List compiled by Eddie on 31/01/2014
The Australian film industry has gone through a tough time over the last decade where it has been rare for a film to truly break out and become a hit with both audiences and critics alike. Many of the breakout hits from recent times have been feel good follies such as Red Dog or The Sapphires but Australia has a history of producing dark, emotional and powerful films that while not being in any way crowd pleasers are works of art that deserve to be found by those around the world.
In this below list of must see Australian films I hope that it can showcase our home grown acting and filmmaking talent to you the reader and that the list presents a varied and interesting look into Australia and it’s peoples or perhaps merely a fun time at the movies (you can also view Jordan’s list here). Enjoy and happy watching.
Disclaimer – Plot summary’s from IMDB
10 – Wake in Fright (1971)
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Cast: Donald Pleasance, Gary Bond
Plot: John Grant, a bonded teacher, arrives in a rough outback mining town planning to stay overnight before starting his holiday. But one night stretches to several and with the aid of alcohol he plunges headlong toward his own destruction.
A fever dream of a movie that is unlike anything made before or anything made since. Putting the spotlight on small remote community’s and goings on in these townships has never been more scary and consolidates Wake In Fright as a true Australian classic.
9 – Toomelah (2011)
Director: Ivan Sen (Mystery Road)
Cast: Daniel Connors, Dean Daley-Jones
Plot: In a remote Aboriginal community, 10 year old Daniel yearns to be a gangster, like the male role models in his life. Skipping school, getting into fights and running drugs for Linden, who leads the main gang in town.
A raw and powerful tale focusing on young boy Daniel who is fantastically played by Daniel Connors and his time growing up in a remote Aboriginal community. Director Sen also scored and edited the film and his finished product is a great example of talent in action.
8 – Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Director: Peter Faiman (Dutch)
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski
Plot: An American reporter goes to the Australian outback to meet an eccentric crocodile poacher and invites him to New York City.
Without a doubt Australia’s most famous and successful import Dundee is also a whimsically funny tale of fish out of water people and a film that has heart to share. Well worth seeking out if you have never partaken in this particular journey.
7 – The Proposition (2005)
Director: John Hillcoat (The Road)
Cast: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone
Plot: A lawman apprehends a notorious outlaw and gives him nine days to kill his older brother, or else they’ll execute his younger brother.
Written by Nick Cave and directed by now Hollywood player John Hillcoat The Proposition is an unflinching Australian western that features a raft of local and international talent on top form. Not for the faint of heart but a work of true artistic beauty no matter how harsh the subject.
6 – Romper Stomper (1992)
Director: Geoffrey Wright (Macbeth)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jacqueline McKenzie
Plot: A group of skinheads become alarmed at the way their neighbourhood is changing.
A showcase for the powerful acting ability of Russell Crowe Wright’s film is a brutal and unforgettable look at rampant racism in the city of Melbourne. Polarising some critics upon release Romper has now etched itself into the classic status of Australian movies and has lost none of its power even today.
5 – Burning Man (2011)
Director: Jonathan Teplitzkey (The Railway Man)
Cast: Matthew Goode, Rachel Griffiths
Plot: An English chef with a chic restaurant on Bondi Beach trying to put his life and his relationship with his son back on track while surrounded by women.
I have previously talked about Jonathan Teplitzkey’s Burning Man in my underrated films list so with risk of repeating myself I urge all to seek out and find this fine piece of filmmaking that acts as both a showpiece for Matthew Goode as an actor and the talents of director Teplitzkey.
4 – Gettin Square (2003)
Director: Jonathan Teplitzkey (The Railway Man)
Cast: Sam Worthington, David Wenham
Plot: Gettin’ Square is about starting over, keeping clean and going straight. Barry Wirth is fresh out of prison and determined to stay on the straight and narrow.
Jonathan Teplitzkey’s second feature length film is an absolutely hilarious look at criminals operating on the Australian Gold Coast. Noteworthy for both an early Sam Worthington lead role and a truly legendary turn from David Wenham as mulleted criminal Johnny “Spit” Spitieri.
3 – Mad Max (1979)
Director: George Miller (Babe: Pig in the City)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley
Plot: A vengeful Australian policeman sets out to avenge his partner, his wife and his son whom were murdered by a motorcycle gang in retaliation for the death of their leader.
Like Crocodile Dundee Mad Max is a movie that has transcended it’s Australian film status and made a splash overseas. Sending actor Mel Gibson into the stratosphere and launching director Miller into Hollywood Mad Max remains one of the best action films ever produced and one can only hope next year’s Fury Road doesn’t tarnish the name.
2 – Chopper (2000)
Director: Andrew Dominik (Killing them Softly)
Cast: Eric Bana, Vince Colosimo
Plot: Chopper tells the intense story of Mark “Chopper” Read, a legendary criminal who wrote his autobiography while serving a jail sentence in prison. His book, “From the Inside”, upon which the film is based, was a best-seller.
Jordan wrote a fantastic classic review on this title which is well worth checking out. Eric Bana’s break out role is a turn for the ages and on the strength of Domink’s steady hand behind camera allowed him to collaborate with Brad Pitt on equally original and well made films Assassination of Jesse James and Killing Them Softly.
1 – Animal Kingdom (2010)
Director: David Michod (The Rover)
Cast: Jacki Weaver, James Frecheville
Plot: Tells the story of seventeen year-old J (Josh) as he navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family and the detective who thinks he can save him.
David Michod’s Animal Kingdom will forever be known as the film Jacki Weaver stole with her Oscar nominated turn as family matriarch Janine “Smurf” Cody but what Animal Kingdom also is an incredible feature length debut from writer director Michod and a film filled with amazing supporting turns from soon to be seen in the 300 sequel Sullivan Stapleton and the role of Pope that gave Ben Mendelsohn the pick of Hollywood supporting roles. Animal Kingdom is a flawless and stunning Australian film that showcases our industry to the world.
Honourable mentions – The Square (2008), The Castle (1997), Australian Rules (2002), Red Dog (2011), Crackerjack (2002), Candy (2006), Beautiful Kate (2009), Ten Canoes (2006), Boxing Day (2007), Little Fish (2005), Noise (2007), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Kenny (2006), The Interview (1998).
How does this list compare to the Aussie films you know and love? Let us know in the comments below.
- The Independent Cinemas Association of Australia (ICAA) conference 2013 (fabienmoothoo.wordpress.com)
- Robert Pattinson Honors Australians in Film (variety.com)
- How ‘Thor’ Is Basically ‘Crocodile Dundee’ In Disguise (huffingtonpost.com)
Good list, glad to see you include Mad Max as it greatly amped up my fear of nuclear war when it came out. But hey, both of you left Young Einstein off of your lists. No love for Yahoo Serious? haha
Oh man Yahoo Serious how could we forget the great wisecracking ranga!
Loved “Young Einstein” but wasn’t the point of this list to highlight the films that don’t normally get any love? If it was top ten comedies I’d be asking where “Priscilla”, “Strictly Ballroom”, “Muriel’s Wedding”, “The Castle”, “The Dish”, “Spider & Rose”, “The Sum of Us” and possibly even “Idiot Box” were.
Nah mate this list is just purely there to highlight classic Aussie films at least in our opinion classic. A lot of these films would be little seen overseas bar your big success stories.
I was obsessed with the Mad Max series as a kid but I’m worried Fury Road won’t turn out well. Great list!
Cheers Flashback. If they can keep the focus on more practical effects and stunts I think we could be in for a treat, I have faith in Tom hardy anyway. Sounds like the shoot was a nightmare though.
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“Animal Kingdom” is brilliant, Eddie. And yay for Max Rockatansky(before we realized Gibson was a douche bag)and Mick Dundee! ML
Oh the joys of pre douche Mel! I hope he can redeem himself in the obviously silly but enjoyable in that trashy way Expendables 3.
Or he could apologise to women and Jews…
Fantastic list. Great to see Burning Man on here. That is one of my top 2 Aussie films of all time. Definitely should be seen by more people.
Fantastic to hear Beer, I know barely anyone who has seen it sadly but it is a film of true power.
Ten amazing films! I love Wake In Fright, I recommend it to everyone. Such a classic. The book is great too.
I would love to read the book at some stage I believe way back it use to be apart of the high school reading curriculum, would of been a good one to study.
Animal Kingdom is an amazing film. So clever and unflinchingly brutal. I loved The Proposition too.
Both really brutal films, but you can’t turn away from them.
Thanks for bringing these films to my attention…
Our pleasure Mark, hopefully you can get your hands on a few of them. Be sure to let us know if you do.
As many more of your picks seem to agree with other “Best of Australian Cinema” lists, I’m following your take, Eddie. Getting ready to watch Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee, and Chopper as part of my recent tour of “World Cinema.” From what I’ve researched, Jordan’s picks seem more sidestream, or more obscure hits.
Some great picks there Celtic, be sure to let us know how you felt about them, I do strongly urge you check Wake in Fright as well. Jordan has some great little titles in his list also that are worth a look on a rainy day.
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