Australian Cinema > best

Second-Best Australasian Films

I wanted to keep the Best film list to 100, so wrote this second list with another 50 films.
See also my top ten.
See also my inclusive best list by date. (This list is in alpha order. )
I have a silly list of worst films too.

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.

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.

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.

Babadook, The (Jennifer Kent, 2014) wr. Jennifer Kent, prod. Kristina Ceyton, Kristian Moliere, dp Radek Ladczuk, ed. Simon Njoo, prod. design Alex Holmes; Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Ben Winspear; psychological thriller; release 22May; nommed for AACTA Best Film

Genuinely disturbing.

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.

Blessed (Ana Kokkinos, 2009) wr. Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas; Miranda Otto, Frances O'Connor, Deborra-Lee Furness, Sophie Lowe, Tasma Walton;

I'm reminded of the rich, fruitful complexity of Lantana, also written by Andrew Bovell. This film adds raw emotionality, especially on the part of Frances O'Connor, who won a well-deserved AACTA Award.

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.

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.

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.

Goldstone (Ivan Sen, 2016) prod. David Jowsey, Bunya Productions, Aaron Pedersen, Jacki Weaver, Alex Russell, David Gulpilil, David Wenham, Tom E. Lewis; spinoff from Mystery Road; shot Winton, Qld

More or less a continuation of Mystery Road; with the same high quality we expect from all of Ivan Sen's extraordinary work.

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.

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.

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

Weird, but memorable.

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.

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.

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.

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'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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Predestination (Michael & Peter Spierig, 2014) wr. Michael & Peter Spierig, story Robert A. Heinlein, prod. Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan, Peter Spierig, Michael Spierig, dp Ben Nott, ed. Matt Villa, music Peter Spierig, costume design Wendy Cork; Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor; 'a temporal agent who has to recruit his younger self to pursue the one criminal who has for a lifetime eluded him'; MIFF 31 July; received nine AACTA award nominations; release 28Aug

Outstanding particularly for the amazing performance of Sarah Snook.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Tanna (Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, 2015) wr. Martin Butler, John Collee, Bentley Dean, dp Bentley Dean, music Antony Partos; Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa; the Yakel tribe; forbidden relationship

First feature from Vanuatu. Nice music, and the photography is very good indeed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Garry Gillard | New: 12 May, 2007 | Now: 29 March, 2022