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Warner Bros. fought to make Mad Max: Fury Road PG-13, but lost to George Miller - and we're glad

It was a pretty slick move, if you ask us

Mad Max Fury Road screenshot
Image credit: Warner Bros.

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The over-the-top carnage of Mad Max: Fury Road has made it one of the most celebrated action films of all time, but it was initially meant to be significantly toned down. The original vision that Warner Bros. had for the movie was a more family-friendly affair that earned a PG-13, similar to the previous film Beyond Thunderdome, but George Miller and his crew managed to change things up during filming.

When they initially agreed to fund Miller’s latest foray into the Mad Max world, Warner Bros. believed Mad Max: Fury Road would work best as a PG-13 movie. That would open it up to a much wider audience and help them recoup the more than $150 million that they agreed to spend on it. Miller decided to take a risk and put together an R-rated cut instead.

Related: Making sense of the Mad Max timelines: When do each of the movies take place?

The wrinkle here is that Miller and his team were contractually obliged to turn in a PG-13 cut of Mad Max: Fury Road. They just also happened to deliver an R-rated version alongside it. Warner Bros. agreed to screen-test both versions. Miller’s more visceral, violent version tested better so that was the version that made it into theaters and history books as one of the best action films ever made. Was this always the plan, to sneak a more mature, ultimately better movie into cinemas? Or did Miller just change his mind halfway through filming and figure out a way to get the studio on board? We're not sure but we're glad it worked out.

We will probably never know exactly what the differences between the two cuts – even the version that was released isn’t excessively violent compared to many R-rated films. Most likely, it has to do with the tone of the film, with a PG-13 Mad Max: Fury Road leaning less into the constant encroaching threat posed by Immortan Joe and his convoy of violence. Or maybe the mask they made Tom Hardy wear was just too frightening for young viewers.

Get a road map for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga with Popverse. From a look at Furiosa's new ride to an itinerary on how (and where) to watch all the Mad Max movies in chronological or release order.