June 15, 2014

The Top 10 Australian Films Of The Past 50 Years


This list was complied by film critic Evan Williams and I agree with his assessments in general.

There have been many, many more great Australian movies made, for example "My Brilliant Career" and "The Man from Snowy River" which I really enjoyed. 

Here's a list of all Australian movies. I am sure you can compile your own list of favourites, or those that you consider should be in a top ten list.

FROM its early days as an underground art form, battling against the new behemoth television and postwar censorship, to its current form as a global player, the Australian film industry has come a long way.

Here, critic Evan Williams list in ascending order his top 10 Australian films of the past 50 years. 
10. The Sapphires (2012) — Wayne Blair’s irresistibly likable film is about four Aboriginal girls who make it big as a singing group and perform for coalition forces in Vietnam. Our best and most authentic musical, with an exhilarating soundtrack and some sober reflections on the stolen generations.

9. Wake in Fright (1970) — A sensitive schoolteacher finds himself trapped in a vortex of booze, rowdyism and grog-fuelled violence in director Ted Kotcheff’s nightmarish vision of life in outback Australia. Masterly filmmaking, powerful and disturbing.

8. Breaker Morant (1980) — Based on real events during the Boer War, Bruce Beresford’s film is part war movie, part courtroom drama — a savage indictment of unthinking militarism and British colonial arrogance, brimful of passion and indignation.

7. Gallipoli (1981) — Peter Weir’s masterpiece is not so much an account of Australia’s most famous military engagement as a poetic meditation on the waste and futility of war itself, as seen in David Williamson’s screenplay. Mel Gibson makes an unforgettable follow-up to his first Mad Max film.

6. Newsfront (1978) — With its striking blend of live action and archival footage, Phillip Noyce delivers an affectionate meditation on Australian life and social attitudes as seen through the eyes of two old-style newsreel cameramen. (David Stratton once named it his top Australian film.)
5. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) — Peter Weir’s mysterious and haunting fable looks at transcendental themes of time and consciousness when a party of schoolgirls disappear during a rock-climbing excursion in Victoria. Unforgettably strange and beautifully accomplished.

4. Animal Kingdom (2010) — David Michod’s internationally-acclaimed debut feature explores toxic bonds of love and rivalry within a Melbourne gangland family and helped revive the international career of Jackie Weaver. Uniquely intense and frightening.

3. The Piano (1993) — Jane Campion’s stunning film, set in a remote colonial outpost of New Zealand against a background of contending cultures, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes on its first screening and is among the most bizarre and beautiful love stories the cinema has given us.

2. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) — Fred Schepisi’s film of Thomas Keneally’s novel is a harrowing indictment of racial prejudice, powerful and unflinching, with a memorable performance from young Tommy Lewis as a part-Aboriginal boy growing up in rural Australia.

1. Lantana (2001) — Our finest contemporary drama. Ray Lawrence’s timeless and moving film, based on Andrew Bovell’s play, gives us four interlocking stories of marital love and stress linked by a central mystery. Measured, contemplative and rich in truthful insight.

Some additional comments from Evan Williams:

Underground to Oscar: 50 years of Australian film


Our one big commercial success of the 60s was They’re a Weird Mob, based on John O’Grady’s novel and funded by the Rank Organisation in Britain. Looking back, it is hard to believe that an industry that produced the world’s first full-length feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906, should somehow have disappeared without trace.(clip below of the remains.)



It was true. The 1970s and early 80s saw a spectacular burgeoning of Australian production, with a succession of iconic titles — Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971), Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright (1971), Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Henri Safran’s Storm Boy (1976), Bruce Beresford’s great historical drama Breaker Morant (1980), and Peter Weir’s magnificent Gallipoli (1981) — the first Australian film I reviewed in these pages.(trailer below)



Generous tax concessions ensured another boom for the industry in the 1980s and 90s. The notorious Section 10BA of the income tax act allowed investors to claim deductions greater than the amounts they had invested in a film. But someone actually had to make a film to claim the benefit, and any old film would do. So most 10BA films were rubbish, but the industry, its confidence boosted, thrived on its own resources. The 80s saw some notable box-office triumphs, among them the Mad Max films, which launched Mel Gibson’s international career, and Peter Faiman’s blockbuster comedy Crocodile Dundee (1986), which launched Paul Hogan’s.

The 90s marked other changes, from smaller, quirkier films such as Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), P.J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Rob Sitch’s The Castle (1997) and Stephan Elliott’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) to The Piano (1993), Jane Campion’s haunting love story set in New Zealand. The 21st century has brought such classics as David Michod’s gangland drama Animal Kingdom (2010) and Ray Lawrence’s Lantana (2001), based on Andrew Bovell’s play. I rate it the best Australian film of all.



It’s an ever-lengthening list — Geoffrey Rush, Nicole Kidman, Eric Bana, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Rose Byrne, Judy Davis, Mia Wasikowska, the late Heath Ledger. 
My apologies to all whose names I have overlooked. And my apologies to the many filmmakers whose work I have unjustly neglected. Cate Blanchett’s Oscar speaks for all of you.
With thanks to The Australian.

Jessica starred in "The Sapphires".
Baz has gone on to greater heights with "Moulin Rouge" and "The Great Gatsby".
Although "A Fortunate Life" is a miniseries there is an excellent section on Gallipoli in it. 
Similarly "ANZACS" is an excellent miniseries about Gallipoli and Australia's involvement in WW1. 

Many great mini-series were made in the time-frame mentioned, and beyond.
A list of those is here.