named Slade, the same as Norton's character in "Equalizer 2000." Admittedly, the "Mad Max" elements are limited to the film's opening, while the rest of the movie plays out more like "Indiana Jones," but the whole affair, and its connection to "Equalizer 2000" is so ludicrous and bizarre, it had to be mentioned.

5. 2019: After the Fall of New York

Like "Hell Comes To Frog Town" the 1983 post-apocalyptic action b-movie "2019: After the Fall of New York" centered on Earth's fertility problem after nuclear fallout. It also shared a similar quirky tone, and a clear influence from the George Miller "Max" series. Set in a devastated New York City overrun by biker gangs, it also mixes in plenty of elements you'll find familiar from John Carpenter's "Escape From New York." Perhaps the Italian filmmakers behind this beast thought by making a no-budget movie that smashed together two popular American films, nobody would notice the blatant theft of ideas.

The story begins in the aftermath of nuclear destruction, and everyone wants to get their hands on the last fertile female, hidden somewhere in New York City. To find her, the Federation government recruits Parsifal, a rogue, devil-may-care bandana-wearing hero — who's part Mad Max, part Snake Plissken — to track her down and rescue her from the devious Euraks. 

What's interesting about the film is the amount of world-building at play, with different factions and an elaborate history, making us wonder if they had planned for this to be a bigger franchise. 

6. Exterminators Of The Year 3000

Following the success of "Mad Max," it seemed like a new copycat sprang up every year, and from a different country. This one, an Italian/Spanish production by spaghetti Western director Giuliano Carnimeo, was another, released in 1983, and took place in a desert world that was the result of a devastating nuclear war. Water is the resource that bikers, gangs, and warlords all fight for, and the film is of course punctuated with plenty of janky car chases and big-wheeled stunts that are meant to shock and awe, but are barely enough to wake us up from a snooze.

The movie begins with a settlement of innocent men, women, and children eking out a meager living in a cave but in dire need of precious water. The closest supply is unfortunately lorded over by a band of violent bikers, thugs, and assorted villains — including bandit leader Crazy Bull — so they have little hope of surviving. But a mysterious wanderer happens by, and in "Mad Max" fashion, we know he's going to save the day. This time, his name is "Alien" and he has the help of a little cyborg boy. 

Absolutely nothing here is original, and the odd self-censoring — with Crazy Bull calling his enemies 'mother grabbers' — is comical in a way it surely wasn't intended. Visually it might be the closest to capturing the look of "Mad Max" yet it lacks all of the touches that made George Miller's epic great.

7. Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn

It wasn't just the simple post apocalyptic story that producers realized they could copy from "Mad Max." In many, such as "Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn," they also realized they could get away with filming in a Nevada desert and covering dune buggies, trucks, and motorcycles with metal plates to simulate a far future or alien world. Throw in a big bad villain with a metal face like Lord Humungus from "Mad Max 2" and you'd have an instant winner on your hands ... or so they must have thought.

"Metalstorm" is the first entry on our list to be a straight science fiction adventure, and stars Jeffrey Byron of "The Dungeonmaster" as an intrepid space ranger called Dogan. He's on a quest to take down an interstellar tyrant, the titular Jared-Syn, who is hiding on the desert world of Lemuria, where scarce resources have scattered their people and left the world in ruin. There, Jared-Syn has set himself up as the leader of a cult-like faction obsessed with power and control, and Dogan is here to put a stop to his evil schemes.

Though the plot bears little resemblance to "Mad Max," once the action heads to the desert world, you can't help but notice the similarities. The outer-space adventure tosses aside epic space battles in favor of beat-up cars racing through sand in wild chases, and fist fights with leather-clad warriors. Somehow, it got reviewed in the Washington Post, where it was labeled as even worse than "Spacehunter," a low-budget "Star Wars" rip-off.

8. Steel Dawn

Surprisingly, our next entry actually has a major Hollywood star attached to it, despite being a low-budget knock-off: Patrick Swayze. This isn't a case of the actor taking on a b-movie in the days before he was a big name either, as he had already appeared in a number of hit films like "Uncommon Valor" and the similarly titled "Red Dawn." But three years later, he'd star in "Steel Dawn," a post-apocalyptic "Mad Max" copy. Once again we have a desert landscape where water is hard to come by, and one lone man, a nomad named... Nomad... who is on his own quest for vengeance.

While hunting for his mentor's killer, Nomad meets Kasha and her son Jux, who are struggling to survive because the nearby warlord Damnil is hoarding what little water can be had. Now Nomad, the road warrior, steps up to help the starving community and take down the evil Damnil, who just so happens to be allied with Sho, the man who killed Nomad's mentor.

"Steel Dawn" has an unusually strong cast for this kind of film, with Anthony Zerbe ("License to Kill"), Brion James ("Blade Runner"), and Swayze's own wife Lisa Niemi filling out the on-screen talent. But nobody involved can help this stinker, which is just one more in a long line of clunky copies. Of course, later that same year, Swayze would be seen in the romantic drama "Dirty Dancing" and put the sci-fi b-movies behind him for good.

9. The New Barbarians / Warriors of the Wastelands

"The New Barbarians" is one of three tonally similar Italian films to be released in 1982-83 and directed by Enzo G. Castellari (the original "Inglorious Bastards"). Sometimes titled "Warriors of the Wastelands" it is the most like "Mad Max" of the three, with an entirely desert setting and scattered survivors of a ruthless gang of bikers. While the other two share more in common with films like "Escape From New York" and "The Warriors," this one is set in a world much more reminiscent of George Miller's iconic franchise. 

A grungy, low-class action film, it follows a group of survivors of a nuclear holocaust in the far-off future of 2019 who are terrorized by a gang of bandits called the Templars. The Templars are a group of vicious and violent road warriors in disco suits and motorcycle helmets, who want little more than anarchy. With jury-rigged, weaponized cars, trucks, and motorcycles they hunt down and slaughter anyone they find. But a new hero emerges, a man called Scorpion, who leads a small group of allies to fight back.

Many think of this and Castellari's two other similar films, "1990: The Bronx Warriors," and "Escape From the Bronx" as a kind of unofficial trilogy. Many, such as Talking Pulp, who reviewed the film in 2018, consider this the best of the three, though they freely acknowledge that none of them are really any good.

10. Battletruck

"1994. After the oil wars. After the destruction of the cities," starts the ominous trailer to this 1982 "Mad Max" clone, "a ruthless warlord rules what's left of a radioactive world. His weapon: 20 tons of bulletproof armor on wheels." While it sounds dramatic and intriguing, it's not; instead, it's the laughable b-movie "Battletruck." The tyrant is Colonel Straker, a deranged madman intent on ruling what's left of civilization after a post-atomic horror that has left society scattered and hopeless.

But as the dramatic trailer goes on to tell us, there's only one man who dares oppose the Colonel: a heroic road warrior named Hunter. While the desperate townspeople have little hope, Hunter provides the firepower and know-how to strike Straker and take back control. With a rag-tag group of allies, he may just have a chance at destroying the Battletruck.

Though it doesn't look quite as cheap as most, "Battletruck" is generic and flat, full of every cliche in the book. There's plenty of explosions that might distract from what laughably passes as a plot but the biggest problem is the truck itself. It's really not that special, being little more than an improvised tank, a big truck with metal plates on it, and as it rolls along it looks as if it's always on the verge of falling apart. Over the years, it's gained a following as a classic "so bad it's good" kind of flick. If you do give it a look, keep an eye out for a young John Ratzenberger as Rusty, the town's loyal mechanic.

11. Stryker

Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before: set in a bleak, desolate future where a third world war has destroyed all of civilization, survivors are scattered and desperate. The most precious resource is water; in this world, a single drop of it is as valuable as gold, and a truckload is Fort Knox. But a roving gang of vicious outlaws led by the warlord Kardis prowls the desert killing anyone that stands in their way as they claim all the water for themselves. 

On the run from Kardis, a young woman named Delha is rescued by a mysterious wandering warrior, a post-apocalyptic cowboy named Stryker. Delha belongs to a group of Amazonian bikers who possess the prize that Kardis is after: the secret of the last natural spring, an endless underground flow of precious water that any living soul would kill for. Driving an old Mustang, and armed with a trusty rifle, it's up to him — and his sidekick Bandit — to keep the secret safe from the deadly villain.

Most of these movies at least have some halfway decent stunts, a few fight scenes, but "Stryker" falls on its face with unimpressive action, a limp story, and a leading man with zero charisma or cool, making it one of the worst of the "Mad Max" copycats.

12. Wheels of Fire

Known by many names, whether it be "Desert Warrior," "Vindicator," or "Wheels of Fire," it's yet another low-grade "Mad Max" rip-off by Cirio H. Santiago. But oddly enough, this is the film that introduces the evil army called "The Ownership" seen later in "Equalizer 2000," who controls the world's supply of oil in a world devastated by a nuclear armageddon. In the film, another group of violent marauders threaten everyone in their path, and one warrior stands up to the stop them. 

His name is Trace, and with his rocket-powered muscle car he races through the desert where he meets up with his sister Arlee, who is promptly taken captive by the villainous warlord Scourge. Now it's up to Trace to save her before the baddie and his ruthless gang of miscreants can make her their slave. More exploitation, more sleaze, but far more action as well, it has its saving graces, but is every bit as awful as it sounds.

In a strange twist though, the film was actually the basis for a major lawsuit in 1985. Notorious producer Roger Corman took his own company New World Pictures to court when they refused to distribute "Wheels of Fire" and several others. As reported in the L.A. Times, Corman filed suit and accused the company of cheating him on his share of profits from various releases. 

13. Dune Warriors

Even into the 1990s, ripping off "Mad Max" had yet to go out of style. Despite flop after flop, filmmakers still found some allure in trying to recapture the dusty desert landscape and a lone heroic mystery warrior. Cheap to make, director Cirio H. Santiago churned out another "Mad Max" imposter in 1991, this one with former "Kung Fu" star David Carradine. Considering the actor's background it should come as no surprise that "Dune Warriors" mixes some samurai elements in with its post-apocalyptic setting, a nuclear wasteland where ... sigh ... water is a precious commodity.

In this one, the warlord who rules the wastes is named William — no fancy villain name here — and he's come to a small community that has a large supply of water.  His men clad in old football pads and used sports gear, wielding guns, chains, and words, come to take it from them. But in "Seven Samurai" fashion, a young woman from the town recruits a wandering warrior (Carradine) and several other mercenaries to fight William off, with an offer of water in return.

A copy-and-paste plot isn't the worst thing about this one, as the mix of classic elements could have worked. Instead, it's the atrocious acting, the cheap-looking props, and poor stuntwork that make this a bottom-of-the-barrel b-movie.

14. She-Wolves of the Wasteland

Blending many different elements we've seen before, but with a new twist, "She-Wolves of the Wasteland" — an appropriately cheesy title — introduces another desolate post-apocalyptic world where, like "Hell Comes To Frog Town," virile men are all but gone thanks to an unexplained (and confusing) mix of nuclear and "bacteriological war." With the landscape dominated by women, the survivors are ruled by the Reverend Mother, played by Persis Khambatta ("Star Trek: The Motion Picture"), who has mystical powers that she has used to create a line of superwomen.

A few car chases and bounty hunter brawls later, we learn that the villains are after one woman who is pregnant with a male child. They also encounter the last adult man, whose name is ... Guy.  Unfortunately, any promise this premise held is kept down by the same flaws that haunt every one of these "Mad Max" rip-offs. The excessive and sleazy nudity here doesn't help matters either, seemingly used to distract from a paper-thin story. It doesn't do the trick.

Rather than give our own take on this one though, we'll let the reviewers at Girls With Guns, who were unrelenting in their criticism, give their take: "This is feeble, in just about every way imaginable. The action is laughably inept, the script makes no sense at all, and the production values are entirely unconvincing."

15. Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force

Continuing the sub-sub-genre of "Mad Max" clones led by women comes the 1986 film "Roller Blade" from director Donald G. Jackson, the man behind "Hell Comes To Frogtown." The film centers on a mystical cult of women warriors, but in lieu of motorcycles or cars, these badass babes roam the post-industrial wastelands on roller skates. Yes, roller skates, not blades. In this twisted vision of a bleak, desolate future there's — you guessed it — a vile demonic warlord, this one who threatens to torture and enslave innocent victims.

Now it's up to a strange order of roller skate-riding warrior nuns with psychic powers to stop the bad guy, save his prisoners, and rebuild the lost world. Part "Mad Max," part martial arts movie, part "Baywatch," it's a joke of a film that once again uses women for little more than eye candy, including plenty of gratuitous nude scenes. And beyond exploitative, what makes it worse is that it's amateurish, even by the standards of other films on this list. Often scenes are content to be filmed in a warehouse with a smoke machine, while many of the actors and performers don't even seem like they've rehearsed, let alone practiced any of their martial arts moves.

Remarkably however, as terrible as the film is, it actually received at least three sequels, with "Return of the Roller Blade Seven," starring Frank Stallone, hitting rental shelves in 1993.

16. Mad Sheila

The original series of "Mad Max" films from the '80s — including the threequel "Beyond Thunderdome" — sparked an entire sub-genre of science fiction, as we've seen. But in 2015, the director finally produced the long-gestating reboot "Mad Max: Fury Road," sparking several new wannabes. Instead of clogging VHS shelves though, these new copycats popped up on various streaming services across the world.

The worst of them was made in China, a cheaply produced knock-off of "Fury Road" called "Mad Sheila." The latest in a long line of a wave of Chinese shoestring budget rip-offs akin to Asylum mockbusters here in the United States. Produced far away from American copyright laws, they could ape "Fury Road" even closer than other knock-offs.

"Mad Sheila" centered on a woman, disguised as a man, who roamed the desolate post-apocalyptic landscape, a hybrid character mixing elements of both Mad Max and Furiosa. Like "Fury Road" she encounters a group of young women and must aid them in their escape from a violent warlord.