Aimee O'Keefe

30 Best Australian Movies of All Time | Man of Many

Our list of the best Australian movies of all time goes like this.

Best Australian movies of all time at a glance

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.

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

An eerie depiction of a dystopian Australian future, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is the more successful follow-up to the original Australian post-civilization film directed by George Miller. And while it the original, simply titled ‘Mad Max’ was the film that launched Mel Gibson’s career, it was Mad Max 2: The Road Warri that catapulted him to Hollywood. If you’re looking to watch a movie that put one of our all-time greats on the map, check out this film that includes plenty of violence, recklessness and old-school gang warfare.

2. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

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.

3. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

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.

4. Crocodile Dundee (1986)

A quintessential Aussie film if there ever was one, Wake in Fright (1971) has everything from two-up to boxing Kangaroos as it follows a teacher-in-training who arrives in the outback mining town of Bundanyabba before falling victim to his vices. Martin Scorcese once said this film “left me speechless,” and that’s just the cherry on top for one of our favourite Australian movies of all time.

5. Wake in Fright (1971)

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.

6. Moulin Rouge (2001)

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.

7. The Great Gatsby (2013)

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.

8. Babe (1995)

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.

9. Shine (1996)

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.

10. Gallipoli (1981)

Oscar-nominated and winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 1981, Breaker Morant sits right next to Gallipoli as one of the best Australian war films of all time. Following the story of three Australian lieutenants who are incorrectly court martialed for executing prisoners as a means of deflection, the film would launch Edward Woodward’s career as ‘Breaker Morant’ before he’d go on to stardom through the hit TV series ‘The Equalizer’ in 1985.

11. Breaker Morant (1980)

If you’re looking for a classic Australian-western then you can’t look past The Proposition (2005). Perfectly cliche in its approach the film synopsis is based around a proposition, kill one of your brothers, or else. Emily Watson is the standout, recognised by the London Critics Circle Film Awards for her role as Martha Stanley, the movie would also go on to be nominated as best picture at the International Cinephile Society Awards. If you’re looking to watch one of the best Aussie dramas, this is right at the top of our list.

12. The Proposition (2005)

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.

13. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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.

14. Snowtown (2011)

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.

15. Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

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.

16. Lantana (2001)

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.

17. Wolf Creek (2005)

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.

18. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

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.

19. Chopper (2000)

This 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.

20. Australia (2009)

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.

21. Romper Stomper (1992)

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.

22. The Boys (1998)

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.

23. Two Hands (1999)

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.

24. The Babadook (2014)

While we’re never really that excited by a true story, but Van Diemen’s Land (2009) changes that narrative with enough Aussie history woven in to keep us hooked.  The film follows Alexander Pearce, an Irishman who was sentenced to forced labour on the island of Van Diemen’s Land (which is now called Tasmania) as he and other convicts escape captivity. Think of this as a giant Alcatraz, where you can escape, but it’s almost worse than staying in captivity. It’s a very graphic Australian film, we wouldn’t recommend this to those with a queasy stomach.

25. Van Diemen’s Land (2009)

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

26. The Castle (1997)

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.

27. Candy (2006)

Another look at the brutal Tasmanian colony camps, once described as “hell on earth” by the Western countries at the time. Only the worst offenders were sent to Tasmania and this Australian film follows Clare who’s been held captive beyond her sentence. Desperate to flee she gets help from an Aboriginal tracker called Billy who helps her along the way.

28. The Nightingale (2018)

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.

28. Animal Kingdom (2010)

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.

29. Walkabout (1971)

Now, you’re probably wondering why and how this makes the list of the best Australian movies of all time. However, many of the film’s live-action scenes were actually filmed in Australia and the supporting cast is rife with Aussie accents. And while the country’s history with the introduced species has been well documented, Peter Rabbit is a light-hearted film that sits in the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time. If you want to see what would happen when a couple of rabbits harass a certain ‘Mr McGregor’ in his vegetable garden, look no further.

30. Peter Rabbit (2018)

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

Highest-Grossing Australian Movies

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 Determine a Movie’s ‘Aussie-ness’

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.

How We Pick Our Movies

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.

Australian Movies FAQs

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