What are the best Australian movies ever?
The list of great Aussie films is long and controversial. There are the classics (Crocodile Dundee), but there are also newer films, with Australia’s recently blooming film industry delivering some modern gems. This is a list of 17, but it could easily have been 170.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t be mad if you disagree. Please. (Please?).
So, without further ado, we present to you the 17 best Australian movies ever. Aussie Aussie Aussie. (Someone ‘oy’ me).
1 – The Castle
It seems fitting to start this list with The Castle, because in terms of the most iconic and best Australian movies ever, this is right up there.
The film debut of Eric Bana, The Castle follows the Kerrigan family as they try to prevent their family home from being bought and demolished by the expanding Melbourne airport.
And holy shit is it hilarious. Like up there with the funniest movies ever hilarious.
You may even recognise some of The Castle‘s quotes, such as “How’s the serenity?” and “Tell him he’s dreaming”, which, along with many others, have slipped into mainstream Aussie lingo.
2 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Priscilla is exactly what you’d think a road-trip movie about a bunch of drag-queens bussing across Australia would be. And wow does it rock.
Honestly, I have no clue how Priscilla’s creators got this one past any studio executives, but I bet the execs – and every Aussie film lover – is happy they did!
A must must watch for everyone (I said must twice and I meant it).
3 – Mary and Max
This movie is truly beautiful. A claymation (which always rock), Mary and Max is a poetic tale of two pen pals, one a young Australian girl with an absent father and alcoholic mother, and the other a lonely Jewish New Yorker who has Asberger’s Syndrome.
Hilarious, heartbreaking and fantastically creative (something not so easy to find these days), Mary and Max went on to win a bunch of awards. And rightfully bloody so.
4 – The Daughter
Yeah, so this movie totally messed me up. The Daughter is about family secrets, and to say it knows how to pack a twist is like saying I should exercise more – it’s pretty fucking clear.
I think this film is a great example modern Aussie cinema. Filmed on a tight budget, The Daughter makes use of a fantastic script and beautiful scenery to say a big ‘fuck you’ to the gaggle (lol) of Hollywood blockbusters that also happen to be shiitake mushrooms.
Oh, it may or may not have been the first movie I ever reviewed for Digital Fox, so I guess you could say I have a little bit of a soft spot towards it.
5 – Rabbit-Proof Fence
Rabbit-Proof Fence is as important as it is great. It tells the story of two young Aboriginal children, who, in an attempt to escape the forced “breeding out” of Indigenous people (The Stolen Generation), travel the 2500-km journey back to their hometown.
The fact that I first watched it in Year 10 History as part of the Aboriginal History syllabus shows just how powerful and necessary this film is.
6 – Gallipoli
Gallipoli begins in 1910s Australia and follows a group of Western Australian men onto the Turkish battlefields of World War One. Mel Gibson and Mark Lee play Frank Dunne and Archy Hamilton, and they nail the youthful naivety so many harboured towards War – an eagerness eventually crushed by its morbid reality.
Gallipoli was listed as one of GQ’s ‘50 films that make men cry’. GQ are correct.
7 – The Mad Maxes
Yes, all of them. The famous Aussie franchise has found prolificacy around the globe with its wicked dystopian outlook on the world.
From Mel Gibson’s career-launcher in 1979’s Mad Max, to the Oscar-nominated Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015, these films have established Australia’s name in international cinema.
And fuck they know how to make cool action scenes.
7 – Kenny
Kenny Smyth (Shane Jacobson) has one of the most off-putting jobs imaginable: He’s a plumber specialising in delivering and maintaining portable toilets to well-populated events. Essentially, a lot of shit.
Yet Kenny isn’t as crass as a similar narrative would likely be in Hollywood. A mockumentary (how good are mockumentaries?), Kenny‘s laugh-out-loud comedy feels honest. There’s nothing heightened about this – it’s just a kind-hearted bloke who happens to work in a job that most would (and do) find detestable. And it’s brilliant.
8 – Red Dog
The dog equivalent of Lion, Red Dog is based on a true story about a dog who united a disparate local community while roaming the Australian outback in search of his long lost master.
The film quickly become an Aussie treasure, and scored itself a sequel (not easy to do in the Australian film industry). It’s funny, heartwarming, and a great movie for the family.
9 – Crocodile Dundee
Because it’s motherfucking Crocodile Dundee, that’s why. By far the most iconic Australian film, and, to the rest of the world, the only Australian film.
As the old saying goes, if it’s referenced in The Simpsons, it’s made it.
10 – Animal Kingdom
Insanely gripping crime drama centring around one of Australia’s most notorious criminal families. We talk in greater detail about why Animal Kingdom is one of the best Australian movies ever here, but in short, it’s fucking epic.
11 – Shine
Boy oh boy is this a great Aussie movie. Shine is a 1996 biographical drama about pianist David Helfgott (played by Geoffrey Rush), and his battle with mental illness.
For his performance in this film, Rush actually earned his first Academy Award. And deservedly so. Rush is as excellent as the film.
12 – Candy
Heath Ledger is, in my opinion, one of the greatest actors of all time. To not include one of his films in this list of the best Australian movies would be like eating someone’s final slice of cake they’d been saving for ages: just plain wrong (If you’re reading this Zak I’M NOT OVER IT).
Candy‘s intense. If you’ve seen it, it’s a little like Requiem For a Dream (which fucked me up). About love and drugs and addiction, the 2006 film is a must-watch for anyone who’s into heavy and dark drama.
13 – Muriel’s Wedding
Muriel’s Wedding is about a socially awkward girl called Muriel (Toni Collette) – correct, the one from the title. Muriel is hilariously obsessed with ABBA, is bullied about her lack of fashion, has a psychologically abusive father, and dreams of one day meeting her perfect man, having a exuberant wedding and achieving an exciting and happy life.
It’s genuinely hilarious, absolutely mad, and, bottom line, a brilliant Aussie film.
14 – Lion
One of the newest and also most successful films in this list of the best Australian movies, Lion is about a young Indian boy who finds himself lost in his homeland, eventually being adopted by an Australian couple and bought back to Tasmania. (Human version of Red Dog?)
Lion has a great cast (Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman were both nominated for an Oscar) and a story that is both heartbreaking and beautiful and a lock to make you cry.
15 – Down Under
Another great recent Aussie movie, Down Under is one of the darkest comedies you’ll ever see, focussing on the racism that fuelled the Cronulla Riots.
Honestly, this is one of the best political satires I’ve ever seen. And you can add it to your ‘I feel like watching a movie that will scar me for at least a couple of days’ list, because that’s exactly what it does (in a good way… ish).
For more on Down Under, click this sexy hyperlink.
16 – The Babadook
The last film on this list of the best Australian movies ever is also its first horror. And what a horror it is.
Here at Digital Fox, we’re not the hugest fans of jump scares. The Babadook is one of those brilliant (and sadly rare) horrors that does not rely on jump scares. Rather, this Aussie horror movie cultivates fear through creepiness and a genuinely terrifying monster in the Babadook.
Yet beyond the quality of horror, The Babadook earns its place on this list because it is also a nuanced take on the pains of grief. The aches of a wife’s grief after losing her husband is blurred with the Babadook’s onslaught to such an extent that truth and reality aren’t even just blurred, they’re the same.
So there you have it! Do you agree with this list of the best Australian movies? Do you now hate everything about me? Chuck in some of your favourite suggestions in the comments below, and if we approve, we can add them into the article!