Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Five Films about Australia better than ‘Australia’

by Cineleet on March 2, 2009

This is a guest post written by Greg Davies. Greg is known in social media circles as cGt2099, and runs the sites The-TrukstoP.com and WallabyDown.com. We’ve previously featured his inestimable talents on the post:
Before the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Influences on ‘Star Wars’

©Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

© Annie Leibovitz for Vogue

One of the most expected movies of 2008, Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, also turned out to be one of the most polarizing. When the film was finally released, it was subject to a wide range of reviews; from positive to neutral to negative… it was unmistakable that the movie would not be universally loved as the hype before release had many people believe.

While Australia is not exactly a terrible film, it’s not exactly an exceptional one either. It does have its flaws; though it was overall well-received in my home nation from which the film gets its namesake.

It can be quite exasperating for many Aussies though, when only certain films about the Great Southern Land get all of the misdirected worldwide attention, while other fabulous movies are frighteningly underrated and rarely get seen by people outside of Australia.

Before you dive into renting or buying a copy of Luhrmann’s Australia on DVD/Blu-Ray (available Tues, Mar. 3rd); contemplate some of the following Aussie films that not only capture the essence of the Australian spirit, but are far superior documentations of Australian culture and history…

The Castle

the_castle

Many Americans have probably never heard of The Castle, but it has got a minor cult following in the USA. Released in 1997, the film was an Aussie comedy featuring the unique and hilarious talents of Michael Caton and Eric Bana (While we’re on the subject, for those who are unaware, Eric Bana actually began his career in Australia as a television comedian – well before the days of turning into the Hulk). The plot behind the film follows a Melbourne airport wanting to take over the main character’s family home and property for expansion purposes. However, this plot line, while solid and entertaining, takes second place to the ethics and attitude of working class Aussies (“the battlers”) and how they fit into contemporary Australia.

Ned Kelly

heath_NedKelly

While the Americans had Billy the Kid and Jesse James; Australia’s celebrated outlaw was Ned Kelly. Now a cultural icon, and a hero in the eyes of some, Ned Kelly was a bushranger that became a hunted lawbreaker by the Victorian police. He has been the subject of many films (including one misguided attempt in the 1970’s featuring Mick Jagger in the lead role), but undoubtedly the best film to portray this historic figure was one released in 2003, with Heath Ledger acting as Ned. Accompanied by Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Naomi Watts, and Joel Edgerton, the movie was based on the novel Our Sunshine by Robert Drewe; and is considered to be perhaps one of the more precise portrayals of Ned Kelly. On top of that, the movie depicts the hardened and muddied lives of Australians during the late 1800’s, from the dishonesty among authorities to the light-hearted larrikinism of the working-class of the time.

Gallipoli

gallipoli

Every year, on April 25, Australians commemorate ANZAC Day – a day of remembrance and tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in the First World War, and all the wars that followed. The day of celebration gets its name from the ANZACs – The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The events of Australia’s involvement in World War I was the coming-of-age for the nation; and culminated in the Battle of Gallipoli, fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey – conceivably one of the most bloodiest and brutal battles of the war. Tens of thousands of ANZAC troops fought at Gallipoli – and many of these young men faced their deaths on this battleground. It was a time of grieving for the young nation of Australia – and the remembrance is always celebrated with more sobering respect than with elaboration or fanfare. Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli not only portrays the battlefield events of this chapter of the First World War, but leads up to the climactic battle with finely honed accuracy of the Australian identity – from the lifestyles down under during the time period, to the Australian solidarity among soldiers during war time. The film was a massive success in Australia, was a launch pad for Mel Gibson’s career, and is perhaps one of the best known films for capturing the Aussie spirit.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

priscilla_queen_of_the_des

Irreverent humor is a part of the Australian uniqueness, and has been for decades. Out of many of the Aussie films to surface over the years, Priscilla is most definitely one that plays on the distinctive Aussie sense of humor. The story centers around three drag queens (including General Zod and Agent Smith!), travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus (dubbed Priscilla) for a show at a casino. While the movie is well known for its breathtaking footage of the outback, it is perhaps better known for highlighting the immense contrast between Aussie city culture and Aussie rural culture – and highlights the issues surrounding tolerance and acceptance of other people in the modern era. Besides all this, it’s a magnificent film – even worth seeing just to hear Terence Stamp say the line, “That’s just what this country needs. A cock in a frock on a rock”… or of course another classic: “Now listen here, you mullet. Why don’t you just light your tampon, and blow your box apart? Because it’s the only bang you’re ever gonna get, sweetheart!”

Rabbit-Proof Fence

rabbit-proof-fence

This movie is unmistakably one of the more striking and significant Australian films to have been released in the last decade. The account is a tale from the Stolen Generation – a generation of young Australian Aboriginal children who were ‘stolen’ from their parents by the government in a foolish attempt to integrate them into “White Culture”. The Aboriginal people of Australia have been subject to many injustices by the governments through history, and the tale of the Stolen Generation is but a part of a long and sad tale of how such a rich and vibrant culture was almost erased by ignorant powers-that-be. The story of Rabbit-Proof Fence follows the trek of three young girls who run away from the Moore River Native Settlement in an attempt to return to families. Their journey home shows them following the 1,500 miles of the Australian rabbit-proof fence (a fence created to exclude rabbits, and other pests from pastoral areas). Rabbit-Proof Fence is an moving film – one that not only how far we have come in Australian race relations, but also one that gives a sobering reminder of how far we have yet to travel. The movie was the recipient of several awards, and also features a remarkable performance by Kenneth Branagh.

Honorable Mention:

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

max-2

While The Road Warrior is not necessarily a film that captures the quintessence of the Australian spirit, it is significant in its international impact as an Australian film. The movie helped strengthen the strength of the growing Australian film industry; and it also popularized the post-apocalyptic film genre that would see many imitations appear from all corners of the globe for decades after its release.

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  • David

    Good God what about Walkabout for crying out loud! Not to mention the Proposition, another great film.

  • edog

    It was made for TV, but “Fortress,” was a provocative (and scary for a kid) tale of an Australian kidnapping. From IMDB: “Loosely based on the 1972 Faraday School kidnapping of a teacher and her class by Edwin John Eastwood and Robert Clyde Boland. Eastwood later escaped from prison and repeated the crime with another teacher and her class in 1977.”

  • edog

    It was made for TV, but “Fortress,” was a provocative (and scary for a kid) tale of an Australian kidnapping. From IMDB: “Loosely based on the 1972 Faraday School kidnapping of a teacher and her class by Edwin John Eastwood and Robert Clyde Boland. Eastwood later escaped from prison and repeated the crime with another teacher and her class in 1977.”

  • Windywoo
  • Windywoo
  • Heidi

    Loved :
    The Dish/The Castle
    Strictly Ballroom!!!!
    Undead (very gorey zombie film)
    Starstruck

    Saw the list except for Ned…all are great films!

  • Heidi

    Loved :
    The Dish/The Castle
    Strictly Ballroom!!!!
    Undead (very gorey zombie film)
    Starstruck

    Saw the list except for Ned…all are great films!

  • Andrew Trlin

    Amazing!! No mention of classics such as The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The Devils Playground, Travelling North, We of the Never Never, The Last Wave, Sunday too Far Away, The Sum of Us, Breaker Morant, etc. Weep Oz for the fickleness of taste and the ravages of memory.

  • http://cineleet Andrew Trlin

    Amazing!! No mention of classics such as The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The Devils Playground, Travelling North, We of the Never Never, The Last Wave, Sunday too Far Away, The Sum of Us, Breaker Morant, etc. Weep Oz for the fickleness of taste and the ravages of memory.

  • dto1984

    And one more vote for The Proposition.

  • dto1984

    And one more vote for The Proposition.

  • Cherry-Ripe Boy

    How is Welcome To Woop-Woop not on this list? I’m perplexed

  • Cherry-Ripe Boy

    How is Welcome To Woop-Woop not on this list? I’m perplexed

  • http://wolferiver.wordpress.com/ grapeshot

    I’ve seen all of these movies except Ned Kelly, and they’re truly fantastic. Great stories that are well told. I doubt that that Australia movie comes anywhere close. What I especially like about these movies is that they tell the viewer something about the history and culture of Oz. I enjoyed quite a few other Australian movies (The Man From Snowy River, Proof — the one from 1991 with Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe, The Dish, Danny Deckchair, Muriel’s Wedding, Little Fish, Lantana, Careful He Might Hear You) but these could almost be set anywhere. The ones on the list above not only entertain, but they teach us something about the country. If it were allowed, I would add a miniseries from the 80′s to the list: A Town Like Alice. (It’s still available on VHS, used.)

  • http://wolferiver.wordpress.com grapeshot

    I’ve seen all of these movies except Ned Kelly, and they’re truly fantastic. Great stories that are well told. I doubt that that Australia movie comes anywhere close. What I especially like about these movies is that they tell the viewer something about the history and culture of Oz. I enjoyed quite a few other Australian movies (The Man From Snowy River, Proof — the one from 1991 with Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe, The Dish, Danny Deckchair, Muriel’s Wedding, Little Fish, Lantana, Careful He Might Hear You) but these could almost be set anywhere. The ones on the list above not only entertain, but they teach us something about the country. If it were allowed, I would add a miniseries from the 80′s to the list: A Town Like Alice. (It’s still available on VHS, used.)

  • Douglas Schleutker

    My favorite Aussie film has always been ‘Kitty and the Bagman’ from 1983 http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0084212

  • Douglas Schleutker

    My favorite Aussie film has always been ‘Kitty and the Bagman’ from 1983 http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0084212

  • Oscar

    The Castle is the best out of the list.

    Romper Stomper should definately have been on there.
    Muriels Wedding, Crocodile Dundee and Chopper could have replaced Rabbit-Proof Fence, Priscilla and Ned Kelly.

    - Coming from a fellow Australian

  • http://none Oscar

    The Castle is the best out of the list.

    Romper Stomper should definately have been on there.
    Muriels Wedding, Crocodile Dundee and Chopper could have replaced Rabbit-Proof Fence, Priscilla and Ned Kelly.

    - Coming from a fellow Australian

  • Claire

    Australia is the 2nd highest grossing Australian film of all time. So far! It’s still screening in many cinemas around Australia right now, going into week 15 of it’s realease. What about Happy Feet, oh no wait a minute thats not classed as an Australian film is it? How broad do you want to go with defining a film thats “about” Australia, of the titles listed below, alot are not essentially films about Australia. None are broad enugh to reflect true Australian life. No one mentioned Black Balloon, ot The Boys…

  • http://cleverclaire@live.com.au Claire

    Australia is the 2nd highest grossing Australian film of all time. So far! It’s still screening in many cinemas around Australia right now, going into week 15 of it’s realease. What about Happy Feet, oh no wait a minute thats not classed as an Australian film is it? How broad do you want to go with defining a film thats “about” Australia, of the titles listed below, alot are not essentially films about Australia. None are broad enugh to reflect true Australian life. No one mentioned Black Balloon, ot The Boys…

  • Don

    Take the first half of “Crocodile Dundee” and the second half of “Crocodile Dundee II”, put them together and you’ve got the mark of a pretty good film set in Australia.

  • Don

    Take the first half of “Crocodile Dundee” and the second half of “Crocodile Dundee II”, put them together and you’ve got the mark of a pretty good film set in Australia.

  • http://myspace.com/john781 Jackthetrippr

    Two Hands. You forgot all about Two Hands you spacker.

  • http://myspace.com/john781 Jackthetrippr

    Two Hands. You forgot all about Two Hands you spacker.

  • Ashley

    How about films like Little Fish (about current and recovered heroin addicts) or Proof (about a blind man and the people around him)? They show how the down-trodden and ne’er do wells of Australia make it from day to day. And both feature award winning performances from Hugo Weaving. For those who only know him as Agent Smith from The Matrix, see these films! He’s one of the BEST actors to come out of Australia.

  • Ashley

    How about films like Little Fish (about current and recovered heroin addicts) or Proof (about a blind man and the people around him)? They show how the down-trodden and ne’er do wells of Australia make it from day to day. And both feature award winning performances from Hugo Weaving. For those who only know him as Agent Smith from The Matrix, see these films! He’s one of the BEST actors to come out of Australia.

  • Rudy Holland

    The best Australian film that defines what it’s culture is would have to be ‘Wake in Fright’ (Ted Kotcheff – 1971).
    The film shows a contemporary setting in the Australian outback where beer, brawling & roo shooting are the norm.
    This film is an absolute gem & is considered to be Australia’s first arthouse film.
    I was lucky enough to see a beautifully restored print at the Chauvel Cinemas Sydney in 2001.
    Hopefully it will make it to dvd one day.

  • Rudy Holland

    The best Australian film that defines what it’s culture is would have to be ‘Wake in Fright’ (Ted Kotcheff – 1971).
    The film shows a contemporary setting in the Australian outback where beer, brawling & roo shooting are the norm.
    This film is an absolute gem & is considered to be Australia’s first arthouse film.
    I was lucky enough to see a beautifully restored print at the Chauvel Cinemas Sydney in 2001.
    Hopefully it will make it to dvd one day.

  • Misha

    All of these are fab…..

    I’d add:

    Gettin’ Square
    Cosi
    All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane
    3 Dollars
    Look Both Ways
    The Crossing
    Head On
    Kick
    The Sum of Us

  • Misha

    All of these are fab…..

    I’d add:

    Gettin’ Square
    Cosi
    All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane
    3 Dollars
    Look Both Ways
    The Crossing
    Head On
    Kick
    The Sum of Us

  • jjjplane

    walkabout; last wave; where the green ants dream; the proposition; & picnic at hanging rock.

  • jjjplane

    walkabout; last wave; where the green ants dream; the proposition; & picnic at hanging rock.

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  • http://www.the-trukstop.com/ Greg Davies aka cGt2099

    Hey guys,

    This is the author of the post… I appreciate all of your comments! And to be honest, I cannot argue against the movies you’ve listed as omissions.

    The problem with putting together a list of 5 is that there’s always bound to be some films left out.

    So why was Snowy River left off the list?

    My goal for this post was to highlight some other Aussie films that people in the US may not have experienced before. The Man From Snowy River is already reasonably popular over here, and has quite a following.

    Thanks again! I appreciate you all for checking out the post; and this great website.

    Greg

  • http://www.the-trukstop.com/ Greg Davies aka cGt2099

    Hey guys,

    This is the author of the post… I appreciate all of your comments! And to be honest, I cannot argue against the movies you’ve listed as omissions.

    The problem with putting together a list of 5 is that there’s always bound to be some films left out.

    So why was Snowy River left off the list?

    My goal for this post was to highlight some other Aussie films that people in the US may not have experienced before. The Man From Snowy River is already reasonably popular over here, and has quite a following.

    Thanks again! I appreciate you all for checking out the post; and this great website.

    Greg

  • Cheryl

    SUNDOWNERS. The film that made me want to go to Australia.

  • Cheryl

    SUNDOWNERS. The film that made me want to go to Australia.

  • http://cineleet.com/ Cineleet

    Perhaps with the proper encouragement from the Cineleet community, we can persuade Greg to do a followup post on a subject he obviously is very passionate about.

  • http://cineleet.com Cineleet

    Perhaps with the proper encouragement from the Cineleet community, we can persuade Greg to do a followup post on a subject he obviously is very passionate about.

  • Renee Haag

    I am looking for an older movie, perhaps 20 years old or older, about a blind australian man who has a cruel woman as a caretaker. Im most anxious to add this movie to my collection and wonder if you might know the name of it..
    Thanks!
    Renee
    PS I just ordered The Castle

  • Renee Haag

    I am looking for an older movie, perhaps 20 years old or older, about a blind australian man who has a cruel woman as a caretaker. Im most anxious to add this movie to my collection and wonder if you might know the name of it..
    Thanks!
    Renee
    PS I just ordered The Castle

  • http://www.top10films.co.uk Dan

    Some really sweet choices…particularly The Castle.

  • Johnny Thunders

    The Proposition? BAH! Nick Cave is a hack…

  • Stephen

    They’re a Weird Mob was an iconic Australian movie of the 1960′s and portrays the Australian character and how they were affected by the influx of the “New Australians”.

  • helpful

    proof 1991