Good Australian Movies

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Today, I’m going to take a look at some of the good Australian movies you might not be aware of. And, no, I’m not talking about stuff like Crocodile Dundee, as much as that may disappoint the Australian Board of Tourism. The good Aussie movies I’ll be looking at are a little deeper than that, and they rank right alongside films made outside of “The Land Down Under.” So pop in a Midnight Oil CD, grab a Vegemite sandwich, and prepare for some Australian movie goodness.

Breaker Morant (1980) – A dramatic film about the court martial of Australian Army officer Lt. Harry “Breaker” Morant (Edward Woodward) for actions taken during South Africa’s Second Boer War. Two of Morant’s fellow officers (Bryan Brown and Lewis Fitz-Gerald) are also on trial, and it’s obvious from the beginning that their superiors want to see a guilty verdict. As Breaker Morant progresses, we learn what really happened through flashbacks, and the film provides an excellent catalyst for a post-movie discussion about what actions (if any) are excusable during wartime. The performances of Woodward and Brown particularly stand out, and it’s a real shame that most American audiences only know Woodward from his days on The Equalizer. Then again, I guess that’s better than not being known at all.

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Dead Calm (1989) – After losing their son in a car accident, a couple (Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman) take their yacht out to sea in an attempt to recover from the tragedy. They soon rescue a frightened man (Billy Zane) who claims his entire crew died from food poisoning. Of course, we learn that his story isn’t entirely true, and this begins a cat-and-mouse game between the wife and the stranger. For fans of nudity, this film is notable for featuring Nicole Kidman topless. Filmed around Australia’s Great Coral Reef.

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Bad Boy Bubby (1993) – 35-year-old Bubby (Nicholas Hope) has never left his mother’s home, as he’s been told since childhood about the poisonous gas filling the outside air. But when his long-absent father suddenly returns home, he’s forced out into the world for the first time. A dark comedy with an edge, Bad Boy Bubby features incest, blasphemy, cruelty to a cat, and plenty of traditional violence. One critic compared it to Being There if it was directed by David Lynch, so there you go.

Romper Stomper (1992) – Prior to becoming a star in America, Russell Crowe made a number of good Australian movies. Romper Stomper is one of them. He plays Hando, the leader of a group of skinheads in Melbourne. When he’s not engaging in sex with a troubled rich woman, he’s staying one step ahead of the cops and plotting revenge against a group of Vietnamese. As you can imagine, things don’t end well for Hando, but Romper Stomper is still an entertaining and chilling look at a dangerous worldwide sub-culture.

Doing Time for Patsy Cline (1997) – Starring Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, and Matt Day, this film tells the story with an Aussie with a passion for country music and his attempted journey from a sheep farm to Nashville. Things get complicated when he comes across a drug thief and his girlfriend, and our country troubadour finds himself doing some hard time. If you want to know more about popular Australian films, this is as good a place to start as any.

Chopper (2000) – Eric Bana transformed himself from a comic actor into dramatic heavyweight with this tale of notorious Australian criminal/author/celebrity Mark “Chopper” Read. From kidnapping a judge to cutting off large portions of his ears, you’ll quickly see why Read has become such a cult figure in Australia. Bana’s performance is electrifying, and he imbues the on-screen Chopper with a charisma which is both dangerous and mesmerizing. The movie itself hovers around average, but Bana makes it well worth seeing.

roadgamesRoadgames (1981) – An offbeat thriller featuring Stacey Keach as Patrick Quid, a trucker hauling meat across Australia’s Nullarbor Plain. He keeps coming across a green van during his travels, and his suspicions begin to intensify when he hears that a serial killer is in the area. Things get even more intense when Quid picks up a pretty hitchhiker named Pamela Rushworth (Jamie Lee Curtis), and the duo begin an amateur effort to find the killer. I especially liked the relationship between Quid and his pet dingo.

Strictly Ballroom (1992) – An international hit, Strictly Ballroom tells the story of a talented young ballroom dancer named Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) and his relationship with the initially plain Fran (Tara Morice). As the two rehearse dance steps and slowly fall in love, Fran gains confidence and her inner beauty begins to come to the surface. Of course, there are the obligatory disapproving parents and dance rivals, but everyone is either won over or thwarted by the end of this uplifting romantic comedy. Oh, and there’s plenty of great dancing, too.

gallipoliGallipoli (1981) – Mel Gibson stars in director Peter Weir’s tale of young Australian soldiers fighting during World War I. The climax of the film comes as the young soldiers are called to leave the safety of their trench and charge Turkish machine guns across open terrain. All about the loss of innocence, both for the young men involved and the entire nation of Australia.

The Sum of Us (1994) – Another good Australian movie from Russell Crowe, The Sum of Us was adapted from a play by David Stevens. The film follows Harry (Jack Thompson) and his son, Jeff (Crowe). Harry is a likable widower looking for love, and he’s more than supportive of his gay son’s quest for the same. Thompson and Crowe do an admirable job of playing a loving father and son, and their relationship helps elevate the film above other “gay” movies.

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So there you have it: a look at some of the good Australian movies available for your viewing pleasure. Any of these can be found on sites like Blockbuster Online or iReel, so what are you waiting for? While you’re at it, you might as well go ahead and check out the following articles:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 at 11:57 pm and is filed under Good Movies, Movie Megalists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Good Australian Movies”

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October 6, 2009

Chris Durham

How about some early Peter Weir with “The Cars That Ate Paris”? The fake cold opening followed by the subdued narrative opening credit sequence (with a very haunting score) is one of my favorite pieces of Australian cinema.

October 19, 2009

Shane

Nice call! Hey, is this the same Mr. Durham that I went to high school with?

September 20, 2010

Graham Gales

You missed

High Tide
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Lantana
Ten Canoes
The Tracker
Shine

….. and so many more

But I suppose you may be limited in your exposure to Oz films.

Disappointing to see ‘Roadgames’ on your list. Barely Australian – two US stars. The Australian setting is merely background, and the film could have been done in Utah or New Mexico …..

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