This is the second instalment in the Ozflicks Guide to the top Australian films, and covers films ranked 51 to 100 in my Ranking List. For the top 50 films, see Ozflicks Guide to the Top 50 Australian Films. The films are in the order of the Ozflicks Ranking List, 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 100 Australian films.
The Year My Voice Broke (1987) (John Duigan)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 51/250
Genre: Coming of Age Drama
Set in: Rural Southern Tablelands of NSW (filmed in Braidwood) in 1962
Cast: Noah Taylor, Loene Carmen, Ben Mendelsohn, Graeme Blundell, Lynette Curran, Malcolm Robertson, Judi Farr, Tim Robertson, Bruce Spence, Harold Hopkins, Nick Tate, Vincent Ball
Synopsis: An adolescent, nerdish boy in a small town, falls in love with a girl, who unfortunately is in love with a local bad boy.
Why See This Film: This is a fine drama about the pain of adolescence, of first love and heartbreak, of the isolation of small towns, of life in Australia in the 1960s, and the unfairness of life. Noah Taylor does a fine job as Danny, the skinny, bookish teenager in love with his friend Freya, who thinks of him only as a friend and confidant, while she fancies Trevor, the football-playing, car-stealing larrikin, played by Ben Mendelsohn. The film vividly captures the small-town experience of childhood and adolescence, and the trials of becoming an adult. The film won the 1987 AFI awards for best film and best director, and Ben Mendelsohn won the award for best actor.
If you liked this film, try: Flirting (113), The Big Steal (95), Nostradamus Kid (124), Looking for Alibrandi (69), The Heartbreak Kid (141), Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger (173), December Boys (127), September (147), The F.J. Holden (233)
52. The Turning (2013) (17 Directors)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 52/250
Set in: Coastal West Australia and Perth in the 2000s
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Myles Pollard, Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Susie Porter, Harrison Gilbertson, Robyn Nevin, Callan Mulvey, Mirrah Foulkes, Matt Nable, James Fraser, Brenna Harding, Eva Lazzaro, Wayne Blair, Dean Daly Jones
Synopsis: 17 short stories by 17 directors from Tim Winton’s book The Turning, set in coastal areas of WA and Perth, and about a variety of characters struggling to change.
Directors: David Wenham, Robert Connolly, Tony Ayres, Warwick Thornton, Jonathan auf der Heide, Mia Wasikowska, Claire McCarthy, Justin Kurzel, Rhys Graham, Jub Clerc, Shaun Gladwell, Anthony Lucas, Ian Meadows, Stephen Page, Ashlee Page, Marieka Walsh, Simon Stone
Why See This Film: Winton’s characters are imperfect but real, dealing with some failure in their lives, struggling to build or maintain their relationships, or placed in situations of loss or tragedy. The stories are mostly not related to each other, though a few follow the same characters at different times of their lives. As a 3-hour epic, the film is inevitably uneven, as some stories are better than others, but it is an interesting overview of Australian life, and worth seeing for the array of our best actors. Rose Byrne won the AACTA best actress award for this film.
If you liked this film, try: Cloudstreet (15), One Night the Moon (81)
The Fringe Dwellers (1986) (Bruce Beresford)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 53/250
Set in: Murgon, Queensland in the 1980s
Cast: Justine Saunders, Kristina Nehm, Bob Maza, Ernie Dingo, Kath Walker, Kylie Belling, Malcolm Silver, Denis Walker, Bill Sandy, Michelle Torres, Michelle Miles, Marlene Bell
Synopsis: A Qld aboriginal family living on the edge of an outback town attempts to move into a town house.
Why See This Film: Beresford’s film provided one of the first glimpses on film into the current situation of Aboriginal people trying to co-exist with a mainstream white society that has largely supplanted their own ancient culture. Given the past tragedies and current levels of deprivation faced by many Aboriginal people, particularly those on the fringes of country towns, this film could have been quite a downer, but Beresford manages to make the film not only insightful, but entertaining and surprisingly upbeat. The little-known actors bring a naturalism to these imperfect characters, and help us understand their predicaments in a sympathetic way. The film was nominated for the AFI Best Film award.
If you liked this film, try: Radiance (123), Beneath Clouds (24), Samson and Delilah (77),The Sapphires (18), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), Walkabout (17), Rabbit-Proof Fence (32), Charlie’s Country (98)
Mental (2012) (P.J. Hogan)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 54/250
Set in: Fictional Australian coastal suburb of Dolphin Heads (Gold Coast/Ballina) in the 2000s
Cast: Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber, Anthony LaPaglia, Caroline Goodall, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, Deborah Mailman, Bethany Whitmore, Sam Clark, Lily Sullivan, Nicole Freeman, Rob Carlton
Synopsis: A non-conformist hitchhiker is hired by a small-town politician as a nanny for his five girls who all think they have mental problems after their mother is sent to an institution.
Why See This Film: This 2013 follow-up by PJ Hogan to his 1994 Muriel’s Wedding has many similarities to his earlier film, but enough differences to make it enjoyable. Also set in a dysfunctional (‘mental’) family of a domineering Gold Coast politician, this film takes The Sound of Music rather than Abba as its theme. This time Toni Collette plays the outsider who rescues the women of the family from their victimhood, allowing them to revel in their ‘mental-ness’ rather than be disabled by it. This is a real romp, covering familiar territory to Muriel’s Wedding, but in a different way, and with different results.
If you liked this film, try: Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Dressmaker (26), Bliss (55), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Crackerjack (13)
Bliss (1985) (Ray Lawrence)
Ozflicks Rating: 4/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 55/250
Set in: North Coast NSW and Sydney in the 1980s
Cast: Barry Otto, Lynette Curran, Gia Carides, Miles Buchanan, Helen Jones, Tim Robertson
Synopsis: Following a near-death experience, advertising executive, Harry Joy, starts to see the world and his family from a different point of view, imagining he is now in Hell.
Why See This Film: This is a highly entertaining, witty and innovative film, with elements of surrealism and layers of satire. The film is adapted from Peter Carey’s award winning 1981 novel Bliss (one of Ozflicks’ favourite Oz novels) and is the first film of Ray Lawrence, who won the AFI awards for Best Film and Best Director for this film (as well as for his second, Lantana, 16 years later). Lawrence is not prolific (with only three films in 20 years), but he does bring a daring imagination to his films. The film has a surreal beauty unmatched in Australian cinema. Barry Otto (a favourite actor of mine from Belvoir theatre in the 80s, but underused in films) is also great in the title role.
If you liked this film, try: Lantana (7), Oscar and Lucinda (99), The Dressmaker (26), Children of the Revolution (58)
Sunday Too Far Away (1975) (Ken Hannam)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 56/250
Set in: Outback Australia in the 1970s.
Cast: Jack Thompson, Reg Lyle, Max Cullen, Robert Brunning, Peter Cummins, John Ewart, Sean Scully, Greame Smith, Jerry Thomas, Lisa Peters, Gregory Apps
Synopsis: The story of a group of shearers, led by Jack Thompson, and their isolated life on outback farms.
Why See This Film: This film, one of the first of the 70s New Wave of Australian Cinema, gives a different view of the Australian bush to the earlier Wake in Fright. The film portrays in a more sympathetic and realistic way the tough life of the shearers, working on isolated sheep stations, away from their families and with only the company of their fellow shearers and the occasional visit to local towns for a drinking session, laced with gambling and a bit of a fight, to relieve the boredom. But the film is not boring itself, dealing with the struggle for better wages from station owner, and the relationships between the various characters. Jack Thompson is truly marvellous in this film, the one that established him as our best actors of the time. The film won three 1975 Australian Film Institute awards: Best Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Thompson) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Reg Lye.
If you liked this film, try: Wake in Fright (12), The Overlanders (48), The Man From Snowy River (70), Gallipoli (3), ‘Breaker’ Morant (9)
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) (George Miller)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 57/250
Genre: Action/Distopian drama
Set in: Australian outback in the future
Cast: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson, Virginia Hey, William Zappa, Steve J. Spears, Syd Heylen
Synopsis: Ex-highway patrol officer “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) roams a post-apocalyptic desert, where desperate groups battle for survival and try to get their hands on the dwindling stocks of oil, food and water.
Why See This Film: This is, in my opinion, the best of the Mad Max series of post-apocalyptic action films. The film is full of action, fantastic vehicles, exciting car chases, exciting car crashes, explosions, full-on fight scenes, amazing stunts, inspiring costumes, stunning desert scenery, dry humour and a narrative that actually hangs together, more or less. This film set a new standard for action/car films. If you like action and car prangs, what more could you want?
If you liked this film, try: Mad Max (96), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (235), The Cars That Ate Paris (238)
Children of the Revolution (1996) (Peter Duncan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 58/250
Genre: Black Comedy/Drama
Set in: Sydney from the 1950s to the 1990s
Cast: Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, Rachel Griffiths, F.Murray Abraham, Russell Kiefel, John Gaden.
Synopsis: Judy Davis plays a Sydney communist who met Stalin. Her son may or may not be Stalin’s lovechild. The question of his parentage persists as he rises to power in Australia.
Why See This Film: This film is full of fun and ideas and is a marvellous fantasy which pokes fun at political figures and ideas, while warning of their serious dangers. The cast is excellent with some of our best actors, particularly Judy Davis as the true believer, a role for which she won the 1996 AFI Best Actress award. Some find the switch from comedy to drama during the film disconcerting, but both halves work well in their own way.
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (8), The Dressmaker (26), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Bliss (55), Kangaroo (110), Hell Has Harbour Views (158), High Tide (165)
Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997) (Cherie Nowlan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 59/250
Set in: Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Richard Roxburgh, Cate Blanchett, Frances O’Connor, Linden Wilkinson, John Gaden, Genevieve Mooy
Synopsis: A man on his wedding day reconsiders his previous relationship.
Why See This Film: Richard Roxburgh, Cate Blanchett and Frances O’Connor are all good in this sometimes comic, sometimes poignant film about a man’s remembrance of his previous lover on his wedding day, but O’Connor is the most memorable as the witty, affectionate ex-lover who is changed by the loss of her relationship. The film has a lot to say about loss, luck, mistakes and regret in relationships. The film also shows parts of Sydney not often seen on film. Cate Blanchett won an AFI award for best supporting actress.
If you liked this film, try: Russian Doll (14),The Last Days of Chez Nous (50), Kiss or Kill (84)
My Year Without Sex (2009) (Sarah Watt)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 60/250
Set in: Altona (suburban Melbourne) in the 2000s
Cast: Sacha Horler, Matt Day, Jonathan Segat, Portia Bradley, Maude Davey, Nick Farnell, Christine Moffat, Brett Robson, Sonya Suares
Synopsis: A mother of two documents the year in which she is forbidden excitement such as sex while recovering from a cerebral aneurysm.
Why See This Film: This enjoyable follow-up to director Watt’s brilliant Look Both Ways, does not reach the heights of its predecessor, but works as a thoughtful comedy about relationships in a similar way, with lots of wry observations of the human condition in general and of Australians in particular. The ever-feisty Sacha Horler (always a prickly favourite) plays the woman, Natalie, and the ever-reliable Matt Day plays the husband. It’s always a good sign when these two are in a picture. Sadly it was Sarah Watt’s last film, so we have been deprived of more of her wise, beautiful, funny gems.
If you liked this film, try: Look Both Ways (1)
The Getting of Wisdom (1978) (Bruce Beresford)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 61/250
Genre: Period drama
Set in: Rural Victoria and Melbourne in the 1890s.
Cast: Susannah Fowle, Patricia Kennedy, Sheila Helpmann, Candy Raymond, Hilary Ryan, Alix Longman, Terence Donovan, John Waters, Barry Humphries, Julia Blake, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Kerry Armstrong
Synopsis: A teenage girl, Laura Rambotham, is sent from her isolated farm to attend boarding school in Melbourne, where she tries to fit into the society of richer girls.
Why See This Film: This is an engaging film about growing up a girl in 19th century Australia, and is carried along by the enthusiasm of Susannah Fowle’s Laura. The era is beautifully realised by Bruce Beresford, one of our great 1970s directors, and by Donald McAlpine, one of our great cinematographers, both of whom later went to Hollywood. The film also includes some of our young actors who would later achieve fame – Sigrid Thornton, Kerry Armstrong and John Waters. This is still an enjoyable experience all these years later
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (8), Picnic At Hanging Rock (2), Oscar and Lucinda (99)
Three Dollars (2005) (Robert Connolly)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 62/250
Set in: Melbourne in the 2000s
Cast: David Wenham, Frances O’Connor, Sarah Wynter, Robert Menzies
Synopsis: A government chemical engineer with a happy family suddenly loses his job, and is engulfed in economic difficulties which threaten his house and family.
Why See This Film: This is a thought-provoking film about a good man trying to survive in the real world. David Wenham finds throughout the film that good deeds are not always rewarded and often come at a cost to his personal life. This film is serious, but does not dwell on the depressing aspects of the situation, looking for the positives during periods of financial stress. Both David Wenham and Frances O’Connor are excellent in the leads.
If you liked this film, try: The Bank (109), The Turning (52)
Lucky Miles (2007) (Michael James Rowland)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 63/250
Genre: Comedy with a serious message
Set in: Western Australian desert in the 2000s.
Cast: Kenneth Moraleda, Rodney Afif, Sri Sacdprascuth, Glenn Shea, Don Hany, Sean Mununggurr, Sawung Jabo, Arif Hidayat
Synopsis:. Three fugitives, one Iraqi asylum-seeker, one Cambodian looking for his Australian father and one Indonesian sailor wander the West Australian desert together looking for Australians or at least a bus to Perth. Meanwhile three blokes from the Army Reserve attempt to locate them.
Why See This Film: This is a witty film about a big issue, the flight of asylum seekers to western countries such as Australia. Made in the middle of Australia’s debates about onshore and offshore detention of asylum seekers who attempt to reach Australia, this film humanises the situation, not as melodrama, but as comedy – a comedy with a serious message of course. The film works well, examining cultural differences as well as human commonalities. The landscape is beautifully filmed and reminds us of the vast emptiness of much of Australia. An entertaining look at a serious issue.
If you liked this film, try: Unfinished Sky (87), Japanese Story (23), Bran Nue Day (82), Walkabout (17), The Year of Living Dangerously (129)
Jedda (1955) (Charles Chauvel)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 64/250
Genre: Outback Drama
Set in: Northern Territory (filmed at Coolibah Station (SW of Katherine) as well as at Stanley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge and Mary River) sometime before 1955.
Cast: Ngarla Kunoth, Robert Tudawali, Betty Suttor, Paul Reynall, George Simpson-Lyttle, Tas Fitzer, Hugh Wason Byers, Willie Farrar, Margaret Dingle
Synopsis: An Aboriginal woman, Jedda, is torn between black and white society. Jedda is raised by a white family on a cattle station but, when she get older she becomes more interested in Aboriginal culture, and in particular a certain Aboriginal man.
Why See This Film: This movie, one of our very few 1950s movies, set many landmarks for Australian cinema: it was the first Australian feature film to employ Aboriginal actors (Robert Tudawali and Ngarla Kunoth) in leading roles, the first by an Australian director to be shot entirely in colour (an American film Kangaroo shot in South Australia beat it by three years to being the first colour feature shot in Australia), the first to be invited to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and probably the first film to take the emotional lives of Aboriginal people seriously. It was also the last film made by Australia’s great pioneer director, Charles Chauvel. The story, of an Aboriginal girl torn between two societies, raised for the first time on film many important issues concerning race relations between White Australians and Aboriginal people, issues of assimilation, dispossession, paternalism and racism, that continue to affect Australia today. This film looks dated and shockingly condescending, but reflects the world view of most Australians up to that time. The story is an interesting one, concerning cultural differences both between White and Aboriginal culture, but also within Aboriginal society. The film also captures the magnificent landscape, although the colour sometimes has a garish aspect. While flawed in many ways, Jedda was a vital first step on the road to White society’s understanding of Aboriginal people.
If you liked this film, try: Rabbit Proof Fence (32), The Tracker (6), Walkabout (17), Ten Canoes (40), Charlie’s Country (98), The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), We of the Never Never (108), The Fringe Dwellers (53)
Not Suitable for Children (2012) (Peter Templeman)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 65/250
Set in: Inner-city Sydney (Newtown) in 2010s
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook, Ryan Corr, Bojana Novakovic, Alice Parkinson, Daniel Henshall, Clare Bowen, Kathryn Beck
Synopsis: A young hedonist, who is told he has testicular cancer and has only 3 weeks before he becomes infertile, has to think fast.
Why See This Film: This film works really well, despite its unexpected premise, due to its smart script and likeable characters. Ryan Kwanten, Sarah Snook and Ryan Corr show that Australia has a promising new generation of actors. The story is resolved amusingly, but (unlike most Hollywood comedies) believably. Plus, for Sydneysiders, it is a particular pleasure to see the action taking place in some of our favourite areas of Newtown!
If you liked this film, try: Look Both Ways (1), Love and Other Catastrophes (97), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Any Questions for Ben (224), Russian Doll (14), Better than Sex (80), My Year Without Sex (60)
A Town Like Alice (1956) (Jack Lee)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 66/250
Set in: Malaya and Alice Springs between 1942 and 1950
Cast: Peter Finch, Virginia McKenna, Kenji Takaki, Tran Van Khe, Jean Anderson, Marie Lohr, Maureen Swanson, Renée Houston, Nora Nicholson, Eileen Moore, John Fabian, Vincent Ball
Synopsis: This black and white British production tells the World War 2 story of a British woman and an Australian man taken prisoner by the Japanese in Malaya in 1942. The woman is one of a group of women forced to march from town to town in search of a Japanese officer who will house them. The Australian, played by Australian actor Peter Finch, is a truck-driver/mechanic forced to transport materials for the Japanese. They meet from time to time and fall in love.
Why See This Film: This is an excellent old film, crisply filmed by British director Jack Lee, who went on to make Robbery Under Arms in Australia the following year. The film details the situation of British civilians and Australian soldiers captured by the Japanese in Malaya. It shows the well-known cruelty of the Japanese Army but also the humanity of individual Japanese; it shows English colonial attitudes as well as English perseverance and it shows Australian larrikinism as well as Australian resourcefulness. The film details the ways in which the protagonists survive the war, and meet many years later in Australia. I didn’t think of it as a particularly Australian film, as most of the characters and the director are British. However, since one of the main characters is an Australian (played by an Australian actor), it can qualify as an Australian film according to my main criterion for an Australian film.
If you liked this film, try: Robbery Under Arms (163); The Overlanders (45), The Odd Angry Shot (117)
Recommended Review: Oz Movies Dossier
Mystery Road (2013) (Ivan Sen)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 67/250
Genre: Crime Drama
Set in: Rural Queensland in 2010s
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Jack Thompson, Tony Barry, Ryan Kwanten, David Field, Damian Walshe-Howling, Tasma Walton, Zoe Carrides, Robert Mammone, Samara Weaving, Roy Billing
Synopsis: An Aboriginal detective returns to his outback hometown where he starts to investigate the murder of a young Aboriginal girl.
Why See This Film: This 2013 film is another of Ivan Sen’s excellent films examining contemporary Aboriginal life in Australia. Aboriginal detective Jay, played with a wonderful laid-back sincerity by Aaron Pedersen, is the only Aboriginal policeman in a local force consisting of cynical white long-timers who are struggling to contain problems of drugs, violence and prostitution among the black and poor white populations. Jay meets suspicion from other Aboriginal people, and racism from some of the white people. Shot in outback Queensland (Winton) this film shows both the beauty, but more often the harshness and desolation of the semi-desert country and the people who inhabit it. Though at times the clues seemed to fall into place a little too easily, the film builds to an epic, memorable final confrontation. Overall, an impressive and memorable film, though it adds to the list of films that portray the Outback as a difficult and forbidding place.
If you liked this film, try: Beneath Clouds (24), Dead Heart (35), The Interview (46), The Square (104), The Broken Shore (90)
The Black Balloon (2008) (Elissa Down)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 68/250
Set in: Sydney’s western suburbs in the 2000s
Cast: Rhys Wakefield, Gemma Ward, Luke Ford, Erik Thomson, Toni Collette
Synopsis: A family with an intellectually disabled teenage son makes sacrifices to cope with him, while the other son struggles to grow up and worries whether his new girlfriend will accept his brother.
Why See This Film: This 2007 AFI winner is an effective and affecting portrait of the difficulties faced by a family with an intellectually disabled teenage son, Charlie. Charlie rampages around the house, knocking things over, shouting, laughing, crying, running away etc.. Charlie’s 15 year old brother Thomas is the film’s focus, as Thomas tries to balance adolescence, a new school, new friends and a budding first romance, with his responsibilities towards his brother. Though the family remains loving, and the boy finds a smart girlfriend who can cope with Charlie, the overall impression is of the exhausting nature of caring for an intellectually disabled teenager. Beautifully filmed and acted, this film has much to teach us. The film won the 2007 AFI Best Film and Best Director awards, and Luke Ford and Toni Collette won the best supporting actor and actress awards for the film.
If you liked this film, try: Caterpillar Wish (86), Lilian’s Story (89), Beautiful Kate (38), The Turning (52), Clubland (146), Somersault (31), Lantana (7)
Looking for Alibrandi (2000) (Kate Woods)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 69/250
Genre: Comic drama with romantic elements
Set in: Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Greta Scacchi, Anthony LaPaglia, Elena Cotta, Kerry Walker, Pia Miranda, Kick Gurry, Matt Newton, Leanne Carlow, Diane Viduka, Leeanna Walsman, Graeme Blundell
Synopsis: A young Italian-Australian teenager comes of age in Sydney, dealing with love, death, her absent father and her Italian family.
Why See This Film: This is an entertaining and charming film about growing up Italian and coming of age in Sydney in the 90s. Pia Miranda shines as the enthusiastic but irritable teenager trying to negotiate the usual teenage things of friendship, identity and romance, with additional angst about her Italian family with their unusual, noisy customs, and the bitterness of her father’s absence. Greta Scacchi and Anthony LaPaglia are good as the parents and Mathew Newton and Kick Gurry are fine as the boys in her life, but it is Miranda’s energy that drives the film. She won the AFI Best Actress award for this performance, and Greta Scacchi won the Best Supporting Actress Award.
If you liked this film, try: Hey Hey It’s Esther Blueburger (173), Caterpillar Wish (86), The Year My Voice Broke (51), Flirting (113), The Heartbreak Kid (141), Garage Days (229)
The Man From Snowy River (1982) (George Miller II)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 70/250
Set in: Snowy Mountains in the 19th century
Cast: Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Kirk Douglas, Jack Thompson, Terence Donovan, Tony Bonner, Lorraine Bayly, Gus Mercurio, Bruce Kerr, David Bradshaw, Tony Bonner, June Jago, Chris Haywood
Synopsis: Jim Craig, a young mountain horseman, tries to prove himself to other tough mountain ranchers following his father’s death, and falls in love with the rich station owner’s daughter.
Why See This Film: This is Australia’s best western, a retelling of the famous Banjo Patterson poem about a mountain horseman and his chase of the wild bush brumbies. Beautifully filmed in the Victorian high country it follows the story of Jim Craig who is driven off the high country after his father’s death and goes to work for a large cattle-farmer, Harrison (played incongruously, but well by Kirk Douglas) whose daughter he falls in love with – Sigrid Thornton is at her most glowing in this film. The film features spectacular mountain scenery and breathtaking horse-riding and was a great favourite with Australian audiences when it was released, earning over $17 million (equivalent to over $57 million today) at the local box office. Jack Thomson also plays a fine role as Clancy, the veteran mountain horseman.
If you liked this film, try: The Man From Snowy River II (242), Phar Lap (228), The Lighthorsemen (225), Robbery Under Arms (162 & 163), Ned Kelly
Country Life (1994) (Michael Blakemore)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 71/250
Genre: Period drama/romance/comedy
Set in: Inland rural NSW in 1919
Cast: Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, John Hargreaves, Kerry Fox, Patricia Kennedy, Michael Blakemore
Synopsis: Australian Alexander Voysey returns to the family farm in the bush after many years in London as an effete theatre critic to laze around the farm putting on airs. His brother-in-law and daughter are at first in awe of his success but this gradually fades.
Why See This Film: This successful 1994 adaptation of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya to the Australian bush in 1919 is appropriately witty and touching. John Hargreaves as Uncle Jack is wonderful as the provincial brother-in-law in whose awe of Alexander later turns to disgust. Sam Neill is also great as the town doctor, a progressive and intelligent man, stuck in a conservative backwater. Both Jack and the doctor fall for Alexander’s beautiful young wife played well by Greta Scacchi, who has become disillusioned with her self-important husband. Kerry Fox is also wonderful as Sally, Alexander’s daughter whom he left behind, whose love for the doctor is not reciprocated. It’s an attractive, thoughtful and entertaining production which successfully locates the story from Tsarist Russia to the political and economic environment of post-World War One Australia.
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (8), The Getting of Wisdom (61), Oscar and Lucinda (99), Picnic At Hanging Rock (2), Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (88)
Beneath Hill 60 (2010) (Jeremy Sims)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 72/250
Genre: War drama
Set in: France in 1916
Cast: Brendan Cowell, Mark Coles Smith, Alan Dukes, Leon Ford, Bob Franklin, Harrison Gilbertson, Gyton Grantley, Anthony Hayes, Chris Haywood, Bella Heathcote, Steve Le Marquand, Gerald Lepkowski, Jacqueline McKenzie, John Stanton, Martin Thomas, Alex Thompson, Aden Young, Duncan Young, Warwick Young
Synopsis: The true story of Oliver Woodward, one of a team of Australian miners who fought on the Western Front in WW1, digging a tunnel to plant explosives under the German lines.
Why See This Film: This is a gripping account of Australians at war, this time in the claustrophobic environment of tunnels under the front lines of the Western Front. The film captures the urgency and danger of war better than any other Oz film since Gallipoli. The cinematography is excellent and all the actors in this ensemble drama do a great job, particularly Brendan Cowell as Woodwood. Highly recommended.
If you liked this film, try: Gallipoli (3), The Lighthorsemen (225), Breaker Morant (9), 1915 (134), The Odd Angry Shot (117)
Mullet (2001) (David Caesar)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 73/250
Set in: Kiama/Gerringong NSW in the 1990s
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Susie Porter, Andrew S. Gilbert, Belinda McClory
Synopsis: A young local rebel/layabout, nicknamed Mullet (after the unappetising fish he likes to catch), suddenly returns to his hometown south of Sydney three years after he abruptly disappeared, and has to deal with all the loose ends he left behind, as well as the fact that his old girlfriend has married his brother.
Why See This Film: This wonderfully dry, laconic comedy/drama is not for everyone, but if you get on its wavelength, it is full of wonderful observations of the Australian character. Ben Mendelsohn is delightfully surly as Mullet, the ex-star of the local football team, who seems to have lost his way. His nickname Mullet not only refers to the low value fish he likes to catch, but also to alleged stupidity of fish in a bowl, which as they circle the bowl don’t realize that they have seen it all before. Director David Caesar is an astute observer of Australians, their language and the way they communicate, or fail to, and this movie is full of small delights.
If you liked this film, try: Dirty Deeds (116), Prime Mover (149), Return Home (203), Idiot Box (NR), Oyster Farmer (160), Feeling Sexy (167), Crackerjack (13), The Dish (79)
Dead Letter Office (1998) (John Ruane)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 74/250
Set in: Victoria in the 1990s
Cast: Miranda Otto, George DelHoyo, Nicholas Bell, Syd Brisbane, Georgina Naidu, Barry Otto, Jane Hall, Mark Wilson, Jillian O’Dowd, Vanessa Steele, Guillermina Ulloa, Franko Milostnik
Synopsis: A lonely girl searching for her lost father gets a job in the Post Office’s Dead Letter Office where she meets another worker haunted by his refugee past.
Why See This Film: Miranda Otto provides another winning performance as a sweet introvert in this charming little Oz romance, where characters whose lives are fractured by migration or broken families search for love and stability. The pace of the movie is slow and restrained, like its characters, and may be too slow for some, but if you like Otto’s nervous charm, you’ll love this.
If you liked this film, try: Love Serenade (39), Danny Deckchair (37), Peaches (92), Russian Doll (14), South Solitary (93)
Cosi (1996) (Mark Joffe)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 75/250
Set in: Rozelle in Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Toni Collette, Barry Otto, Rachel Griffiths, Colin Friels, Aden Young, Bruno Lawrence, Pamela Rabe, Paul Chubb, Colin Hay, Jacki Weaver, David Wenham, Kerry Walker, Tony Llewellyn-Jones
Synopsis: The inmates of a psychiatric hospital (Rozelle) put on the opera Cosi Fan Tutte.
Why See This Film: This film is a real hoot, a magnificent ensemble piece with many great performances, particularly from Toni Collette and Barry Otto. Based on a Louis Nowra play, the film mixes pathos with mirth and succeeds through the wonderful combination of some of our best actors.
If you liked this film, try: Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (27), Shine (21), Mental (54), Lilian’s Story (89), Strictly Ballroom (10), Dimboola (91), Me Myself I (144)
Evil Angels (also called A Cry in the Dark) (1988) (Fred Schepisi)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 76/260
Set in: NT and QLD in the 1980s
Cast: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, Bruce Myles, Neil Fitzpatrick, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Maurie Fields, Nick Tate
Synopsis: The true story of Lindy Chamberlain, a mother whose baby disappeared on a camping trip in 1980, who was later tried and wrongly convicted of murder.
Why See This Film: Meryl Streep puts on a pretty good broad Queensland accent in this 1988 film about media hysteria and failure of the justice system in Australia. Streep plays Lindy Chamberlain, who was imprisoned for killing her baby in 1982, only to be released after three years, when new evidence was found to support her claim that a dingo took her baby from their tent. Streep plays Lindy as a down-to-earth Christian mother of three who is unable to understand the intense media and public interest in her case, and who was convicted partly because a media campaign against her (The media portrayed her cool demeanor during years of questioning and scrutiny, as ‘unfeeling’ and ‘unnatural’, and helped arouse public suspicion over her membership of a fringe Christian group). The film, made by Fred Schepisi on his return to Australia from Hollywood, captures Lindy’s straightforwardness when confronted by both the tragedy of her loss and the media campaign against her, as well as by the injustice of the court case. The film won the AFI awards for Best Film and Best Director, and Streep and Neil won the Best Actress and Best Actor awards.
If you liked this film, try: The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (27), The Devil’s Playground (48), Eye of the Storm (20)
Samson and Delilah (2009) (Warwick Thornton)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 77/260
Set in: Alice Springs and nearby settlements in 2000s
Synopsis: Two young Aboriginal teenagers struggle to find meaning and survive in an isolated Northern Territory community. Finding themselves excluded after a fight with the boy’s brother, they flee to Alice Springs, where they camp on the outskirts and try to work something out.
Why See This Film: This important film provides a grim insight into the problems of the isolated Northern Territory communities, especially the poverty, petrol-sniffing and alcohol addiction, and into social relations and restrictions in those communities. Wonderfully acted by the two young first-timers, and beautifully filmed in this stark landscape, the film reflects a bleak reality. It’s a tough watch, but an important one if you want to understand Aboriginal realities in isolated communities. The film brings us their pain, and though the viewer wants these kids to succeed and find a better life, the film shows how easy it is to fail. The film won AFI awards in 2009 for best film and best director.
If you liked this film, try: Yolngu Boy (164), Beneath Clouds (24), Charlie’s Country (98), Satellite Boy (105), Cunnamulla (199), Rabbit-Proof Fence (32)
Malcolm (1986) (Nadia Tass)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 78/260
Set in: Melbourne in the 1980s
Cast: Colin Friels, John Hargreaves, Lindy Davies, Chris Haywood, Beverly Phillips, Charles Tingwell.
Synopsis: Colin Friels is a somewhat odd gadget builder at a loss after his mother dies and he loses his job for building his own mini-tram. He takes a boarder, Frank (Hargreaves) who turns out to be a criminal, and when Frank’s girlfriend Judith moves in, Malcolm’s life is turned upside down.
Why See This Film: This debut feature from Nadia Tass won a swag of AFI awards, including best film, director, and actor (Colin Friels). It’s an upbeat caper comedy in a downbeat part of Melbourne about a socially-challenged inventor. It’s a heap of fun, an interesting look at less salubrious parts of Melbourne in the 80s and one of Colin Friel’s best and most exhuberant roles. The film won AFI awards in 1986 for best film and best director, and Colin Friels won the best actor award.
If you liked this film, try: The Castle (25), Crackerjack (13), Bad Eggs (139), The Dish (79), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), The Big Steal (95)
The Dish (2000) (Rob Sitch)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 79/260
Set in: Parkes, NSW in 1969
Cast: Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, Patrick Warburton, Genevieve Mooy, Tayler Kane, Roy Billing, Bille Brown
Synopsis: A bunch of everyday Aussies at the radio telescope at Parkes get to play a vital role in the 1969 Apollo moon landing.
Why See This Film: This excellent comedy was made by the same team that had such success with The Castle (as well as a string of TV hit comedies such as The D-Generation, The Late Show, Frontline and more recently political satires including The Hollowmen and Utopia). This is another big hearted comedy about simple Aussie blokes caught up in an international event. It’s another triumph and did very well at the box office.
If you liked this film, try: The Castle (25), Crackerjack (13), Bad Eggs (139), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Crocodile Dundee (33), Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (47)
Better Than Sex (2000) (Jonathan Teplitzky)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 80/260
Genre: Romantic Drama/Comedy
Set in: Sydney in the 1990s
Cast: Susie Porter, David Wenham, Kris McQuade, Catherine McClements
Synopsis: When a one night stand turns into a three day affair, two people face the emotional attachments that grow from physical intimacy.
Why See This Film: David Wenham and Susie Porter are both excellent in this intelligent romantic drama about sex and love. Teplitzky in his debut film, takes an unusual approach as the characters’ best friends give their opinions to camera on love and sex throughout the film. Teplitzky has gone on to make more interesting Australian films and is now making films in England and TV series for the BBC.
If you liked this film, try: Burning Man (49), Gettin’ Square (126), Russian Doll (14), Love and other Catastrophes (97), Lantana (8), The Last Days of Chez Nous (50), Look Both Ways (1), Dating the Enemy (131)
One Night the Moon (2001) (Rachel Perkins)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 81/260
Genre: Musical Drama
Set in: The Flinders Ranges, South Australia in 1932
Cast: Paul Kelly, Kaarin Fairfax, Kelton Pell, David Field, Chris Haywood, Ruby Hunter, Memphis Kelly
Synopsis: A little girl gets lost one night in the bush chasing the moon. Her father organises a search party but will not have the Aboriginal tracker on his land.
Why See This Film: This is a poetic song of a film, as mythic as Picnic at Hanging Rock or Walkabout, about the disappearance of a child bewitched by the moon, and the anguished searching of his parents. It’s also about racism and the different attitudes to belonging in the beautiful but harsh outback. With haunting music and songs by Australian musical legends Paul Kelly (who also plays the father, singing as he searches) and Kev Carmody as well as Mairead Hannan, this is an unusual and satisfying experience. At under 60 minutes, it does really not qualify as a feature film, but it did play at cinemas in Australia, so I’m including it in my list.
If you liked this film, try: Picnic at Hanging Rock (2), Walkabout (17), Bran Nue Day (82), Radiance (123), The Fringe Dwellers (53), Mabo (130)
Bran Nue Day (2009) (Rachel Perkins)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 82/260
Genre: Musical Comedy/Drama/Romance
Set in: Broome (WA) in the 1960s
Cast: Rocky McKenzie, Ernie Dingo, ‘Missy’ Higgins, Tom Budge, Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Ningali Lawford
Synopsis: An Aboriginal teenager is sent away by his religious mother to a Catholic boarding school near Perth but escapes to return to his family and the girl he loves.
Why See This Film: This is one of Australia’s few ‘real’ musicals (where characters burst into song to express their thoughts and feelings as opposed to films about musicians like The Sapphires or Dogs in Space), and it works pretty well on that level. It’s lively, funny and pretty strong musically, starring singers Jessica Mauboy and Missy Higgens, as well as top Oz actors Geoffrey Rush, Magda Szubanski, and Deborah Mailman along with a host of newcomers. This film and Perkin’s previous film One Night the Moon (see above) are much better than our few other ‘real’ musicals such as Moulin Rouge (which fails my ‘Australian film’ test anyway), Starstruck and Oz. The film’s joyous celebration of Aboriginal identity is a rarity in Australian cinema.
If you liked this film, try: One Night the Moon (81), The Sapphires (18), Radiance (123), The Fringe Dwellers (53), Mabo (130)
Animal Kingdom (2010) (David Michôd)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 83/260
Genre: Crime Thriller
Set in: Melbourne in the 2000s
Cast: Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford, Jacki Weaver, Sullivan Stapleton, James Frecheville, Daniel Wylie, Anthony Hayes, Susan Prior, Clayton Jacobson, Anna Lise Phillips
Synopsis: A 17 year-old boy who goes to live with his mother’s family after her death, finds himself caught between his violent criminal uncles and the suspicious police trying to catch them.
Why See This Film: This is a gripping believable story of Melbourne’s criminal underworld, of working-class crims and the rough, tough mum who loves them, of innocent youths who get gradually drawn into the criminal world, of corrupt cops and good cops trying to outdo each other, and of the difficulty of escaping this world once you’ve been caught up in it. This film won the AFI awards for Best Film and Best Director, Ben Mendelsohn won the Best Actor award and the chance to play lots of other bad dudes in Hollywood; Jacki Weaver won the Best Actress award and went on to become a Hollywood fixture, playing Robert de Niro’s wife two years later as well as with Woody Allen; and Joel Edgerton won the Best Supporting Actor award and has also since become a Hollywood regular. This film was a real springboard for all involved. The film has recently been adapted as a US TV series.
If you liked this film, try: The Boys (169), The Square (104), Chopper (85), Little Fish (101), Prime Mover (149), Kiss or Kill (84), Two Hands (119), The Broken Shore (90)
Kiss or Kill (1997) (Bill Bennett)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 84/260
Genre: Oz Noir/Thriller with a splattering of black humour
Set in: Adelaide and the South Australian outback in the 1990s
Cast: Frances O’Connor, Matt Day, Chris Haywood, Andrew S. Gilbert, Barry Langrishe, Max Cullen, Barry Otto
Synopsis: A couple of confidence tricksters are chased across the desert after a theft goes wrong, then start to mistrust each other.
Why See This Film: This is a tense, unpredictable crime movie about two likeable but seemingly untrustworthy characters fleeing across the Nullabor leaving people they encounter inexplicably dead. Both start to wonder if they are travelling with a killer, or being followed by one. A very enjoyable, wry film that’ll keep you guessing. It won both the AFI awards for Best Film and Best Director in 1997. Both Frances O’Connor and Matt Day prove what consistently wonderful talents they both are, and the film contains many great supporting characters, often cut too short by their untimely deaths.
If you liked this film, try: Animal Kingdom (83), Lantana (7),
Chopper (2000) (Andrew Dominik)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 85/260
Set in: Melbourne from the 1970s to the 1990s
Cast: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon, Vince Colosimo, David Field, Dan Wyllie, Bill Young, Kenny Graham, Kate Beahan
Synopsis: Looks at the life and crimes of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, the hit-man who spent a lot of time in jail, but was never convicted of murder, and later wrote a best-seller about himself and became a stand-up ‘gangster’ comedian.
Why See This Film: This imaginatively structured film gives insights into the articulate but crazy hitman known as ‘Chopper’ whose grisly exploits fascinated the Australian media and public. Bana creates an amazingly believable Chopper, a man able to disconnect himself from and articulately rationalise his violent deeds. The film contains violence, but also humour – a strange mix which mirrors Chopper’s personality. The film won Dominik the AFI Best Director award and Bana won the Best Actor award.
If you liked this film, try: Animal Kingdom (83), Bad Boy Bubby (16), Dirty Deeds (), Gettin’ Square (126),
Caterpillar Wish (2006) (Sandra Sciberras)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 86/260
Genre: Coming-of-age Drama
Set in: South Australian coastal town in the 2000s
Cast: Susie Porter, Victoria Thaine, Wendy Hughes, Robert Mammone, Philip Quast, Khan Chittenden, Elspeth Ballantyne, Bruce Myles, Nicholas Bell, Will Traeger
Synopsis: A teenage girl in a small South Australian coastal town tries to figure out which of her mother’s male acquaintances is her father.
Why See This Film: This is a sweet story of a girl’s desire to know the identity of her father, and the problems that causes for other people in the town, is beautifully acted and filmed. The action takes place in a small coastal town and the beauty and rhythms of the place are well caught by the director. Victoria Thaine’s performance as the girl, Emily, is the key to the film’s success, but the other actors do a great job as well.
If you liked this film, try: Somersault (30), Looking for Alibrandi (69), Peaches (92), Oyster Farmer (160), Beautiful Kate (38), The Black Balloon (68), Danny Deckchair (38), The Home Song Stories (122)
Unfinished Sky (2007) (Peter Duncan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 87/260
Genre: Drama/ Romance
Set in: Rural Queensland in the 2000s
Cast: William McInnes, Monic Hendrickx, David Field, Bille Brown, Roy Billing, Christopher Sommers
Synopsis: A Queensland farmer takes in an Afghan woman who has fled from criminals.
Why See This Film: This is a very effective drama about a dour middle aged farmer whose life is changed when an escaped Afghan woman seeks refuge from her exploiters. They grow to trust each other, but the danger from her pursuers closes in. This film is tense, tender and thought provoking, coming during the debates about accepting refugees, particularly Muslim refugees in Australia. William McInnes transcends his wooden style, and Dutch actress, Monic Hendrickx, is very effective as the Afgan woman (interestingly, she also played a Polish woman in an earlier Dutch version of this story, The Polish Bride). McInnes and Hendrickx picked up the AFI best actor and actress awards for this film.
If you liked this film, try: Lantana (7), Look Both Ways (1), Kiss or Kill (84), Dead Letter Office (74), Peaches (92), South Solitary (93)
Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (1995) (George Whaley)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 88/260
Set in: Outback Queensland in the late 19thcentury (though actually filmed in Braidwood, NSW)
Cast: Leo McKern, Joan Sutherland, Geoffrey Rush, Ray Barrett, Barry Otto, Noah Taylor, Robert Menzies, Essie Davis, Celia Ireland
Synopsis: The Rudds, a farming family consisting of Dad Rudd, Ma Rudd and their bumpkin son Dave, struggle to make a living.
Why See This Film: This comic remake of a series of famous Australian films from the 1930s still works surprisingly well, due largely to the standout cast, but it’s appeal will largely be restricted to older Australians who have at least heard of the original films. The film follows the adventures of a poor farming family led by Dad (played by Rumpole’s Leo McKern) and Mum (played with surprising panache by opera diva Joan Sutherland). The wonderful cast which includes Geoffrey Rush, Ray Barrett, Barry Otto and Noah Taylor is also a treat.
If you liked this film, try: Dimboola (91), On Our Selection (the 1932 version on Youtube),
Lilian’s Story (1996) (Jerzy Domaradzki)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 89/260
Set in: Sydney (Balmain and elsewhere) in the 1990s and 1950s
Cast: Ruth Cracknell, Toni Collette. Barry Otto
Synopsis: Lilian, a woman aged 60 or 70, is released after 40 years in an asylum, to a life on the streets.
Why See This Film: This film, adapted from Kate Grenville’s novel by Polish-born director Domaradszki, was based on a real Sydney street-eccentric. The film tells the story of Lilian’s youth with her overbearing father, her life in the asylum where she shares her obsession with Shakespeare with the other inmates, and her life after her release when, as an old woman, she roams the Sydney streets, declaiming Shakespeare and freaking out passers-by. It is a touching and occasionally amusing film, propelled by three great actors: Ruth Cracknell as the older Lilian, Toni Collette as the young Lilian and Barry Otto playing first her awful father and later her meek brother with whom she is re-united as an older woman.
If you liked this film, try: Shine (21); Cosi (75), Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (27), Mental (54), The Dressmaker (26), The Well (213)
Recommended Reviews: Margaret and David (4½ and 4 stars respectively)
The Broken Shore (2013) (Rowan Woods)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 90/260
Genre: Crime/Thriller/Oz Noir
Set in: Melbourne and rural, coastal Victoria in the 2000s
Cast: Don Hany, Claudia Karvan, Anthony Hayes, Erik Thomson, Dan Wyllie, Tony Briggs, Wayne Blair, Catherine McClements, Robyn Nevin, Noni Hazlehurst, Ralph Cotterill, Jane Bayly, Steve Hayden, Marni Johnson, Damon Herriman,
Synopsis: A detective suffering from trauma after witnessing the killing of his partner has to face his demons when he investigates the murder of a wealthy but reclusive man. But he has no sooner started his work when he discovers prejudice and corruption at the highest level to ensure that the motive for the killing is never discovered.
Why See This Film: This is a gripping adaptation of Peter Temple’s award-winning crime book. It was made as a TV movie for the ABC and contains a lot of Oz TV’s best actors, especially Dan Hany (who has done a lot of great TV as a multi-cultural cop or hospital love-interest). The story starts pretty dark, and gets slowly darker. There are no beautiful sunlit vistas here. It’s all wintry rain, restrained characters, hidden meanings and shocking secrets. It’s absorbing and carries you along, but you need to keep your wits about you to keep up. It’s very Noir, and very Victoria.
If you liked this film, try: Mystery Road (67), Lantana (7), The Square (104), Jindabyne (102), Dead Heart (35), The Interview (46), The Monkey’s Mask (195)
Recommended Review: Graeme Blundell (The Australian)
Dimboola (1979) (John Duigan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 91/260
Genre: Bush Comedy
Set in: The (real) town of Dimboola in the Wimmera region of western Victoria, in the 1960s
Cast: Bruce Spence, Natalie Bate, Max Gillies, Bill Garner, Barry Barkla, Claire Binney, Max Cullen, Kerry Dwyer, Max Fairchild, Sue Ingleton, Val Jellay, Evelyn Krape, Terry McDermott, Jack Perry, Alan Rowe, Tim Robertson, Chad Morgan, and The Matchbox Band
Synopsis: A Protestant boy marries a Catholic girl in the little country town of Dimboola, but their relatives cause havoc at the wedding.
Why See This Film: This comedy about a wedding in a small country town (Dimboola) was adapted from a popular Jack Hibbert play. Unlike many other larrikin/ocker comedies this film works due to its light touch, good pacing, charming musical interludes, interesting minor characters and the affection it brings to its subject.
If you liked this film, try: Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (88), The Castle (25), Crackers (103), Crackerjack (13), Horseplay (187), Bad Eggs (139), The Dish (79)
Peaches (2004) (Craig Monahan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 92/260
Set in: South Australian riverland in the 2000s
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Jacqueline McKenzie, Emma Lung, Matt Le Nevez, Sam Healy, Tyson Contor, Ed Rosser
Synopsis: A young woman whose parents died when she was a baby, searches for her identity and for love.
Why See This Film: Moving tale of characters at a peach factory in a small town in South Australia’s Riverland. Hugo Weaving is Alan, an aging loner, foreman of a factory heading for closure due to world prices. Memories of a happier youth with close friends contrast with current stress, when he unwisely starts an affair with Steph, the insecure 18-year old daughter of his best friends whose car crash orphaned her at birth. Steph is trying to learn the truth about her parents, her stepmother and the life before her birth. It’s bitter-sweet, evocative and well acted.
If you liked this film, try: The Interview (45), Somersault (31), Lantana (7)
South Solitary (2010) (Shirley Barrett)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 93/260
Set in: South Solitary Island, NSW in the 1920s
Cast: Miranda Otto, Marton Csokas, Rohan Nichol, Essie Davis, Barry Otto, Annie Martin
Synopsis: A disgraced young woman accompanies her lighthouse-keeper uncle to an isolated windswept island throwing out the equilibrium of the island’s few inhabitants.
Why See This Film: Miranda Otto both sparkles and annoys as a somewhat dreamy young woman whose life choices in post-WW1 Australia are limited by the scarcity of young men after the war, by her impoverished situation and by her past mistakes. The film’s pace is slow and poetic, and some have complained that too little happens. But romance and tragedy approach as quickly as the next gale.
If you liked this film, try: Love Serenade (39), Dead Letter Office (74), Danny Deckchair (37)
Recommended Reviews: Margaret and David (3 and 4 stars respectively)
Dr Plonk (2007) (Rolf de Heer)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 94/260
Genre: Silent b/w Sci-Fi comedy
Set in: Adelaide in 1907 and 2007
Cast: Nigel Lunghi, Magda Szubanski, Paul Blackwell, Wayne Anthoney, Quientin Kenihan, Mike Rann, Bogdan Koca
Synopsis: In 1907 a scientist and inventor, Dr Plonk, predicts that the world will end in 101 years, but the authorities refuse to believe him, so he invents a time machine to travel into the future, to 2007.
Why See This Film: Australia’s maverick Rolf De Heer’s varied career took another turn with this eccentric comic black and white silent film. Made in the style of early silent era comedies, this film tells the story of Dr Plonk, and his family, consisting of his wife, deaf and dumb servant, Paulus, and dog, Tiberius, who live in 1907 Adelaide, but travel to 2007 for familiar time travel jokes. The film is full of chases, hijicks and all manner of slapstick comedy. De Heer captures the era perfectly and his performers are superb – Dr Plonk is played by a former street clown, Nigel Lunghi; his wife is famous TV comedienne Magda Subinski, and Reg the dog does a great job as Tiberius, stealing many scenes. I found this hilarious, though some I know can’t bear the 1920s ragtime piano music, typical of old silent films.
If you liked this film, try: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and the Keystone Cops. Maybe Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (88) – otherwise Australia has nothing like this – it’s a one-off!
The Big Steal (1990) (Nadia Tass)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 95/260
Genre: Teen comedy/action/romance
Set in: Melbourne in the 1990s
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan, Steve Bisley, Marshall Napier, Damon Herriman
Synopsis: Danny, a car-obsessed teenager, dreams of owning a Jaguar and having a date with Joanna. He trades in his parent’s car but gets ripped off and has to come up with another plan with the help of his mates.
Why See This Film: This is an enjoyable suburban teenage car movie, about car-obsessed boys and men and the girls who fancy them. The boy gets the car and the girl, but it’s by no means a straightforward process, with lots of laughs along the way. It’s well made with a heap of good actors, especially the still young Ben Mendelsohn and Claudia Karvan. Director Tass didn’t sweep up all the AFI awards with this as she did with Malcolm, but it’s still a lot of fun.
If you liked this film, try: Malcolm (78), Flirting (113), The F.J. Holden (224), The Year My Voice Broke (51), The Heartbreak Kid (141), The Castle (25), Bad Eggs (139), The Dish (79), The Rage in Placid Lake (30)
Mad Max (1979) (George Miller I)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 96/260
Genre: Action/Distopian drama
Set in: The Outback in the near future
Cast: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Vincent Gil
Synopsis: “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a lawman in a world slipping out of control and full of nasty feral types. He cruises the countryside, nursing his grudges, hoping for some kind of revenge, engaging in car chases and shootouts, and trying to stay alive.
Why See This Film: This landmark film was successful worldwide, launched Mel Gibson into Hollywood and prompted three bigger and weirder follow-ups. It’s classic action film with millions of fans around the world, though unfortunately action is not one of my favourite genres.
If you liked this film, try: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (57), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (235), Roadgames (152)
Love and Other Catastrophes (1996) (Emma-Kate Croghan)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 97/260
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Set in: Melbourne in the 1990s
Cast: Frances O’Connor, Alice Garner, Rhada Mitchell, Matthew Dyktinski, Matt Day, Kym Gyngell, Suzy Dougherty, Suzanne Dowling, Torquil Neilson, Christine Stephen-Daly, Dominic McDonald
Synopsis: Five university students try to sort out their love-lives and accommodation, not to mention their studies.
Why See This Film: This is a joyful romp, capturing the heady confusing life of young people at Uni, with likeable characters making poor choices, but things working out eventually. The writing is smart and nimble, the dialogue quick and believable, the style hand-held and immediate and the acting top notch. Frances O’Connor is effervescent as the gay Mia and Matt Day always plays his straight shy role to perfection. This reminded me a bit of an Oz version of Reality Bites (which I also like). It’s definitely one of our best rom-coms.
If you liked this film, try: Russian Doll (14), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), Danny Deckchair (37), Look Both Ways (1), Dating the Enemy (131), Me Myself I (150), Muriel’s Wedding (4)
Charlies Country (2013) (Rolf de Heer)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 98/260
Set in: Arnhem Land in the 2010s
Cast: David Gulpilil, Peter Djigirr, Luke Ford, Bobby Bunungurr, Frances Djulibing
Synopsis: An elderly Aboriginal man living in Arnhem land, not content with living on the fringes of white consumer culture under whitefella laws, yearns to return to the traditional life on the land he remembers from his youth, but encounters difficulties.
Why See This Film: This is a slow, deliberate film giving insight into the frustrations faced by Aboriginals today, even those who have retained a connection with their land, with David Gulpilil giving an award-winning performance as Charlie. Charlie’s encounters in Arnhem land and Darwin show the difficulty in continuing a traditional life and the alienation for tribal people in large towns. Gulpilil expresses the anguish of Aboriginal people in a country dominated by an alien culture. Though a little too slow at times, the film has some interesting messages. Gulpilil won another AFI best actor award, proving what a fine actor he has been for over 40 years.
If you liked this film, try: Satellite Boy (105), Walkabout (17), Yolngu Boy (164), Beneath Clouds (24), Rabbit-Proof Fence (32), Bran Nue Day (82), Radiance (123), The Fringe Dwellers (53)
Oscar and Lucinda (1997) (Gillian Armstrong)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 99/260
Genre: Period drama
Set in: Sydney and North Coast NSW (actually shot in Tasmania) in the 19th century
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Cate Blanchett, Clive Russell, Peter Whitford, Tom Wilkinson, Josephine Byrnes, Billie Brown, Ciaran Hinds, Barry Otto
Synopsis: A wayward English clergyman with a gambling habit meets a young Australian woman with a love of glass and a glass factory when he comes to live in Sydney.
Why See This Film: This adaptation of Peter Carey’s enjoyable but flawed novel (flawed, in my opinion, by its denouement) makes a flawed (for the same reason) but enjoyable film about two nineteenth century misfits in Sydney, who find then lose love. Cate Blanchett is wonderful, and Ralph Fiennes is his usual twitchy, strangely handsome self, which some will adore. The production looks lovely as well.
If you liked this film, try: My Brilliant Career (11), Kangaroo (110), The Getting of Wisdom (61), Picnic At Hanging Rock (2), We of the Never Never (108), Country Life (71), The Dressmaker (26)
The Man Who Sued God (2001) (Mark Joffe)
Ozflicks Rating: 3.5/5 — Ozflicks Ranking: 100/260
Set in: Bermagui and Sydney in the 2000s
Cast: Billy Connolly, Judy Davis, Colin Friels, Wendy Hughes, John Howard, Bille Brown, Steve Jacobs, Blair Venn, Vincent Ball, Frank Whitten, Peter Whitford, Linal Haft
Synopsis: A man whose boat is destroyed by lightning, and whose insurance claim is denied as the lightning was an ‘act of God’, brings a court case against the major churches as representatives of God on earth.
Why See This Film: This film is an entertaining comedy about another Aussie battler (this time played by extroverted Scot Billy Connelly) and with Judy Davis in an unusual but welcome comic role. The writing by political speechwriter and prolific author on all things Australian, Don Watson and the great Kiwi satirist John Clarke, is top notch and ensures the film has social comment to augment the comedy. The film is attractively shot and enhanced by sunny its NSW South Coast and Sydney settings.
If you liked this film, try: Crackerjack (13), Bliss (55), The Rage in Placid Lake (30), The Castle (25), The Dish (79), Crackers (103), Horseplay (197), Bad Eggs (131), Muriel’s Wedding (4), The Dressmaker (26)
- For the top 50 films, see Ozflicks Guide to the Top 50 Australian Films
That’s it for now. Happy watching!