Notes: The films are in the order of the Ozflicks Ranking List, which is updated annually and was last updated in June 2017, and the numbers after the film suggestions are also from this list. Spoilers have been avoided as far as possible in the information about the top 50 Australian films.
Look Both Ways (2005) (Sarah Watt)
Ozflicks Rating: 5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 1/300
Genre: Drama (with Romance, Comedy, Arthouse elements)
Set in: Adelaide in the 2000s
Cast: Justine Clark, William McInnes, Anthony Hayes, Sacha Horler, Lisa Flanagan, Andrew S. Gilbert, Daniela Farinacci, Maggie Dence, Edwin Hodgeman, Andreas Sobik
Synopsis: Two disaffected individuals meet – Meryl, a struggling artist who witnesses a tragic accident while returning from her father’s funeral, meets Nick, a photographer on the local newspaper covering the tragedy, who has just had his own bad news. Around them, other relationships struggle and their friends deal with life’s challenges and with the boredom of the everyday.
Why See This Film: It’s a thoughtful, remarkable film about life and death and love and loneliness. Breathtakingly beautiful, ugly, sad and hilarious, this sweet film delves deep within the human situation, describing the interaction of several characters over one hot Adelaide weekend. Sarah Watts had a remarkable eye for beauty and an understanding of human frailty and strength. The film uses collage and animated watercolours to illustrate thoughts and emotions, and the soundtrack is also hauntingly effective. This was Watt’s first feature film and is a low-key triumph. One theme is how we deal with death, the deaths of loved ones, and of our own impending deaths. But there are many other themes: how to cope with the boredom and frustrations of life, how to trust in relationships, how to find and give love. There is a fine ensemble cast, with Justine Clarke in her finest role (sorry Play School fans), and William McInnes, Anthony Hayes, Lisa Flanagan, Daniella Farinacci and of course the wonderful Sacha Horler, providing great support. The film won the 2005 AFI award for best film and Sarah Watts also won the best director award.
If you liked this film, try: My Year Without Sex (60), The Last Days of Chez Nous (50)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) (Peter Weir)
Ozflicks Rating: 5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 2/300
Genre: Period drama, Mystery, Arthouse
Set in: Hanging Rock, Victoria in 1900
Cast: Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse, Kirsty Child, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Jacki Weaver, Frank Gunnell, Ann-Louise Lambert, Karen Robson, Jane Vallis, Christine Schuler, Margaret Nelson, Ingrid Mason, Jenny Lovell, Janet Murray, John Jarratt
Synopsis: Three schoolgirls and a teacher from a rural boarding school disappear during a picnic at Hanging Rock on Saint Valentine’s Day 1900.
Why See This Film: Peter Weir’s wonderfully evocative and atmospheric film looks at the mythic nature of the Australian bush, at late Victorian Australian attempts to recreate Victorian England, at adolescent girls with their intimacy and their dreams, and the ability of the Australian landscape to swallow up intruders. The film is at times slow and dreamy, yet with a strong narrative. The photography is gorgeous, like a McCubbin painting or a Greek myth, as are the costumes, and the soundtrack, with its unique Pan pipes, adds to the film’s other-worldliness.
This film is a landmark in the history of Australian film-making: it was our first successful art-house film, and it was our most sophisticated attempt at cinema to that time. It marked a radical departure from the bush adventure yarns of the 40s and 50s, and from the raucous comedies and rough action flicks of the early 70s, and was part of a renaissance in Australian cinema. Director Peter Weir, later went to Hollywood to make Witness, The Truman Show and many other ‘big’ films. This film didn’t manage to win him that year’s AFI award for best film or best director, but it is one of our great films, and changed the way we thought about Australian films, opening the way for many new genres to emerge.
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (8), The Getting of Wisdom (61), Oscar and Lucinda (99), Walkabout (17)
Gallipoli (1981) (Peter Weir)
Ozflicks Rating: 5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 3/300
Genre: War drama
Set in: Western Australia, Egypt and Gallipoli (Turkey) in 1914/5
Cast: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Kerr, Robert Grubb, Tim McKenzie, David Argue, Bill Hunter
Synopsis: Two young mates decide to join the Australian army in the first world war and participate in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, which was the first battle in which the Australian army was involved.
Why See This Film: This is Peter Weir’s other Australian classic (after Picnic), and stars a young Mel Gibson in one of his first roles. It tells the story of Australia’s most celebrated battle, the bloody battle of Gallipoli with its characteristic WW1 poor generalship and mass casualties in charges against trenches and machine guns. The story is told through the eyes of two young mates, and shows the idealistic naivety that led so many young Australians to volunteer for the war, and the bloody reality of warfare in WW1, that killed so many in Gallipoli and later on the Western Front. The film has a strong narrative and portrays the iconic Australian virtues of mateship, loyalty and humour, as well as a loss of innocence on a national and a personal level, and a questioning of loyalty to faraway Britain. This is one of a series of historical dramas, which Australian directors made in the 1980s, which attempted to narrate some of the important events in our short history; the others being Breaker Morant, 1915, The Lighthorsemen, Phar Lap and the Man from Snowy River. The film won the 1981 AFI award for best film and Peter Weir also won the best director award. Mel Gibson won the best actor award, and Bill Hunter won best supporting actor for this film as well. The film was also voted as one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films in a 2008 AFI online poll.
If you liked this film, try: The Lighthorsemen (212), Breaker Morant (9), The Man From Snowy River (71), Beneath Hill 60 (72), 1915 (132)
Muriel’s Wedding (1994) (P.J. Hogan)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 4/300
Genre: Comedy (with elements of drama, tragedy, satire and romance)
Set in: Imagined Queensland coastal town of Porpoise Spit and Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Toni Collette, Bill Hunter, Rachel Griffiths, Jeanie Drynan, Sophie Lee, Rosalind Hammond, Belinda Jarrett, Pippa Grandison, Daniel Wyllie, Gabby Millgate, Gennie Nevinson, Matt Day, Chris Haywood, Daniel Lapaine
Synopsis: Muriel, a ABBA-obsessed, wedding-obsessed dreamer from a hilariously/tragically dysfunctional family, escapes her dominant father and stultifying small town with the help of a rebel school-friend, and learns a bit about real life.
Why See This Film: This is an hilarious satire about Australian family life and conformity. Toni Collette (my favourite Oz actress) plays the deluded, but loveable, Muriel, who dreams of a fab wedding but has none of the social skills to achieve it, until rebel Rachel Griffiths and fate help her attain it. There are so many things to love in this film: Muriel’s awful family (consisting of the patriarch, a local politician/businessman ‘big fish in a small pond’ played by Bill Hunter, a downtrodden mother who is no role model, and a weird assortment of no-hoper siblings), Muriel’s awful bitchy friends from school, Rachel Griffith as Rhonda, the switched-on fellow outcast who teaches Muriel about real friendship, the South African swimmer seeking Australian citizenship through marriage despite his shock and distaste at Muriel’s rough edges, and of course the fabulous ABBA number Muriel and Rhonda perform. A wonderful snapshot of some of the funnier things in Australian society. The film was also voted as one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films in a 2008 AFI online poll.
If you liked this film, try: Mental (54), Strictly Ballroom (10); Cosi (75), Dimboola (91), Me Myself I (150)
Proof (1991) (Jocelyn Moorhouse)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 5/300
Genre: Drama (with Comedy elements)
Set in: Melbourne in the 1980s
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Genevieve Picot, Russell Crowe
Synopsis: Hugo Weaving is Martin, a suspicious blind man who takes photos as proof that people aren’t lying to him. His relationship with his housekeeper, Genevieve Picot, is disturbed when Martin makes a new friend Andy, played by Russell Crowe.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent mature interpersonal drama about issues of trust, compulsion and insecurity. Hugo Weaving (my favourite Oz actor) is at his twitchy best, as the bitter, mistrustful Martin; Genevieve Picot equally complex as the housekeeper and a young Russell Crowe in one of his first film roles, is great as the charismatic young friend. The unfolding of the story is reminiscent of Antonioni’s Blow Up or a one of Hitchcock’s lighter films, as director Jocelyn Moorhouse slowly reveals details to the audience, paralleling the way Martin discerns details from his photos. The film is also really humorous in parts. Moorhouse was one of ‘Second Wave’ directors (Baz Luhrmann, PJ Hogan, Rolf de Heer etc) who made a series of classic films in the 1990s, after our great 1970s directors had made their way to Hollywood. The film swept the AFI awards in 1991, winning awards for best film, best director, best actor and best supporting actor.
If you liked this film, try: Lantana (8), The Last Days of Chez Nous (50), The Interview (46), Russian Doll (14)
The Tracker (2002) (Rolf de Heer)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 6/300
Genre: Drama, Historical, Western
Set in: Outback Australia in 1922 (filmed in South Australian Flinders Ranges)
Cast: David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau, Grant Page, Noel Wilton
Synopsis: Three white policemen (The Fanatic, The Follower and The Veteran) on horseback and an Aboriginal man (The Tracker) on foot search rough outback country for an Aboriginal fugitive, and gradually conflicts emerge within the group.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent and shocking portrayal of the frontier violence to which Aboriginal people were subjected, as the white invaders gradually pushed them off their land all over Australia. Gary Sweet, as the racist violent leader of the group, typifies an extreme which, while not universal, was probably depressingly common. David Gulpilil plays the tracker, a man caught between his job and his people, trying to maintain dignity in the face of atrocity. Rolf de Heer has made more Australian films (14 so far plus documentaries) than any other director (apart from fellow Dutch-Australian Paul Cox), shifting from bizarre (Bad Boy Bubby) to sci-fi (Epsilon) to revenge thriller (Alexandra’s Project) to many other genres. But his three films on indigenous themes (The Tracker, 10 Canoes and Charlie’s Country) have probably been his most successful, and this is his best. David Gulpilil won the AFI best actor award for this film.
If you liked this film, try: The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), Walkabout (17), Rabbit-Proof Fence (32), Ten Canoes (40), Charlie’s Country (98)
Lantana (2001) (Ray Lawrence)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 7/300
Set in: Sydney’s northern beaches and national parks in the 2000s
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo
Synopsis: A woman’s disappearance one night in northern Sydney bushland sparks suspicion among four couples and uncovers hidden secrets.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent tight psychological drama, as four couples struggling with their own problems are drawn into the investigation of the disappearance of a woman whose body we see at the beginning of the movie, hidden under a thicket of Lantana (a noxious weed similar to blackberry in its spiky twisted canes and impenetrability). It is a great ensemble piece with excellent acting from local and overseas Australian actors including Anthony LaPaglia and Geoffrey Rush, as well as US actress Barbara Hershey. The film was the second of director Ray Lawrence’s three films, made over two decades, and is his best. The film was the first to sweep the AFI’s six major awards, winning best film and best director, as well as best actor and actress and best supporting actor and actress. The film was also voted as one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films in a 2008 AFI online poll.
If you liked this film, try: Bliss (55), Beautiful Kate (38), The Square (104), The Broken Shore (90), Jindabyne (102), The Bank (109)
My Brilliant Career (1979) (Gillian Armstrong)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 8/300
Genre: Period drama/romance
Set in: Southern tablelands of NSW and Camden, outside Sydney in the 19th century.
Cast: Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Peter Whitford, Patricia Kennedy, Alan Hopgood, Julia Blake, Max Cullen
Synopsis: An imaginative and stubborn farm-girl, Sybylla Melvyn, is forced to choose between marriage and writing.
Why See This Film: The story is from Miles Franklin’s famous autobiographical work of early feminism, and it was the first major Australian film by a woman director, Gillian Armstrong. Judy Davis, in her first starring role (and only her second film) is great as the headstrong, opinionated, witty Sybylla, who is tempted by the very charming Sam Neill (in one of his first roles), but has a burning desire to travel to England and become a serious writer. This film is full of humour and emotion The film opened the door for other women directors and actresses to flourish both within Australia and internationally. The film won the AFI awards for best film and best direction.
If you liked this film, try: Kangaroo (110), The Getting of Wisdom (61), Picnic At Hanging Rock (2), Children of the Revolution (58); Oscar and Lucinda (99), We of the Never Never (108), The Last Days of Chez Nous (50)
Breaker Morant (1980) (Bruce Beresford)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 9/300
Genre: Courtroom drama/War drama
Set in: Australia and South Africa in 1902
Cast: Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Jack Thompson, John Waters , Rod Mullinar, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Terence Donovan, Alan Cassell, Vincent Ball, Ray Meagher, Chris Haywood, Russell Kiefel, Rob Steele
Synopsis: Three Australian soldiers (including ‘Breaker Morant’ who was an Anglo-Australian horsebreaker) fighting for the British in the Boer War are charged with war crimes after executing Boer prisoners. A young Australian military lawyer defends the three in a court-martial which is keen to make an example of the men.
Why See This Film: This film is based upon a true story, and asks a lot of familiar questions about the morality of war, the pressure on frontline soldiers who risk their lives for distant generals’ plans, and Australia’s place in the British Empire. The story is well told, and centres on a gripping courtroom drama (a rare thing in Australian cinema) in which details of the brutal counterinsurgency campaign against Boer guerrilla tactics is revealed. The film also suggests that the soldiers were chosen as scapegoats by the British Army as they were only Australian ‘colonials’. Edward Woodwood, a British actor well known in Australia for his role as the cold war spy Callan, is excellent in the title role, as are Australian greats Jack Thomson as the lawyer and Bryan Brown as one of the accused. This is the best of Bruce Beresford’s many fine Australian films, before he went to Hollywood to make Driving Miss Daisy and many other US films. This film won multiple AFI awards in 1980, including best film, best director, best actor (Woodwood) and best supporting actor (Brown)
If you liked this film, try: Gallipoli (3), The Man from Snowy River (70), The Odd Angry Shot (117),The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27)
Strictly Ballroom (1992) (Baz Luhrmann)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 10/300
Set in: Sydney in the 1980s (maybe the 70s, it’s not important)
Cast: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thompson, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, Barry Otto
Synopsis: A young man, involved in the flashy but conservative world of competitive ballroom dancing, wants to innovate, but is forced to battle against the establishment.
Why See This Film: Baz Luhrmann’s debut burst onto the screen, full of colour, movement, glamour, surprise and humour: features which have since characterised his films in Hollywood and Australia. This film is a hilarious and exhilarating look at the self-important, glitzy, pompous world of competitive ballroom dancing, but also tells the familiar stories of boy-meets-girls and little-guy against the establishment. The film is full of memorable characters: Paul Mercurio is excellent as the young innovator Scott, Tara Morice blossoms as his shy wallflower dance partner who introduces him to flamenco dancing, Bill Hunter dominates in another of his mini-tyrant roles as the inflexible head of the ballroom dancing association, Barry Otto (a favourite actor of mine) plays Scott’s father, a shy dreamer with a big secret; and many others are excellent. This film is a joy, winning Luhrmann AFI awards for best film and best director in 1992.
If you liked this film, try: Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (47), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), The Castle (25), Crackerjack (13)
Wake in Fright (1971) (Ted Kotcheff)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 11/300
Genre: Dystopian drama
Set in: Outback NSW in the 1960s
Cast: Gary Bond, Chips Rafferty, Donald Pleasence, Jack Thompson, John Meillon, Slim de Grey, Maggie Dence, Norm Erskine, Sylvia Kay, Peter Whittle, Al Thomas, Jacko Jackson
Synopsis: A young teacher from Sydney, working at an isolated one-teacher school in outback NSW tries to get back to Sydney for the summer holidays, but gets stranded in a rough outback town full of drunken, rowdy larrikins, and gets slowly drawn into their lifestyle.
Why See This Film: This early 70s film brings Kafka to the Australian outback. Taken from Kenneth Cook’s book, the film is another of his disturbing indictments of Ocker values and a warning for city folks to steer clear of the outback. This film contrasts with previous Aussie films which portrayed outback men as “salt of the earth” types: full of manly virtues of mateship, bravery and uncomplaining endurance. The men here are not generally evil but the mateship is aggressively drink-fuelled and drink-dependent and, while the men are generous to the penniless city bloke in their midst, their pleasures (drinking, swearing, gambling, fighting and shooting) seem unfulfilling to the outsider. English actor, Gary Bond plays the stunned young Sydney teacher, and the film also features Australian greats Chips Rafferty (in his last role), Jack Thompson (in his first major film) and John Meillon. The film was made by Canadian director Ted Kotcheff before Australian cinema’s 1970s revival, and he does a great job in capturing the dark side of the outback, making it seem an Oz version of Dante’s Inferno. Along with Walkabout, also directed by a foreigner, this film helped stimulate the regrowth of our own film industry.
If you liked this film, try: Walkabout (17), Sunday Too Far Away (56), Crocodile Dundee (33), Roadgames (145)
Newsfront (1978) (Phillip Noyce)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 12/300
Genre: Period drama
Set in: Post-war (WW2) Sydney and NSW
Cast: Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Gerard Kennedy, John Ewart, Chris Haywood, Angela Punch McGregor, Don Crosby, Bryan Brown, John Dease, Drew Forsythe, Mark Holden, Bunney Brooke
Synopsis: A group of journalists from Cinetone News produce weekly newsreels to be shown in cinemas. This is the story of their professional and private lives.
Why See This Film: Phil Noyce’s breakout film of a 1950s newsreel crew who cover the weekly events in Sydney and NSW established him as another of our great 1970s generation of directors (along with Weir, Beresford, Schepisi, Miller and Armstrong) who would move to Hollywood in the 1980s. This film is blessed with a strong cast including Bill Hunter, Gerard Kennedy, Wendy Hughes, Bryan Brown, Angela Punch McGregor and introduced Chris Haywood. The film deftly captures the spirit and details of post-war Australian society, its politics and personal relations and the arrival of migrants. It especially documents the importance of newsreels before the arrival of television and their decline after its arrival. A much more successful depiction of the era than They’re A Weird Mob, the film won four AFI awards, including best film, best director, best actor (Bill Hunter) and best supporting actress (Angela Punch McGregor).
If you liked this film, try: They’re A Weird Mob (43), Rabbit-proof Fence (32), Cloudstreet (15)
Walkabout (1971) (Nicolas Roeg)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 13/300
Genre: Child adventure/Arthouse
Set in: Australian outback and Sydney in the 1960s
Cast: Jenny Agguter, Luc Roeg (aka Lucien John), David Gulpilil, John Meillon
Synopsis: . When a teenage girl and her young brother from the city are left alone in the Australian desert, a young near-naked Aboriginal teenager guides them through the wilderness
Why See This Film: This is a classic 1971 outback film by British director, Nicolas Roeg, of two teenagers and one child wandering in the Australian desert. This film is characterised by its beautiful cinematography, its vivid colours, its wonderful shots of Australian animals, birds and plants, and its jagged cuts from one scene to another and back to encompass multiple simultaneous experiences. The film features 18 year-old British actress Jenny Aguter, as the white Australian teenager, 17 year-old David Gulpilil in his debut role (he has gone on to make nearly twenty movies and many TV dramas since then), plus Australian veteran John Meillon in a brief role as the father. All are outstanding in this epic of two lost white children and the young Aboriginal man who helps them. This film, along with Wake In Fright, also made by a foreign director, reawakened interest in our stories, and particularly our outback environment, and helped stimulate the local industry. It’s a wonderful story of innocence, cultural difference and tragedy, and still stands up after all these years, despite a few 1960s arthouse peccadilloes which look pretentious now.
If you liked this film, try: Storm Boy (22), Charlie’s Country (98), We of the Never Never (108)
Crackerjack (2002) (Paul Moloney)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 14/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 2000s
Cast: Mick Molloy, Samuel Johnson, Bill Hunter, Monica Maughan, Frank Wilson, John Clarke, Judith Lucy, Lois Ramsey
Synopsis: A mid-40s scallywag joins a city lawn bowling club to get the free parking place, but finds himself increasingly entangled in the lives of the retired bowlers and their efforts to save the club from developers.
Why See This Film: This is a hilarious look at one of Australian society’s old institutions: the largely Anglo-Celtic pensioner-dominated lawn bowling club, with its neat white uniforms, strange polite rituals, cheap beer and daggy food like cheese sandwiches and pies. The film is chiefly a vehicle for Mick Molloy, a scruffy TV comedian from the 1990s ABC comedy The Late Show, but includes many other Australian comedians, such as Judith Lucy, Tony Martin and the great John Clarke as the greedy developer, as well as a host of wonderful older actors, led by the ever-reliable Bill Hunter. This film is full of laughs, as well as gentle affection for the quaint culture of lawn bowls and traditional Melbourne. As The Late Show used to say, this is ‘Champagne Comedy’.
If you liked this film, try: The Castle (25), Bad Eggs (139), The Dish (79), The Rage in Placid Lake (30)
Bad Boy Bubby (1993) (Rolf de Heer)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 15/300
Set in: Adelaide in the 1990s
Cast: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito, Ralph Cotterill, Carmel Johnson, Syd Brisbane, Norman Kaye
Synopsis: Bubby grows up confined to his blacked-out house by his batty, protective mum who tells him the world outside is contaminated by nuclear fallout. Finally, as an adult he is forced to leave home.
Why See This Film: This film is hilarious and innovative, but also shocking and grimy in parts and not everyone will like it, so be warned. Nicolas Hope does a great job portraying a man who grows up with no social skills, weird habits and a limited vocabulary, due to his extended confinement with a mad woman – his mother. We are alternately horrified and amused by Bubby’s antics, both inside the house, and eventually outside when he meets other people for the first time. This was Rolf de Heer’s breakthrough film, and he has gone on to make a variety of interesting films in different genres. Interestingly, this is not his only film about a man trapped in a house by a woman (see Alexandra’s Project). De Heer won the AFI award for Best Director for this film, and Hope won the best actor award.
If you liked this film, try: Alexandra’s Project (198), Dogs in Space (34)
Two Hands (1999) (Gregor Jordan)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 16/300
Set in: Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Heath Ledger, Rose Byrne, Bryan Brown, David Field, Susie Porter, Tom Long, Tony Forrow, Mariel McClorey, Evan Sheaves, Steven Vidler
Synopsis: A young man falls in love on the same day he gets in trouble with a Kings Cross gang and has to act fast.
Why See This Film: This is an engaging thriller/comedy in the style of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Pulp Fiction, mixing romance, comedy, crime and murder, with snappy editing and wonderful cinematography. The cast is excellent with excitingly nuanced performances from Bryan Brown as the ruthless gang leader, Heath Leger as the young hopeful and Rose Byrne as the country girl, as well as a dozen great supporting performances. The film won the AFI Best Film Award and Jordan won the AFI Best Director Award for this film. Bryan Brown also picked up his second Best Supporting Actor Award, 19 years after Breaker Morant.
If you liked this film, try: Dirty Deeds (), Getting’ Square (), Death in Brunswick (), Ned Kelly (), Bad Eggs (), The Roly-Poly Man ()
The Sapphires (2012) (Wayne Blair)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — My Ranking 17/300
Set in: Queensland and Vietnam in 1960s
Cast: Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell, Chris O’Dowd, Tory Kittles, Eka Darville, Tanika Lonesborough, Nioka Brennan, Lynette Narkle, Kylie Belling, Miah Madden, Ava Jean-Miller Porter, Carlin Briggs, Judith Lucy, Rhys Muldoon
Synopsis: The true story of four young Aboriginal women who formed a Motown-style girl-group and went to Vietnam to entertain Australian troops during the Vietnam War.
Why See This Film: This is a feel-good film, which touches on big social issues, but leaves you with a warm heart and good music in your soul. The movie includes our top Aboriginal actress, Deborah Mailman, as Gail, the tough-talking elder sister with the heart of gold, and she does a great job of anchoring this film. Jessica Mauboy, who is famous as a singer, also does a great job here as sister Julie, as do the two new faces, Shari Sebbens and the effervescent Miranda Tapsell. Irish funnyman Chris O’Dowd is surprisingly good as the group’s Irish manager. The film is one of a few recent films on Indigenous themes that exudes positivity and transcends the problems many Aboriginal and Torres Strait People face and have faced. If you liked the Commitments or Dreamgirls, this is a film for you. The film won five AFI awards in 2012: best film, best director, best actress (Mailman), best actor (O’Dowd) and best supporting actress (Mauboy).
If you liked this film, try: Bran Nue Day (82), Radiance (123), The Fringe Dwellers (53), Mabo (130)
Don’s Party (1976) (Bruce Beresford)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 18/300
Genre: Political Comedy
Set in: Sydney in 1969
Cast: John Hargreaves, Jeanie Drynan, Graeme Blundell, Ray Barrett, Clare Binney, Pat Bishop, Graham Kennedy, Harold Hopkins, Veronica Lang, Candy Raymond, Kit Taylor, John Grey Gorton
Synopsis: A group of middle class Aussies hold a party to celebrate the Labor Party’s anticipated victory in the 1969 election, but as the alcohol flows and it becomes clear that Labor has lost, the mood turns ugly and spouses and friends turn on each other.
Why See This Film: This film version of David Williamson’s famous play was a landmark film in Australia’s mid-70s revival. Like most Williamson plays, the film is full of fast, clever dialogue, jealousies, hypocrisies, insults and turmoil. What’s more the film was made by one our best directors and a group of the best actors of the era, including John Hargreaves, Ray Barrett, Graeme Blundell and the great TV comedian Graham Kennedy in one of his few film roles. So see this film for its humour, its comments on Australian politics, its insights into human nature, its observations of the sexism and sexual politics of the time, and its depiction of the odd world of 1960s Anglo-Australian middle-class suburbia, before migrants and Whitlam turned things upside-down. Bruce Beresford won the AFI award for best director and Pat Bishop won the best actress award.
If you liked this film, try: The Club (36), The Removalists (41)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 19/300
Genre: Family drama
Set in: South Australian Coorong district in the 1970s
Cast: Greg Rowe, Peter Cummins, David Gulpilil
Synopsis: Ten year old Mike (Storm Boy) lives an isolated life in a shack on a windswept beach on the Coorong with his fisherman father and Mr Percival, a pelican. Fingerbone, a young runaway Aboriginal man also befriends him and his life becomes a little less lonely.
Why See This Film: An excellent family film, good for adults and children, this is a strong, touching story of a young boy and his few companions living on the amazingly wild South Australian coastal region of Coorong, with its endless lagoons, bush and beach. Although Greg Rowe, the young actor, is excellent, and David Gulpilil is great as Fingerbone, the pelican steals the show. This film is one of only a few to highlight our amazing wildlife, after Skippy, the long-running TV show about a Kangaroo, led the way in the 1960s. Red Dog is the only other Australian animal film that springs to mind, although it’s good to see the new film Oddball (which I have yet to see) doing so well. Storm Boy won the AFI best film award in 1977.
If you liked this film, try: Satellite Boy (105), Red Dog (192), Walkabout (17)
Shine (1996) (Scott Hicks)
Ozflicks Rating: 4.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 20/300
Genre: Drama, True story
Set in: Adelaide, London, Sydney from the 1950s to the 1990s
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, Sir John Gielgud, Lynn Redgrave, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Synopsis: The true story of piano prodigy, David Helfgott, the troubled Australian-Jewish musical prodigy and his recovery from mental illness to find love, fulfilment and success.
Why See This Film: Geoffrey Rush is wonderful in his award-winning portrayal of Helfgott’s manic genius, and brought his touching and inspiring story to the world. Noah Taylor also gives an excellent performance as Helfgott in his teenage years, but it is Rush’s performance that lifts the film. The film is full of humour, sadness, disappointment, perseverance and elation, and celebrates Helfgott’s remarkable life, and those who helped him recover from the hard times. Rush’s performance has led to great success in many other significant films, both internationally and in Australia. The film won the 1996 AFI awards for best film and best director, and Rush won not only the AFI best actor award, but also the Academy Award, BAFTA award and Golden Globe awards for best actor. Armin Mueller-Stahl also won the AFI best supporting actor award.
If you liked this film, try: The Sapphires (18), Cosi (75), Lilian’s Story (89)
Japanese Story (2003) (Sue Brooks)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 21/300
Set in: Pilbara region of north Western Australia and Perth in the 2000s
Cast: Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski, Lynette Curran, John Howard
Synopsis: A female geologist for a mining company is ordered to show a Japanese businessman around the vast mining operations in WA. As they spend days driving around the desert, the cultural divide between the two slowly lessens, until fate takes an unexpected turn.
Why See This Film: This film explores the differences between the Japanese and Australian cultures, and the stereotypes each people have for each other, and how these differences and stereotypes can gradually be transcended. Toni Collette shows her versatility as her mood shifts from hostility to understanding, and from tenderness to sorrow to greater understanding. Gotaro Tsunashima is also good as the Japanese man who is at first repelled by the Australian, but gradually changes. The film moves in unexpected directions and challenges both characters to find qualities they did not know they had. The scenery is vast, everything is on a giant scale, dwarfing humanity and exposing our fragility. A gripping drama, unlike any other Australian story. This film won the 2003 AFI awards for best film and best direction, and Toni Collette won the best actress award.
If you liked this film, try: Lantana (7), Walkabout (17), Beneath Clouds (24), Lucky Miles (63), The Black Balloon (68), Cosi (75)
Beneath Clouds (2002) (Ivan Sen)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 22/300
Set in: Outback NSW from Moree to Lithgow, Sydney in 2000s
Cast: Dannielle Hall, Damian Pitt
Synopsis: Two young Aboriginal teenagers, a girl running away from her mother to find her missing white father and a boy escaping from prison to visit his sick mother, meet and travel across inland NSW towards the coast together.
Why See This Film: This is a beautiful, touching film of two fragile young people travelling through the dreamy expanse of the northern NSW plains, slowly coming to understand each other and becoming friends. It explores issues of race and identity for contemporary Aboriginal people, and the difficulties in improving your life in small-town Australia. Ivan Sen, the most successful of our Indigenous filmmakers, has a great feel for human emotions and unspoken communication, as well as a great eye for the power of our landscape. The film also examines how decisions have consequences which can derail our plans. Sen won the AFI best director award for this small gem of a film.
If you liked this film, try: Mystery Road (67), Samson and Delilah (84), Charlie’s Country (98), Satellite Boy (105)
The Castle (1997) (Rob Sitch)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 23/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 1990s
Cast: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Stephen Curry, Anthony Simcoe, Sophie Lee, Wayne Hope, Tiriel Mora, Eric Bana, Charles (Bud) Tingwell
Synopsis: A family of battlers, living on the flight path, near a major airport, tries to save their beloved humble home from development.
Why See This Film: This film is a hilarious, affectionate look at Australian working-class life, poking gentle fun at many of our habits and concerns. The film captured the language and obsessions of a very average family, who try to hold on to their modest house right next to and airport. Catch-phrases from the film have entered the Australian vernacular. Made by Rob Sitch and the Working Dog team, who were TV comedians from The D-Generation and The Late Show, this film includes some of our great comic actors, particularly Michael Caton, but also Stephen Curry and Eric Bana (before he became a Hollywood action hero). This film was very successful at the box office and was chosen as Australia’s favourite Australian film in polls in 2005, 2008 and 2011, though non-Aussie audiences may find it baffling.
If you liked this film, try: Crackerjack (13), The Dish (79), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Bad Eggs (139), Kenny (not my cuppa but lots love it)
The Dressmaker (2015) (Jocelyn Moorhouse)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 24/300
Set in: Outback small town in the 1950s
Cast: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Judy Davis, Caroline Goodall, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, Gyton Grantley, James Mackay, Barry Otto, Julia Blake, Sacha Horler, Shane Bourne
Synopsis: A woman, the dressmaker Tillie Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet, returns to her home town to face her childhood demons, as well as her aging half-demented mother, Molly, played by Judy Davis.
Why See This Film: This new film from Jocelyn Moorhouse has it all: style, panache, humour, mystery, conflict, tragedy, revenge and heart. It is a story in the Australian literary traditions of Patrick White, Peter Carey or Tim Winton, and of films like The Eye of the Storm, Bliss or Cloudstreet. It has the toughness of the Australian experience, as well as the bizarre touches, the sense of history and connections within small towns, the cruelty, the weird individuals, the small kindnesses and the resilience. And also to some extent the defeats and disappointments. With a wonderful troupe of mainly Australian support actors, including Hugo Weaving, Sacha Horler, Barry Otto, Kerry Fox, as well as handsome newcomer Liam Hemsworth, the town bristles with memorable characters who alternately torment and support Tilly and her mother. The film won Winslet the AACTA best actress award, and best supporting actress and actor awards for Davis and Weaving.
If you liked this film, try: Holy Smoke (107), Bliss (55), Dimboola (91), Dad and Dave (88), My Brilliant Career (8), Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Eye of the Storm (20), Cloudstreet (15)
Recommended Review: Urban Cinephile
The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) (Fred Schepisi)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 25/300
Genre: Period Drama
Set in: North-western NSW in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Cast: Tommy Lewis, Freddy Reynolds, Ray Barrett, Jack Thompson, Angela Punch McGregor, Steve Dodds, Peter Carroll, Ruth Cracknell, Don Crosby, Elizabeth Alexander, Peter Sumner, Tim Robertson, Ray Meagher, Brian Anderson, Arthur Dignam, Robyn Nevin, John Bowman, Bryan Brown, John Jarratt
Synopsis: A young Aboriginal farm-worker and his mates suffer racism and condescension, until they snap.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s shocking Booker Prize-nominated book, which was based on the true story of the outlaw Jimmy Governor. The film captures colonial Australia and its racist attitudes strongly, and was one of the first Australian films to tell the story of white treatment of our Indigenous people. This is an exceptionally well-made film on an important subject, and is gripping until the end. There is some violence, which is shocking but quickly over. Angela Punch-McGregor won the AFI best actress award, and Ray Barrett the best supporting actor award, but all the actors are good, particularly Tommy Lewis in his debut as Jimmie Blacksmith.
If you liked this film, try: The Tracker (7), Rabbit-Proof Fence (32), Walkabout (17), The Devil’s Playground (48), The Eye of the Storm (20), Ten Canoes (40)
Crocodile Dundee (1986) (Peter Faiman)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 26/300
Set in: NT (Northern Territory) and NY (New York) in the 1980s
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum, David Gulpilil, Michael Lombard, John Meillon
Synopsis: A tough wisecracking crocodile hunter from Walkabout Creek in the NT outback meets a NY woman journalist and they travel to NY together, where he experiences a big city for the first time.
Why See This Film: Paul Hogan was a genuine comic phenomenon on Australian TV in the 1970s. He started as a blue collar worker (a painter on the Sydney Harbour bridge) but became a battler comedian, giving his colourful working class opinions, making fun of Australian society and reflecting the language and concerns of the average Australian worker. In this film, ‘Hoges’ amazingly translated his small screen everyman persona into a fantasy larger-than-life outback hero, creating a film that has been our most successful at the box office, both in Australia and internationally, challenged by only some of the Mad Max and animated features of George Miller.
The film itself is a light-hearted romp, with Dundee as the crocodile hunting larrikin with a dry wit and a natural charm. The film combines great comedy with action and romance, presenting a vision of Australian manhood that both Australians and Americans wanted to see. Armed with an intimate understanding of the Australian bush and its wildlife, he overcomes all dangers, both human and animal that come his way, both in the outback, and later in NY, and eventually wins the heart of the sophisticated American with his folksy outdoors charm. A metaphor for this film which won over audiences on both sides of the Pacific with its charm: Aussies liked that one of their own could charm a beautiful American; Americans liked it that someone else in the world liked them.
This film broke all box-office records and remains the box-office champion both domestically and internationally. It also spawned two similar sequels.
If you liked this film, try: Crocodile Dundee II (252), Man From Snowy River (70), Crackerjack (13)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 27/300
Genre: Period drama
Set in: Sydney in the 1930s
Cast: Wendy Hughes, Robyn Nevin, Nicholas Gled, Geraldine Turner, Isabelle Anderson, Peter Whitford, John Hargreaves, Colleen Clifford, Edward Howell, Jacque, Michael Long
Synopsis: A small boy (PS) is fought over by her two aunts after he is abandoned by his father.
Why See This Film: This is a wonderful adaptation of Sumner Locke Elliot’s novel. Wendy Hughes and Robyn Nevin are excellent as the two sisters, one rich but childless and cool, and the other poor but loving, who become involved in a tussle to claim their sister’s child, after its father shoots through. One feels so much for the little boy, taken from a humble but loving home to a cold, lonely mansion. The film won the AFI awards for best film and best direction in 1983, and Wendy Hughes won the best actress award, with John Hargreaves winning the best supporting actor award for his role as the usually absent, but occasionally disruptive father.
If you liked this film, try: The Getting of Wisdom (61), Picnic At Hanging Rock (2), Man of Flowers (28)
The Rage in Placid Lake (2003) (Tony McNamara)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 28/300
Set in: Sydney and NSW in the 2000s
Cast: Ben Lee, Miranda Richardson, Rose Byrne, Garry McDonald
Synopsis: A young man named Placid Lake by his hippie parents, decides to reject their lifestyle and go straight.
Why See This Film: This is a terrific little comedy, poking fun at everything from aging hippies to corporate climbers, in which Placid charts his own course somewhere in-between. Singer Ben Lee does a fine job as the cheerful, inventive Placid and Rose Byrne (in one of her last Oz films before she went on to fame in Hollywood) is great as his friend Gemma. Garry McDonald and Miranda Richardson as Placid’s hippy parents are fantastic as well. This is one of Australia’s best comedies and deserves to be seen more widely.
If you liked this film, try: Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (47), The Castle (25), Crackerjack (13)
Somersault (2004) (Cate Shortland)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 29/300
Genre: Drama (some romance, more romanticism)
Set in: Canberra and Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains of NSW in the 2000s
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran, Erik Thomson, Hollie Andrew, Leah Purcell, Olivia Pigeot, Blake Pittman
Synopsis: A teenage girl runs away from home and ends up in a Snowy Mountains resort town, where she has to learn quickly how to be an adult and tell the difference between sex and love.
Why See This Film: This is a moodily beautiful film. The film follows the beautiful vulnerable teenager in a dreamlike manner, with Decoder Ring’s evocative soundtrack behind it. There is a truthfulness to the messy relationships into which she falls, as teenagers tend to fall. The film swept the AFI’s major awards, winning best film and best director, as well as best actor and actress and best supporting actor and actress, as well as many technical awards.
If you liked this film, try: Candy (178), Caterpillar Wish (86), Looking for Alibrandi (69)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 30/300
Set in: Western Australia in the 1930s
Cast: Evelyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Garry McDonald, Jason Clarke, Ningali Lawford, Deborah Mailman
Synopsis:. Three young Aboriginal girls are taken by the government from their mother in northern WA to be brought up within a white culture hundreds of miles away. The girls escape and try to follow the rabbit-proof fence back to their mother.
Why See This Film: This film is based on a true story which highlights the experiences of thousands of Aboriginal children taken from their parents over the first 70 years of the 20th century. The story is one of a gripping escape and mammoth trek by three small children who manage to evade strenuous efforts by the police to recapture them. The acting by the young girls is wonderful as they trek across the endless plains. Kenneth Branagh is also good as the inflexible Protector of Western Australian Aborigines who implements this misguided paternalist policy.
If you liked this film, try: The Tracker (6), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), Walkabout (17), Ten Canoes (40), Beneath Clouds (24), Charlie’s Country (98), Satellite Boy (105)
Cloudstreet (2011) (Matthew Saville)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 31/300
Set in: Perth in the 1940s & 1950s
Cast: Essie Davis, Stephen Curry, Todd Lasance, Emma Booth, Shannon Lively, Kerry Fox, Geoff Morrell, Callan McAuliffe
Synopsis: Two poor families move into one large house on the outskirts of Perth after World War Two. The film follows the fortunes of all the family members as the children grow and one family starts to prosper.
Why See This Film: This film is adapted from the Tim Winton book that was voted Australia’s favourite Oz novel in a 2003 ABC poll. And it’s a very successful adaptation too, capturing the humanity, the humour, the mysticism and the absurdity of Winton’s story. Actually, this was a 3-part TV mini-series, but it works very well as a seamless four hour film, so I’m breaking my self-imposed rule against mini-series, and I’m including it due to its quality and my love for Tim Winton’s work. It’s full of surprising, touching and amusing stories that are very Australian and capture the struggle of that era. Kerry Fox, Geoff Morrell and Essie Davis are all excellent, and the acting is good all round. The cinematography is outstanding capturing both the stark beauty and occasional softness of the West Australian landscape.
If you liked this film, try: The Turning (52), One Night the Moon (81), My Brother Jack (128)
Recommended Review: David Knox
Man of Flowers (1983) (Paul Cox)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 32/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 1980s
Cast: Norman Kaye, Alyson Best, Chris Haywood, Sarah Walker, Julia Blake, Bob Ellis, Barry Dickins, Patrick Cook, Victoria Eagger, Werner Herzog, Hilary Kelly, James Stratford, Eileen Joyce
Synopsis: An older wealthy man living alone spends his life appreciating beauty: collecting art and flowers, and watching pretty women undress.
Why See This Film: This is Paul Cox’s best film with very European aesthetics. Similar in style to some of Peter Greenaway’s films, the film is full of classical music, art, beauty and sadness. We are taken into the obsessions of this gentle, troubled man and his relationship with the young woman who strips for him. Paul Cox, who died recently, made more Australian films than any other director, always interested in aesthetics and human fragility. Some did not succeed, but this one did and remains in the memory after 30 years. Norman Kaye won the AFI best actor award for this film.
If you liked this film, try: Lonely Hearts (118), Salvation (180), My First Wife (184), Human Touch (222)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 33/300
Set in: Inner-city Melbourne in the late 1970s
Cast: Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post, Nique Needles, Chris Haywood, Deanna Bond, Tony Helou, Laura Swanson, Emma de Clario
Synopsis: Follows the anarchic lives of a group of young punk musicians and their friends in inner-city Melbourne in the late 70s.
Why See This Film: Not everyone will like this film about disorganised young punk musicians, but if you like edgy music like Iggy Pop or Nick Cave, you might like this. I do and I did. Michael Hutchence (the lead singer of INXS which was big worldwide in the late 80s) plays a young singer, and he carries the film along, in this recreation of the late 70s Melbourne art-punk scene that produced such acts as Nick Cave and his then band The Boys Next Door. The film captures inner-city Australia of that time with the squats, group-houses, rundown terraces, pubs with live music every night, parties, gigs, happenings, a mix of students, dole-fiends, punks, hippies, druggies, and young people trying to hook up and enjoy themselves, of old bomb cars full of friends and music gear, contempt for conformity, poverty, boredom, excitement and delusion. The lives of the band members and their friends and girlfriends are followed through their unruly path, with the odd departure due to misadventure or drug overdose. Much of this film rings true, and the soundtrack is excellent, if of course you like this kind of thing. It includes two versions of Nick Cave’s Shivers and other live sets by Melbourne bands.
If you liked this film, try: He Died With A Falafel in His Mouth (156), True Love and Chaos (161)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 34/300
Set in: Centennial Park in Sydney in the 1960s/70s
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, Charlotte Rampling, Colin Friels, Robyn Nevin, John Gaden, Helen Morse, Alexandra Schepisi, Maria Theodorakis, Dustin Clare, Elizabeth Alexander, Barry Langrishe
Synopsis: A rich old woman nearing death, continues to torment her two middle-aged children who are waiting for her inheritance.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent adaptation of one of Australian Nobel Prize-winning author Patrick White’s best novels. The film is characterised by White’s psychological understanding of the bitterness, jealousy, resentment and cruelty which can exist within families, and how age does not always help people transcend these qualities, but can even accentuate them. The film is helped by a great trio of actors – Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, as the two children desperate for either affection or money from their mother, and Charlotte Rampling, as the sly old society lady, confined to bed with two nurses, but still able to manipulate those around her. Actually Rampling, who I often don’t like much, is perfect in this role, bringing depth and nuance to the old lady, dreaming of past love, while maintaining an iron grip on those around her. Some have commented that the film is more reminiscent of an earlier era, perhaps the 1950s with which White was more familiar, or even the 1930s, and I tend to agree, as the characters seem untouched by the world of the 1960s. But it’s an engrossing story, nevertheless.
If you liked this film, try: Careful He Might Hear You (29), My Brilliant Career (8), The Devil’s Playground (48), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27)
Dead Heart (1996) (Nick Parsons)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 35/300
Genre: Crime Drama
Set in: Northern Territory in the 1990s
Cast: Bryan Brown, Ernie Dingo, Angie Milliken, Aaron Pedersen, David Gulpilil, Gnarnayarrahe Waitaire, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Anne Tenney, John Jarratt, Lafe Charlton, Djunawong Stanley Mirindo, Peter Francis
Synopsis: . When a young Aboriginal man dies mysteriously, the local policeman played by Bryan Brown suspects he has been killed for violating traditional laws,
Why See This Film: This is an extremely interesting and well-made film about the culture clashes in an Aboriginal desert community, between well-meaning white administrators and traditional tribal values and those Aboriginals trying to live in both cultures. A finely nuanced film which looks at the good and bad in both cultures and in all the characters and examines the pressures and difficulties of coexistence. Bryan Brown is excellent in this film.
If you liked this film, try: Mystery Road (67)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 36/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 1970s
Cast: Jack Thompson, John Howard, Graham Kennedy, Frank Wilson, Alan Cassell, Harold Hopkins, Maggie Doyle, Lou Richards, Toni-Gay Shaw
Synopsis: A young AFL (Australian Football) player joins a big Melbourne club and begins to feel the pressure as intra-club intrigues, rivalries and jealousies play themselves out between the coach, board-members and players.
Why See This Film: This is the second of Bruce Beresford’s adaptations of a David Williamson play, and it is just as enjoyable as Don’s Party. Less claustrophobic than Don’s Party and The Removalists, which involved antagonists trapped in the same house together for several hours, this film uses various locations around Melbourne, and takes place over several weeks of the football season as the pressure builds and tempers fray. This film is full of great actors, including John Hargreaves, Jack Thompson, Graham Kennedy, John Howard (the Seachange one, not the Prime Minister) and Frank Wilson. The Club prickles with Williamson’s acerbic dialogue and fruity language as the characters try to survive the club’s hothouse atmosphere.
If you liked this film, try: Don’s Party (19), The Removalists (41)
Beautiful Kate (2009) (Rachel Ward)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 37/300
Set in: Rural South Australia in 2000s
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths, Sophie Lowe, Maeve Darmody, Scott O’Donnell
Synopsis: Ken (Ben Mendelsohn) returns with his girlfriend to his isolated childhood farmhouse to see his cantankerous dying father, played by Bryan Browne and his long suffering sister (Rachelle Griffiths). Ken argues with everyone, but is even more haunted by memories of his beloved twin sister Kate and brother Cliff.
Why See This Film: This debut film from Rachel Ward is marvellously realised, atmospheric and sometimes shocking. This is a family with a lot of stubborn personalities and a lot of baggage, and the verbal fireworks start to fly as past resentments arise. But it is the haunting memory of Kate which obsesses Ken most on his return. Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths and the Sophie Lowe as Kate are all excellent. The film looks great, capturing the rural isolation of the place, and the pacing is relentless towards the film’s revelation. A very impressive and memorable film.
If you liked this film, try: Proof (5), Lantana (7)
Love Serenade (1996) (Shirley Barrett)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 38/300
Set in: Sunray, Murray River small town in Victoria, in 1990s
Cast: Miranda Otto, Rebecca Frith, George Shevtsov, John Alansu
Synopsis: Two sisters in a small country town compete for the affections of a newly-arrived radio DJ from the city.
Why See This Film: This debut feature by Shirley Barrett captures both the beauty of the Australian farmland and the lack of opportunity for people living in small Australian town, where closeness to nature is balanced by distance from people. The three people at the centre this movie have many unattractive characteristics, but all have likeable ones as well. Elder sister Vicki Ann is bossy and self-centred; younger sister Dimity is a bit autistic, by the looks of things, with a very poor understanding of how human relationships work or how to communicate; and Ken Sherry is a loathsome lothario from Brisbane with bucketloads of new-age philosophy, whose main purpose is to seduce the gullible. So this film is hilarious and sad at the same time, these people do bad things to each other, but somehow they had it coming. For anyone who has lived in country Australia, a lot of things will ring true in this film. It also includes a great Barry White-centred soundtrack and one of the most hilarious strip teases I have seen.
If you liked this film, try: Dead Letter Office (74), Muriel’s Wedding (4), Peaches (92), Russian Doll (14), South Solitary (93), The Year My Voice Broke (51)
Ten Canoes (2006) (Rolf de Heer)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 39/300
Genre: Aboriginal Period Drama
Set in: Arnhem Land, NT
Cast: Crusoe Kurddal, Jamie Gulpilil, Richard Birrinbirrin, Peter Djigirr, Peter Minygululu, Frances Djulibing, Sonia Djarrabalminy, Philip Gudthaykudthay, Bobby Bunungurr, Michael Dawu, Johnny Pascoe, Billy Black, Steven Wilinydjanu, Carl Dhalurruma, Kathy Gonun, and Jennifer Djenana
Synopsis: This is a story within a story. One Yolngu man tells his younger brother a story, in order to teach him the danger of adultery in Aboriginal society. The story concerns people from a much earlier time who came into conflict over a young wife and how jealousy and a cycle of ritual revenge resulted in two deaths.
Why See This Film: This is the first feature film to use only an Aboriginal language, in this case the Yolngu language of the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. The story reveals the culture, beliefs, concerns and customs of pre-invasion Yolngu people, and is a fascinating window into one of the myriad Aboriginal cultures that existed in Australia only 200 years ago, some of which have survived while others have perished. The wonderful David Gulpilil narrates the film in a playful manner, and the story entertains as well as informs. The film won the AFI awards for best film and best director in 2006.
If you liked this film, try: Yolngu Boy (164), Beneath Clouds (24), Charlie’s Country (98), Satellite Boy (105)
They’re a Weird Mob (1966) (Michael Powell)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 40/300
Set in: Sydney in the 1960s
Cast: Walter Chiari, Clare Dunne, Chips Rafferty, Ed Devereaux, Judith Arthy, John Meillon, Slim de Grey, Alida Chelli, Doreen Warburton, Jeanie Drynan, Barry Creyton, Charles Little, Tony Bonner, Gloria Dawn, Noel Brophy, Peter Sumner, Sue Walker, Graham Kennedy
Synopsis: An Italian migrant arriving in Sydney in the 1960s has to adjust to Australian slang and the Australian way of life.
Why See This Film: This sixties Australian film is more famous for the fact of its existence than for its artistic merit. Not that it is totally without merit, but its importance lies elsewhere. Weird Mob was the most successful of a handful of Australian films to get a general release in Australia between 1950 and 1970, and the first film to depict contemporary Australian city life for Australian audiences since the early Australian film industry succumbed to the invasion of Hollywood films in the late 1940s. And now it is the only film from that era to show us Australia and Australians as they were then. The film broke new ground in other ways, it was the first major Australian film to show Sydney in colour and it was the first to show (a version of) multicultural Australia and the impact and experiences of non-British migrants in Australia. As such it is an important cultural artefact.
And so to the film itself. The film follows the comic adventures of an Italian migrant, Nino Cullotta, who arrives in Sydney in the mid-1960s. Italian star Walter Chiari is perfect in the role, full of cheerful energy that carries him through many challenging situations. The film also features many great Australian actors of the time, including Chips Rafferty, John Meillon, Ed Devereux, Slim deGrey, and even has a cameo from Graham Kennedy, playing himself. The film offers an idealised view of the immigrants’ story, with little of the racism many faced, but at least it tells the story from a migrant’s view, which few other films or TV shows attempted. It was directed by the great British director Michael Powell, and while it’s not one of his best, it is a rare chance to see Australia as it was, more or less, at the time.
If you liked this film, try: Newsfront (13), Dirty Deeds (116) , Looking for Alibrandi (69)
The Proposition (2005) (John Hillcoat)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 41/300
Genre: Period Action-Drama-Western
Set in: Outback Queensland in the 1880s
Cast: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, David Wenham, John Hurt, Tom Budge, David Gulpilil, Leah Purcell, Richard Wilson, Tom E. Lewis
Synopsis: A policeman offers a captured outlaw a proposition – if he helps capture his older brother, he and his captured younger brother will be freed.
Why See This Film: Written by cult singer Nick Cave, this is a gothic Western which pits brutal police against brutal Irish outlaws, in a battle of wits and atrocities with many casualties. At the heart of the story is Captain Stanley, a tough but fair cop haunted by his years of enforcing the law at the edges of the British Empire, and Charlie Burns, who is tired of being an outlaw and agrees to track down one brother to save another one. The story is gripping, with stark scenery, poetic passages and occasional violence. The performances from the all-star British and Aussie cast are memorable, and the film leaves a strong impression of the tough life of frontier Australia.
If you liked this film, try: The Tracker (6), Wake in Fright (), Ned Kelly (), Mad Dog Morgan (), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (), Van Dieman’s Land ()
Russian Doll (2001) (Stavros Kazantzidis)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 42/300
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Set in: Bondi (Sydney) in the 2000s
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalia Novikova, David Wenham, Sacha Horler, Rebecca Frith
Synopsis: A young Russian Jewish woman trying to stay in Australia after the death of her fiancé, shares the flat of a pessimistic, non-Jewish private detective who works mainly on adultery cases.
Why See This Film: Australia makes relatively few rom-coms, and even fewer successful ones. This is our best in my opinion (as Look Both Ways is more drama than rom-com and Muriel’s Wedding is more comedy).It is full of humour, charm and eventual romance. It is set mainly in the famous beachside suburb of Bondi, and Bondi and the surrounding suburbs have never looked so good on film. But besides the beach, Bondi is also (incongruously) home to a large Russian Jewish community, and it is this community who provide much of the culture-clash humour in the film. This is the only Australian film to my knowledge which features Australia’s Jewish community, in marked contrast to Hollywood where Jewish characters and stories abound. Hugo Weaving is great (as usual) as Harvey, the non-Jewish private detective who has lost faith in humanity; Natalia Novikova is very funny as the spunky Russian, full of life but without a visa; David Wenham moves away from his dry Anglo-Australian roles to play Harvey’s orthodox Jewish friend and Sacha Horler is fantastic playing a Russian vamp. I really enjoyed this film for the comedy and the various familiar locations from my home city of Sydney which appear in the film.
If you liked this film, try: Danny Deckchair (37), Look Both Ways (1), Love and Other Catastrophes (97), Dating the Enemy (131), Peaches (92), Me Myself I (150)
Oranges and Sunshine (2010) (Jim Loach)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 43/300
Genre: Drama/True Story
Set in: Australia and UK between the 1940s and the 2000s.
Cast: Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Tara Morice, Lorraine Ahbourne, Clayton Watson, Richard Dillane, Aisling Loftus, Stuart Wolfenden, Greg Stone
Synopsis: In the 1980s, Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker discovered that thousands of poor British children were sent to Australia (and NZ and Canada) in the decades following World War 2, without the knowledge of the public or even the children’s parents. Many children were exploited in Australian orphanages where they were overworked, underfed and exposed to physical or sexual violence, all of which left deep scars later in their lives. The film shows how this was exposed and some families reunited.
Why See This Film: This sad but true story is brought to life in a clear, mature, understated and un-hysterical way by British director Jim Loach, who shares his father’s dedication to important social issues. The story is shocking, though most is revealed through the testimonies to Ms Humphreys, rather than through graphic re-enactments. The film is angry, but in a quiet way, as are many of the former children. Like Australia’s stolen-generation scandal (see Rabbit-Proof Fence, above at 32) that was hidden from the general public for years, this film shows us that the past was not as rosy as it is sometimes portrayed. This is a combined British-Australian film set in both Britain and Australia with enough major Australian characters, played by Australian actors, to be included in my list of Australian films. I recognise that the British component is greater (British writer, director and main character (Emily Watson)), but it still has enough Australian content for me. Watson’s quiet strength carries the film, but Australian actors Hugo Weaving and David Wenham, as two of the grown-up children seeking the truth about themselves, lend poignancy.
If you liked this film, try: Rabbit-Proof Fence (32), The Square (104)
The Overlanders (1946) (Harry Watt)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 44/300
Set in: Northern Australia in 1942
Cast: Chips Rafferty, John Nugent Hayward, Daphne Campbell, Jean Blue, Helen Grieve, John Fernside, Peter Pagan, Frank Ransome, Stan Tolhurst, Marshall Crosby, John Fegan, Clyde Combo, Henry Murdoch
Synopsis: After the Japanese threaten to invade northern Australia in World War 2, cattle owners are faced with the choice of killing their cattle, or sending them on the difficult trek across thousands of miles to Queensland.
Why See This Film: This is a great story, and the narrative hangs together pretty well for a film of this era. Chips Rafferty, our great star of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, plays Dan McAlpine, the only man brave (or foolish) enough to attempt the massive cattle drive across half a continent. Rafferty is charismatic as always, and he is supported by a convincing collection of mainly Australian actors in this action-packed Western. The cinematography is excellent, showing the expansive countryside in beautiful black and white, and British director Harry White, who made a number of fine movies in Australia for Ealing, keeps the story moving to a satisfying conclusion.
If you liked this film, try: Forty Thousand Horsemen (135), Eureka Stockade (137), Robbery Under Arms (163), Jedda (64)
The Interview (1998) (Craig Monahan)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 45/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 1990s
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Tony Martin, Aaron Jeffery, Paul Sonkkila, Michael Caton, Peter McCauley, Glynis Angel, Leverne McDonnell, Libby Stone, Andrew Bayly, Doug Dew
Synopsis: A policeman arrests, abuses and conducts an interrogation of a loner he suspects of murder.
Why See This Film: This is a gripping psychological thriller about a battle of wits between an aggressive policeman and a seemingly ordinary man who lives alone in a humble flat. Tony Martin has his best role as the ambitious and apparently unscrupulous cop trying to pin a murder on an odd individual, whom his guts tell him did the crime, but for which can’t find hard evidence. Hugo Weaving is exceptional as the enigmatic loner. Is he a man without friends who is an easy scapegoat for the police, or is he a cunning operator with a secret to hide? In this film, your sympathies shift from one to the other, saving the answer for the end. Highly recommended, this film won the 1998 AFI award for best film and Weaving won the best actor award. (He is, as I have stated elsewhere Australia’s best actor in my opinion.)
If you liked this film, try: Proof (5), Lantana (7), Breaker Morant (10), Mystery Road (67), The Square (104), The Broken Shore (90)
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) (Stephan Elliott)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 46/300
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Road movie
Set in: Sydney and the Outback in the 1990s
Cast: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter, Sarah Chadwick, Mark Holmes, Julia Cortez, Ken Radley, Alan Dargin, Rebel Russell
Synopsis: Three drag queens decide to leave Sydney and cross the outback in a silver bus called ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ performing exuberant drag shows in isolated outback towns.
Why See This Film:. This is a flamboyant, hilarious romp of a road movie with wonderful costumes, great one-liners, and spectacular musical numbers, mixed with occasional sadness and intolerance. The movie is a landmark of Australian gay film-making and represents our most successful gay-themed film. The three leads, Terrence Stamp as the older transsexual and Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce as the fellow drag queens, are perfect, full of bitchy pizzazz and camp fun. There are some problems with the pacing, and the writing has occasional hiccups, but overall this movie is great fun, with a bit of social comment thrown in. The scenery is also magnificent, as the trio make their way across the continent to Alice Springs, encountering incomprehension, hostility and enthusiasm in equal measure. This film represents a celebration of Australia’s gay community, which survived the Aids crisis of the 1980s where so many of their friends and lovers died, and bravely partied on, albeit with greater responsibility. The film was also voted as one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films in a 2008 AFI online poll.
If you liked this film, try: Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Sum of Us (207), Cosi (75), Strictly Ballroom (10)
The Devil’s Playground (1976) (Fred Schepisi)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 47/300
Genre: Period drama
Set in: Country Victoria, outside Melbourne in the 1950s
Cast: Arthur Dignam, Nick Tate, Simon Burke, Charles McCallum, John Frawley, Jonathan Hardy, Gerry Duggan, Peter Cox, John Diedrich, Thomas Keneally, Sheila Florence
Synopsis: Young Catholic schoolboys at a Catholic boarding seminary try to make sense of the world, but are subjected to repressive ideas of sin and shame, particularly in relation to sex. The film also looks at the lives of the Catholic brothers who also suffer from the ideas they inflict on the boys.
Why See This Film:. This film is an excellent dramatic story about the lives of schoolboys and Catholic teaching brothers at a Catholic boarding seminary at a time when the Catholic Church in many countries was obsessed with sin and guilt about sex. The acting, direction and cinematography are all excellent. The film won the 1976 AFI awards for best film and best director and actors Simon Burke and Nick Tate shared the best actor award.
If you liked this film, try: The Getting of Wisdom (61), The Broken Shore (90), The Year My Voice Broke (51), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), The Eye of the Storm (20),
48. The Removalists (1975) (Tom Jeffrey)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 48/300
Set in: Melbourne in the 1970s
Cast: Peter Cummins, John Hargreaves, Jacki Weaver, Kate Fitzpatrick, Martin Harris, Chris Haywood
Synopsis: Two policemen, a grizzled veteran and a rookie, attend a domestic violence case, and get caught up in an argument between the wife, the husband and the wife’s elder sister.
Why See This Film: This is another film of a classic David Williamson play, and is typically hilarious and outrageous in equal measure. Full of sexual politics, class conflict, police brutality, working-class cheek, upper-class snobbery, jealousy and contempt, this is classic David Williamson. The cast is excellent with future stars John Hargreaves, Jacki Weaver and Chris Haywood as well as stage actress Kate Fitzpatrick, ensuring the dialogue is quick-fire, clever and cutting.
If you liked this film, try: Don’s Party (19), The Club (36)
Burning Man (2011) (Jonathan Teplitzky)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 49/300
Set in: Sydney in the 2000s
Cast: Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Essie Davis, Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Fox, Anthony Hayes, Jack Heanley, Kate Beahan, Gia Carides, Marta Dusseldorp, Robyn Malcolm, Matthew Moore
Synopsis: A man with a young son struggles to maintain his life after a tragedy.
Why See This Film: This is a beautifully filmed, nonlinear narrative about a young cook struggling to find meaning after a tragic event takes away the love of his life. You don’t find out what is wrong with this man and why he is behaving so badly until near the middle of this film, and then things start to come together. It is an engrossing film, jumping to different times in the man’s life and relationships. The film examines love, sex, relationships, parenthood, loss, sadness, loyalty and perseverance, and is definitely worth seeing. English actor, Michael Goode is pretty good as the cook, but is helped by a wonderful collection of Australia’s great actresses who support his character at different times: familiar faces Kerry Fox, Rachel Griffiths, Essie Davis and Marta Dusseldorp are all good, but the less well-known faces are even better, with Bojana Novakovic as the wife, and Kate Beahan (who seemed to disappear after her great under-appreciated performance in the ABC TV Series Love Is a Four-Letter Word) as a call girl. Sydney looks good in this film, as does Wattamolla Beach in the Royal National Park. The movie contains lots of sex and nudity, as did director Teplitzky’s earlier Better Than Sex.
If you liked this film, try: Better Than Sex (80), Beautiful Kate (38), The Turning (52), Somersault (31)
The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992) (Gillian Armstrong)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5. — Ozflicks Ranking: 50/300
Set in: Sydney (Glebe) in the 1990s
Cast: Lisa Harrow, Bruno Ganz, Kerry Fox, Miranda Otto, Kiri Paramore, Bill Hunter, Lex Marinos, Mickey Camilleri
Synopsis: A younger sister, returning to Sydney from a failed affair in Europe moves in with her married sister, bringing both joy then disruption.
Why See This Film: This ‘homecoming’ film examines the relationships of two Australian sisters with each other and their men. The film bristles with life and truth and is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Novelist Helen Garner, of Monkey Grip fame, did the screenplay, and the film explores Garner’s notion of relationships as tentative, changing, clumsy and insecure, and captures Garner’s observations of inner-city life in the 70s and 80s and the chaotic hedonism of the last of the baby-boomers. Kerry Fox is excellent as the selfish, immature younger sister, and Lisa Harrow and Bruno Ganz are also good as the couple whose outer success hides deeper problems. A young Miranda Otto is also impressive as the adolescent daughter. It is better than the film of Garner’s fine novel Monkey Grip and Lisa Harrow won the AFI best actress award for this film.
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (8), Monkey Grip (195), My First Wife (184), Thank God He Met Lizzie (59)
For more information on the rest of the Top 100 Oz films, see Ozflicks Guide to the Top 100 Australian films (Part 2)