New Australian Directors of the 1990s – from Porpoise Spit straight to the Pool-room

70s Oz directors – 80s Oz directors – 2000s Oz directors 

The 1990s was the third decade of the revival in Australian cinema, and saw a whole clutch of new directors arrive with new ideas and new stories to tell. These new directors dominated the Australian box office in the 90s and won most of the local awards during the decade. Many of these newbies had grown up during Australia’s film renaissance of the 1970s, and many had been nurtured by the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney and other film schools around the country. Together they brought a new diversity of approaches and topics to Australian cinema. Over fifty new directors produced significant films in the 1990s; films which garnered critical acclaim, sometimes found commercial success, but which importantly showed many more aspects of Australia, Australians and Australian life to ourselves and the world.

Of this fifty or more, only a handful gained international fame and commercial success. Three, in particular, became well-known:

  • Baz Luhrmann created exciting, colourful extravaganzas that appealed to audiences at home and abroad;
  • Jane Campion, one of many talented New Zealanders who have made Australia their home, made rich emotional dramas and was the first Australia-based director to win the Palme D’Or in Cannes; and
  • Alex Proyas became popular among a different international audience for his dark, sci-fi, gothic thrillers, made in both Hollywood and Australia.
  • In addition to these three, Chris Noonan also directed the international hit children’s film Babe (co-written and produced by Australian veteran film-maker Dr. George Miller), though he has only made one other film since.

Baz Luhrmann and three other new directors created four of Australia’s favourite and most successful comedies in the 1990s: Baz Luhrmann made Strictly Ballroom in 1992, followed by PJ Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding and Stephen Elliot’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994 and finally Rob Sitch’s The Castle. in 1997. These films were box office hits at home and abroad, and have been voted four of the Australian public’s five favourite-ever films (the other being Gallipoli).

Another group of new directors created films which became cult favourites, fiercely loved by smaller cohorts: Rolf De Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby, Richard Wright’s Romper Stomper, John Ruane’s Death in Brunswick, Mark Joffe’s Cosi, Shirley Barrett’s Love Serenade, Peter Duncan’s Children of the Revolution and Gregor Jordan’s Two Hands.

Some of the new directors made satisfying emotional dramas and thrillers, like Scott Hicks’ international hit Shine, Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Proof, Craig Monahan’s The Interview, Bill Bennett’s Kiss or Kill, Michael Rymer’s Angel Baby, Rachel Perkins’s Radiance, James Bogle’s In the Winter Dark, and Samantha Lang’s The Well. Apart from Romper Stomper, other directors made gritty urban films that looked at the roots of conflict and violence in our country: Rowan Woods’s The Boys, Ana Kokkinos’s Head On, Steve Vidler’s Blackrock and Richard Wright’s Metal Skin.

More successful rom-coms were made in the 90s than in the previous decades, aided by the excellent crop of actors and actresses who appeared in the 90s. These include Cherie Nowlan’s Thank God He Met Lizzie with Cate Blanchett, Frances O’Connor and Richard Roxburgh; Emma-Kate Croghan’s two films Love and Other Catastrophes with Frances O’Connor and Matt Day, and Strange Planet with Claudia Karvan, Naomi Watts and Alice Garner; Megan Simpson Huberman’s Dating the Enemy with Guy Pearce and Claudia Karvan; Michael Jenkins’s The Heartbreak Kid, with Claudia Karvan and Alex Dimitriades; and Antony J. Bowman’s Paperback Hero, with a young Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan.

Period films, common in the 70s and 80s as we struggled to understand and portray our past, were less prominent in the 90s than in previous decades. Only three important fictional period pieces were made: Jane Campion’s The Piano, Michael Blakemore’s Country Life and George Whaley’s Dad and Dave: On Our Selection.

Women directors became more common in the 90s – fifteen are featured below, compared to four in the 80s and only Gillian Armstrong in the 70s! Likewise, non-Anglo-Celtic Australians became more common – the list below includes four Greek-Australian directors, one Dutch-Australian, one Hong Kong-Australian, one Polish-Australian, one Belarusian-Australian and one Bulgarian-New Zealander. The 90s also saw the first indigenous Australian directors making commercial features, with artist Tracey Moffat making the first all-Aboriginal feature in 1993, followed by Rachel Perkins who made her debut with Radiance in 1998, and who has gone to produce five more feature films so far.

Some older directors from the 70s and 80s made a handful of great films in Australia in the 90s: Gillian Armstrong returned to Australia to make The Last Days of Chez Nous and Oscar and Lucinda; John Duigan made the successful Flirting and Sirens; Nadia Tass made The Big Steal and Bob Ellis made The Nostradamus Kid. And of course, Dr George Miller’s influence was felt as he left the Mad Max franchise to make hit children’s films, first co-writing and producing Babe and then directing the sequel Babe: Pig in the City. Babe was the most successful Australian film of the decade and the sequel was the eighth most successful.

Many of the new 90s directors only managed to make one or two films, and sought other careers in television, production or writing. But they left us with a great and diverse collection of films. If you know of any directors I’ve neglected below, please let me know.

The Top New Oz Directors of the 1990s

1. Baz Luhrmann

baz (2)Baz Luhrmann was born in Sydney in 1962. He has made only five films including two Australian films set in Australia (plus another two which are Australian productions of stories about elsewhere) and has brought a distinctive style full of colour, glamour, music and joyous pace to his films which has made him one of our most distinctive and successful directors. His debut film, based on his own script, was Strictly Ballroom, a glamorous comedy about the strange glittery world of ballroom dancing. The film struck a chord with Australian audiences, making $21 million at the Australian box office (equivalent to $39 million today) and an even greater amount in the US and the UK where it did very well. He then made a new high-octane version of Romeo and Juliet in Hollywood before returning to Australia to make a musical fantasy set in 19th Century Paris – Moulin Rouge. This starred Nicole Kidman as a courtesan/singer at the Moulin Rouge dance-club, and features spectacular costumes and dance numbers between modern romantic songs reworked for Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Luhrmann followed this with the epic Australia, set in northern Australia at the outbreak of World War 2, and again starring Nicole Kidman as the romantic lead with Hugh Jackman. The film is something of a re-imagining of the 1946 film, The Overlanders with a romantic overlay. The film made $37 million in Australia (making it the most successful local film of the last 20 years and the fifth most successful of all time), and over $100 million abroad. All his films have made over $50 million, with The Great Gatsby making over $200 million. He won two AFI Best Director awards (Strictly Ballroom and The Great Gatsby) and was nominated for one more (Moulin Rouge); two of his films won an AFI Best Film award (Strictly Ballroom and The Great Gatsby) and another was nominated.

His 5 films are: Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Australia (2008) and The Great Gatsby (2013). (films set in Australia in red)

More info: Baz at Wikipedia, Baz at IMDb, Baz at, [book on Baz ]

2. Jane Campion

Director Campion poses during a photocall for the film Jane Campion was born in 1954 in New Zealand, and came to Australia in the late 1970s, where she has been based since. She studied art in Sydney, before turning to short film-making. Her first short film, Peel (1982), won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. Her films have been highly artistic and centred around individual women living in worlds dominated by men, and negotiating their relationships with men. She made her first feature film, the cult classic Sweetie, in 1989, but her first significant films came in the 1990s. In 1990 she made the impressive An Angel at My Table about NZ author Janet Frame, starring Kerry Fox. The film won a Grand Special Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival in 1990. Then in the 1993 Campion made her most successful film, the historical drama The Piano. Though essentially a NZ film set in NZ with an international cast, The Piano was funded and produced in Australia and won the AFI awards for Best Australian Film and Best Director. More significantly, the film won the Palme D’Or in Cannes, making Campion the first woman to win the award. Campion was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, only the second woman ever to be nominated. She won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and the film was also nominated for the Best Film Academy Award. Since then she has used international casts to explore the lives of psychological lives of women. After making the moderately successful adaptation of Henry James’s novel The Portrait of a Lady in 1996, Campion returned to Australia to make the interesting drama Holy Smoke about a woman whose family hire a cult counsellor to persuade her to give up her Indian guru. The film received mixed reviews but Campion elicited great performances from Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel. Her next two films, which she also wrote, were the American erotic thriller, In The Cut with Meg Ryan, and the British period piece Bright Star with Australian actress, Abbie Conrnish. Since 2013 she has co-written and directed the award-winning television series, Top of the Lake, set in New Zealand.

Her 7 films are Sweetie (1989), An Angel at My Table (1990), The Piano (1993), Portrait of a Lady (1996), Holy Smoke! (1999), In the Cut (2003) and Bright Star (2009). (Australian films in red, NZ films in blue)

Recommended Reading: Senses of Cinema’s Great Directors profile of Jane Campion, Jane at Wikipedia, Jane at IMDb,

  1. Alex Proyas

Alex-proyas (2)Alex Proyas was born in Alexandria, Egypt to Greek parents in 1963 and came to Australia in 1966. At 17, he enrolled at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, along with Jane Campion and Jocelyn Moorhouse, and shortly after he started directing music videos. Proyas moved to Los Angeles and directed MTV music videos and TV commercials, until he made his debut feature film, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, in 1988. This movie, about a brother and sister alone in post-apocalyptic Australia, set the tone for his brand of dark, gothic thrillers which has been so successful. His second film, The Crow, shot in the USA, and based on a popular noir-comic, was a supernatural revenge story and was very populat with fans and critics, and made $50 million at the US box office. His next film, which he wrote, produced and directed, was Dark City, another noir-sci-fi thriller, labelled Kafkaesque by one commentator. This film was shot in Australia and critically well received. His next film was the incongruous Garage Days, a straightforward teen film about members of a garage band, after which he returned to the US to make I. Robot starring Will Smith. This film, in his usual noir, sci-fi style was a great success, making $350 million. He followed that with Knowing, a sci-fi thriller with Nicolas Cage that was shot in Australia and set in the US, which made $180 million. His most recent film was the blockbuster reimagining of Egyptian history complete with their ancient gods. Shot in Australia, the film cost a staggering $140 million and only just got its money back.

His films are: 1988 Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds, 1994 The Crow, 1998 Dark City, 2002 Garage Days, 2004 I, Robot, 2009 Knowing, 2016 Gods of Egypt (films made in Australia in red)

More info: Alex at Wikipedia, Alex at IMDb, Ellines profile, ‘Alex Proyas’ by Claudia Debs

4. PJ Hogan

PJHPJ (Paul John) Hogan was born in Brisbane in 1962, and is married to fellow Australian director Jocelyn Moorhouse (see below). He is usually referred to as PJ to distinguish him from Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame. After writing for television and making short films in the 1980s, PJ made his feature film debut in 1994 with a film he also wrote, Muriel’s Wedding, which was a box office and critical hit. The film won the AFI awards for Best Film, Best Actress (Toni Collette) and Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Griffiths). It made $15 million at the Australian box office (equal to $27 million in 2016), plus $15 million in the US and 8 million pounds in the UK (making an international total of $A100 million in 2016 dollars). The film was also voted as one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films in a 2008 AFI online poll. Since then he has made four movies in the US, which were mainly successful, My Best Friend’s Wedding making $300 million, Peter Pan $122 million and Confessions $108 million. In 2012 he returned to Australia to make Mental, which explored similar territory to Muriel’s Wedding, but was less successful. He also co-wrote The Dressmaker with his wife.

His 6 films are: Muriel’s Wedding (1994), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Unconditional Love (2002), Peter Pan (2003), Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009) and Mental (2012). (Australian films in red)

More info: PJ at Wikipedia, PJ at IMDb

5. Jocelyn Moorhouse

Jocelyn (2)Jocelyn Moorhouse was born in Melbourne in 1960, and is married to fellow Australian director PJ Hogan (see above). She studied film-making and then worked in Australian television in the 80s as a writer-director. Her first feature film was Proof, for which she also wrote the screenplay. The film, based on her ideas about blindness and photography, starred Hugo Weaving and a young Russell Crowe, and won her AFI Awards for Best Film and Best Director as well as Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor awards for Weaving and Crowe. She made two films in Hollywood, but was forced to take an eighteen-year break from film-making due to the demands of bringing up two autistic children. She almost made another Australian film in 2005, from her script based on Murray Bail’s award-winning novel Eucalyptus, but the film fell apart during filming in Bellingen, NSW due to arguments between Moorhouse and the star Russell Crowe. Moorhouse acted as producer on three of her husband’s films in this period. In 2015, she made her most recent film The Dressmaker, based on Rosalie Ham’s book and Moorhouse’s screenplay. The film was a great success, making over $20 million at the box office, and won the AACTA Best Actress Award for Kate Winslet’s portrayal of a woman returning to her hometown for closure and revenge.

Her 4 films are: Proof (1991), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), A Thousand Acres (1997) and The Dressmaker (2015). (Australian films in red)

More info: Jocelyn Moorhouse at Wikipedia, Jocelyn Moorhouse at IMDb,

6. Rolf De Heer

rolfRolf De Heer was born in the Netherlands in 1951 and came to Sydney when he was 8 years old. In 1977, he started studying at the Australian Film & TV School, graduating four years later in Film and TV Production and Directing. Since then, he has worked as a freelance scriptwriter, producer and director. He is a prolific maker of arthouse films on a wide variety of topics and in a variety of genres. He has made 17 Australian films so far, more than any other modern director except fellow Dutchman Paul Cox. He made two unsuccessful feature films and a TV film in the 1980s, but he came to prominence in the 1990s, firstly with Dingo, a film about an outback jazz trumpet-player who meets Miles Davis, and, more importantly, with Bad Boy Bubby, a wild dystopian comedy about a man who grows up trapped in a house by his mad mother. This film won the AFI Best Director award for De Heer, and a cult following for the film. Following this he made a variety of challenging films before making The Tracker in 2002. This powerful film, about racist violence in 1920s outback Australia, was the first of a number of films on Aboriginal themes which have won him great praise. The second, Ten Canoes, is told entirely in an Aboriginal language, in this case the Yolngu language – the only such feature film so far, and won him his second AFI Best Director award. He has also made a silent film (Dr Plonk), a sci-fi film (Epsilon), a thriller (Alexandra’s Project) and a variety of dramas displaying his great humanity. He has won the AFI Best Director award twice (for Bad Boy Bubby and Ten Canoes) (he was also nominated for Dingo, The Tracker and Charlie’s Country) and an AFI Best Film award for Ten Canoes (five other of his films were also nominated). Two of his films, The Tracker and Bad Boy Bubby are in the Ozflicks Top 20.

His 17 films are: Tail of a Tiger (1984), Thank You Jack (1985) (TV), Incident at Raven’s Gate (1988), Dingo (1991), Bad Boy Bubby (1993), The Quiet Room (1996), Epsilon (1997), Dance Me to My Song (1998), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2000), The Tracker (2002), Alexandra’s Project (2003), Ten Canoes (2006), The Balanda and the Bark Canoes (2006) (TV), Dr. Plonk (2007), Twelve Canoes (2008), The King is Dead (2012), Charlie’s Country (2013) (Australian films in red)

More info: Rolf at Wikipedia, Rolf at IMDb, ABC article 2015

7. Scott Hicks

Scott_HicksScott Hicks was born in Uganda in 1953, moved to England when he was ten and then to Adelaide when he was 14, in 1967. After making music videos, working on other people’s films and making five unsuccessful films of his own in the 1970s and 1980s, Hicks made the spectacularly successful Shine in 1996. The film is about the life of troubled piano prodigy David Helfgott, and starred Geoffrey Rush in the role that won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Shine made $35 million in the US as well as $10 million in Australia, and won the AFI Best Film award and the AFI Best Director Award for Hicks. Since then he has made a number of successful movies in the US and returned to Australia in 2009 to make the well-regarded The Boys are Back.

His 13 films are: The Wanderer (1974), Down the Wind (1975). Freedom (1982), Sebastian and the Sparrow (1988), Call Me Mr. Brown (1990), Shine (1996), Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), No Reservations (2007), Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (2007), The Boys Are Back (2009), The Lucky One (2012) and Fallen (2016). (Australian films in red)

More info: Scott at Wikipedia, Scott at IMDb,

8. Stephan Elliott

ElliotStephan Elliott was born in Sydney in 1964. He started out assisting on other people’s film for a decade before making Frauds in 1993, a black comedy written by Elliot and starring the singer Phil Collins as well as Hugo Weaving. He is chiefly known for his second film, 1994’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which was his most successful and popular film to date. The film, about three drag queens who make a trip to the Outback, lost out to Muriel’s Wedding at the 1994 AFI awards, but made over $16 million at the domestic box office (equivalent to $28 million in 2016) and was voted one of Australia’s five favourite Australian films ever in a 2008 AFI online poll (along with Muriel’s Wedding). The film also did well overseas, making the equivalent of over 34 million 2016 Australian dollars. He then made another outback black comedy, Welcome to Woop Woop in 1997, which was not so well received. Next were two films overseas, including the delightful period comedy Easy Virtue, before he returned to Australia to make a wedding comedy A Few Best Men. His work has divided audiences and critics for his willingness to walk the thin, dangerous line separating transgressive humour from bad taste.

His 6 films are: Frauds (1993), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), Eye of the Beholder (1999), Easy Virtue (2008), A Few Best Men (2011) and Horizon (TV Movie) (2016). (Australian films in red)

More info: Stephan at Wikipedia, Stephan at IMDb, The Hollywood Interview

9. Rob Sitch (and the Working Dog team)

Sitch (2)Rob Sitch was born in Melbourne in 1962. He is principally known for his work in television as an actor, writer, producer and director of many successful Australian TV comedies and satires, including The D-Generation, The Late Show, Frontline, The Panel, Thank God You’re Here and Utopia. He has usually worked as part of a writing-acting-directing ensemble with Santo Cilauro, Jane Kennedy, and Tom Gleisner who were actors and writers of The D-Generation, The Late Show, and Frontline. This group formed Working Dog Productions in 1993 and wrote and produced Sitch’s three feature films with him, as well as his continuing TV work. Sitch’s first feature as a director was the hit comedy, The Castle, written by the Working Dog team. The film, which is a loving satire on the Australian suburban working class, was a popular hit and is consistently chosen as Australia’s most popular film in polls, receiving the 2008 AFI Award for Australia’s Favourite Film and most recently topping a 2017 ABC Facebook poll. The film made over $10 million domestically, but only a couple of million overseas. The film’s catch-phrases such as ‘This is going straight to the pool room’ and ‘Tell him he’s dreaming’ have entered the Australian vernacular. Sitch and Working Dog’s next venture was The Dish in 2000, another comedy, set at the Parkes satellite dish during the 1969 moon landing and starring Sam Neill. This film was even more successful than The Castle, making $18 million (equivalent to $27 million in 2016 dollars) as well as doing very well in the UK and moderately in the US. Following this Sitch and Working Dog returned to making successful television comedy until 2012 when they made the romantic comedy Any Questions for Ben?, which was less successful both commercially and critically. Without question, Sitch and the Working Dog team have made great contributions to Australian comedy on TV and film for many years.

Their 3 films are: The Castle (1997), The Dish (2000) and Any Questions for Ben? (2012)

More info: Rob at Wikipedia, Rob at IMDb

The other most significant directors of the 1990s

10. Rachel Perkins

Rachel PerkinsRachel Perkins was born in Canberra in 1970, the daughter of Indigenous activists Eileen and Charlie Perkins, and is the first Aboriginal film director to produce commercially successful films. Her films feature indigenous lead characters and range from family drama to musical comedy to arthouse to political drama to mystery. Perkins started working in Aboriginal media when she was 18 and started producing documentaries on Indigenous themes at SBS TV in the early 90s. She studied film-making at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney, making several short films in the mid-90s. Her first feature, Radiance, in 1998 was an adaptation of Louis Nowra’s play about three indigenous sisters who reunite at their mother’s funeral, and work through old pains. The film was the debut for Deborah Mailman, who won the AFI award for best actress for the film and has since become a very successful film and TV actress. Perkins went on to make two films with both indigenous and musical themes, One Night the Moon, a musical tragedy about a white farmer who refuses to use an Aboriginal tracker to help find his lost child, and Bran Nue Dae, an upbeat Aboriginal musical comedy/romance set in WA. Following this Perkins made two TV films, Mabo, about the Torres Strait land rights activist, Freddy Mabo, and Redfern Now: Promise Me, which was the finale to a TV series about the lives of Aboriginals living in the inner-Sydney suburb of Redfern. Perkin’s production company, Blackfella Films, had produced the landmark TV series Redfern Now as well as the important documentary series First Australians, which Perkins wrote, produced and directed. In 2017, Perkins directed an adaptation of Craig Silvey’s popular novel, Jasper Jones, about two young boys, one white and one Aboriginal, trying to find answers to a teenage girl’s death in a small town.

Her six Australian films are: Radiance (1998), One Night the Moon (2001), Bran Nue Dae (2010), Mabo (2012 TV), Redfern Now: Promise Me (2015 TV) and Jasper Jones (2017). (Australian films in red)

Further reading: More info: Rachel at Wikipedia, Rachel at IMDb, The Encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Senses of Cinema 2013 Profile

11. Bill Bennett

BennettBill Bennett was born in London in 1953, and came to Brisbane as a child. He has made a great variety of films in Australia and the US, but his best film was made in the 1990s. He became a reporter for the ABC in the 70s, winning Logies for TV reporting and documentary-making. He made two TV movies in the early 80s, and then six feature films, mainly dramas and comedies during the 80s. A Street To Die was nominated for best film at the AFI awards, Bennet was nominated for Best Director, and Chris Haywood won the AFI Best Actor award for the film. In the 90s, Bennett made the road movie Spider and Rose in 1994, with Ruth Cracknell and Simon Bossell, before going to the US to make Two If By Sea, with Sandra Bullock. In 1996, Bennet made his most-acclaimed film, Kiss or Kill, with Frances O’Connor and Matt Day, as a couple of petty criminals fleeing across the desert. The film won the AFI awards for Best Film and Best Director. Bennett then made a World War Two film set in New Guinea, In A Savage Land, before making an American thriller Tempted. In 2002, he made his most successful Australian film, the genial comedy, The Nugget. His last film was the unsuccessful horror film, Uninhabited, in 2010.

His films are: A Street to Die (1985), Backlash (1986), Dear Cardholder (1987), Jilted (1988), Malpractice (1989), Mortgage (1989), Spider and Rose (1994), Two if by Sea (1995), Kiss or Kill (1996), In a Savage Land (1999), Tempted (2000), The Nugget (2002), and Uninhabited (2010). (Australian films in red)

More info: Bill Bennett at Wikipedia, Bill Bennett at IMDb,

12. Gregor Jordan

Gregor.jordan2Gregor Jordan was born in 1966 in Victoria. After directing some TV series and short films in the 90s, Jordan made his feature film debut in 1999, with Two Hands, a crime-comedy-thriller which Jordan also wrote, about a young man on the run from some criminals. The film, which starred Heath Ledger, Rose Byrne and Bryan Brown, won five AFI awards, including Best Film, Best Director and best screenplay. The film also made $5.5million at the box office, making it the most popular Australian film of the year. Jordan then made a satirical comedy about US soldiers in Germany, Buffalo Soldiers in 2001, with Joaquin Phoenix, which was a critical success but failed at the box office. Next he made Ned Kelly in 2003, with Heath Ledger starring as the iconic Australian bushranger. Gregor and Ledger received AFI nominations for Best Director and Best Actor awards, and the film made over $8 million domestically. Gregor then made two US thrillers, The Informers (2008) and Unthinkable (2010), but these divided critics and lost money. Since then he has directed TV series.

His films are: Two Hands (1999), Buffalo Soldiers (2001), Ned Kelly (2003), The Informers (2008) and Unthinkable (2010) (Australian films in red)

More info: Gregor Jordan at Wikipedia, Gregor Jordan at IMDb,

13. Rowan Woods

Rowanwoods.2Rowan Woods was born in Sydney in 1959, and has mainly worked as a television director. In 1998, he directed The Boys, a gritty drama written by Stephen Sewell about a group of brothers who fight and argue until they eventually commit an awful crime. The film, starring David Wenham, Toni Collette, Lynette Curran, John Polson and Anthony Hayes. The film was nominated for 12 AFI awards and won the Best Director Award for Woods, the Best Screenplay for Sewell and supporting acting awards for Collette and Polson. Woods then made several TV movies and series before making his second feature, Little Fish in 2005, another gritty crime drama starring Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill. The film was nominated for 13 Australian Film Institute Awards, and won five including Best Actor (Hugo Weaving), Best Actress (Cate Blanchett) and Best Supporting Actress (Noni Hazlehurst). The film made $3.8 million at the box office. Woods then made one film in the US before returning to Australia and making two fine TV movies for the ABC: 3 Acts of Murder and The Broken Shore. Since then he has been directing a number of high profile Australian TV series, including Rake, Nowhere Boys and The Kettering Incident.

His films are: 1998 The Boys, 2000 Dogwoman: Dead Dog Walking (TV Movie), 2004 Fireflies (TV Movie), 2005 Little Fish, 2008 Winged Creatures, 2009 3 Acts of Murder (TV Movie), and 2013 The Broken Shore (TV Movie). (Australian films in red)

More info: Rowan Woods at Wikipedia, Rowan Woods at IMDb,

14. Michael Rymer

Rymer 3Michael Rymer was born in 1963 in Melbourne. His debut film in 1995, Angel Baby, was about two schizophrenics who fall in love and starred John Lynch and Jacqueline McKenzie. The film won most of the AFI major awards that year: Best Film, Best Director for Rymer, Best Screenplay, also for Rymer and Best Actor and Actress for Lynch and McKenzie. The win saw Rymer go to Hollywood, where he made the comedy Allie & Me in 1997, the thriller In Too Deep in 1999 and the drama Perfume in 2001. In 2002, Rymer was chosen to direct Queen of the Damned, an adaptation of one Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles novels. The film was made in Melbourne and, despite poor reviews, was a box office hit, making 45 million. Following this Rymer stayed in the US to produce and direct the popular sci-fi TV series Battlestar Galactica, as well as directing three TV films and other TV series. In 2011, Rymer made a third Australian film, Face to Face, an adaptation of a David Williamson play about a dramatic conflict resolution session, starring Sigrid Thornton and Vince Colossimo. In 2017, after working on more American TV series, Rymer returned to Australia to direct two episodes of the Picnic At Hanging Rock TV series.

His films are: 1995 Angel Baby, 1997 Allie & Me, 1999 In Too Deep, 2001 Perfume, 2002 Queen of the Damned, 2006 A House Divided (TV Movie), 2009 Revolution (TV Movie), 2011 17th Precinct (TV Movie) and 2011 Face to Face. (Australian films in red)

More info: Michael Rymer at Wikipedia, Michael Rymer at IMDb,

15. Craig Monahan

cRAIG m (2)Craig Monahan studied at Australian Film, Television & Radio School and has made three feature films, plus a full-length documentary. In 1989, Monahan wrote and directed Animated, a documentary about the history of animation in Australia. In 1998, he made his debut drama film, The Interview, with Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. The film, also written by Monahan, is about a tense interview between a tough policeman and a nervy suspect, and won the 1998 AFI Best Film Award and Weaving won the Best Actor award. Monahan made another film, Peaches, with Weaving in 2004. This film about a young woman and an older man at a peach-canning factory on the Murray River, while interesting was less successful than Monahan’s first, and it was another 10 years before he made Healing, again with Weaving as well as a host of local stars including Don Hany and Anthony Hayes.

His films are: The Interview (1998), Peaches (2004) and Healing (2014). (Australian films in red)

More info: Craig at Wikipedia, Craig at IMDb,

16. Peter Duncan

duncanpeter_2008Peter Duncan was born in 1964 in Sydney. He has made six films, all of which he also wrote. He made his film debut in 1996 with Children of the Revolution, a comedy which starred Judy Davis as an Australian Communist who possibly had a child with Stalin. The film was well received critically and Davis won the AFI Best Actress Award for her performance, but the film wasn’t a box office hit. Nevertheless, Duncan has gone on to create a number of interesting films, including the devilish comedy A Little Bit of Soul, with Geoffrey Rush; the biopic of an Australian composer, Passion, with Richard Roxburgh; and the comedy about business corruption, Hell Has Harbour Views, with Matt Day. His 2007 film, Unfinished Sky, about a farmer who helps a runaway refugee woman, was also well-regarded, winning AFI awards for Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Monic Hendrickx) and Best Actor (William McInnes). Since 2008, Duncan has co-created and co-produced the award-winning ABC TV comedy series Rake which has run for four seasons so far from 2010 to 2016, and for which Duncan has written over 17 of the 32 episodes and directed six.

His films are: Children of the Revolution (1996), A Little Bit of Soul (1998), Passion (1999), Hell Has Harbour Views (2005), Unfinished Sky (2007) and Valentine’s Day (TV Movie) (2008). (Australian films in red)

More info: Peter at Wikipedia, Peter at IMDb,

17. Shirley Barrett

Shirley-Barrett-colour-author-pic-high-res-credit-Karl-Schwerdtfeger (2)Shirley Barrett was born in Melbourne in 1961, and has made three films, all of which she also wrote. She directed several TV series in the 90s and made some short films before making her debut in 1996 with Love Serenade, a comedy about two sisters competing for the affections of the new man in their tiny country town. The film won the Camera D’Or for best first feature of 1996 at Cannes. She rejected offers to go to Hollywood due to her young family, a decision she later said she regretted. Instead, she has made two more films in Australia, both of which, though interesting, failed to live up to her first film. Since 2010 she has returned to directing television series and has written one novel from a screenplay she wasn’t able to finance.

Her 3 films are: Love Serenade (1996), Walk the Talk (2000) and South Solitary (2010). (Australian films in red)

More info: Shirley at Wikipedia, Shirley at IMDb, SMH interview

18. John Ruane

Ruane3 (2)John Ruane was born in 1952 in Victoria. He attended Swinburne Film School in the early ’70s, and his first short film, Queensland, won the AFI Best Short Film award in 1976. He made two films in the 1980s, including his adaptation of Raymond Carver’s story Feathers, and then adapted and directed Boyd Oxlade’s Death in Brunswick in 1991. This film, a black comedy with Sam Neill and John Clarke, was nominated for five AFI awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor, but lost out in the awards to Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Proof. The film was fairly successful at the box office, making $2.7 million (equivalent to $5 million in 2016). For his next film, Ruane adapted Tim Winton’s That Eye, the Sky, a coming-of-age story involving a paralysed father, in 1994. The film was again nominated for seven AFI awards, but only won the Best Supporting Actress for Amanda Douge. Ruane’s last feature for the 90s was the charming rom-com/drama, Dead Letter Office, with Miranda Otto in 1998.

His films are: Hanging Together (1985) (TV movie), Feathers (1987), Death in Brunswick (1991), That Eye, the Sky (1994), Dead Letter Office (1998), The Love of Lionel’s Life (2000) (TV movie). (Australian films in red)

More info: John Ruane at Wikipedia, John Ruane at IMDb,

19. Mark Joffe

Mark Joffe (3)Mark Joffe was born in 1956 in Belarus (USSR), and is known for finding humour in unlikely situations. He started directing TV shows in the 1980s, and in 1987 Joffe won the Australian Film Institute award for Best Direction in Television. He made his film debut with Grievous Bodily Harm, a crime thriller with Colin Friels, John Waters, and Bruno Lawrence in 1988. Though liked by critics (David Stratton gave it five stars), it wasn’t successful financially. Joffe’s next film was the comedy-drama, Spotswood, in 1992, with Anthony Hopkins and Ben Mendelsohn, and it fared better at the box office and was nominated for the AFI Best Film award. In 1996, Joffe made a delightful comedy, Cosi, about an opera produced in a mental home, with an all-star cast including Ben Mendelsohn, Barry Otto, and Toni Collette. This was even more successful at the box office. He then directed a moderately successful Irish/US film The Matchmaker in 1997 with Janeane Garofalo, before returning to Australia to make his most successful film The Man Who Sued God in 2001 with Billy Connelly and Judy Davis. Since then Joffe has returned to Australian TV directing numerous series and one TV film.

His films are: Grievous Bodily Harm (1988), Spotswood (1992), Cosi (1996), The Matchmaker (1997), The Man Who Sued God (2001) and Dripping in Chocolate (TV Movie 2012). (Australian films in red)

More info: Mark Joffe at Wikipedia, Mark Joffe at IMDb,

20. Geoffrey Wright

Geoff Wright (2)Geoffrey Wright was born in Melbourne in 1959 and is known for his gritty urban films. He attended the Swinburne Film and Television School. After directing the one-hour short feature Lover Boy in 1989, Wright directed Romper Stomper, for which he wrote the screenplay, in 1992. This film, which starred Russell Crowe as the leader of a racist skin-head gang, established and has largely defined Wright’s subsequent career, but divided critics over its graphic depictions of violence. The film was nominated for nine AFI awards including Best Film and Best Director, and Russell Crowe won the Best Actor Award for his performance. The film also did well at the box office, making over $3 million. Wright’s next film, the suburban thriller film Metal Skin, was released in 1994, and starred Ben Mendelsohn, but was less successful critically and financially than Wright’s first film. In 2000, Wright directed a US horror film Cherry Falls, before making his final film, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in 2006.

His Films are: 1989 Lover Boy, 1992 Romper Stomper, 1994 Metal Skin, 2000 Cherry Falls, 2006 Macbeth. (Australian films in red)

More info: Geoffrey Wright at Wikipedia, Geoffrey Wright at IMDb

21. Chris Noonan

Tribeca Cinema Series Hosts Chris Noonan was born in Sydney in 1952. He made documentaries in the 1970s, including the award-winning documentary Stepping Out in 1980. During the 1980s he directed several popular TV mini-series. In 1995, he directed his first feature, the hit film Babe which he co-wrote with producer George Miller. The film made over $250 million worldwide, including $36 million in Australia (equivalent to $61 million in 2016), making it the most successful film of the decade. Noonan was nominated for the Academy Best Director and Best Screenplay awards. In 2006, he also directed the Beatrix Potter biopic Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger.

His films are: Cass (TV Movie) (1978), Stepping Out (TV) (1980), The Cowra Breakout (TV mini-series) (1984), The Riddle of the Stinson (TV Movie) (1987), Vietnam (TV mini-series) (1987), Police State (TV Movie) (1989), Babe (1995),  and Miss Potter (2006). (Australian films in red)

More info: Chris Noonan at Wikipedia, Chris Noonan at IMDb

22. David Caesar

David CaesarDavid Caesar was born in 1963 in NSW and grew up on the NSW south coast. Caesar is known as a writer and director of tough, but funny and tender working class stories. He graduated from the Australian Film Television and Radio School in 1987. He has been making films since the 1990s, but his most significant films were made in the 2000s. Caesar made his first film, Greenkeeping, in 1992, about a greenkeeper at a bowling club in Sydney’s western suburbs. His second film, 1996’s Idiot Box, about two unemployed layabouts who decide to rob a bank, starred Ben Mendelsohn and Jeremy Sims, and was more popular, and Caesar was nominated for the AFI Best Director Award for the film.

His best films were made in the 2000s. Mullet, made in 2001, is another film about a working class bloke, again played by Ben Mendelsohn, and was nominated for five AFI awards, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay. In 2002 he made the entertaining period crime drama, Dirty Deeds, with Bryan Brown, Toni Collette, John Goodman, Sam Neill and Sam Worthington, was his most successful, making $5 milllion at the box office. His entertaining 2009 Prime Mover, with Mendelsohn as a crook menacing a young truckie, combines romance, crime, comedy and surreal elements, but was less successful. Between films, Caesar has worked consistently as an Australian TV director for over 20 years.

Films: Greenkeeping (1992), Idiot Box (1996), Mullet (2001), Dirty Deeds (2002), Prime Mover (2009), Nowhere Boys: The Book of Shadows (2016)

More info: David Caesar at Wikipedia, David Caesar at IMDb, Porchlight Films Bio

23. Sue Brooks

Sue BrooksSue Brooks was born in Victoria in 1953. Brooks made her debut with the charming rural comedy Road to Nhill (1997), which received quite good reviews but did not win over all the critics or the box office. Brooks’ next film was an ambitious cross-cultural romantic drama, Japanese Story (2003), starring Toni Collette as a mining geologist who starts a relationship with a married Japanese investor. The film won the 2003 AFI awards for best film and best direction, and Collette won the best actress award.

Brooks then directed a somewhat disappointing local comedy, funded by Disney, Subdivision (2009), with Gary Sweet and an array of TV actors. Brooks’ most recent film is one she wrote herself, Looking for Grace (2015), with Radha Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh. The film was generally liked by critics and selected for the Venice Film Festival.

Films: Road to Nhill (1997), Japanese Story (2003), Subdivision (2009), Looking for Grace (2015).

More info: Sue Brooks at Wikipedia, Sue Brooks at IMDb

Honorable Mentions – other directors who made at least one significant feature in the 1990s (chronologically)

A. Directors who made films before 1990, but made their most significant features in the 1990s

David Elfick is a producer, writer and director of films and TV. He made a number of documentaries in the 1970s, notably the popular surfing-documentary Crystal Voyager, which premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and made over $100,000. His first dramatic feature film was 1990’s cop-flick Harbour Beat which did not receive a theatrical release and went straight to TV. In 1993 Elfick made the coming-of-age comedy Love in Limbo with Russell Crowe. In 1994 he followed this with No Worries, a drama about a farming kid, and in 1998 made a film with Claudia Karvan as an aspiring Olympic skier who has a terrible accident, Never Tell Me Never. While generally meeting with critical approval, none of Elfick’s non-surfing films were commercially successful, and Elfick returned to his producer work. [IMDb]

Antony J. Bowman has made four films over a 30 year period, of which 1999’s Paperback Hero, a rom-com with a young Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan from Bowman’s own novel, is the best-known. He also made Relatives in 1986, Cappuccino in 1989 and Blackmail in 2017. [IMDb]

Michael Jenkins (born 1946) is an Australian writer, producer and director of TV and films. In the 80s he made three feature films: Rebel, a musical drama set in WW2 starring Matt Dillon, Debra Byrne, and Bryan Brown; Shark’s Paradise (1986), a TV cop movie; and Emerald City (1988), an adaptation of a play by David Williamson, starring John Hargreaves and Nicole Kidman. Though this last film was not terribly successful, it was nominated for five AFI awards. In the 90s, Jenkins made two films. Firstly Sweet Talker in 1991, with Bryan Brown as a con-man who falls in love. Jenkins’ next film, in 1993, was The Heartbreak Kid, with Claudia Karvan as a teacher who has a relationship with a student, played by Alex Dimitriades. This was Jenkins’ most successful film, grossing $2.6 million, and receiving AFI nominations for best film and best director. [IMDb]

Jackie McKimmie wrote and directed the excellent drama/comedy Waiting (1991), with Noni Hazlehurst as a woman about to give birth surrounded by old friends among whom frictions emerge. McKimmie also directed Australian Dream (1987), Breaking Through (1990) and Gino (1994) [IMDb]

James Bogle has made four films, of which In the Winter Dark, an adaptation of a Tim Winton mystery story made in 1998, is the best known. He also made Kadaicha, a horror film, in 1988, Mad Bomber in Love, an experimental slasher flick in 1992, and Closed for Winter, a drama, in 2007. [IMDb]

James Ricketson made three films, of which the last, Blackfellas (aka Day of the Dog), made in 1993, was the most significant. The film was an adaptation of Archie Weller’s 1981 novel The Day of the Dog about two Aboriginal friends. Ricketson won the AFI award for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for the Best Director award, while David Ngoombujarra won the AFI Best Supporting Actor award. Ricketson’s earlier films were the low-budget drama Third Person Plural (1978) and a drama about a prostitute, Candy Regentag (1989). [Wikipedia, IMDb]

B. Directors who made their debut feature in the 1990s (chronologically)


Ray Argall wrote and directed only two films: Return Home (1990) and Eight Ball (1993), but Return Home, the story of a brother’s return to the town he left years before, won the 1990 AFI Best Film award. Argall is better known as a cinematographer and editor. [IMDb, Argall profile]

Jerzy Domaradzki is a Polish director who directed two fine films in Australia in the 1990s: Struck by Lightning, a comedy about a soccer team made up of handicapped people, in 1990 and Lilian’s Story, with Ruth Cracknell and Toni Collette playing a homeless woman when she was young and old, in 1996. Struck by Lightning was nominated for AFI Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay awards in 1990, and Toni Collette won the AFI Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Lilian’s Story. Prior to this he directed many films in Poland in the 70s and 80s, before coming to live in Australia. [IMDb]

John Dingwall is chiefly known as a scriptwriter (most notably of Sunday Too Far Away), but directed two films in the early 1990s: Phobia, a drama about a woman with agoraphobia, in 1990, and The Custodian, a police corruption drama with Anthony LaPaglia, Hugo Weaving and Barry Otto, in 1993. [IMDb]

Aleksi Vellis made two films in the 1990s: the comedy-thriller, Nirvana Street Murder (1990) which soon disappeared despite good reviews, and the detective-comedy The Life of Harry Dare (1995) which was only shown at a film festival and on TV.  Vellis’s most successful film was the ethnic comedy The Wog Boy (2000), based around the wog-comedy star Nick Giannopoulos. This film made over $11 million and is one of the most successful Oz films (domestically) of the new century. [IMDb]

Megan Simpson Huberman wrote and directed Dating the Enemy (1996), an entertaining body-switch rom-com with Guy Pearce and Claudia Karvan. She also directed Alex (1992) about a 15 year-old NZ Olympic hopeful. [IMDb]

Chris Kennedy directed three films: This Won’t Hurt a Bit (1993), Doing Time for Patsy Cline (1997) and A Man’s Gotta Do (2004). Doing Time for Patsy Cline, a road movie with Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh and Matt Day, was particularly well-received, being nominated for the AFI Best Film, Best Direction and Best Screenplay awards. Richard Roxburgh won the AFI Best Actor award for his performance. [IMDb]

Tracey Moffat was the first Aboriginal woman to make a commercially released feature film, beDevil, in 1993. Moffat, known as a visual artist and photographer, made the film consisting three stories of the supernatural, with all Aboriginal actors. The film was shown in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. [IMDb] [Senses of Cinema profile]

David Parker has directed three films: Hercules Returns, a madcap comedy, in 1993, Diana & Me, a rom-com with Toni Collette, in 1997 and The Menkoff Method, a crime-comedy in 2016. Parker is better known as a cinematographer, producer and writer of the Nadia Tass hits Malcolm and The Big Steal, for which he won AFI awards. [IMDb]

Dean Murphy has directed six films in 25 years: starting with the low budget comedies Lex and Rory (1993), and Muggers (2000). Murphy then made two bigger-budget films with Paul Hogan: Strange Bedfellows (2004), where Hogan and Michael Caton pretend to be a gay couple for tax reasons, and Charlie & Boots (2009), where Hogan and Shane Jacobson are a father and son who drive from Victoria to Queensland to go fishing. Murphy then made a likeable biopic about aged runner Cliff Young in Cliffy (2013). Most recently Murphy made a collection of comedians telling jokes in That’s Not My Dog! (2018) [IMDb]

Ana Kokkinos has made four films. In 1994 she made a one-hour feature Only the Brave, a gritty lesbian love story. In 1998 she made her most famous film, Head On, based on the Christos Tsiolkas book Loaded, about the life of a young gay Greek-Australian. The film, starring Alex Dimitriades, was nominated for nine AFI awards, including best film, best director and best actor. After directing several TV shows, Kokkinos made the harrowing thriller The Book of Revelation in 2006. In 2009 Kokkinos made another much-admired film Blessed, about a group of mothers waiting for lost children, starring Frances O’Connor, Miranda Otto, and Deborra-Lee Furness. The film was again nominated for the AFI Best Film award, and Frances O’Connor won the Best Actress award. [IMDb], [Senses of Cinema profile]

Alkinos Tsilimidos made Everynight .. Everynight, a tough prison movie, in 1994, which was nominated for the AFI Best Director and Best Screenplay awards. In 2001, Tsilimidos made the comedy Silent Partner about two mates and a greyhound. He followed this with Tom White in 2004, a drama about an architect starring Colin Friels, which was nominated for 13 Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. Tsilimidos then made Em4Jay in 2006, about two heroin addicts in Melbourne, and Blind Company in 2009, starring Colin Friels as a dying man. [IMDb]

Michael Blakemore (born Sydney 1928) directed the film Country Life in 1994 which was a very entertaining version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, transferred to an Australian setting, starring Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, John Hargreaves and Kerry Fox. Blackmore was principally an actor. [Wikipedia, IMDb]

Bill Young directed the crime-black comedy The Roly Poly Man (1994) with Paul Chubb. It was his only film as director, but he has acted in dozens of Australian films and TV shows. [IMDb]

Debut 1995-99

George Whaley directed Dad and Dave: On Our Selection in 1995, based on Steele Rudd’s classic 19th-century comic stories. Whaley was principally a TV and film actor but also directed a couple of Ruth Park TV mini-series in the 1980s and some TV movies in the early 90s. [George Whaley at Auslit, George Whaley at IMDb].

Margot Nash made one feature film, Vacant Possession, in 1995, about a woman returning to her old home in Botany Bay remembering the past; one TV movie, Call Me Mum, in 2006 and a couple of documentary films. Vacant Possession as nominated for four AFI awards including Best Director and Best Screenplay for Nash. [IMDb]

Gerard Lee has made only one film, the cross-dressing teen rom-com All Men Are Liars in 1995. He is better known as a writer of books, and scripts, particularly for Jane Campion with whom he has worked on the award-winning TV series Top of the Lake. [IMDb]

Emma-Kate Croghan directed two well-liked films, Love and Other Catastrophes (1996), a delightful rom-com with Frances O’Connor and Matt Day, and Strange Planet (1999), another fun rom-com with Claudia Karvan, Naomi Watts and Alice Garner. [EKC at Wikipedia, IMDb]

Nick Parsons has only directed one feature, Dead Heart in 1996, based on his play of the same name. It is a moving drama on race-relations in outback Australia. He is from Sydney and is chiefly known for his work in theatre writing and directing, as well as for television. [IMDb]

Clara Law was a director in Hong Kong before coming to Australia and she has made two Australian films. The first, Floating Life, a comedy about a Hong Kong family who moves to Australia, was made in 1996. The film was nominated for several AFI awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. Law’s second Australian film, The Goddess of 1967, was made in 2000 and is a surreal outback road movie with a Japanese tourist and a deaf young woman, played by Rose Byrne. Law also made a powerful documentary about Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers, Letters to Ali, in 2004. She has since returned to making Chinese language films in Taiwan. [IMDb]

Cherie Nowlan made her debut feature film in 1997 with Thank God He Met Lizzie, a sophisticated rom-com with Cate Blanchett, Frances O’Connor and Richard Roxburgh (Blanchett won the AFI Best Supporting Actress award for the film). After this Nowlan worked in television on several series and made two TV crime-based films, before making her second feature Clubland in 2007, a gentle comedy about a club singer and her adolescent son. Since then, Nowlan has returned to television directing where she has worked extensively, first in Australia and since 2013 in the US. [IMDb] [com]

Samantha Lang directed three films in the 90s and early 200s: The Well (1997), a gothic drama with Miranda Otto and Pamela Rabe, The Monkey’s Mask (2000), a lesbian detective thriller, and The Idol (2002), a French-language romance set in Paris. Pamela Rabe won the AFI Best Actress Award for her performance in The Well. Since 2002, Lang has worked as a television director [IMDb]

Stavros Kazantzidis (aka Stavros Efthymiou) directed three likeable comedies and wrote two others for Emma-Kate Croghan (above). Kazantzidis wrote and directed his most successful film, True Love and Chaos, in 1997, a road movie with Miranda Otto and Hugo Weaving. Then he directed a multi-cultural Russian/Jewish rom-com set in Bondi, Russian Doll in 2001 with Hugo Weaving. Finally, he directed a slapstick comedy about the racing industry, Horseplay in 2003. [IMDb]

Steven Vidler made one film, Blackrock in 1997, a film about the investigation of a group of surfers accused of rape, which was nominated for the AFI Best Film Award. Vidler is best known as a popular actor in films and TV [IMDb]

John Curran who was born in the US and moved to Australia in his twenties, made his debut film, Praise, in Australia in 1998. The film, a love story between a poor young couple in a dead-end town, starred Sacha Horler and Peter Fenton. Horler won the AFI Best Actress Award, and the film was nominated for the AFI best film and best director awards. Curran went on to make three American films in the 2000s: We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004), The Painted Veil (2006), and Stone (2010). In 2013, he returned to Australia to make Tracks, a version of Robyn Davidson’s memoir about her crossing of Western Australia on foot with only camels. The film, starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, made almost $5million worldwide, and received an AACTA nomination for best film. [IMDb]

David Swann directed a top Christmas comedy Crackers in 1998. He is usually a TV actor and director. [David Swann at IMDb]

John Polson has made four films, of which Siam Sunset, a comedy adventure about an accident-prone Brit visiting Australia, made in 1999 was the most successful. Siam Sunset was nominated for the AFI Best Film and Best Screenplay awards in 1999. Polson also directed Swimfan in 2002, Hide and Seek, a US horror film with Robert de Niro, in 2005 and Tenderness, a US crime-thriller with Russell Crowe, in 2009. Polson is well known as an actor, and won the AFI Best Supporting Actor award in 1998 for The Boys. In recent years he has been directing US TV series. [IMDb]

Ted Emery has directed a number of popular comedy films including The Craic, a madcap roadtrip in Australia with Irish comic Jimeoin, in 1999. This film made over $5 million at the box office (equivalent to over $8 million today). He also directed The Honourable Wally Norman in 2003 and Kath & Kimderella, a spin-off feature from the popular TV comedy series, in 2012. Emery is best known as a director and producer of popular Australian TV comedy series, from The D-Generation and Acropolis Now in the 80s to Fast Forward, Full Frontal and The Micallef Show in the 90s to Kath and Kim in the 2000s. [IMDb]

Christina Andreef, from NZ, wrote and directed only one film, Soft Fruit, a comedy about siblings who return to care for their dying mother, in 1999. The film was nominated for AFI Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay awards in 1999. [IMDb]

Alan White has made four films so far. His first was Erskineville Kings in 1999, which starred Hugh Jackman as one of two feuding brothers. He has also made Risk, a crime-thriller, in 2000, Broken, a thriller made in the US, in 2006 and Reclaim, a US crime-adventure, in 2014. [IMDb]

Davida Allen wrote and directed the accomplished rom-com Feeling Sexy (1999) with Susie Porter. It was her only film.

Pip Karmel wrote and directed Me, Myself, I (1999), a nice rom-com with Rachel Griffiths. It was Karmel’s only feature film. [IMDb]

The 1990s at the Australian Box Office

The Australian box office figures for the 1990s revealed that, although the hits were not as huge as the 1980s, the majority of the most successful films were made by the new directors of the 1990s.  Here are the top twelve Oz 90s films at the Australian box office (the last figure in round brackets is the equivalent in 2016 dollars; the figure in square brackets is the all-time ranking):

  1. Babe (Chris Noonan/George Miller)   (1995)  $36,776,544 [2] ($61,784,594)
  2. Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann) (1992)  $21,760,400 [11]  ($39,603,928)
  3. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Stephen Elliot)  (1994)  $16,459,245  [16] ($28,803,679)
  4. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) (PJ Hogan) $15,765,571  [19] ($27,589,749)
  5. The Piano (Jane Campion)  (1993)  $11,240,484  [25] ($20,120,466)
  6. The Castle (Rob Sitch)  (1997)  $10,326,428  [32] ($16,832,078)
  7. Shine (Scott Hicks)  (1996)  $10,167,416  [33] ($16,832,078)
  8. Babe: Pig in the City (George Miller) (1998)  $7,771,751  [43] ($12,590,237)
  9. Lightning Jack (Hogan/ Simon Wincer)  (1994)  $6,439,819  [51] ($11,269,683)
  10. Reckless Kelly (Yahoo Serious)  (1993)  $5,444,534  [62] ($9,745,716)
  11. Two Hands (Gregor Jordan) (1999)  $5,478,485  [69] ($8,710,791)
  12. The Craic (Ted Emery)  (1999)  $5,265,935  [71] $8,372,837)

The Ozflicks Top 40 Australian Films of the 1990s

  1. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) (P.J. Hogan)
  2. Proof (1991) (Jocelyn Moorhouse)
  3. Strictly Ballroom (1992) (Baz Luhrmann)
  4. Bad Boy Bubby (1993) (Rolf de Heer)
  5. Two Hands (1999) (Gregor Jordan)
  6. Shine (1996) (Scott Hicks)
  7. The Castle (1997) (Rob Sitch)
  8. Dead Heart (1996) (Nick Parsons)
  9. Love Serenade (1996) (Shirley Barrett)
  10. The Interview (1998) (Craig Monahan)
  11. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) (Stephan Elliott)
  12. The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992) (Gillian Armstrong)
  13. Children of the Revolution (1996) (Peter Duncan)
  14. Thank God He Met Lizzie (1997) (Cherie Nowlan)
  15. Country Life (1994) (Michael Blakemore)
  16. Dead Letter Office (1998) (John Ruane)
  17. Cosi (1996) (Mark Joffe)
  18. The Big Steal (1990) (Nadia Tass)
  19. Kiss or Kill (1997) (Bill Bennett)
  20. Love and Other Catastrophes (1996) (Emma-Kate Croghan)
  21. Lilian’s Story (1996) (Jerzy Domaradzki)
  22. Oscar and Lucinda (1997) (Gillian Armstrong)
  23. Crackers (1998) (David Swann)
  24. Babe (1995) (Chris Noonan/George Miller)
  25. Holy Smoke (1999) (Jane Campion)
  26. Dad and Dave: On Our Selection (1995) (George Whaley)
  27. Flirting (1991) (John Duigan)
  28. Radiance (1998) (Rachel Perkins)
  29. The Nostradamus Kid (1993) (Bob Ellis)
  30. Dating the Enemy (1996) (Megan Simpson Huberman)
  31. Doing Time For Patsy Cline (1997) (Chris Kennedy)
  32. Death in Brunswick (1991) (John Ruane)
  33. The Heartbreak Kid (1993) (Michael Jenkins)
  34. Sirens (1993) (John Duigan)
  35. The Boys (1998) (Rowan Woods)
  36. Me, Myself, I (1999) (Pip Karmel)
  37. A Little Bit of Soul (1998) (Peter Duncan)
  38. Waiting (1991) (Jackie McKimmie)
  39. True Love and Chaos (1996) (Stavros Andonis Efthymiou)
  40. Feeling Sexy (1999) (Davida Allen)

Further Reading:

Tom O’Regan, Beyond ‘Australian film’? Australian cinema in the 1990s



8 Comments Add yours

  1. William says:

    Hey, nice post!
    1. Love Serenade (1996) (Shirley Barrett)
    2. True Love and Chaos (1996) (Stavros Andonis Efthymiou)
    3. Flirting (1991) (John Duigan)
    4. The Nostradamus Kid (1993) (Bob Ellis)
    5. Praise (1998) (John Curran)
    6. Bad Boy Bubby (1993) (Rolf de Heer)
    7. Death in Brunswick (1991) (John Ruane)
    8. The Boys (1998) (Rowan Woods)
    9. The Interview (1998) (Craig Monahan)
    10. Shine (1996) (Scott Hicks)
    I made my own top ten Aussie movies list I love the most from the 90’s, if you’ll like know?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ozflicks says:

      Hi William, Thanks for reading. I love your top 10! All wonderful non-mainstream films
      The only one I didn’t like much was Praise – I know I should have liked since it’s got the great Sacha Horler plus Peter Fenton, the muso who was OK in the under-appreciated ABC TV series Love is a Four-Letter Word (did you see that?), and it won Sacha an AFI best actress award. It was all a bit downbeat for me somehow when I saw it – maybe I should give it another chance.
      Great to hear from you.


      1. William says:

        Oh yeah, they’re all non-mainstream films too but I guess what would you think I would dig watching after reading, listening to some of the music I love on my blog? I did see bits of Love is a Four-Letter Word at the time but missed parts of it too but should have a look for it and watch it all now. I loved Fenton’s band Crow back in the day, I think I also still have the soundtrack somewhere and even read the novel based on the movie and got into all of Andrew McGahan’s books by way of that film.
        I would love to see, read write-ups by you and what you have to say and think about each of all these Aussie movies sometime, you know? But really enjoy these huge epic blog posts you do too! Keep up the great work! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. ozflicks says:

          I did expect something non-mainstream from you after all the great exotica on your blog. There are particular pleasures in appreciating the unappreciated gems in music and film.

          Andrew McGahan slipped under my radar somehow (although the name sounds somehow familiar) as he started at a very non-fiction stage of my life. Now that I’m reading fiction again I’ll look him up. Thanks for the heads-up.

          I was working on writing individual pieces about all the films a few months back, but got too busy elsewhere. But I will eventually, hopefully.

          Love is a Four-Letter Word has been hard to find as it was never released or rebroadcast as far as I know, though it may be accessible somewhere. The Courthouse became my local a few years later when I lived in the area.

          Liked by 1 person

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