The movie starts with a narration about how war has destroyed the world and gas is a rare commodity. People roam the wastelands looking for food and scraps trying to avoid the vicious gangs.
We meet Max being chased by some of these gang members. He gets to a truck acting like a bit of a roadblock and that’s the gang’s boundary, or something, because the surviving members turn around and leave him.
Later, Max comes across an autogyro to see if it has any fuel. Instead, Max is captured by the pilot. But Max overpowers him, and the pilot tells him about a nearby oil refinery with a tanker full of gas.
Max takes the pilot to this refinery, which is besieged by Lord Humungus and his gang, the same ones that were chasing him earlier. Max watches them from a nearby hill for a day or two. At one point, some of the people in the refinery make a break for it with their cars going in different directions. Max watches as one of the cars is taken out.
Once the gang leaves this car, Max goes to it and finds the driver who is near death. He makes a deal with Max that if he takes him back to the refinery, he’ll get all the gas he can carry.
Max takes him back to the refinery, but the guy dies and the people there think he must be involved with the gang and they take his car.
Before Max can talk his way out of the refinery, Lord Humungus shows up with the people from the other cars. He says that he’ll let everyone leave if they give him the gas. Otherwise, he’ll kill all of them. Some of the people want to take the offer, but others say that the gas is their future. But they don’t have a truck to haul the tanker. At this, Max speaks up saying he knows where there’s a truck to haul the tanker, he just asks for all the gas he can carry.
They give him a few gallons of gas, and he goes back to the pilot. They fly the autogyro to the roadblock, and Max drives the truck back to the refinery with the pilot giving him some help to get through Humungus’ gang.
The refinery people ask Max to stay and drive the truck, but he figures he’s kept his side of the bargain, and gets a few drums of gas in his car. Max leaves the refinery, but the gang makes his car crash. So they don’t get their hands on it, or the gas, Max sets off a bomb and blows it up.
The pilot flies out and picks up Max and takes him back to the refinery. Max then offers to drive the truck with the tanker out. While he goes one way – with a few of the refinery people helping him – the rest go another way to go to their “promised land” on the coast. A few of Humungus’ gang go into the refinery, but it blows up.
There’s a long chase, but most of the Humungus’ gang are killed, including Humungus himself. But eventually, the truck and tanker roll over revealing that it is only full of sand. The refinery people had put the gas in drums and put them in all the other cars that slipped out while the gang chased Max. The pilot goes with them, and Max goes off alone again.
I do find it a bit funny how gas is a rare and precious commodity, so of course people go racing across the desert at 90mph in cars that aren’t very aerodynamic. I know, movies require a bit of suspension of disbelief, but this is a bit much for me.