While you’re stuck inside, explore Australia via the screen in some of these cinema favourites.
Ever since the first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, in 1906, Australian cinema has given life to the colourful characters and spectacular scenery of the country through stories on the big screen. So, sit back and travel Australia from your armchair via these film favourites where the Aussie landscape and culture are the stars.
1. Sweet Country
Born and raised in central Australia, Kaytetye man Warwick Thorton portrayed the realities of modern life in Aboriginal communities in his debut film Sampson and Delilah and turned the spotlight on toxic patriotism in We Don’t Need a Map. For Sweet Country he takes his usual unsubtle political themes back in time to 1920s central Australia, creating a film that beautifully depicts the outback landscape in a confronting portrayal of the divisions of society in the interwar period Australia.
2. The Castle
Set in suburban Melbourne, The Castle follows the Kerrigan family as they fight to save their home from a compulsory acquisition for the expanding airport. Now over 20 years old, the film’s budget production looks dated, but the charming portrayal of a working-class family and classic quotes (“Tell him he’s dreamin’”, “How’s the serenity”) make this a nostalgic favourite among Aussies.
3. Animal Kingdom
Maybe it’s the convict past, but Australia has a habit of elevating criminals to heroes in popular culture (Ned Kelly and Chopper Read are just two well-known examples). Animal Kingdom continues the tradition, portraying the true story and of a Melbourne criminal family in the 1980s. It features an Oscar award-winning performance from Jacki Weaver, but don’t get it confused with the American Netflix series which is total rubbish.
4. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
This fun film follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they travel from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus. Highlighting the difference in culture and landscape between the Australian cities and the Outback, the film uses quintessentially Aussie dry, self-deprecating humour to great effect.
5. The Dressmaker
The first thing to note about this film is British actor Kate Winslet’s impeccable Australian accent, no easy feat for a foreigner. The Dressmaker illustrates the classic “person returns to hometown and is forced to confront their emotional baggage” storyline and features top Australian actors including Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook and Liam Hemsworth.
6. Muriel’s Wedding
This charming film about an ABBA-loving socially awkward loser from a fictional small town who dreams of an extravagant wedding is a fun tale of female friendship. Like The Castle that came after it, Muriel’s Wedding depicts everyday Australia, complete with a trip to Bali. While the fashion has certainly dated, the story hasn’t.
7. Red Dog
You’ll probably only really appreciate this light-hearted film about a dog with no owner in rural Western Australia if you are a dog-person. It’s based on the true story of a beloved kelpie who roamed WA and is now immortalised not only in film but also in bronze, with a statue erected in his honour in Dampier.
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