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Best australian movies of all time

25 Best Australian Movies of All Time

Australia is a proud film nation, and it’s no different when it comes to the best Australian movies. Whilst we are new on the scene compared to the backlog of films from Europe and America, we are well and truly starting to make our mark. We took a dive into the deep end and have managed to narrow down the best Australian movies of all time. All you have to do is start watching. You’re welcome.

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Best australian movies of all time 1

How We Determine a Movie’s ‘Aussie-ness’

The question remains, what makes a movie Australian? The Aussie-ness of a movie can be based on a few key factors, in our eyes. Firstly, if the director or filmmaker is Australian, that is something we can claim. Another factor influencing whether or not a movie is Aussie is if it is financed in Australia- if our valuable assets are going into creating a film, that makes it ours. Perhaps the greatest factor influencing whether a film can be claimed as an Aussie one is if it’s shot in Australia. Australia’s remarkable landscape is perhaps our greatest assets and the biggest source of our pride. If a film depicts our precious, unique homeland, we deserve some recognition.

How We Pick Our Movies

You may also be wondering how we decide which movies are worthy enough to be in the top 25 best Australian movies of all time. To pick the best movies, we do a deep dive into the world of film. We look at things like IMDB ratings, to indicate public response. We also have a look at box office gross, which provides a more measured indication of its success from a financial viewpoint. We also take a glance at what awards the movie has won, if it has a few under its belt, that’s a good indication of acclaim in the film industry.

Best Australian Movies of All Time

Whether it’s cleverly titled films like Priscilla or as unimaginative as the Australian movie, this country has a fine history of visual storytelling. Here is a list of the best Australian movies of all time.

3. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

A celebration of the quintessential Australian road trip, with a bit of drag thrown in there, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is one of the most iconic Australian movies of all time. When three men dress up as women and drive a bus across the beautiful Australian landscape, let your imagination run wild as to what proceeds.

Director: Stephan Elliott
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce
Run Time: 1 h 44 mins

2. Mad Max (1979)

An eerie depiction of a dystopian Australian future, Mad Max is the original Australian post-civilization film. The film was also what catapulted Mel Gibson’s career, one of our most successful, and crazy stars to claim as our own. The film includes plenty of violence, recklessness and old-school gang warfare.

Director: George Miller
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel
Run Time: 1 h 28 mins

3. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a true story that tackles the harrowing worlds of the Stolen Generation. The film recounts the long journey of three children who try to escape back home in an attempt to be reunited with their family. It is an important lesson in our shameful cultural history, but an emotional and timeless watch nonetheless.

Director: Phillip Noyce
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Starring: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury
Run Time: 1 h 34 mins

1. The Castle (1997)

A humorous take on Australian working-class life, The Castle is an Australian classic. It follows the lives of the Kerrigan family, as they try to keep their home safe from being bought by Melbourne airport. It is a budget comedy- so don’t expect too much glitz and glam.

Director: Rob Sitch
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Starring: Michael Caton, Anne Tenney
Run Time: 1 h 25 mins

5. The Great Gatsby (2013)

It may be the charm of Leonardo DiCaprio or it may be the amazing directorial performance by Baz Lurhmann, but either way, this is one of our favourite Australian movies. It’s a hard task turning the classic novel into a remarkable visual experience, but Baz has achieved it through the visual effects, soundtrack and contemporary touches.

Director: Baz Lurhmann
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan
Run Time: 2 h 23 mins

6. Romper Stomper (1992)

One of the earliest introductions to our beloved Russell Crowe, Romper Stomper doesn’t hold back. Offering a vivid depiction of Australia’s underworld ethnic war, the film shines a light on Australia’s colourful cultural landscape. Full of racism, violence, sex and drugs, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Director: Geoffrey Wright
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Starring: Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock
Run Time: 1 h 34 mins

7. Babe (1995)

If you didn’t watch Babe growing up, you were certainly missing out. The film is set in Australia, and despite the lack of Australian accents, the pull of this heartwarming tale about a pig living on a farm that is raised by sheepdogs is timeless. It is one of those rare movies that will entertain adults and kids alike over the generations.

Director: Chris Noonan
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Starring: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski
Run Time: 1 h 31 mins

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The most recent addition to the fiery Mad Max juggernaut, Fury Road is a modern take on the cult classic. With a stellar cast, Charlize Theron takes the lead as a rebel against a tyrannical ruler with her team of helpers. A far cry from Mel Gibson, the franchise remains one of the best post-apocalyptic ones out there.

Director: George Miller
IMDB Rating: 81/10
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
Run Time: 2 hours

9. Snowtown (2011)

A vivid take on a true crime that took place in Australia in the 1990s. An amazing screenwriting debut by Shaun Grant, the movie is as dark and eerie as the real Snowtown murders. We wouldn’t recommend watching this one if you get scared easily, that’s for sure.

Director: Justin Kurzel
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall
Run Time: 1 h 59 mins

10. Crocodile Dundee (1986)

A big-screen hit with all the classic trimmings of Australia, romance and some slight predictability, Crocodile Dundee has become a national treasure. Mick Dundee, played by the iconic Paul Hogan, falls in love with a New York journalist while she’s assigned in the Australian outback.

Director: Peter Faiman
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski
Run Time: 1 h 37 mins

11. Moulin Rouge (2001)

Baz Luhrmann has done it again, and this time with a modern musical that has received international acclaim and plenty of awards. The movie has earned a huge place of importance in pop culture. Set in the Paris underground, it depicts all the grit and excitement in a way that will make you want to be a part of it.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor
Run Time: 2 h 7 mins

12. Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

An Australian-French comedy filled drama that is guaranteed to lighten the mood. Popular Australian actress Toni Collette plays an ugly duckling, obsessed with ABBA, who decides to move to Sydney to reinvent her life. Toni plays this role with great passion, in the classic Aussie way.

Director: P.J Hogan
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Starring: Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths
Run Time: 1 h 46 mins

13. Lantana (2001)

Lantana is a rare arthouse hit turned commercial success and remains one of the greatest arthouse Australian movies. Flooded with familiar faces like our very own Geoffery Rush, the film explores marriage and love as it follows the relationships of four couples after they discover a young woman’s dead body in the suburban Sydney bush.

Director: Ray Lawrence
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Starring: Geoffery Rush, Rachael Blake
Run Time: 2 h 1 min

14. Wolf Creek (2005)

If you haven’t heard of Wolf Creek, you have been living under a rock, and we hope it’s not one in the outback. This Australian movie became a rite of passage for young people learning about safety and travelling, as (brutally) inflicted by their parents, of course. Based on true events, it is as terrifying as it is sobering.

Director: Greg McLean
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10
Starring: Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath
Run Time: 1 h 39 mins

15. The Boys (1998)

Rowan Woods outdoes himself with this crime drama about a psychotic man. The film dives deep into themes of self-pity and childhood trauma in an evocative way. The film is set in the rough Sydney suburbs and was well-received in Australia. Toni Collete makes another stellar performance in this one.

Director: Rowan Woods
IMDB Rating: 7/10
Starring: Toni Collette, David Wenham
Run Time: 1 h 26 mins

16. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Painfully good and painfully bad at the same time, this movie is a rare piece of musical drama that manages to do both. Baz Luhrmann provides us with yet another visual extravaganza, with lots of dancing, crazy costumes and some very interesting characters.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice
Run Time: 1 h 34 mins

17. Chopper (2000)

Eric Bana makes a spectacular performance in Chopper, a performance so good you’d be fooled into thinking he is the real-life Mark ‘chopper’ Read. It is based on the autobiographical book that the criminal wrote from his prison cell. The film will take you back to the violent, drug-filled days of Melbourne in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Director: Andrew Dominik
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Starring: Eric Bana, Simon Lyndon
Run Time: 1 h 34 mins

18. Australia (2009)

The is by far the best Australian movie to watch if you’re ever living overseas and are feeling nostalgic, missing home or if you are simply feeling that extra bit nationalistic. Featuring two of Australia’s major exports, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, the film is littered with cultural history, all set against the beautiful backdrop of our great barren land.

Director: Baz Luhrmann
IMDB Rating: 6.6/10
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Run Time: 2 h 45 mins

19. Two Hands (1999)

A real whirlwind of genres, Two Hands combines supernatural, crime and comedy in a seamless marriage. A young Heath Ledger gives the film that extra edginess that we love. You’ll be terrified one minute, and laughing the next, it’s a real rollercoaster.

Director: Gregor Jordan
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10
Starring: Heath Ledger, Bryan Brown
Run Time: 1 h 43 mins

20. The Babadook (2014)

A horror film that plays with the genre’s traditional conventions, Babadook is as eerie as it is intriguing. In the movie, a single mother and her child fall into paranoia when a creepy child’s book appears in their home. It grasps the idea of fear that we have of ourselves, in an ambiguous, proactive manner.

Director: Jennifer Kent
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Run Time: 1 h 34 mins

21. Candy (2006)

A romantic film filled with lessons surrounding addiction and despair, Candy speaks to every complex love story. Be prepared to swoon over a young Heath Ledger, who plays a poet with a heroin addiction that falls in love with Candy, as he lures her into his complexities.

Director: Neil Armfield
IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
Starring: Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish
Run Time: 1 h 48 mins

22. Shine (1996)

Australian director Scott Hicks unravels the complexities of mental health in this biographical drama. It tells the story of Pianist David Helfgott and follows his breakdown and eventual rise to stardom and stability. It is a beautiful and raw reminder of the downfalls of being a child prodigy.

Director: Scott Hicks
IMDB Rating: 7.7/10
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Justine Braine
Run Time: 1 h 45 mins

23. Gallipoli (1981)

Gallipoli is an authentic historical drama and one of the best Australian movies that pay tribute to the realities of World War I. Mel Gibson and Mark Lee play Frank and Archie, who lose their boyish charm in the grim world of war. The movie is guaranteed to make even the most stoic amongst us shed a tear.

Director: Peter Weir
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10
Starring: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee
Run Time: 1 h 50 mins

24. Animal Kingdom (2010)

A stunning debut for director David Michod, Animal Kingdom was a national and international success. It tells the story of a teenager who finds himself feeling lost within his criminal family. It is set against the backdrop of Melbourne in the mid-1980s, which was one of the cities with the highest crime rates at the time.

Director: David Michod
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Starring: Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton
Run Time: 1 h 53 mins

25. Walkabout (1971)

A moving film that sends an important message about cultural mistranslation, featuring snakes, wombats and a side of trauma. A father abandons his kids in the outback, where they learn to survive with the help of a young Aboriginal boy who is on a ‘walkabout’. This is a great movie to encourage Australians to reflect and learn more about the land we live in.

Director: Nicolas Roeg
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Starring: Jenny Agutter, David Gulpili
Run Time: 1 h 40 mins

Highest Grossing Australian Movies

Ratings aside, some Australian movies raked in more cash than others. Here is a list of the highest-grossing Australian movies of all time, according to Screen Australia.

  1. Crocodile Dundee (1986) – $47,707,598
  2. Australia (2008) – 37.555.839
  3. Babe (1995) – $36,797,861
  4. Happy Feet (2006) – $31,786,593
  5. Lion (2017) – $29,563,329
  6. Moulin Rouge! (2001) – $27,765,415
  7. The Great Gatsby (2013) – $27,385,977
  8. Peter Rabbit (2018) – $26,760,008
  9. CrocodileDundee 2 (1988) – $24,916,805
  10. Strictly Ballroom (1992) – $21,761,029
  11. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – $21,709,379
  12. Red Dog (2011) – $21,482,858
  13. The Dressmaker (2015) – $20,285,806
  14. The Dish (2000) – $17,999,472
  15. The Dry (2021) – $17,327,216

You’ll also like:
15 Best Time Travel Movies of All Time
42 Best Movies of 2020
50 Best Action Movies Of All Time, Ranked

General FAQS

What is the highest grossing Australian movie of all time?

Crocodile Dundee (1986) is the highest-grossing Australian movie with a gross of A$47.7 million.

Is Mel Gibson Australian?

Yes, Mel Gibson was born in the US but grew up in Australia.

Is Mad Max: Fury Road a prequel?

Mad Max: Fury Road is a sequel.

About the author

About the author
CONTRIBUTOR

Aimee O'Keefe

Aimee O’Keefe is a Sydney-based freelance writer with a background in fashion, entertainment and technology coverage. She completed a Bachelor's degree in Media and Communications at the University of Sydney and has previously worked with Universal Magazines and the Ministry of Style. She currently works as Content Writer for a leading digital marketing agency.