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):
TEN AUSSIE FLICKS TO AVOID AT ALL COSTS
- Welcome To Woop Woop
- Howling III
- Reckless Kelly
- Wog Boy II: Kings Of Mykonos
- The Extra
- Snowtown (brilliantly made, but it will scar you emotionally forever)
- You And Your Stupid Mate
- Turkey Shoot
- Strange Bedfellows
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!