10 Essential Australian Films


And when I'm all alone I feel I don't wanna hide
I love to watch Australian cinema. I love to think about Australian cinema. I love to write about Australian cinema. I love the distinctiveness of Australian cinema. I love the unconventionality of Australian cinema. The perversion. The aberrance. The oddness. The craziness. I love Australian cinema. Below are ten essential Australian films, selected sporadically, with no intention other than to recommend these fantastic works to you all. Here we go:

Bad Boy Bubby (1993, Rolf de Heer)

Australian cinema is often discerned for its perverse, unconventional and highly distinctive approach to both storytelling and narrative. Rolf de Heer's slice of outlandishness perhaps best encapsulates this very notion. This is an extremely odd work, and a highly unique one at that. It explores the taboo with a immense level of intrepidity and never artistically compensates itself for the average viewer. It's also one of the most technically unconventional films in all of Australian cinema, having more than five cinematographers, with each bringing a different visual eye and style to the table. The result: a very aberrant film.

Snowtown (2011, Justin Kurzel)

This is perhaps one of the most bleakest, dismal, perturbing, harrowing and distressful films Australia has to offer. The fact that it's based on a true story (one of the country's most notoriously sadistic serial killers) makes it all the more compelling and unnerving. This is relentlessly real filmmaking, largely using non-professional actors (many from the suburb of Snowtown, itself, where the killings originated), and having a truly gritty, rough artistic sensibility. This film was photographed on grainy, stocky photochemical film, reminiscent of those low-budget, independent horror films of the 1970s and 80s. This just adds to its (already) sordid atmosphere. Do see it.

The Rover (2014, David Michod)

A chillingly elemental and minimalist slice of rural Australian filmmaking. I believe it failed to resonate with audiences because it is so deceptively simple - it is no way near as thematically complex as Michod's previous work, Animal Kingdom, and this is precisely why Cannes were largely underwhelmed with it. It is a masterful exercise in mood and atmosphere, and, consequently, a remarkably straightforward film. It's also impeccably photographed, capturing the stark, unforgiving, yet oddly alluring outback of the Australian desert masterfully.

The Castle (1997, Rob Sitch)

A lot of film from the 'lucky country' is about disseminating a certain image of the homeland to a foreign audience. It's about sharing our cultural identity and heritage. This film doesn't do that, though. This is a movie by Australians for Australians.. Perhaps no other work captures the idiosyncrasies, the subculture, the average suburban working class family more astutely and more accurately than this. It also contains some of the best black Aussie humour you'll ever come across.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, Peter Weir)

Weir's New Wave masterwork is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, eerie, and suggestive films in all of cinema. The sound design is absolutely remarkable, as is Russel Boyd's criminally overlooked cinematography. This film embodies what cinema from Australia is all about. It explores our spiritual relationship with the mystifying and haunting landscape we brutally stole and occupied from the indigenous people. It explores the urges of carnality in a formal, orderly, and oppressive society. Heck, you might even save it explores the prospects of time travel. It's a fascinating film, and engenders some deep discourse.

The Year My Voice Broke (1987, John Duigan)

Perhaps the defining coming-of-age tale in rural, bucolic Australia. It's a wonderfully human tale, written with care and honesty, and directed with a great deal of restraint. It's a very simple film, but told in a way that feels sincere. With that being said, it still has some dosages of facetiousness and black comedy, but this only heightens the work to one that transcends the customary conventions of the drama and romance genre. It manages to find and maintain the right balance throughout. It's really a film in need of more recognition.

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002, Phillip Noyce)

Certainly, one of the most salient Australian films, purely in terms of subject matter, for at least the last 20-30 years. It might be a bit conventional, a bit overly-sentimental, and a bit cliched, but it still ultimately proves to be a tough, poignant and shattering depiction of a period in Australian history that has been notoriously suppressed and swept under the rugs. It's beautiful on a technical level, like most films set in the stark and alien outback.

Long Weekend (1978, Colin Eggleston)

While this work may no be as artistically dexterous as some of its other New Wave counterparts, it's still an interesting, effective and compelling horror. Thematically, it's what we've come to expect from Australian cinema. It explicates upon some of the subjects explored in Picnic at Hanging Rock or Wake in Fright or The Last Wave - our connection with this capricious, foreign land that we've inhabited, and the consequences from our genocidal occupation.

Chopper (2000, Andrew Dominik)

This is a radically stylistic, toweringly performed, darkly comic and brutally grim film. That just about sums it up. Eric Bana is amazingly good and Dominik clearly shows signs of a director with a distinctive and unique vision. This is a forceful and immersive viewing, capturing both the sadism and charisma of one of Australia's most recognisable and notorious serial killers.

Ghosts...of the Civil Dead (1988, John Hillcoat)

This is heavily stylised, unconventional prison drama that has a great degree of universality to it. The photography is undoubtedly one of its finest strengths, as is the sound design and editing. It may feel a bit dated and it may feel a bit immoderate and overblown, but it's still a film that engenders some interesting tonalities and original ideas that we don't see too often in prison dramas anymore.

Feel free to recommend some other films, too.

Reaction to squished burgers, a mental breakdown.
I haven't watched half of these and I'm Australian myself. As for inclusions, I think Walkabout, Wake In Fright and The Proposition deserve a shout. Picnic at Hanging Rock and Chopper are essential indeed. I can go without watching The Castle again, the characters just get on my nerves and Snowtown is well made but hard to stomach.

I'm going to watch Weir's Gallipoli soon as well.

Great selection of films Matteo. Can I add the recommendation of Kenny, a 2006 mockumentary about a portable toilet plumber, it's very funny and very endearingly Aussie.

Some good picks there (of those I've seen, anyway) but from the one viewing I gave it 20+ years ago I don't understand the appreciation for Bad Boy Bubby. Didn't at the time either.

Of those not mentioned by yourself, Breaker Morant and Walkabout were the ones I would've added. So + rep for Derek and hello, too.
5-time MoFo Award winner.

I've had Bad Boy Bubby on my watchlist for a long time. I think I'll watch it soon.

I was disappointed in Snowtown. I should watch it again as I saw it with my wife and her sis. Them laughing through the whole thing may have ruined it for me.

Liked The Rover and love Chopper.

I should probably see Picnic at Hanging Rock again in order to give a quality opinion.

Yeah, Walkabout might not be considered fully Australian but one of the great things about it is how it deals with the Australian landscape and the idea of the Aborigine people versus the modern world, it definitely fulfills this point:

This film embodies what cinema from Australia is all about. It explores our spiritual relationship with the mystifying and haunting landscape we brutally stole and occupied from the indigenous people. It explores the urges of carnality in a formal, orderly, and oppressive society.

Interesting list with a couple I'm definitely going to track down. Good to see the original Long Weekend get mentioned. It was remade in 2008 but the original is far better. Great man versus nature horror that deliberately verges on the ridiculous. It often feels like a nightmarish Adam & Eve deconstruction for the modern generation. I find it both funny and haunting in equal measure.

Shame Walkabout and Wake In Fright can't be considered true Australian as they were directed by a Brit and a Canadian respectively. Both great films that definitely feel like an outsider's view .

Seeing as Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock and The Last Wave have already been mentioned. I would also like to mention The Cars That Ate Paris, and his TV movie The Plumber both especially great black comedies that really get under the skin. Also his excellent world war I pic Gallipoli.

Outsiders are run off the road for profit when they pass through the small town of Paris, Australia.

Jill (Judy Morris) just can't seem to get rid of intimidating plumber Max (Ivar Kants) in The Plumber.

On a trashier note I would also recommend John Clark's Running On Empty (not to be confused with the Sidney Lumet film) which comes off like an Aussie Two Lane Blacktop for the Mad Max generation. Very cool cult flick with some great supporting characters such as Max Cullen as Rebel. A blind petrol head who talks in 1950's slang and races his car through the outback.

Mike (Terry Sellio in the red shirt) with Rebel's fuel injected Chevy.

Also Sandy Harbutt's authentic if poorly acted counter-culture biker flick Stone. Which is very rough around the edges, but also incredibly heartfelt and even poignant; not to mention raw and uncompromising (for the time). Director Harbutt also co-stars as biker leader, Undertaker.

Undercover sop Stone (Ken Shorter second from left) observes some rival gang posturing.

For more screeching tire mayhem with a dark satirical edge check out Brian Trenchard- Smith's Dead End Drive-In. Not to mention his hilarious Kung fu classic The Man From Hong Kong, and human prey dystopian exploiter Turkey Shoot.

Teens become imprisoned in a state controlled Drive-In that supplies free drugs and booze.

There are loads of these but I'll leave it with ex pop video director Russell Mulcahy's under-appreciated killer boar flick Razorback. Imagine if Dario Argento had gone to Oz to make a nature runs amok horror...

Just some of the truly stunning visuals in the atmospheric Razorback.

I enjoyed "Chopper" and "Picnic at Hanging Rock" was pretty good......... I really want to see "The Rover". I have heard good things about "Bad Boy Bubba", "Snowtown" and "Rabbit Proof Fence". I should check them out soon...

I have seen a few other Australian films that are independent and they were ok.

hey HK, no matter what you say.... the Mad Max movies will always be part of the History of Cinema for Australia......

No mention of Animal Kingdom? Not really a fan of Aussie movies, but I loved this one, with the exception of the lead actor (not that he ruined a movie or anything, but I envisioned his role differently and he wasn't memorable). Easily top-5 movie of 2010 in my opinion.

I was thinking about an Australian film that was a big deal at one time here. Im not sure how Australians actually view this film.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

You have three very good actors in drag ~ Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terance Stamp

I love when you make threads like this, Matteo. You have superb taste and the passion with which you write about films always makes me want to rush out and watch what I haven't seen -- which, in this case, is basically the entire list.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is the only one I've seen. I loved the first hour due to its ethereal, mystical quality and ominous undertone, but I found myself becoming increasingly disinterested and somewhat bored in the second half. Now that I know what to expect, I'd like to watch it again, but I can't help thinking how much more awesome it would have been (or how much more I would've liked it, at least) if the film had went in a direction reminiscent of Lynch or Jodorowsky or someone of that ilk.

I didn't know until recently that The Rover is by the same guy who directed Animal Kingdom, which, in my opinion, is one of the best films of this decade. The Rover seems to have garnered surprisingly polarizing reactions. I've seen people list it as one of the best films of last year, while others have lambasted it. I have very high expectations. Hopefully it won't let me down.

Snowtown and Chopper have been on my radar for awhile. I've had opportunities to watch Rabbit Proof Fence in the past, but I've always skipped over it.

I've never heard of the others on your list, but they all look fascinating, especially Bad Boy Bubby and Long Weekend. All of them have been added to my ever expanding watch list.

Sunday Too Far Away (1975)
My Brilliant Career (1979)
Wolf Creek (2005)

I've yet to see Chopper and Snowtown.
Another one I'll add, but haven't seen is The Sum of Us ((1994)

“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Babadook (2014)

I can't believe no one has yet to mention "The Babadook".

Rotten Tomatoes gave "The Babadook" a 98% rating and put it in it's top 100 movies of all time list at #88. It's definitely one of my favorite movies of all time.

I support Aussie cinema as well. Australia has a rich movie and music scene. I'm American, but I've spent quite some time in Australia and was exposed to all it's arts. I soaked it in. Great country.

Good thread. I'll go through this thread again and pick out something to watch. Definitely.

There is this one Aussie teen movie from 2002 or 2003 that I really enjoyed at the time (I was a teen around that time). I can't remember what it was called. I can't even remember much about the film. I know that I enjoyed it though. I think it was a hit movie at the time. If anybody can recall it for me that'd be great.