10 Must-See Australian Films: Jordan’s Take

Robert Thompson as the man with the menacing stare: Patrick

Robert Thompson as the man with the menacing stare: Patrick

By Jordan

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)

Thirst. A forgotten yet inspired modern vampire fable

Thirst. A forgotten yet inspired modern vampire fable

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)

The lake that would be the source of many nightmares

The lake that would be the source of many nightmares

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)

He's a weirdo...

He’s a weirdo…

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)

A prom night to remember

A prom night to remember

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)

Australia's favourite family

Australia’s favourite family

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)

Trust me, the movie is better than the poster

Trust me, the movie is better than the poster

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)

Mick Taylor - giving outback Australia a terrible name

Mick Taylor – giving outback Australia a terrible name

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)

The late, great Dennis Hopper as Irish Bushranger Mad Dog

The late, great Dennis Hopper as Irish Bush-ranger Mad Dog

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)

The young and talented Heath Ledger in Two Hands

The young and talented Heath Ledger in Two Hands

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)

Night of Fear: a movie so scarcely seen this is one of the only pics I could find...

Night of Fear: a movie so scarcely seen this is one of the only pics I could find…

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.

$13.99 very well spent - The DVD that holds a special place in my heart

$13.99 very well spent – The DVD that holds a special place in my heart

How does this list compare to the Aussie films you know and love? Let us know in the comments below.

52 responses to “10 Must-See Australian Films: Jordan’s Take

  1. I think my favorite Australian film is Picnic at Hanging Rock. Your tastes seem to skew toward the grotesque, but Picnic has a Henry James kind of subtlety in its take on the macabre and its consequences.

    • Oh no doubt its a stunning movie! And one of the most mysterious this country has produced. It was in one of my drafts but just didn’t quite make the cut; it might feature in Eddie’s list though.
      Cheers, Jordan

  2. Great list! I saw Bad Boy Bubby when I was younger and it really freaked me out. Have been meaning to re-watch it. There’s a whole bunch on this list that I’ve never heard of before so I’m looking forward to watching a few of them! Also I’d like to add Animal Kingdom (2010) and Wake In Fright (1971) as two other essential Aussie films!

    • It certainly hasn’t gotten any more normal, ha, and yeah there are a heap of films from the 70’s especially that are just begging to be discovered by more people! I don’t want to spoil Ed’s list too much ha but I reckon you can expect some films of that ilk on there… both are tremendous! Ben Mendelsohn’s performance in Animan Kingdom was simply superb.

      • From what I understand it and most other Australian “Westerns” like Quigley Down Under make 19th century Australia to look the American frontier deceivingly more similar than it actually was.

      • Yeah very true, that’s why I rate Mad Dog Morgan so highly, it doesn’t glorify Australia at all and shows a slice of our history in a realistic fashion. The truth is we’re a young country without much history at all.

      • Yeah we’ve only been a federation for around 113 years.
        Ah yes, to be honest growing up here you’re never really taught too much about that period, although it’s a possibility that not a lot was ever recorded.

      • Ah I’d say The Proposition is more than watchable! ha.
        We may be conservative (especially with a Liberal Govt. at present), but I don’t see that as such a bad thing when the global economy is so volatile; and I respect that our current leaders aren’t buckling to the whim of the vocal minority.
        And hey, we’ve got some nice beaches and mountain ranges! And that’s what’s really important…

      • All I am saying is regarding Australia’s “history”, there used to be a time when people didn’t have to worry about being homeless and starving, dying from exposure or not be able to afford medical care. These days are well and truly behind us now. I think it reveals a lot about the nature of a society to judge it by how it’s most vulnerable citizens are treated.I also think that people who have a selfish conservative attitude need their own medicine thrown in their face so that they can suffer just as much as someone less fortunate. Also the beaches and mountain ranges?????? they are suffering from sun bleaching, we are accepting nuclear waste that is being dumped in national parks, opening uranium mines. I can not for the life of me see why in a country as HOT as Australia, now literally the hottest place on earth we aren’t investing more in solar power. It’s a travesty.

      • Well, honestly its nice to see someone with such strong political/social/environmental views! I think in Tas we’re a bit sheltered from the majority of issues, it’s a little bit of a haven down here, ha.

  3. lol. . how does this list compare to my Aussie list of films? welp. it just goes to show how little i’ve seen really. i want to check out Night of Fear and Two Hands, since they rank so highly here. Nice work all around

  4. Informative list. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single, full-fledged Auzzie film (although fun fact: ‘The Wolverine’ [2013] was in fact partially produced by an Australian studio). I mostly know of Auzzies in movie through actors (e.g. Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger).

  5. I’ve seen a bunch of these, but honestly I am really excited about Wolf Creek 2. I hope it’ll be as good as its prequel.
    I also think The Tunnel was a pretty good one! 🙂

    • Same! I really think it will be, you can’t go wrong with Mick Taylor.
      Yep agree with that as well, really eerie and very well made. Very cool that you’ve seen so many!

  6. I wasn’t a big fan of Night of Fear, but I am impressed that it was a silent film without making a big deal out of it (unless I’m remembering wrong, it didn’t have a single line of dialogue). Great list, even if mine would look very different!

    • Yeah that’s right, a whole lot of screaming though! It was the unrelenting tension that struck me, and it always helps seeing this films at impressionable times.
      Cheers mate.

  7. Great list. Absolutely agree that the public out here does not support the industry as they should. I have heaps of favourites. Samson and Delilah, Long Weekend and Mystery Road spring to mind for starters.

  8. The only one of those films I have heard of is Wolf Creek, and I haven’t even seen it. My knowledge of Australian cinema therefore increased monumentally with this list. Cheers.

    • I really enjoyed Rogue actually! One of the better killer croc films. The Clinic I thought had a terrific premise but wasn’t executed with enough care. Both interesting titles to have seen!

  9. I sort of expected to see more of the modern crop of Australian films since that is really all that I know much about. It looks like I’ve added a few more to my very, very long list of “movies to check out.”

  10. Gees. The only one I’ve seen is Wolf Creek, and the only other one I’ve heard of is Lake Mungo! Apparently, I have some catching up to do with you Aussies. 😉 Nice idea for a list!

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  12. Cannot wait for Patrick, mostly due to the fact it has Sharni in it. Lets put our hands together and pray that this remake does not fail in bringing the goods. But if it does, at least I will enjoy the wonderful acting chops of the Australian princess, Sharni Vinson.

    • I regret to inform you that you’re moving in on my territory there with Sharni, ha. Chances are it will be missing the raw menace of the original, but the original was missing her so it should all even out..

  13. Not gonna hammer your choices, it’s an interesting list. Glad you’ve got The Castle and Two Hands in there. Two Hands is an amazing film.

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