You may be surprised to know that the film industry owes a large debt to Australia. All the way back in 1906, an Australian director shot The Story of the Kelly Gang in and around the city of Melbourne. Looking back, film fans now recognise this as an important bit of cinema history, because in 2007 the silent film was listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register as the very first full-length feature film.
Since then, Australia has gone on to make some really fantastic films; and right now there is an ongoing debate about how we can pull local audiences away from Hollywood and get them engaged with Australian cinema. One of the leading voices in this is Australian writer/ director Alex Lykos, who this year is releasing his film Me & My Left Brain, with co-star Laura Dundovic (Miss Universe Australia 2008). Alex recently released a video exploring just how we could do this, which is chock full of great ideas and circulating online under the hashtag #supportaustraliancinema. I believe the first step, however, will be to remind people of some of the greatest cinema flicks to have come out of Australia in recent years, so here we’ll take a look at the best of the last decade.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
This tells the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an army medic and pacifist during WWII who won a Congressional Medal of Honour for saving 75 men from behind enemy lines without even carrying a gun. This film is a joint release from the US and Australia and has received huge acclaim from critics and audiences alike, getting six Oscar nominations and a host of other awards.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The first Mad Max movie came out in 1979 during the ‘golden age’ of Australian cinema and blew people away. Since then it has gone on to become a franchise, with this most recent release starring Tom Hardy as Max. This series has always captured the imagination, and has had a significant influence on popular culture – particularly in a stream of dystopian and post-apocalyptic films and books that followed in its wake. This film is really something, it’s visually amazing and it will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Well worth witnessing.
A fantastic science fiction thriller, this film stars Ethan Hawke as a temporal agent, which is basically a time travelling cop, and follows him as he journeys through time attempting to prevent deaths and atrocities at the hands of criminals. Stylish, imaginative and with some emotional punch, this is one of those films you’ll want to re-watch immediately. Get on it!
The Cup (2012)
Another great film to come out of Australia in the last decade is The Cup; this horse-racing epic stands alongside the other great equine-themed films of the last decade, like Seabiscuit and Warhorse. Co-starring famous Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, this film follows Damien Oliver’s struggle to win the 2002 Melbourne Cup after the tragic death of his brother. If you’re a big fan of the races, sadly this year’s Melbourne Cup doesn’t kick off until November, however the Golden Slipper Stakes are gearing up to begin next month, and Oddschecker already has the odds posted. If not, then, well, you should still watch this film.
Animal Kingdom (2010)
A gritty crime drama set in the criminal underworld of Melbourne, this film was recognised widely for its smart scriptwriting and incredible performances. It follows the exploits of the Cody family, consisting of armed robber Pope Cody (who is on the run from the law), his younger brother Craig (who is trading in illicit substances) and the youngest brother, Darren (who is trying to get by in this cruel criminal world). It’s been called ‘dark and mesmerising’ and deemed as close as you can get to an ‘Australian GoodFellas‘ by critics.
So, that’s our list! There are hundreds of great films that have come out of Australia over the past decade, not to mention the thousands that have been produced ever since that first feature film all the way back in 1907. However, this small list should be enough to be getting on with, and to get you engaged with some of the best and most recent flicks from Australia. Happy watching!