With some fantastic storylines, a rich cinematic history, and plenty of iconic characters too, Australian cinema offers something for everyone. From biographical dramas such as Lion and horrors like Black Water, to cult classics such as Mad Max, and action-comedies like Crocodile Dundee, there are plenty of great Aussie movies which are sure to entertain and inform audiences of all-ages.
But what are the best Australian movies you should be adding to your watch-list? Well, how about the movies that are contained within this post?!
Below you will find a run-through of 30 of the best Australian movies for you to watch. These films serve up a great slice of drama from down under, and are sure to showcase the strength of Aussie filmmaking.
Dead Calm (1989)
First up is the tense psychological thriller, Dead Calm. The movie – starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane – tells the story of a married couple, who find themselves terrorised by a stranger while out at sea.
Based on the book of the same name by Charles Williams, Phillip Noyce directs this nerve-shredding picture, which boasts great performances from the central trio.
The Man from Snowy River (1982)
Next up is a stone-cold Aussie classic. The movie is the Australian Western drama, The Man from Snowy River, which is based on the Banjo Paterson Poem of the same name and stars Kirk Douglas, Jack Thompson, and Tom Burlinson.
It seems kind of obvious to have a film called Australia on a list of best Australian movies, but this next film earns its spot irrespective of its name. Australia is a historical drama, set during World War II, and depicts events which take place during the war including the bombing of Darwin.
Baz Luhrmann directs this epic movie, while Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Bryan Brown star.
Mad Max (1979)
Set in a dystopian near-future, with society on the brink of collapse, Mad Max follows the story of law enforcement officer, Max Rockatansky, and his tragic encounter with a biker gang. Mel Gibson takes on the role of Max, while George Miller directs this iconic low-budget action movie which made Gibson a star.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Following the success of Mad Max, a sequel soon followed. This film picks up sometime after the original, with the world in an even worse state than before, and Max finding himself up against a band of marauders.
George Miller returns to directing duties for this superb sequel, while Mel Gibson reprises the role of Max.
The Babadook (2014)
Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are explored in this creepy, and incredibly effective psychological horror film about a young woman and her son who become stalked by a story book character. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is a deeply spooky picture which weaves the likes of Georges Méliès and German expressionism into the horror.
Loosely based on the novel of the same name by James Vance Marshall, Walkabout is a survival movie from director Nicolas Roeg. The movie stars Jenny Agutter and David Gulpilil, and tells the story of two school children who have to fend for themselves in the Aussie outback.
Wake in Fright / Outback (1971)
In director Ted Kotcheff’s, Wake in Fright (aka Outback), a school teacher finds himself stranded in a sinister town in the outback. The movie is a psychological thriller, starring Gary Bond and Donald Pleasence, and is based on the novel, Wake in Fright, by Kenneth Cook.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Picnic at Hanging Rock is mystery-drama about a group of school girls and their teacher, who disappear on a day trip. The film depicts the events leading up to the disappearances, before focusing on the impact the incident has on the local community.
Picnic at Hanging Rock stars Rachel Roberts, Dominic Guard, and Vivean Gray. Peter Weir directs.
The Castle (1997)
Directed by Rob Sitch, The Castle is an Australian comedy starring Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, and Stephen Curry. The movie follows the story of the Kerrigan family, who fight to save their suburban home from developers.
BMX Bandits (1983)
BMX Bandits is a beloved children’s movie about a trio of bike riding kids, who find themselves caught up with a gang of crooks. The cult favourite stars a young Nicole Kidman (in one of her first major acting roles), and is a pure piece of escapism, ‘80s style!
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
In Muriel’s Wedding, socially awkward young woman, Muriel Heslop, dreams of nothing more than getting married and moving away from her home town of Porpoise Spit. But as Muriel edges ever closer to her dream, is getting married really everything it is cracked up to be?
Featuring a super soundtrack and a cracking cast, Muriel’s Wedding is a hilarious comedy-drama which looks at the highs and lows of romance. Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, and Bill Hunter star, while P. J. Hogan directs.
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Paul Hogan stars as Mick “Crocodile” Dundee in this iconic fish-out-of-water action-comedy, about a bushman from the Australian outback navigating his way through the mean streets of New York. Crocodile Dundee was a monumental hit upon release, boosted Australian tourism, made Hogan an international star, spawned two sequels, and has retained a certain charm ever since.
Evil Angels / A Cry in the Dark (1988)
Released as Evil Angels in Australia and New Zealand, but retitled A Cry in the Dark for international release, this next film is arguably one of the most famous titles on this list. The movie – directed by Fred Schepisi – stars Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, and details the real-life story of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, who claimed their baby was attacked and killed by a dingo.
Mary and Max (2009)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana provide voice-over duties for this stop-motion animated comedy, about two unlikely pen-pals: a lonely girl and a man with Asperger’s syndrome. Mary and Max is a wonderful film from writer/director Adam Elliot.
Directed by Scott Hicks, Shine is a biographical drama, based on the life of pianist David Helfgott. Geoffrey Rush, Alex Rafalowicz, and Noah Taylor play the role of Helfgott, at different stages in his life.
In mid-‘80s thriller, Fortress, four armed, masked men arrive at a school and kidnap a teacher and her classroom full of kids. The teacher knows her only chance for survival, and her only way of keeping the kids safe, is to attempt an escape.
Directed by Arch Nicholson, and based on Gabrielle Lord’s novel of the same name, Fortress is a quirky thriller, which goes to some dark places. The movie borders on horror, and includes an unforgettable ending.
Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
Based on the book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington Garimara, Rabbit-Proof Fence is a drama loosely inspired by a true story. The movie – directed by Phillip Noyce – follows the journey of three young girls who escape from the Moore River Native Settlement, to return to their families.
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice take the lead in this quirky rom-com about two ballroom dancers who find love on the dance floor. Baz Luhrmann directs this wonderful gem from the early ‘90s not to be overlooked.
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)
A favourite amongst the LGBTQ+ community, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows the story of two drag queens, and a transgender woman, as they embark on a road trip across the Australia Outback. Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Bill Hunter star, while Stephen Elliott directs this outrageously fabulous picture!
Lake Mungo (2008)
Mockumentary-style storytelling is employed in this found footage horror movie, about a family trying to come to terms with the passing of their daughter. The movie is a supernatural picture, written and directed by Joel Anderson.
Two Hands (1999)
Heath Ledger takes the lead in this crime comedy, written and directed by Gregor Jordan. Bryan Brown, Susie Porter, and Rose Byrne co-star.
Wolf Creek (2005)
Originally marketed as being ‘based on true events’, Wolf Creek follows the story of three backpackers who become the victims of sadistic killer, Mick Taylor. Greg McLean writes and directs this tense Australian slasher, which spawned a sequel and a television series.
Mel Gibson stars in this war drama about several young men who enlist in the Australian Army during World War I. The film depicts their journey, as well as the loss of innocence that comes with such conflict.
Packed with plenty of bite, Wyrmwood (aka Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead) is an Aussie action horror from Kiah Roache-Turner. The movie tells the story of a mechanic and his fight for survival against hordes of the undead.
Romper Stomper (1992)
Geoffrey Wright writes and directs this drama about the downfall of a neo-Nazi group in Melbourne. The film stars Russell Crowe, Daniel Pollock, and Jacqueline McKenzie.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Thundering vehicles and zany stunts fill the screen in this adrenaline-fuelled movie from director George Miller. The film – the fourth entry in the Mad Max series – is a picture which largely revolves around an extended chase sequence, but what a sequence it is!
Oh, and you don’t need to have watched any of the previous Mad Max movies to understand Fury Road. Just dive in and enjoy this superb action road movie.
Dev Patel stars in this biographical drama about Saroo Brierley – a young man who sets out to find his family, after being separated from them for 25 years. Garth Davis directs, with the film based on Brierley’s book, A Long Way Home.
Black Water (2007)
A vicious crocodile attack is the subject of this next movie, from directors David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki. Black Water is a horror-thriller, inspired by a true story, which originally carried the tagline: ‘What you can’t see, can hurt you.’
And finally, based on the autobiographical books by Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, Chopper is a crime drama about Read’s time spent in prison. Eric Bana takes on the title role, while Andrew Dominik directs.
So, those are all of the movies you should check out. Now, to save you having to scroll back up, here is a list of the best Australian movies in one handy place!
- Dead Calm (1989)
- The Man from Snowy River (1982)
- Australia (2008)
- Mad Max (1979)
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
- The Babadook (2014)
- Walkabout (1971)
- Wake in Fright / Outback (1971)
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
- The Castle (1997)
- BMX Bandits (1983)
- Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
- Crocodile Dundee (1986)
- Evil Angels / A Cry in the Dark (1988)
- Mary and Max (2009)
- Shine (1996)
- Fortress (1985)
- Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
- Strictly Ballroom (1992)
- The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994)
- Lake Mungo (2008)
- Two Hands (1999)
- Wolf Creek (2005)
- Gallipoli (1981)
- Wyrmwood (2014)
- Romper Stomper (1992)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
- Lion (2016)
- Black Water (2007)
- Chopper (2000)
Thank you for taking the time to read this post about the best Australian movies on It’s A Stampede! – I hope it has proved useful. For more useful posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.