What Ten Australian Films Would You Recommend To A Non-Local?

Earlier in the month, we attended TechEd 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. During a press shindig, one of Microsoft's American PR representatives asked us to name Australia's ten best movies with the stipulation that they actually be capable of entertaining non-Australians. This proved to be a surprisingly difficult undertaking...

The problem with recommending Australian movies to a non-Australian viewer is that you need to exclude anything that relies too heavily on localised humour. Films like The Castle and Muriel's Wedding might be considered classics down-under, but they generally don't translate overseas too well. A good recommendation needs to be uniquely Australian yet still accessible to an international audience.

We also limited our choices to movies that were principally financed in Australia, so stuff like Moulin Rouge and The Matrix don't count. We also tried to represent a decent mix of genres to appease every type of film lover.

After a lot of debate and head-scratching, here are the Top Ten Australian films that we eventually came up with (in no particular order):

The Story of the Kelly Gang (directed by Charles Tait)

The Story of the Kelly Gang is a 1906 silent movie that we're recommending for two reasons: the Ned Kelly story is fascinating if you haven't heard it before (particularly the suit of armour stuff) and it happens to be the first feature-length film ever made. Before it, all full length movies were just a collection of shorts. The actors also used Ned Kelly's real armour.

Two Hands (directed by Gregor Jordan)

The success of Pulp Fiction left literally hundreds of consciously hip crime movies in its wake, but few were as successful as Two Hands. Following the bumbling exploits of would-be criminal Jimmy (Heath Ledger), the film is most notable for its hilarious turn from Bryan Brown as King's Cross mob boss Pando. It also launched the careers of Ledger and the ridiculously pretty Rose Byrne.

Gallipoli (directed by Peter Weir)

Gallipoli is widely considered to be Australia's finest cinematic accomplishment and one of the best war movies of all time. The film follows the plight of a handful of Western Australian men during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War. The film had a huge budget for the time and the battle scenes with their masses of extras still pack a punch today. The film also helped to launch Mel Gibson to international stardom.

Walkabout (directed by Nicolas Roeg)

Okay, so Walkabout was directed by a Brit and is based on an English book, but it's still one of the most artistically accomplished films ever made in Australia. The movie follows a teenage girl and her kid brother who become stranded in the outback after their dad blows up their car and commits suicide. They are befriended by an Aboriginal youth (David Gulpilil) who teaches them to live off the land, but cultural differences lead to misunderstanding and tragedy.

Mad Max 2 (directed by George Miller)

Mad Max 2, AKA The Road Warrior, really needs no introduction. The film has influenced everyone from Kevin Reynolds to Quentin Tarantino and remains one of the grittiest, most stunt-filled action flicks in history.

Picnic At Hanging Rock (directed by Peter Weir)

Picnic at Hanging Rock is like a period David Lynch film (before David Lynch films existed). Based on the real-life disappearance of three Victorian schoolgirls and their teacher in 1900, the film is at turns poetic, mysterious, erotic and disturbing.

The Dish (directed by Rob Sitch)

While most Australians prefer The Castle (which came from the same creative team and director) The Dish is a better choice for international viewers. The story of how a small Australian observatory relayed live television transmissions of man's first steps on the moon is as universal as they come. As an added bonus, it's also very funny.

The Proposition (directed by John Hilcoat)

The Proposition is a dark and gritty Australian western that combines poetic music and beautiful imagery with the ugliest aspects of human nature. If you're strong willed enough to stare into the heart of darkness, few films pack a greater punch.

Dark City (directed by Alex Proyas)

Dark City was partially financed by the US studio New Line, but it was conceived, directed and co-produced by an Australian and shot in Sydney, so we reckon it just about qualifies. While initially under-performing at the box office, this "future-noir" has since become a cult favourite and is considered one of the best science fiction movies of the 1990s.

Red Dog (directed by Kriv Stenders)

Who doesn't love a movie about a dog that travels thousands of kilometres to reunite with its master? People with no souls. That's who.

And here are the ten movies that you should never recommend to a non-Australian (click on each title to watch the trailers):


So what did you think of our list? Let us know which films you would recommend to a non-Australian in the comments section below. Bring on the film debate!


    No Chopper? No Wog Buy, which was worlds better than its sequel? No Romper Stomper? By limiting your choices, you're missing out on some rather decent films. Especially The Castle, which you have left out.

      As mentioned, we wanted to represent a decent mix of genres. Romper Stomper and Chopper are both crime movies and we already have a couple of those on the list. (I agree they're both brilliant though. Wog Boy... not so much.)

      The Dish is a better movie than The Castle and in the "same genre".
      I'd have Shine on my list.

      The Castle flopped overseas. Too much of the humour is localised.

        You're talking about the re-dubbed version, where references of Hey Hey were turned into 'Letterman', where Kingswoods were turned into 'Lincoln Continentals' etc. Working Dog redubbed a LOT of the dialogue into american rubbish to 'localise' it to there. A lot. Infact, every american I personally know who sees the aussie version much prefers that one.

        Another example, they change the name of all the dinners the wife cooks as well to yank dinners.

    Since you're missing a horror flick, "Wolf Creek" should've made the list. Also, "Australia" wasn't that bad. Sure it was overlong and dragged on a bit, but it dealt with some pretty serious themes and had some amazing shots of the outback.

    Last edited 28/06/13 12:52 pm

    Picnic at Hanging Rock is not based on a true story. http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s3626005.htm

    I would add Crocodile Dundee (awful film, but also iconic), Wake in Fright, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Beautiful Kate and Last Ride.

    Last edited 28/06/13 12:53 pm

      I once read a 'world's greatest mysteries' book that claimed it was all based on a true story. They devoted a whole chapter to it. Tch.

      Also, we left Crocodile Dundee off the list because so many non-Aussies have already seen it.

      I was thinking of Beautiful Kate, and I would also throw in The Black Balloon

      Yep its a complete fiction. No one disappeared. Skeptoid did a great episode of it.


    Dark City? Really not on my list, I thought it was really ordinary.

    Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.
    Japanese Story.
    And before I'm required to hand my man card in: The Odd Angry Shot.


      The problem with recommending Australian movies to a non-Australian audience is that you need to exclude anything that relies too heavily on localised humour. Films like The Castle and Muriel’s Wedding might be considered classics down-under, but they generally don’t translate overseas too well. A good recommendation needs to be uniquely Australian yet still accessible to an international audience.

        I remember the Castle did a re-shoot of some scenes for the American audience changing Rissoles to Meatloaf, plus a few other language changes. So you could still recommend this.

          I grew up in a different country, but have been living here for over 10 years now.
          After being told countless times to watch The Castle, I finally caved in recently. It really wasn't worth it.

    If you don't have "Gettin Square" on your list, you need to reevaluate your life.

      Canno agree more.

    As a foreigner living in Australia since 2011, I quite enjoyed "Mental" starring Toni Colette. After getting to know the Australian lifestyle a bit, I rather enjoyed "The Castle" as well. But it would definitely be lost on most non-Australians.

    My 10 picks are,
    Dogs in Space
    Man of Flowers
    Two Hands
    Smiley (1956)
    Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
    Careful he might hear you
    The Adventures of Barry McKenzie

    Last edited 28/06/13 1:16 pm

      Upvote for 'Dogs in Space' and 'The Adventures of Barry McKenzie'... - actually most of your list is pretty great.
      Sideways-vote for not including 'The Cars That Ate Paris'. :P

    I'm glad to see The Dish included. Was Point Break an aussie movie?

    Razorback? I know it's a suspense/horror (and there are too many on the list).
    Maybe man from snowy river? Whole that movie bored me to tears, it was popular. And it's true that I yawned tears watching it...

      Razorback was totally on my runners' up list

    Not a single chick flick on that list. Muriel's Wedding should probably have gotten a mention, if only because international viewers will recognise half the people in the film.

    What? No mention of "Malcolm"? As a non-Australian, I absolutely love that film. Great music too.

    I reckon The Bank and Gettin' Square rate a mention.

      I bought the dvd of the bank the other day - getting harder to find but well worth the effort!

    Welcome to Woop Woop is essentially Wake In Fright - The Musical. It's like looking under a rock and finding a lot of the antecedents of modern Australian pop culture.

    If you're going to add Dark City, then why not The Matrix, and Star Wars I?

      Dark City was conceived, written, directed and co-produced by an Australian. The Matrix and Star Wars 1 were just shot here.

        "Just shot here" denies the creative contributions of a large number of Australians on those films, moreso perhaps than Walkabout

          I'm not sure what creative contributions Australians made to Star Wars Episode 1? It was a very auteur-driven project (to its detriment, as it turned out). The Matrix had more Aussie creative involvement, but it's clearly less Australian than Dark City.

    IMO Mad Max (the first) was way better than Mad Max 2. Best B movie ever made.

      A lot of millennials I've spoken to find it boring now (grew up around the filming locations and lived not far from where Max tells the guy to hack through his ankle before taking off in the Interceptor)...at the time it was massive and kickstarted Mel Gibson's Hollywood career though he is American born.

    Strictly Ballroom and The Man From Snowy River should be on this list.

    The Castle, Mad Max 2, Two Hands and Chopper would be a good start.

    I'm angry such a subjective list has not been tailor-made to include my specific top ten list of movies. While featuring some of the movies that make my top ten list, it does not feature all of them, and that has compelled me to comment expressing my anger.

    Also, you're welcome.

    Kelly gang? Why would non-Aussies even give a damn?

      1. Bushrangers are badass
      2. It has film-buff cache

      maybe because it is the first feature length film.

      it does get referenced a lot, this would be my only guess. and the only reason anyone now cares about this film.

    Bad Boy Bubby.

      Bloody Oath! BBB is a sick twisted and great Aussie movie!

      I also couldn't believe that Chopper wasn't on the list but was happy that the proposition was there.
      I also was happy that AUSTRALIA was not on the list. It should only be on "the world's most campy crappy bs movie lists"

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