Best Australasian Films

This list is in alpha order. See also my best list by date. See also my top ten.

This is all merely my opinion. You might want to compare this list with the AFI's best films.


100 Bloody Acres (Cameron Cairnes, Colin Cairnes, 2012) Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Anna McGahan, Oliver Ackland, Jamie Kristian, John Jarratt; comedy horror

Great fun. It subverts the gore horror flick by crossing it with not only romcom but also social problem themes. It's well-written.

The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994) Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce

One of the ABBA films: amazing that there are two (as well as the doco about the actual band); this film has flair (and flares).

Angel Baby (Michael Rymer, 1995) John Lynch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Colin Friels, Deborra-Lee Furness; schizophrenics don't take their medication (when she gets pregnant), go 'mad'

In the struggle between people with mental illness and the system, the system wins.

Animal Kingdom (David Michôd, 2010) Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver; crime; Cannes

Superficially like the The Boys - and at least as good as it is, which is saying something. But it's different; and even darker.

Australian Rules (Paul Goldman, 2002) wr. Phillip Gwynne (novel Deadly, Unna?), Paul Goldman, dp Mandy Walker; Nathan Phillips, Lisa Flanagan, Simon Westaway, Luke Carroll, Kevin Harrington, Martin Vaughan, Liz Black

Another take on non/Indigenous cultural collision, this offers (tho superficially) the possibility of conciliation.

Bad Blood (Mike Newell, 1981) Jack Thompson, Carol Burns; NZ; drama; VHS; 113 min.

This has the single most powerful performance by an actor in any Australasian film—from Jack Thompson.

Bad Boy Bubby (Rolf de Heer, 1994) Nicholas Hope, Claire Bonito, Ralph Cotterill, Carmel Johnson, Syd Brisbane

This is a European 'idea' film - similar to Herzog's Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle. Many people will find the first 15-20 minutes hard going.

Beneath Clouds (Ivan Sen, 2002) Damian Pitt, Dannielle Hall

My personal favourite: this shows what life is like for many rural (but not remote) First Australians - and also vignettes of their relations with (some) non-Aboriginal people. It's beautifully photographed - the director started as a stills photographer.

The Big Steal (Nadia Tass, 1990) wr. David Parker with Max Dunn, dp David Parker; Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan, Steve Bisley, Marshall Napier, Tim Robertson; romantic comedy, revenge fantasy

Another charming film from the Tass-Parker partnership, about a young man and his Jaguar, and his father's Cedric (that's another car).

Blackfellas (James Ricketson, 1993) Day of the Dog, novel by Archie Weller; John Moore, David Ngoombujarra, Jaylene Riley, Ernie Dingo, Julie Hudspeth, John Hargreaves

Mostly distinguished by the fine performance of David Ngoombujarra.

The Boys (Rowan Woods, 1997) prod. Robert Connolly, John Maynard; David Wenham, Toni Collette, John Polson, Lynette Curran, Anthony Hayes, Jeanette Cronin, Anna Lise

A very dysfunctional family, and a heinous crime: tough going.

Breaker Morant (Bruce Beresford, 1980) dp Don McAlpine; Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, John Waters, Bryan Brown, Allan Cassell, Terry Donovan, Charles Tingwell, John Waters

Aussies against the Boer (and the British) - fine performances, sustained seriousness.

Burning Man (Jonathan Teplitzky, 2011) Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Essie Davis, Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Fox, Kate Beahan

I can't think of another film with so many fine performances from the women in it.

The Cars that Ate Paris (Peter Weir, 1974) wr. Peter Weir, dp John McLean; Terry Camilleri, John Meillon, Chris Haywood, Max Gillies, Kevin Miles, Tim Robertson, Bruce Spence; thriller

The finest of Australian gothic.

The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997) Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Anthony Simcoe, Sophie Lee, Wayne Hope, Tiriel Mora, Eric Bana, Charles Tingwell

Possibly the most popular Australian film ever (with Australians), it's actually cutting satire, but somehow appeals to nationalism.

Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000) Eric Bana, Vince Colosimo, Simon Lyndon, David Field

Eric Bana is scary; apparently the real Chopper Read approved - which is even scarier.

Cosi (Mark Joffe, 1996) wr. Louis Nowra (also play); Barry Otto, Ben Mendelsohn, Toni Collette, Pamela Rabe, Jacki Weaver, Paul Chubb, Colin Hay, David Wenham, Colin Friels, Aden Young, Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Fletcher

Based on Nowra's own experience working in an institution, this provides an opportunity for great performances from a large number of Australian actors: I think it's Wenham's best work, along with The Boys.

Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986) Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, David Gulpilil

I hardly need to tell you about the most successful Australian film ever.

Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998) wr. Alex Proyas; Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly; SF

Very good SF.

Dead Calm (Phillip Noyce, 1989) wr. Terry Hayes, novel Charles Williams, The Deep; Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane

Excellent suspenser.

Dead Heart (Nick Parsons, 1996) wr. Nick Parsons; Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Angie Milliken, Gnarnayarrahe Waitaire, Aaron Pedersen; outback cop in clash between tribal and white man's law

A rather complicated and even exploitative story, this is nevertheless the best fictional depiction of (black and white) life in a remote community.

Death in Brunswick (John Ruane, 1991) Sam Neill, Zoe Carides, John Clarke, Yvonne Lawley, Nick Lathouris

I love the quirky humour in this little film. Not just the set-piece graveyard scene, but right from the start, when Sam Neill's character finds his mother with her head in the gas oven. It's stylistically disunified, occasionally over the top, even surrealistic (the scene in the church), so clearly it's not perfect, but art rarely is. It's worth the price for Sam Neill's fine acting alone.

The Devil's Playground (Fred Schepisi, 1976) dp Ian Baker; Simon Burke, Arthur Dignam, Tom Kenneally, John Diedrich, Sheila Florance, Nick Tate

Catholic culture oppressing both the priests and the boys in a seminary.

Dirty Deeds (David Caesar, 2002) Bryan Brown, John Goodman, Toni Collette, Sam Neill, Sam Worthington, Felix Williamson, Kestie Morassi

The Mafia - and John Goodman! - in Australia; and Bryan Brown does not get acted off the screen: all good fun.

The Dish (Rob Sitch, 2000) comedy; Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long

The second film from the team that made The Castle: not quite as successful, but still very good, and in the same ways.

Don's Party (Bruce Beresford, 1976) wr. David Williamson, dp Don McAlpine; Ray Barrett, Claire Binney, Pat Bishop, Jeanie Drynan, John Hargreaves, Harold Hopkins, Graham Kennedy, Graeme Blundell, Veronica Lang, Candy Raymond

From a David Williamson play, this offers a comedic take on bourgeois life with boozing, sexual shenanigans, and party politics - in the context of an election party meant to celebrate a left-wing win.

Flirting (John Duigan, 1991) Noah Taylor, Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts

One of Duigan's two films on sexual awakening in the Australian countryside, it has no fewer than four actors who went on to Hollywood.

Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1981) wr. David Williamson, dp Russell Boyd; Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Hunter, Robert Grubb, Bill Kerr, David Argue, Harold Hopkins

The ANZAC film we had to have: it's much better than it might have been; unforgettable ending.

The Goddess Of 1967 (Clara Law, 2000) dp Dion Beebe; Rose Byrne

By far the best of the Japanese-meets-Australian films, this one was shot by Oscar-winning Dion Beebe. (The goddess is a Citroën DS.)

Great Gatsby, The (Baz Luhrmann, 2013) wr. F. Scott Fitzgerald (novel), Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce; US/Aust copro; Leonardo di Caprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Jack Thompson

But is it an Australian film in any meaningful sense?

Head On (Ana Kokkinos, 1998) Loaded, novel by Christos Tsiolkas; Alex Dimitriades, Paul Capsis

This made an impression; a second-generation Greek Australian is both bi-cultural and bi-sexual.

Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1995) Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet; NZ

True story about a girl who killed her parents: anything made by Peter Jackson is at least interesting.

High Tide (Gillian Armstrong, 1987) prod. Sandra Levy, wr. Laura Jones; Judy Davis, Claudia Karvan, Jan Adele, Colin Friels; woman accidentally rediscovers her daughter, who has been brought up by her paternal grandmother

I'm interested in family melodramas, and this is one of the better ones: how could it not be good, with both Judy Davis and Colin Friels?

Holy Smoke (Jane Campion, 1999) Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel, Tim Robertson

I'm glad we have a film about the tendency to rush off to India for instant enlightenment. This one also sends up Australian families (cf. eg. The Castle). But the guts of it is Winslet v. Keitel in an encounter only Campion could have imagined (cf. In the Cut). (So it's three films in one, like Jindabyne, qv.)

Howling 3: The Marsupials (Philippe Mora, 1987) Barry Otto, Imogen Annesley (Jerboa), Dasha Blahova, Max Fairchild, Ralph Cotterill, Leigh Biolos, Frank Thring, Burnum Burnum

Impossible to pigeon-hole - because it does not really belong in the Howling (werewolf) series - this profoundly investigates environmental and Aboriginal issues: a most unusual film.

Hunt Angels (Alec Morgan, 2006) docudrama; Ben Mendelsohn; little-known episode in Oz cinematic history: true and little known story of Rupert Kathner and Alma Brooks, tenacious pioneers of the Australian film industry

I'm glad I was able to catch this: obviously I'm a sucker for a film about Oz Cin - but this is much better than its 20c. budget might suggest. It's also prolly much better than of the Kathner/Brooks films.

Idiot Box (David Caesar, 1996) Ben Mendelsohn, Jeremy Sims, John Polson, Susie Porter; Kev and Mick rob a bank cos it seems like a good idea at the time

A sordid little tale; but a beautifully crafted film: it's what David Caesar does.

Interview, The (Craig Monahan, 1998) Hugo Weaving, Tony Martin, Aaron Jeffrey, Paul Sonkkila

One room, two men: excellent police procedural on a very small scale.

Japanese Story (Sue Brooks, 2003) wr. Alison Tilson, prod. Sue Maslin, ed. Jill Bilcock; Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima; set and shot in Perth and the Pilbara; well-connected Japanese executive comes to Western Australian to inspect iron-ore mining and is driven into the bush by geologist (Collette)

Good try, especially from Collette: Japanese viewers see Hiro as too stereotypical.

Jedda (Charles Chauvel, 1955) Ngarla Kunoth, Robert Tudawali, Betty Suttor, Paul Reynall; stolen generations story, with young Aboriginal woman raised by white family and torn between two cultures

The Noble man who is too Savage to live; and the little girl torn between cultures: an important film, and not just because it was the first to be shot in colour.

Jindabyne (Ray Lawrence, 2006) wr. Beatrix Christian; Gabriel Byrne, Laura Linney, Deborra-Lee Furness, Chris Haywood, John Howard, Max Cullen, Leah Purcell

It's possible to see this as (merely) a bourgeois relationship morality drama, but the (black-white) cultural clash (tho a bit separate - as is the thriller aspect) is worth attending to.

Kiss or Kill (Bill Bennett, 1997) dp Malcolm McCulloch; Matt Day, Frances O'Connor, Chris Haywood, Barry Otto, Andrew S. Gilbert, Barry Langrishe, Max Cullen, Syd Brisbane

As I said about Idiot Box, it's a sordid little tale; but a beautifully crafted film. If it's not in my top ten, it'll have to be in the top twelve: Bill Bennett will prolly never make a better film, tho David Caesar might.

Lantana (Ray Lawrence, 2001) wr. Andrew Bovell; Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo, Russell Dykstra, Daniella Farinacci, Peter Phelps, Leah Purcell, Glenn Robbins

One of the best films ever written in Australia, this one allows an insight into half a dozen urban relationships of different kinds.

The Last Days of Chez Nous (Gillian Armstrong, 1992) wr. Helen Garner; Lisa Harrow, Bruno Ganz, Kerry Fox, Miranda Otto, Kiri Paramore, Bill Hunter

Two sisters, but only one Frenchman - not to mention a father and a daughter - and my favourite 'tourism' scene.

The Last Wave (Peter Weir, 1977) Richard Chamberlain, David Gulpilil; thriller

Weird, but memorable.

Lilian's Story (Jerzy Domaradzki, 1996) novel Kate Grenville 1984, based on Bea Miles; Ruth Cracknell, Barry Otto, Toni Collette

Powerful film with the two best actresses of their generations playing the same character at different ages. Warning: incest.

Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005) Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Martin Henderson, Dustin Nguyen, Joel Tobeck, Noni Hazlehurst, Lisa McCune, Susie Porter; woman tries to escape her past as a heroin addict and set up a business in Sydney's west

Cabramatta, heroin, Little Saigon, Blanchett.

Lonely Hearts (Paul Cox, 1982) wr. John Clarke, Paul Cox, dp Yuri Sokol, music Norman Kaye; Wendy Hughes, Norman Kaye

An honest little film: quasi-documentary.

Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1979) wr. Everett de Roche, dp Vincent Monton; John Hargreaves, Briony Behets; thriller

This was remade in 2008 with the same writer (tho shdn't've been: the later film is trash); the earlier one is a truly remarkable film: creepy, surprising - and it has John Hargreaves: what's to not like?

Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005) dp Ray Argall; Justine Clarke, William McInnes, Anthony Hayes, Andrew S. Gilbert; mix of animation and live action, as six people dealing with unexpected events find their lives intersecting

Realist drama, despite the visual art inserts.

Looking for Alibrandi (Kate Woods, 2000) Pia Miranda, Anthony LaPaglia, Greta Scacchi, Kick Gurry, Matt Newton; Pia Miranda is looking for father Anthony LaPaglia, 103 min.

The most popular of films about immigrants, this one has a light touch.

Love in Limbo (David Elfick, 1993) Craig Adams, Aden Young, Maya Stange, Samantha Murray, Russell Crowe, Rhondda Findleton; three boys drive to Kalgoorlie WA to try to lose their virginity

Charming film with lovely 1950s production design.

Love Serenade (Shirley Barrett, 1996) wr. Shirley Barrett, dp Mandy Walker; Miranda Otto, Rebecca Frith, George Shevtsov, John Alansu; two sisters compete for the attentions of DJ new to small town, Sunray

A personal favourite: I like the quirky portrait of the country town, and the surrealist ending.

Lucky Miles (Michael James Rowland, 2007) Kenneth Moraleda, Rodney Afif, Sri Sacdpreseuth, Don Hany, Sean Mununggurr; illegal immigrants landed on remote WA coast by Indonesian people smugglers

The best Boat People film, it also has fun with its Australian characters.

Mad Max (Dr George Miller, 1979) Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Vince Gil, Hugh Keays-Byrne

George Miller's first film is still very popular: great stunts.

Mad Max 2 (Dr George Miller, 1981) aka The Road Warrior, dp Dean Semler; Mel Gibson, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson, Max Phipps, Mike Preston, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Virginia Hey, William Zappa, Arkie Whitelely

Some people think the second one is better.

Malcolm (Nadia Tass, 1986) dp David Parker; Colin Friels, John Hargreaves, Lindy Davies, Chris Haywood, Charles Tingwell

David Parker had a lot of fun making the gadgets for this one, a portrait of a 'special person' engagingly created by the dependable Colin Friels - and the late great John Hargreaves is in it.

The Man from Hong Kong (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1975) wr. Brian Trenchard-Smith, dp Russell Boyd; Deryck Barnes, Rebecca Gilling, Bill Hunter, Hugh Keays-Byrne, George Lazenby, Grant Page, Ros Spiers, Frank Thring, Jimmy Wang Yu, Roger Ward, Phillip Avalon

The first important actioner; Grant Page does stunts. Includes unarmed combat on Ayer's Rock (Uluru): you'll never see that again.

The Man from Snowy River (George Miller, 1982) Kirk Douglas, Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton

Another film still popular with Aussies, it's a western romance.

Man of Flowers (Paul Cox, 1983) wr. Paul Cox, Bob Ellis, dp Yuri Sokol; Norman Kaye, Alyson Best, Chris Haywood, Sarah Walker, Julia Blake, Bob Ellis, Barry Dickins, Patrick Cook, Victoria Eagger, Werner Herzog

This is the best of the Australian 'art' films, in all the meanings of the term.

The Man Who Sued God (Mark Joffe, 2002) wr. Don Watson, dp Peter James; Billy Connolly, Judy Davis, Colin Friels, Bille Brown, Wendy Hughes, Emily Browning

Any film which brings together Judy Davis and Billy Connolly must be and is worth watching.

Metal Skin (Geoffrey Wright, 1995) wr. Geoffrey Wright, prod. Daniel Scharf, Southern Star; Aden Young (Joe), Tara Morice (Savina), Ben Mendelsohn (Dazey), Nadine Garner (Roslyn), Chantal Contouri (Savina's mother); drama, thriller; psycho Joe, urban misfit, craves the respect of his peers on the streets and the love of a nice girl who secretly practises black magic

Geoffrey Wright is the powerful film-maker who directed Romper Stomper and more recently Macbeth. This is his take on revhead culture, but it's not merely realistic: it has a legendary dimension.

Money Movers (Bruce Beresford, 1979) dp Don McAlpine, operator John Seale; Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, Ed Devereaux, Charles Tingwell, Candy Raymond, Jeanie Drynan, Bryan Brown, Alan Cassell, Gary Files, Ray Marshall, Hu Pryce, Frank Wilson, Lucky Grills, Tony Allison, Brian Anderson, Kevin Brenner, Terry Camilleri, Bill Charlton, Kathy Dior, Graham Gow, James Elliot, Robert Essex, Max Fairchild, John Hargreaves

It's easy to forget the less important films of the 1970s: this violent crime actioner still stands up to examination.

Monkey Grip (Ken Cameron, 1982) novel by Helen Garner; Noni Hazlehurst, Colin Friels, Alice Garner, Tim Burns, Michael Caton, Harold Hopkins, Candy Raymond

Written from life by Helen Garner, this is an investigation of drug addiction (inter alia) with more depth than a mere melodrama.

Monkey's Mask (Samantha Lang, 2000) novel Dorothy Porter; Kelly McGillis, Susie Porter, Abbie Cornish, Marton Csokas, Deborah Mailman; lesbian private detective dives head first into murder, manipulation and the consuming power of sex

Uniquely female.

Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann, 2001) ed. Jill Bilcock; Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, John Leguizamo

Spectacular! Baz will never make a better film, or have a better editor: Jill Bilcock.

Mr Reliable (Nadia Tass, 1996) Colin Friels, Jacqueline McKenzie, Susie Porter, Paul Sonkkila, Frank Gallacher; Wally Mellish gets away with it because he can't read and write

Another quirky part for and fine performance from Colin Friels.

Mullet (David Caesar, 2001) wr. David Caesar; Ben Mendelsohn, Susie Porter, Andrew S. Gilbert, Belinda McClory, Tony Barry, Kris McQuade

Young man returns to country town, but, more to the point, to his mildly dysfunctional but basically loving family.

Muriel's Wedding (P. J. Hogan, 1994) Toni Collette, Bill Hunter, Rachel Griffiths, Sophie Lee

A (melodramatic) comedy, so not particularly realistic; but deservedly memorable: 'You're terrible, Muriel.'

My First Wife (Paul Cox, 1984) wr. Bob Ellis; John Hargreaves, Wendy Hughes

It's only about a guy cracking up over the loss of his wife, but bringing together the brilliance of Ellis and Hargreaves and Cox's conviction makes it impossible to ignore.

Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013) wr. dp ed. Ivan Sen, prod. David Jowsey; Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Ryan Kwanten, Tony Barry, Tasma Walton, Damian Walshe-Howling, Siobhan Binge, David Field, Robert Mammone, Trisha Whitton; shot in Winton, Qld; Australian release 17 October 2013

It has to have a plot; everything else is superb.

Ned Kelly (Gregor Jordan, 2003) Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Naomi Watts

Best of the many Kelly films. Not saying much.

Newsfront (Phillip Noyce, 1978) wr. Phillip Noyce, orig. script Bob Ellis, dp Vincent Monton; Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Gerard Kennedy, Chris Haywood, John Ewart, Bryan Brown

I'm trying to think of a better film from the 1970s, but can't. This has religion breaking up families, an ugly American, and it's a dramatised doco of the newsreel wars of the 1940-50s. Plus my friend Sharon as an extra in the water polo scene - right next to Gerard Kennedy.

The Nugget (Bill Bennett, 2002) Eric Bana, Stephen Curry, Dave O'Neil, Belinda Emmett, Peter Moon, Vince Colosimo, Max Cullen, Jane Hall; comedy, set in Mudgee NSW

One of the 'The' films from around the same time: The Castle, The Dish, this is Bennett's shot at comedy, and it's not bad.

Not Suitable for Children (Peter Templeman, 2012) romcom; Ryan Kwanten, Bojana Novakovic, Laura Brent, Alice Parkinson; WA

I enjoyed this very much, above all due to the participation of Sarah Snook. Excellent direction.

Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994) Temuera Morrison (Jake the Muss), Rena Owen; NZ

Temuera Morrison does some real acting in this: apparently it cost him. Kitchen-sink.

Oyster Farmer (Anna Reeves, 2004) wr. Anna Reeves, dp Alun Bollinger; Alex O'Lachlan, Kerry Armstrong, David Field, Diana Glenn, Jack Thompson, David Kelly, Jim Norton, Claudia Harrison, Alan Cinis; romantic comedy set in Australian-style frontier country (shot on NSW Central Coast, around Brooklyn) with eighth-generation oyster farmers

A quirky and charming little film; fine cinematography from Kiwi Bollinger: shot on the Hawkesbury.

Patrick (Richard Franklin, 1978) wr. Everett de Roche, dp Don McAlpine; Susan Penhaligon, Rod Mullinar, Robert Helpmann, Bruce Barry, Julia Blake

A genuine thriller from a Hitchcock-trained director; the eponymous character never speaks - or closes his eyes.

Pear ta ma 'on maf (Vilsoni Hereniko, 2004) aka The Land Has Eyes; Sapeta Taito, Rena Owen, John Fatiaki

One of a kind: possibly the only feature from Fiji, and certainly the only one from Rotuma (a remote island which is technically part of Fiji).

Perfect Strangers (Gaylene Preston, 2003) wr. Gaylene Preston, dp Alun Bollinger; Sam Neill, Rachael Blake, Joel Tobeck; prod. Huntaway Films (Sam Neill, John Clarke, Jay Cassells); NZ

I've seen this several times: it's fascinating.

The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) prod. Jan Chapman; Holly Hunter, Anna Paquin, Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel, Kerry Walker, Genevieve Lemon, Tungia Baker

Deserved its Oscars: how often can you say that? Campion's crazy idea for a big film paid off: she'll prolly never make a better: it is so impressive.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) novel by Joan Lindsay, dp Russell Boyd; Kirsty Child, John Fegan, Vivean Gray, Dominic Guard, John Jarratt, Anne Lambert, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Ingrid Mason, Garry McDonald, Helen Morse, Rachel Roberts, Martin Vaughan, Jacki Weaver; thriller

Possibly the classic Aussie film? The basic idea - a parallel universe, or something - is nuts, but it makes for a slightly creepy and very beautiful film. Much better than anything Weir has done since he's been slacking off in Hollywood.

The Picture Show Man (John Power, 1977) wr. Joan Long from Penn's Pictures on Tour by Lyle Penn, dp Geoff Burton; Tony Barry, Patrick Cargill, Sally Conabee, Jeanie Drynan, John Ewart, Harold Hopkins, Garry McDonald, John Meillon, Judy Morris, Grant Page, Rod Taylor

You have to love this, even if only because it's about the movie business - and it has John Meillon as the lead.

Pitch Black (David N. Twohy, 2000) Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, John Moore, Simon Burke

Predictable sci-fi horror; but up there with Dark City as the best such Aussie film.

Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 1991) Hugo Weaving, Genevieve Picot, Russell Crowe, Heather Mitchell

This is a gem.

The Proposition (John Hillcoat, 2005) wr. Nick Cave, music Nick Cave; Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, John Hurt, David Wenham, Tom Budge, David Gulpilil, Leah Purcell, Tom E. Lewis; epic period Western; three brothers charged with brutal crime 1880s

I personally don't like this - or anything else to do with Nick Cave - as I think it's a bunch of dark cliches: but it has a much better cast than it deserves, and gets drive from that.

Puberty Blues (Bruce Beresford, 1981) book by Kathy Lette, Gabrielle Carey, dp Don McAlpine; Nell Schofield, Jad Kapelja, Jay Hackett, Ned Lander, Tony Hughes, Sandy Paul, Geoff Rhoe; girls want to surf too

This is not an enjoyable film, particularly because of the depiction of sexual relations between young Australians; but it's an important document of the period.

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2001) wr. Christine Olsen, based on book by Doris Pilkington Garimara, dp Christopher Doyle; Everlyn Sampi, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Tianna Sainsbury, Ningali Lawford, Laura Monaghan, Deborah Mailman; Molly Kelly and Daisy Kadibil appear briefly at the end; based on true story about Aboriginal children escaping custody in the 1930s

This is the Stolen Generations film we had to have: it's an emotional experience.

Radiance (Rachel Perkins, 1998) wr. Louis Nowra, play and screenplay, dp Warwick Thornton; Deborah Mailman (Nona), Rachael Maza (Cressy), Trisha Morton-Thomas (Mae); story of reunion between three Aboriginal sisters

Another Louis Nowra play very successfully transferred to the screen.

Rain (Christine Jeffs, 2003) Sarah Peirse, Marton Csokas, Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Alistair Browning, Aaron Murphy; NZ

A special little coming-of-age film.

Razorback (Russell Mulcahy, 1984) wr. Everett de Roche, dp Dean Semler; Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Chris Haywood, David Argue, Judy Morris

Can be seen as an OTT melodramatic gothic romp, but it's set apart by a number of things, and especially the photography of Dean Semler.

Red Hill (Patrick Hughes, 2010) western; Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley, Tommy Lewis

Definitely the best western made in Australia.

Return Home (Ray Argall, 1990) wr. Ray Argall; Dennis Coard, Frankie J. Holden, Ben Mendelsohn, Micki Camilleri, Rachel Rains; two brothers reunited

Just a good little suburban social-realistic movie.

Roadgames (Richard Franklin, 1981) wr. Everett DeRoche, from short story by Richard Franklin, Everett De Roche, dp Vincent Monton; Stacey Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, Marion Edward, Grant Page, Thaddeus Smith, Alan Hopgood

Hitchcock-like thriller, but with human interest in the relationship between the characters played by American actors Curtis and Keach - and his dingo.

Romper Stomper (Geoffrey Wright, 1992) Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie

Powerful performances from all three leads. Anyone who runs down Russell Crowe hasn't seen this film. Just in case you don't already know: it's has neo-Nazis, inter alia.

Romulus My Father (Richard Roxburgh, 2007) Raimond Gaita's book

Eric Bana is good, but so are all the actors - in this film directed by a great actor.

Shine (Scott Hicks, 1996) wr. Jan Sardi; Geoffrey Rush (AA), Noah Taylor, John Gielgud, Googie Withers, Lynn Redgrave; young David Helfgott is traumatised by martinet father

Oscar(s) deserved.

Siam Sunset (John Polson, 1999) Linus Roache, Danielle Cormack, Ian Bliss, Roy Billing

Probably forgotten by most now, it's worth it for the first three minutes, and also for Roy Billing's bus-driver.

Silver City (Sophia Turkiewicz, 1984) Gosia Dobrowolska, Ivar Kants, Steve Bisleyv

Tho a bit sentimental, it was an excellent introduction to the experience of immigration - at least for me

Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004) aka More Than Scarlet (working title); prod. Anthony Anderson, Jan Chapman, dp Robert Humphreys; Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran, Erik Thompson, Anne Louise Lambert; premiere MIFF Wed 21 July 2004; discovery of the difference between sex and love in Jindabyne, an Australian winter ski resort town; standing ovation at Cannes 2004; Toronto FF September 2004; general release 9 Sept 2004; won all 13 awards at the AFIs 29 October 2004; review: Richard Luck, Empire, 43, October 2004: 27; see also: 35; 106 min.

Won more awards than it deserved, but is a genuinely good film.

Spotswood (Mark Joffe, 1992) Anthony Hopkins, Ben Mendelsohn, Alwyn Kurts, Bruno Lawrence, John Walton, Rebecca Rigg, Toni Collette, Russell Crowe; mocassin factory shaken by arrival of time-and-motion expert

Charming little film, the only one to bring Hopkins and Crowe together.

Stone (Sandy Harbutt, 1974) wr. Sandy Harbutt; Ken Shorter, Sandy Harbutt, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Vincent Gil; Stone is an undercover cop who infiltrates a bikie gang when several of its members are murdered

A powerful film that I imagine bikies would like: it has real bikies in it. Tho Sandy Harbutt played a main part, as well as writing and directing it, it was the last film on which he ever worked.

Storm Boy (Henri Safran, 1976) from novel by Colin Thiele, dp Geoff Burton; Greg Rowe, David Gulpilil, Peter Cummins, Judy Dick, Grant Page; white boy befriends pelican and outcast Aborigine, Fingerbone Bill, banished by his Kunai people

Gulpilil's most attractive character.

Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann, 1992) dp Steve Mason; Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto, Antonio Vargas

Baz's first red curtain film: the start of something.

The Sugar Factory (Robert Carter, 1998) wr. Robert Carter; Matt Day, Rhondda Findleton, Michaela Noonan, John Waters, Tony Hayes; mentally disturbed teenager tormented by guilt over the death of a child

Matt Day's second-best film: a serious investigation of mental illness.

Sunday Too Far Away (Ken Hannam, 1975) prod. Gil Brealey, Matt Carroll, South Australian Film Corporation, wr. John Dingwall, dp Geoff Burton, music Patrick Flynn; Jack Thompson, Max Cullen, Robert Bruning, Jerry Thomas, Peter Cummins, John Ewart, Sean Scully, Reg Lye, Graham Smith, Ken Shorter, Lisa Peers

Such a realistic portrayal of a shearer's life in the 1950s that it might almost be considered to be a documentary, this film was messed about with by the distributors, so a couple of strands in the narrative look odd.

Teesh and Trude (Melanie Rodriga, 2002) Susie Porter, Linda Cropper, Peter Phelps

I admit I'm prejudiced, but I have seen this several times and I think it's ultimately charming, despite the tough beginning.

Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr, 2006) wr. Rolf de Heer; performed entirely in the Ganalbingu language of David Gulpilil's Yolngu people and "one of the few Australian feature films to rely on English subtitles"

Much more than a pseudo-anthropological film, it has a great voice-over by David Gulpilil.

To Have and To Hold (John Hillcoat, 1997) Rachel Griffiths, Tcheky Karyo, David Field

Hillcoat makes tough films; this one is Cave-free; Griffiths at her best. Only feature set in New Guinea? No, there's also Walk Into Paradise (Lee Robinson & Giorgio Pagliero, 1956).

The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002) wr. Rolf de Heer, dp Ian Jones; David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau, Grant Page

A touch too arty; but perhaps necessitated by the confronting subject-matter; Gulpilil superb.

Traps (Pauline Chan, 1994) novel Kate Greville; Saskia Reeves, Robert Reynolds, Sami Frey, Jacqueline McKenzie, Kiet Lam; filmed on location in Vietnam; English couple come to French Indo-China, 1950, to do photo-journalism story on rubber plantation, and become involved in political developments

I hope this becomes available again; I thought it was excellent.

Two Hands (Gregor Jordan, 1999) Heath Ledger, Bryan Brown, Rose Byrne, David Field, Susie Porter, Tom Long, Steven Vidler

Heath meets Rose. Gregor goes to Hollywood. Bloody good little Aussie film.

Vacant Possession (Margot Nash, 1995) Pamela Rabe, John Stanton, Olivia Patten as Millie provides the commentary on the actual relationship of white and black

This undeservedly forgotten film comments on European presence in Australia since 1788 in a unique way. Vacant possession = terra nullius, and it's actually set in modern Botany Bay. I hope it's not forgotten, and soon released on DVD; it's very good.

Waiting (Jackie McKimmie, 1991) Noni Hazlehurst (AFI Best Actress), Deborra-Lee Furness, Frank Whitten, Helen Jones, Denis Moore, Fiona Press, Ray Barrett

Little ripper of a film, mostly about women: Hazlehurst really was pregnant, as you'll see (if you can ever get hold of a copy).

Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) aka Outback (US); wr. Evan Jones, novel Kenneth Cook, dp Brian West, ed. Anthony Buckley; Gary Bond, Donald Pleasance, Chips Rafferty, Sylvia Kay, Jack Thompson, John Meillon

So dark in style that it goes beyond realism, this film, directed by a Canadian, presents a bleak view of life in the more remote parts of Australia (whites only).

Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg, 1971) wr. Edward Bond, novel James Vance Marshall, dp Nicolas Roeg; Jenny Agutter, Lucien John [Roeg], David Gulpilil, John Meillon; UK production about two white Australian children stranded in desert and helped to safety by young Aborigine

Another view of Australia from a foreigner - before we had any views ourselves - this remains admirably poetic - despite some Roegish exploitation.

Walking on Water (Tony Ayres, 2002) Vince Colosimo, Maria Theodorakis, Nathaniel Dean, Judy Farr, Nicholas Bishop, David Bonney, Daniel Roberts, Anna Lise Phillips

Tony Ayres's first film has a gay subject: it's not claiming much to suggest that it's the best 'gay' film so far, as there are not very many.

Welcome to Woop Woop (Stephan Elliott, 1997) Rod Taylor, Johnathon Schaech, Susie Porter, Dee Smart, Richard Moir, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Barry Humphries, Mark Wilson, Paul Mercurio

This pretty-much took Elliott's career down the toilet, but I love it: a unique vision of Australia.

The Well (Samantha Lang, 1997) novel Elizabeth Jolley, wr. Laura Jones; Pamela Rabe, Miranda Otto; drama, thriller; Hester is obsessed with Katherine

Not sure I'd watch this again, but it was impressive; excellent writer.

The Wog Boy (Aleksi Vellis, 2000) Nick Giannopoulos, Vince Colosimo

Related to the TV show Wogs Out of Work, this is great comedy: you gotta love the Chrysler Valiant.

Wolf Creek (Greg McLean, 2005) John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi; three backpackers unwisely accept help from a seemingly friendly local in the Australian outback

Loosely based on the real-life Ivan Milat and Peter Falconio stories, this comes to very scary life with the astonishing performance of John Jarratt - one of the best in Australian film, yet not rewarded in the AFIs that year. Hugo Weaving won it for Little Fish. Jarratt was robbed, and he knew it.

The Year My Voice Broke (John Duigan, 1987) Noah Taylor, Loene Carmen, Ben Mendelsohn, Graeme Blundell, Lynette Curran

Duigan's other coming-of-age-in-country-town story: see also Flirting. He meant to make three, but didn't.

The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982) wr. David Williamson, from novel by Christopher Koch; Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Peter Collingwood, Noel Ferrier, Linda Hunt, Bill Kerr; Jakarta 1960s

Unusual in two ways: we have few political films; and few set in SE Asia. Also the only feature with Gibson and Weaver. And Linda Hunt plays a bloke.

Yolngu Boy (Stephen Johnson, 2001) Sean Mununggur, John Sebastian Pilakui, Nathan Daniels

Covers some of the same ground as Samson and Delilah, but does much more also, and does it much better.


Garry Gillard | New: 12 May, 2007 | Now: 7 February, 2017