Australian cinema has a rich history that dates back over a century. From the early days of silent films to the modern era of blockbuster hits, Australian cinema has produced some of the most iconic and memorable films in the world.

With a unique blend of humor, drama, and a distinct Australian perspective, the country’s film industry has gained a global following.

Some of the best Australian movies explore the country’s unique culture, history, and landscape, while others delve into universal themes that resonate with audiences worldwide. From critically acclaimed dramas to iconic comedies, Australian cinema has something for everyone.

Best Australian Movies

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best Australian movies of all time, highlighting their impact on the film industry and their enduring legacy.

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

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film directed by Stephan Elliott. The film follows the journey of three drag queens, Anthony, Adam, and Bernadette, as they travel across the Australian Outback in a tour bus named Priscilla to perform their drag show at a casino in Alice Springs.

Throughout their journey, the trio encounters various obstacles, including hostile locals and personal conflicts. The film explores themes of identity, acceptance, and tolerance, as well as the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in Australia.

The film features a number of memorable musical performances, including renditions of songs by ABBA, Gloria Gaynor, and Tina Turner, among others. It also stars Hugo Weaving as Anthony, Guy Pearce as Adam, and Terence Stamp as Bernadette, all of whom deliver strong performances in their respective roles.

“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” was a critical and commercial success, winning numerous awards including an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. It has since become a cult classic and is widely regarded as one of the most influential LGBTQ+ films of all time.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert [DVD]
  • Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp (Actors)
  • Stephan Elliott (Director) - Stephan Elliott (Writer)
  • Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

2. Mad Max (1979)

“Mad Max” is a post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller and released in 1979. Set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed, the film follows Max Rockatansky, a police officer who becomes a vigilante after his wife and child are murdered by a violent motorcycle gang.

The movie stars Mel Gibson in his breakthrough role as Max, and features a gritty, intense, and visually stunning depiction of a world on the brink of collapse. The film’s high-speed car chases, brutal violence, and punk-inspired aesthetics have made it a cult classic, influencing countless action films and pop culture references.

“Mad Max” was praised for its innovative filmmaking techniques, which included the use of practical effects and stunts, as well as its portrayal of a dark and terrifying future. The film spawned three sequels, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” (1981), “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985), and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), with the latter receiving critical acclaim and multiple Academy Awards.

Mad Max (Special Edition)
  • Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne (Actors)
  • George Miller (Director) - Byron Kennedy (Writer)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

3. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a 2002 Australian movie directed by Phillip Noyce. The film is based on the true story of three Aboriginal girls who were forcibly removed from their families in the 1930s as part of the Australian government’s policy of “assimilation.” The girls are taken to a government camp, where they are trained to be domestic servants.

However, the girls escape and embark on a journey to return to their families, using the rabbit-proof fence as a guide.

   

The film was critically acclaimed and received many awards, including the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a powerful and moving film that highlights the historical injustices inflicted upon Indigenous Australians and their resilience in the face of adversity. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in Australian history and the ongoing struggles of Indigenous communities.

Rabbit-Proof Fence [DVD]
  • Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Kenneth Branagh (Actors)
  • Phillip Noyce (Director) - Christine Olsen (Writer)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

4. The Castle (1997)

“The Castle” is a 1997 Australian comedy film directed by Rob Sitch and written by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Jane Kennedy, and Sitch himself. The film follows the Kerrigan family, who live in a small, makeshift house in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, right next to the airport. They are a tight-knit, working-class family who love each other dearly and are content with their simple, unremarkable lives.

However, their peaceful existence is threatened when the airport authority decides to expand and compulsorily acquire their house and land for the project. The family refuses to sell their beloved home and decides to fight back against the government’s attempts to take it away from them, enlisting the help of an inexperienced lawyer to argue their case in court.

The film is a satire on the Australian legal system and the notion of property rights, as well as a celebration of family, community, and the Australian spirit of “having a go”. “The Castle” has become a cult classic in Australia and is known for its quotable one-liners and endearing characters, particularly Darryl Kerrigan (played by Michael Caton), the patriarch of the family who famously declares, “This is going straight to the pool room.”

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The Castle [DVD]
  • Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry (Actors)
  • Rob Sitch (Director) - Santo Cilauro (Writer) - Debra Choate (Producer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

5. The Great Gatsby (2013)

“The Great Gatsby” is a 2013 movie based on the novel of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The movie was directed by Baz Luhrmann and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan in the lead roles.

The movie follows the story of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious and wealthy man who throws extravagant parties in 1920s New York. The narrator, Nick Carraway, becomes drawn into Gatsby’s world and learns about his love for the beautiful and married Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby hopes to win Daisy’s love and make her leave her husband, Tom Buchanan.

The movie explores themes such as the pursuit of the American Dream, the corruption of wealth, and the idea of reinventing oneself. The film received mixed reviews but was praised for its visually stunning cinematography and soundtrack.

6. Romper Stomper (1992)

“Romper Stomper” is a 1992 Australian drama film directed by Geoffrey Wright. The film follows a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads led by the charismatic and violent Hando, who clash with Vietnamese immigrants in Melbourne, Australia.

The film explores themes of racism, violence, and the alienation of youth, as well as the rise of far-right extremism in Australia during the 1990s. The film is known for its graphic and brutal depictions of violence, as well as its unflinching portrayal of the neo-Nazi subculture.

The film stars Russell Crowe as Hando, who delivers a powerful and intense performance, as well as Daniel Pollock as Davey, Hando’s loyal lieutenant. The film also features a number of notable supporting performances, including Jacqueline McKenzie as Gabe, a young woman who becomes caught up in the gang’s activities.

   

“Romper Stomper” was controversial upon its release, with some critics accusing it of glorifying violence and promoting racist attitudes. However, it was also praised for its bold and uncompromising approach to its subject matter, as well as its powerful performances and striking visuals.

Romper Stomper [DVD]
  • Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, Daniel Pollock (Actors)
  • Geoffrey Wright (Director)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

3 Characteristics of Australian Movies

Strong sense of place and culture: Australian movies often have a strong sense of place, with locations and landscapes playing an important role in the storytelling. There is also often a focus on Australian culture, history, and identity, with themes such as Indigenous culture, the outback, and the country’s convict past frequently explored.

Realism and grittiness: Australian movies are often characterized by their realism and grittiness. There is a tendency to explore darker themes such as crime, violence, and social issues, often with a raw and unflinching approach. Australian filmmakers are also known for their use of natural lighting, handheld cameras, and other techniques that create a sense of immediacy and authenticity.

Quirky humor and irreverence: Despite their darker themes, Australian movies often have a quirky sense of humor and irreverence, with a tendency to subvert expectations and challenge convention. There is often a focus on characters who are outsiders or misfits, with a willingness to explore taboo subjects and push boundaries. This can result in movies that are both thought-provoking and entertaining, with a unique Australian perspective.

3 Reasons To Watch Australian Movies

Unique perspective: Australian movies often offer a unique perspective on the world, with stories and characters that reflect the country’s history, culture, and diverse population. Whether it’s exploring the struggles of Indigenous Australians, the impact of immigration on society, or the country’s rich natural landscape, Australian films offer a fresh and interesting take on familiar themes.

Talented filmmakers and actors: Australia has a thriving film industry, with talented filmmakers, actors, and crew members working on both local and international productions. From classic directors like Peter Weir and George Miller to up-and-coming talents like Jennifer Kent and Warwick Thornton, Australian cinema is home to some of the most exciting voices in contemporary filmmaking.

High-quality productions: Despite having a smaller budget than Hollywood, Australian movies are known for their high production values, strong storytelling, and innovative visual style. Whether it’s the gritty realism of crime dramas like Animal Kingdom and Snowtown, or the lush cinematography of Baz Luhrmann’s epic romances, Australian films are often praised for their technical excellence and artistic merit.

Best Australian Movies – Wrap Up

Australia has a rich history of producing critically acclaimed and award-winning films across a variety of genres, from drama and crime to horror and comedy.

Each of these films explores different themes and genres, showcasing the depth and range of Australian cinema. “The Castle” is a beloved Australian comedy that celebrates the Australian working-class, while “Snowtown” and “Wolf Creek” are chilling horror films based on true stories. “Two Hands” and “Animal Kingdom” are intense crime dramas that explore the dark underbelly of Australian society.

Other notable Australian films include “Picnic at Hanging Rock” (1975), “Mad Max” (1979), “The Piano” (1993), “The Babadook” (2014), and “Lion” (2016). Australian cinema continues to produce innovative and thought-provoking films, and is a vital part of the country’s cultural identity.