Notable Australian Movies

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  • Soldiers of the Cross (1900) - Made by the 'Limelight Department' of the Salvation Army in Melbourne, this was less a feature film than a series of scenes illustrating the deaths of Christian martyrs. It was part of a multi-media recruitment drive. Five thousand feet of film and 200 hand painted glass slides. The slides still exist, the film is presumed lost.
  • The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) - With a running time of 70 minutes this has a good claim to the title of first feature-length film ever made. It tells the story of Australia's most notorious outlaw gang. When an army of police was sent to capture them a legendary shootout ensued in which the gang members fought in crude iron armour and helmets they made themselves. The leader of the gang, Ned Kelly, was hanged in Melbourne twenty years before this film was made. It is known that the film turned a profit for its makers, the Tait family of Melbourne, and was briefly banned in some parts of the state of Victoria. Unfortunately, the film is now presumed lost except for five or so minutes of out-takes.
  • Note: An estimated 260 feature films were made in Australia between 1906 and 1931. Only 67 are still known to exist, and many of these are incomplete.
  • The Sentimental Bloke (1919) - Based on a book-length poem (published 1915) telling of a working-class romance, this very charming film is easily the best to have survived from Australia's silent era. Rescued from a fire in 1953, the only known copy was found to be incomplete when a different cut was found in the vaults of George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, in 1973 (where it had been mislabeled 'The Sentimental Blonde'). The two versions were used to make a complete version which was released to great acclaim in 1993.
  • Robbery Under Arms (1920)
  • For the Term of His Natural Life (1927)
  • The Cheaters (1930)
  • On Our Selection(1932) - A 'selection' in the relevant sense was a plot of land selected by the recipient of a land grant in the early years of Australian settlement. So the title of this movie translates as On Our Farm. This was the first in a popular series of comedies about the Rudd family, the main characters being 'Dad' and his son Dave. Although quite funny for their time, these movies perpetuated the stereotype of the uncultured and intellectually challenged country yokel.
  • Strike Me Lucky (1934)
  • White Death (1936)
  • Broken Melody (1937)
  • Let George Do It (1938)
  • Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940)
  • Kokoda Front Line! (1942)
  • A Yank in Australia (1942)
  • The Rats of Tobruk (1944)
  • The Overlanders (1946)
  • Captain Thunderbolt (1953)
  • King of the Coral Sea (1953)
  • Jedda (1955)
  • On the Beach (1959)
  • Summer of the Seventeeth Doll (1959)
  • The Sundowners (1960)
  • They're a Weird Mob (1966)
  • Age of Consent (1969)
  • Boobs a Lot (1970) - Very memorable this. Nowadays it would be called a music video. The title song (lyric: "I really like boobs a lot!"...etc.), is enhanced by a string of nakedly gratuitous shots of bare boobs - nice variety - and that's it. Thanks for the mammaries. Note: throughout the seventies, movies made by Australians tended to have strong sexual overtones. No doubt this was in reaction to the strict censorship of previous decades.
  • Wake in Fright (1971) - Fade in: the point of view hovers over a dead straight railway track that diminishes to nothing at the far distant horizon. A small schoolhouse beside the track is the only other thing in view. A slow 360 degree turn shows nothing in any direction but the track and the schoolhouse. A sense of the dreadful isolation of life in Australia's 'outback' is thus powerfully evoked. This is perhaps the most memorable opening shot of any movie I've ever seen. The movie tells the story of the schoolhouse's reluctant British teacher and his dealings with the mostly menacing local populace. One of the best movies made in Australia by an overseas crew (with both overseas and local actors).
  • Walkabout (1971) - Quite possibly the best movie yet made in Australia by a non-Australian director (Nicholas Roeg). Stars British actress Jenny Agutter and Australian aboriginal actor David Gulpilil. The title refers to the aboriginal rite of passage by which a boy becomes a man of the tribe. For a certain number of days he must walk about in the desert using the survival skills he has been taught. This movie is highly regarded worldwide. I have it on dvd.
  • The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)
  • Alvin Purple (1973)
  • The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
  • Stone (1974) - This is Australia's most notable contribution to the motorcycle gang movie genre. Stone is a cop who joins a gang to do an undercover investigation of criminal activity. The movie apparently met with the approval of the real gangs. I have this on dvd.
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • Sunday Too Far Away (1975)
  • Caddie (1976)
  • The Devil's Playground (1976)
  • Don's Party (1976)
  • The Fourth Wish (1976)
  • The Last Wave (1977)
  • The Picture Show Man (1977)
  • The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978)
  • Newsfront (1978)
  • The Last of the Knucklemen (1979)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • My Brilliant Career (1979)
  • The Odd Angry Shot (1979) - Praised as a realistic movie about what it was like to fight in the Vietnam War. That's right, Aussies fought and died there too.
  • Tim (1979)
  • 'Breaker' Morant - During the Boer War (19th century, South Africa) three Australian officers are charged with murdering prisoners. Were they guilty or were they scapegoats for British atrocities? Based on real events. 'Breaker' was the nickname of one of the accused, who was an expert breaker of wild horses.
  • Gallipoli (1981)
  • The Man From Snowy River (1982)
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
  • Careful, He Might Hear You (1983)
  • Man of Flowers (1983)
  • Phar Lap (1983)
  • Bliss (1985)
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
  • Crocodile Dundee (1986)
  • Travelling North (1987)
  • Malcolm (1986)
  • Ground Zero (1987)
  • Shame (1987)
  • The Year My Voice Broke (1987) - Widely liked story of young love and the eternal triangle in rural Australia.
  • Cane Toads: An Unnatural History - Documentary tells how these poisonous amphibians were deliberatley let loose in Queensland's sugarcane growing region in the hope that they would destroy a troublesome bug there. They did not. What's more, the toads are gradually spreading across the northern half of the continent, poisoning any native wildlife that eats them. D'oh! But this country has a history of recklessly importing foreign pests. Similar documentaries have been made about rabbits (in the mid-twentieth-century bunnies practically owned Australia until biological warfare was used) and about a cactus called Prickly Pear that eventually covered a huge area and also required bio-war for its riddance. We have yet to develop a bio-weapon against the toads.
  • Celia (1988)
  • A Cry in the Dark (1988) - Based on a notorious true case in which a mother was accused of murdering her baby and claimed that a dingo (wild dog) had taken the infant. Known under the title 'Evil Angels' in Australia.
  • Young Einstein (1988)
  • Dead Calm (1989)
  • An Angel at My Table (1990)
  • Death in Brunswick (1991)
  • Flirting (1991) - Worthy sequel to The Year My Voice Broke (1987).
  • Proof (1991)
  • The Last Days of Chez Nous (1992)
  • Romper Stomper (1992)
  • Spotswood (1992)
  • Strictly Ballroom (1992)
  • Bad Boy Bubby (1993)
  • The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
  • Eternity (1994) Remember the international tv hookup that took place on New Years Eve 2000? If you do you may remember that the Australian segment of the show ended in a huge fireworks display on Sydney Harbour during which the word 'Eternity' was spelled out in letters of fire on the side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. No doubt this was downright mystifying to non-Australian viewers, but to Australians it was a moving tribute to one very remarkable man. Six years before, this 56 minute documentary told that man's story. His name was Arthur Stace. He was a reformed drunk who apparently underwent a profound religious rebirth after military service in Europe during WW1. He eventually gave expression to his newfound belief by decorating the sidewalks of Sydney with large copperplate renditions of the word 'Eternity' in colored chalk and crayon. He did this, most every day, for about 40 years through the thirties, forties, and fifties. It has been estimated that he wrote the word more than half a million times. He and his work eventually became among the most familiar and loved icons of the city. He died in 1967 aged in his eighties, but the city never forgot him. Whether you are religious or not, you have to stand in awe of such dedication.
  • Muriel's Wedding (1994)
  • Sirens (1994)
  • Babe (1995)
  • Mr. Reliable (1996) - Very amusing movie tells the true story of an escaped prisoner who fended off a police siege by holding his girlfriend 'hostage' in her house. Such events were quite rare in the 1950s when this occurred, and the police were at something of a loss regarding procedure. The siege was a very big news item for several days. The couple's names were Wally Mellish and Beryl Muddle. No, really.
  • Shine (1996)
  • Chopper (2000)
  • The Dish (2000)
  • Pitch Black (2000)
  • Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)
  • Lantana (2001)
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
  • Harvie Krumpet (2003) Won 2004 Oscar for Best Short Film, Animated, plus 15 other international awards.
  • Ned Kelly (2003)
  • Look Both Ways (2005)
  • The Proposition (2005)
  • Wolf Creek (2005)
Author Comments: 

Jim, I plan to add comments about several more of these movies eventually.

great list

i have also posted a response to your question, on my "Rushmore Beleives in" Here

Great list! Lots of movies I'm embarrassed to say I've never heard of, and a few I don't immediately associate with Australia, even if some are obviously Australian as you watch them (The Man From Snowy River, Strictly Ballroom, Babe, Pitch Black, and Lantana).

My barber loved Phar Lap, but I haven't been able to find a copy 'round these parts.

I may be wrong, but I thought 'The Piano' was also an Australian movie?

Nope, that would be a New Zealand film :-)

Aside from the Mad Max trilogy, the only Australian movies I recall seeing are Muriel's Wedding (rather enjoyed it), Malcolm (enjoyed it quite a bit), The Castle (hilariously silly), On The Beach (won't bother to see again), Gallipoli (great movie), and finally, Welcome to Woop Woop, easily one of the oddest movies I've ever seen. I don't even know if I really liked it, but I would like to see it again.

The one thing that strikes me about every single Australian film except Gallipoli, is that there isn't a normal person in any of them! They're all nuts!

That's us, we're a weird mob.

Glad you liked most of the Aussie flicks you've seen.

Thanks a lot for the list. I'll try watching some of those in the future.
A great film from Australia that isn't on your list is imo Mad Dog Morgan by Phillipe Mora, starring Dennis Hopper.

That's an excellent + instructive list! A few missing notables: Flirting, Man of Flowers, Celia, Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, The Last Days of Chez Nous, Breaker Morant, A Cry in the Dark, Careful He Might Hear You.

Thanks for pointing out these omissions. I'll add them to the list soon.

I'd like to add "An Odd Angry Shot one of the most accurate movies set in Vietnam made. Much better than American stuff.
PS Why are the Australian characters so unusual? I see types like this all the time.

Okay, I'll add it. The characters are unusual because they're Aussies. To quote another movie title on the list, They're A Weird Mob.

Sadly, the main guy in TOAS, Graham Kennedy, died about ten days ago. He was very famous in Australia, and was called The King of Television. He hosted an extremely popular live variety show for many years.

Bugger! I've just noticed that I still haven't added these titles. Abject apologies to kenji. I'll add them soon. No, really.

As an Australian who is also a pretty obsessive film-watcher, I'm embarassed to say that I've seen only a pretty small percentage of these. I think like a lot of young Australians I for a long time had no interest in our own cultural history; I'm gradually rectifying that, and this list will help, thanks

Glad to be of help. Australia is a country that has a dull political history but a fascinating social/cultural history.

The Australian films I've seen, I've almost always liked: Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, and the Mad Max films most notably. I see this has already been mentioned, but Breaker Morant is another film I love.

Of the many here I haven't seen, Wake in Fright and The Odd Angry Shot are the ones I'm most intrigued by. I'm going to have to check to see if they're available in America.

Johnny Waco

Bertie! Welcome back!

Have you actually seen The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)?

As far as I know it hasn't been seen by anyone post-WW2.

Bertie, have you seen Alexandra's Project? It's a good'un. Also more recently, Wolf Creek had some good outback scenery... you'd have to like horror films though...

I haven't seen either of these. From what I read at IMDb, Alexandra's Project doesn't much appeal to me. While recognising the importance of women's rights, I am not into the subject.

Wolf Creek, on the other hand, sounds more my style. Only a few days ago I was researching impact craters. I had known of the Wolf Creek crater for a long time but had never seen a good photo of it. Then I found Earth Impact Database , which provides some excellent images of the crater, and of many others in Australia and around the world. As for the movie, it's on my 'to see' list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

If Alexandra's Project doesn't appeal to you then perhaps another of Rolf de Heer's films, The Tracker, will (I'm assuming you haven't seen it as it's not on this list...). Anyway, it's screening Sunday on SBS.

Thanks. I'll catch it and get back to you.

I'm thrilled to find this list of Aussie films... i'll be busy watching I'm in Canada and cannot find a 1983 film..here.. Can you lead me to a 'finding place' film is
Whose Baby... about babies accidentally exchanged in hosp at birth..

Any suggestion? thanks.... joyce

The premier finding place for movies is The Internet Movie Database , usually referred to as IMDb.

Want desperately to find an Australian movie we saw on TV over 10 years ago. It mentioned a place called Kwondong. There were to cops who were trying to bring an aboriginal woman to justice & she managed to get them lost in the outback. It was serious and funny and we loved the show, but cannot find it anywhere! Can you help? Thx Jack and BJ in Canada

To jackwallet: I think Backlash (1986) is the movie you're looking for. The place is 'Quondong'.

Hi all. Another is "The Oyster Farmer",a great flick......and what about "Stormboy"
Regards Phil G

Looking for the movie that the hero tied helium balloons to his
metal garden chair and ascended into the air and flew over the
country.

To MW72@aol.com : the movie is Danny Deckchair.

hi, i'mfrom sofia - bulgaria and i would like you to help me if you please to find an australian movie thou i dont know the name of it or the director or any actor... ouf...so i just can describe the movie : it's about some man who meet a girl who was a girlfriend of japanese man who came to australia to mary her but she run away with this other guy adn the jap. man get mad , bye a motorcicle and pursuit them.throu australia .he find/the jap./the father of the other guy and kill him.the father is a farmer in the middle of nowhere...at the end the japanese man catch the runners at the botom of the ocean and also the police came and all dye...
thats all i remember and it was very strong and fine movie .if you can guess what film it is and write the title i'll be very thankfull..
my e-mail is :emilvalev@yahoo.com
i saw the film a few years ago on TV maybe 5 maybe 10..
best wishes E.

Sorry, I don't know this movie. I've searched plots at IMDb without success. Suggest you ask at a site devoted to Australian movies. Good luck.

It's not Japanese Story is it?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0304229/plotsummary

I am stuck. having a total brain block right now on all levels. I can't for the life of me remember the Australian Movie that was based around Lawn Bowls. I'm so blank right now that I can't seem to even remember any of the actors in it. Can anyone help me with this one... please!!!!

You probably mean Crackerjack .

OK so i dont know if anyone can help me but god i hope so...I have ben trying to remember the name of an Australian movie made some time round late 80's possibly early 90's. details as follows....
Country town full of teenage kids going wild, one of which is the son of an important person in town. the young guy rapes a teenage girl. while this is all happening a big city lawyer (female) on some kind of break from work rides into town on her motorbike. The father of the girl who is raped cant and wont stand up to anyone including the boys. (As a side note the father ran a tow truck). Basically the movie is about the lawyer trying to clear the girls name cause now everyone thinks she is easy.