Sure, there are multiple reasons for this, but ultimately us Australian’s don’t support our film industry in the manner we should. From our prime export being crime films, to independent horror, blue-collar comedies and art-house treasures there is a plethora for cinephiles around the world to discover and love, and as you will notice, also an abundance of cult oddities and guilty pleasures…
Here are 10 must-see Australian films:
Note: See Eddie’s list here.
Plot summary’s from IMDB. Reviews by Jordan
10. Thirst (1979)
Directed by Rod Hardy
Starring Chantal Contouri, Shirley Cameron, David Hemmings
The descendant of Elizabeth Bathory is abducted by a cult of self-proclaimed supermen who achieve this state of superiority by drinking from the “blood cows” (read: people) kept at the “dairy farm”, and they try to get her to join them.
I originally purchased the nightmarish Thirst in a DVD pack with Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, which in itself speaks volumes for its quality. Borrowing ideas from classics such as Suspiria and Soylent Green, and featuring an inspired use of a shower, Rod Hardy’s stark, industrial horror is now more relevant than ever, and deserves far more recognition than it has achieved.
9. Lake Mungo (2008)
Directed by Joel Anderson
Starring Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe
A supernatural drama about grief.
Often times ones opinion on a movie can be born by the manner in which they watched it, which is very possibly the case here… seeing Lake Mungo alone, by accident while flicking through late-night TV ensured it frightened me deeply and with its unsettling mood and carefully dreadful structure has stuck with me since, never losing its affect no matter how many times I’ve re-watched it. Ghost stories have always had the ability to scare me in a way other horrors can’t, and though this one is no longer as original as it was upon release, it’s still one of the finest modern entries.
8. Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
Directed by Rolf De Heer
Starring Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito, Ralph Cotterill
Bubby has spent thirty years trapped in the same small room, tricked by his mother. One day, he manages to escape, and, deranged and naive in equal measures, his adventure into modern life begins.
What does one say about Bad Boy Bubby; Rolf De Heer’s (The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, The Tracker) weird, disturbing and dark cult oddity that you are possibly more likely to hate than love? Well, its certainly different… be warned though, this one is not for the faint of heart, or cat lovers.
7. The Loved Ones (2009)
Directed by Sean Byrne
Starring Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine
When Brent turns down his classmate Lola’s invitation to the prom, she concocts a wildly violent plan for revenge.
Am I bias for my admiration of The Loved Ones because it’s directed by a fellow Tasmanian? Perhaps… but I’d like to think not, as Sean Byne’s twisted tale of young love gone very wrong unfolds so masterfully its impossible to look away, even as the drill comes out.
6. The Castle (1997)
Directed by Rob Sitch
Starring Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry
A Melbourne family is very happy living where they do, near the Melbourne airport (according to Jane Kennedy, it’s “practically their back yard”). However, they are forced to leave their beloved home, by the Government and airport authorities. ‘The Castle’ is the story of how they fight to remain in their house, taking their case as far as the High Court.
“This is going straight to the pool room,” Tell ’em they’re dreamin’,” “Hows the serenity?” Australia’s favourite film is also its most quotable, likeable and perfectly honest in its depiction of the blue-collar working class family. Featuring a cast of this countries most beloved acting talent, including a young Eric Banner and the great Charles “Bud” Tingwell (as well as Michael Caton, Stephen Curry, Wayne Hope, the list goes on…), The Castle is an uplifting film impossible to dislike, and remains a quintessential pillar of our film industry.
5. Patrick (1978)
Directed by Richard Franklin
Starring Susan Penhaligon, Robert Helpmann, Robert Thompson
A comatose hospital patient harasses and kills though his powers of telekinesis to claim his private nurse as his own.
Recently remade with my dream-girl Sharni Vinson and accomplished actress Rachel Griffiths, the original Patrick still retains its menacing aura and increasing sense of exciting dread. One of Quentin Tarantino’s “Ozploitation” favourites, and featuring a terribly fun, spine chilling ending, this is a thriller that is a lot better than its plot suggests, with a music score by the legendary Goblin (Deep Red, Suspiria) only adding to the effect.
4. Wolf Creek (2005)
Directed by Greg Mclean
Starring Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi
Stranded backpackers in remote Australia fall prey to a murderous bushman who offers to fix their car, then takes them captive.
The ghastly, gory and horrific horror movie that put Australia on the genre map, Wolf Creek works so effectively thanks solely to John Jarratt’s insidious and terrifying performance as psychopath Mick Taylor, an iconic villain, who, with a sequel coming out shortly can stand proudly alongside Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.
3. Mad Dog Morgan (1976)
Directed by Philippe Mora
Starring Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson, David Gulpilil
The true story of Irish outlaw Daniel Morgan, who is wanted, dead or alive, in Australia during the 1850s.
One of the most volatile and unpredictable actors of his generation, the late Dennis Hopper played many great roles throughout his tumultuous career (including such classics as Easy Rider, The American Friend and Apocalypse Now), and his turn as bush-ranger Daniel “Mad Dog” Morgan ranks among the best of them. Constantly inebriated on set and continually unprofessional, this reckless personality translates to the raw spirit imbued in Morgan, and what better word than ‘raw’ to describe the feel of this Australian classic itself.
2. Two Hands (1999)
Directed by Gregor Jordan
Starring Heath Ledger, Bryan Brown, Rose Byrne
A 19 year old (Heath Ledger) finds himself in debt to a local gangster (Bryan Brown) when some gang loot disappears and sets him on the run from thugs. Meanwhile two street kids start a shopping spree when they find the missing money. Rose Byrne co-stars as a country girl, who Ledger starts a romance with on his trip.
A collection of Australia’s most exciting film-making talent and the genre this country specializes in; there’s no wonder Two Hands is such an unrelenting and exuberant masterwork. Thrilling, funny, charming and fast-paced, Gregor Jordan’s (Buffalo Soldiers, Ned Kelly, Unthinkable) debut feature focused on the criminal underbelly is required Australian viewing.
1. Night of Fear (1972)
Directed by Terry Bourke
Starring Norman Yemm, Carla Hoogeveen, Mike Dorsey
A young woman becomes lost in the woods after her horse runs off.
My favourite Australian film, and also one of the least seen (I’m yet to come across anyone else who has even heard of it). I grabbed Night of Fear when, in the mood to experience an unknown horror, I saw it in a double pack with another Bourke creation Inn of the Damned (1975, terrible), and needless to say I was immediately struck by the sever suspense and grungy, seedy, low-budget atmosphere rendering it the film I hold in such high regard today.
The plot is as simple as is possible in a feature film, but the manner in which it unfolds, and the stylistic (lack of style, really) choices employed in terms of location, music and ambiance lather it with an incredibly unsettling sensibility. This is highly recommended for any determined horror connoisseur, or anyone who just wants to see something that not many others have.
How does this list compare to the Aussie films you know and love? Let us know in the comments below.