G’day one and all, and welcome to the first ever edition of Movies Around The World here on the Flickchart Blog. Each column in this series will present the top 10 movies of a country according to the Flickchart global rankings. These movies are the best that the chosen country has to offer, according to the aggregated opinions of Flickchart users, and are a great starting point for anyone who is unfamiliar with the film industry of that country. For those already well-versed in international film, don’t despair, as we will throw in some personal choices that don't make the official cut; one of them might be the hidden gem you've been looking for.
For the first ever edition of Movies Around The World we're going with my home country of Australia. Australia has had a long history with cinema dating all the way back to a Frenchman named Marius Sestier, the owner of the first Australian Cinema and filmer of the first Australian film production, 10 1-minute films of the 1896 Melbourne Cup Horse Race.
In 1906 Australian director Charles Tait created The Story of the Kelly Gang, the world’s first ever feature length film — though unfortunately only 17 minutes remains of its original 60 minute (approximate) runtime.
Since then Australia has had a steady output, churning out not only great films but Oscar winners like actors Peter Finch, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe, and Heath Ledger, and actresses Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett as well as directors like Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir, and George Miller.
Let’s take a look at the 10 movies deemed by Flickcharters to be Australia’s best:
Yes, you read that right: Hacksaw Ridge, the movie about an American soldier who was the first ever conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, is in fact an Australian movie. The director Mel Gibson (Braveheart, Apocalypto), while technically born an American, grew up on our shores. Though they are playing Americans, a major chunk of the cast including Rachel Griffiths, Teresa Palmer, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, and Luke Bracey are in fact Australian.
Still not convinced this is Australian? The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts was happy to claim it, and awarded it 9 out of the 12 awards that it was nominated for including Best Film, Best Direction, and Best Lead Actor in Australia’s premier movie awards, the AACTA Awards. It would then go onto the Oscars where it would win 2 (Sound Mixing & Film Editing) of the 6 awards it was nominated for.
Just like Hacksaw Ridge, Breaker Morant is a true-story, anti-war film, in this case set during the Second Boer War. Directed by Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Davies), this movie takes a look at a group of Australian soldiers who were court-martialed for war crimes and tried to use what would later be called the Nuremberg Defense ("I was just following orders") to plead not-guilty.
Beresford meant to the film to be a consideration of how otherwise normal people behave in the circumstances of war, and how following orders can lead to them to commit major atrocities, but it has taken on a new meaning. For a lot of people the film has become a symbol of how Australians were used as scapegoats for British crimes, even though nowhere in the film are the Australians portrayed as innocent.
A critical success, Breaker Morant won 10 out of 13 categories (all 10 categories it was nominated in) at the AFI Awards (the precursor to the AACTA Awards) and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards.
I am really happy to get to talk about this movie. Not just because it is an Australian Western, taking a look at the violent past of our Bushrangers. Nor because of the great direction from John Hillcoat (The Road, Lawless) or the solid acting from the likes of Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, and Emily Watson. I'm excited because of its writer, Nick Cave. Cave is one of my favorite musical artists, mainly known for fronting the band Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (he also fronted Grinderman and The Birthday Party). Having written his own songs for his entire career, Cave is known for his emotional intensity, and that is shown throughout The Proposition. Cave also provides music for the movie, along with his frequent collaborator Warren Ellis.
Don’t expect your normal Western: Cave is all over this piece. The movie is a lot more intense than a traditional western, unflinching in its brutality. If you like a bit of violence in your movies, this is one for you. While it did not take the major AACTA awards it did manage 4 wins (Music Score, Cinematography, Production Design and Costume Design) from its 11 nominations.
Our third war movie of the list (also our last) and our second Mel Gibson movie (our first with him as an actor, but definitely not the last) sees Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society) tackle the most defining war moment of Australian history. The Gallipoli Campaign of the Allied Troops in World War 1 is considered by us Aussies and our neighbors from New Zealand as a Baptism of Fire, and helped lead to us seeking our own identity as a country separate from the Commonwealth of Britain. The day of the landing, April 25, is a National holiday in both here and in NZ, and is our equivalent of Memorial Day.
Winning 9 of its 12 nominated AFI Awards including Best Film, Best Achievement in Directing (Weir), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Gibson), Gallipoli was able to do exactly what it set out to do to portray what is probably the most significant moment in Australia’s history. If war movies are your thing then this is a must see, and if it they aren’t, this is still a must see. While the movies still to come after this one are rated better, none of them are as important as this one.
Australia isn’t well known for its animated cinema (off the top of my head the only other one I can think of in terms of international exposure is Happy Feet), even though we do make a reasonable attempt at it on the small screen, but Mary and Max is the exception to the rule. The only full-length feature of Adam Elliot, this stop motion film proves that we can hang with the best animators.
The movie revolves around the unlikely friendship of a young Australian girl (Toni Collette) and the random New Yorker she chose to be her pen pal, a morbidly obese Jewish Atheist who suffers from Asperger’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The two are worlds apart yet closer than we think; the film takes us on a great journey as the two progress from total strangers to very important parts of each other's lives, and along the way tackles issues such as loneliness, alcoholism, suicide, depression, and many other not so healthy topics. This is not your typical animation, but is a deep look into the grey areas of mental health.
Failing to win any of the 4 AACTA Awards it was nominated for, Mary and Max did manage to snag the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, an award given to the best movie in the youth-targeted section of the festival.
Mel Gibson shows his face once again in this countdown, and still not for the last time. Of course this list would not be complete without Mad Max, the movie that started a major franchise that has just been rebooted/continued to great success and kickstarted the careers of both Gibson and director George Miller (The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil) in their second and first movies respectively.
Set in a dystopian future, using the barren landscape of Australia to achieve this, Mad Max would set records on its release and enter the Guinness Book of Records as the movie with the highest box office to budget ratio. The movie would pick up 3 AFI Awards out of its 7 nominations, but its true legacy would be the sequel movies that were still to come, the careers it launched, and the filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino whom it influenced.
A joint production between Australia and the UK, Walkabout was based upon a book written by James Vance Marshall and directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth), both Englishmen. Even the main characters were played by English child actors Jenny Agutter and Roeg’s son Luc. Because of this and the fact that the majority of funding, though funneled through an Australian company, came from America, there has been major debate about whether this movie can be classed as Australian.
In the end, Walkabout must be considered one of the founding movies of both the Australian New Wave and Ozploitation genres. Filmed in the desert around Alice Springs, the movie follows two young people who are stranded and trying to make their way back to civilization, a simple scenario that allows Roeg to explore both the landscape and the children's suffering. Along the way they meet a young aboriginal boy, portrayed by David Gulpilil in his debut role (he would go on to become Australia’s most prolific indigenous actor, appearing in many of Australia’s best movies including the aforementioned The Proposition), with whom cultural differences create both promise and peril.
Our second Peter Weir film of this countdown, Picnic at Hanging Rock is based on a book by Joan Lindsay and adapted for screen by David Williamson, who also wrote Gallipoli. This movie is a departure from the rest of the films on this list and proves that Australian movies are just as versatile as any country's.
Picnic at Hanging Rock plays out as a mystery, with characters and viewers alike trying to deduce exactly what happened to three teenage girls and a teacher who go missing during a boarding school picnic at Australia's natural wonder Hanging Rock. While that is the general premise, that is not the totality of the film's concerns, as we also see how the disappearances, and the maddening inability to find the missing persons, affects everyone in the school and the surrounding community.
While not really a success with audiences, the film was still a critical success. It did not win any of it’s three AFI nominations for Best Film, Best Direction, or Best Actress (Helen Morse). A BAFTA, however, would be forthcoming for Best Cinematography. Today audiences have come around, and this is now considered to be one of Australia’s most loved movies. It would go on to influence many filmmakers, especially Sofia Coppola whose movies The Virgin Suicide and Marie Antoinette borrow heavily from it.
For the fourth time Mel Gibson makes this countdown, just proving how much he meant to Australian cinema before he returned to his birthplace of America. I am in agreement with the global rankings here: The Road Warrior is a better film than the original Mad Max. Armed with a better understanding of how to make a good movie, George Miller (who would win the AFI Award for Best Achievement in Directing) did just that, picking up right where he left off in the previous one but improving its look and feel across the board. Despite the win for Directing as well as Editing, Sound, Production Design, and Costume Design (and nominations for Cinematography and Music Score), a nomination for Best Film or Best Actor for Gibson were not forthcoming.
I would continue to remake on how big Mad Max was for Australian Cinema, but I think I may just wait until our #1 is presented.
No, Australia’s top-charted movie is not Beyond Thunderdome (Global Ranking: 1765) but instead the fourth and newest installment of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road. George Miller once more returned to direct but Gibson was replaced by British actor Tom Hardy. The film took on a new look for a new generation but retained enough elements to be reminiscent of the original three movies from the 70s and 80s.
The film was a hit all over. In Australia it would win 8 of the 11 AACTA awards it was nominated for including Best Film and Best Directing, as well as 2 of its 3 nominations for the International section, picking up Best International Film and Best International Directing (Charlize Theron lost Best Actress in both versions of the awards). In America it would win 6 Oscars out of its nominated 10 while in the UK it would win 4 out of 7 BAFTAs.
Fury Road took what was already a major force in Australian cinema and reinvented it for the modern age, while keeping what brought it to the dance 30 years previously. While it did have a major Hollywood influence, at heart the movie was still Australian and proves again just what a force our country can be in the world of cinema.
If it looks like Australia can’t do comedy because of the top 10 being all of a serious nature, that's not the case. While not for everyone, Fat Pizza is proof that we are able to be funny. A spin-off from a TV series simply called Pizza, the basic idea is to follow the lives of pizza delivery drivers. Their lives are far from simple as they cross paths with bikies, the handicapped, Mormons, a rival pizzeria run by Indians, gang warfare, a meeting of Ronald McDonalds, and a serial killer, just for starters. Flickchart tags this as a Comedy of Errors and a Gross-Out Comedy, but those descriptors only scratch the surface. This movie was the film debut of Rebel Wilson.
Based on a book written by Australian Young Adult writer John Marsden, this movie follows a similar plot to the 80s movie Red Dawn. A group of teenagers go camping out in the mountains for the weekend, but while they are there an unnamed Asian country invades Australia and takes their hometown captive. The teens decide to take the war to the invaders so they can free their families. A planned sequel to follow the path of the books was eventually scrapped, but the story was rebooted for a television series in 2016.
This movie blew my low expectations out of the water. It's shot a lot more cleanly than I expected for its age, showcasing the Australian Bushland nicely. The child actors, who were not very experienced, turn in believable performances. It isn't your typical holiday movie, its only tie to Christmas being the time of year it is set. The plot involves horse thieves and kids who turn tracker to recover their animal.
Another movie based on a Young Adult novel, this time written by Melina Marchetta (who also adapted it for the screen). The movie follows the coming-of-age of Josie, a second generation Italian Migrant as she copes with her final year of school, deals with racism, her first crush, and the father she never knew she had (Anthony LaPaglia). While this is the only movie directed by Kate Wood, she has gone on to direct episodes of some of America’s biggest TV Shows.
Another coming-of-age movie, but more adult-orientated, this Ozploitation film follows Felicity, a teen at a female-only religious boarding school who is fascinated by the erotic stories of "Emmanuelle." She travels to Hong Kong and her eyes are opened to a world she has only read about. This movie is definitely NSFW.
So what are your favorite movies from Australia? Do you have any recommendations of obscurities from the Land Down Under? Let us know in the comments below!
While having watched movies his whole entire life it has only been the last few years he has really paid attention to what he was watching. Since then he has been giving himself a crash course on the best of the best of World Cinema. His previous writing experience comes from his other passion Professional Wrestling, spending 6 years writing columns a dedicated wrestling website. To find Wayne on the net just search for zzzorf and you will find.