12 Iconic Australian Films You Should See

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | © PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert | © PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Photo of Ellie Griffiths
2 December 2016

Whether they’re centered on Australia’s historically important events, or simply featuring stereotypical characters, we’ve found a selection of iconic Aussie that have to be seen to be believed. Or just accepted.

Animal Kingdom (2010)

At the heart of gritty Australian crime drama lies Animal Kingdom. Heavily involved in various criminal activities, this film features double crossings, violence and mafia-style family conflict that is loosely based on the rulers of underworld Melbourne in the 1980s, the Pettingill family. Follow the story of the innocent J, an outsider who becomes an insider as he is taken in by his extended family after his mother passed away.

Candy (2006)

The intoxicating romance between the poet Dan (played by Heath Ledger) and the colourfully named artist Candy is at the centre of this film. After luring her into his heroin addiction, the two of them fall into a downward spiral of drug dependency after many failed attempts to get clean. Candy is based on the author Luke Davies’ semi-autobiographical novel projecting the desperation of addiction.

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

For children of the ’80s, Crocodile Dundee is a charm for nostalgia. While on an assignment in the Aussie outback, a stuck-up journalist from New York falls in love with bushman Mick Dundee. This rom-com follows Dundee’s journey to the States where he is amazed by the fascinating people and lifestyle of the big city, compared to the rough-living lifestyle he is used to.

Gallipoli (1981)

Following the story of two young Aussie sprinters who are wanting to fulfil their sense of duty by joining the army. Training in the shadows of the Great Pyramids before being sent to the front line, they are made messengers in one of the bloodiest battles in the Turkish battlefields of World War One. Varying slightly from the true historic events from the early 1900s, Gallipoli is an important film that is symbolic of our past.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Australia’s most ‘colourful’ director Baz Luhrmann introduced the 21st century to the prostitute-run, drug-fuelled underworld of Paris in 1899. At the centre of the Bohemian revolution lies the glamorous Moulin Rouge, where a young poet falls in love with the star of the show, which ultimately leads him into a doomed love triangle. The high-energy film is one of Luhrmann’s greatest musical films.

Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

Obsessed with ABBA? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. At the centre of the Aussie-French comedy-drama Muriel’s Wedding is the socially awkward Muriel, who is utterly obsessed. Ridiculed for her fashion, she dreams of meeting the ideal man and having a glamorous wedding; however, her father has never let her date. In an attempt to redesign her life to match her desires, she moves to Sydney where she discovers the real world.

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

The emotional film Rabbit-Proof Fence follows three Aboriginal children, who were forcibly taken from their families in 1931 in a Government attempt to train them as domestic servants. These girls risk everything to escape and take the 1,500-mile journey to their hometown. Following the rabbit-proof fence across the continent, with authorities on their tail, they meet many characters along the way willing to help them. This fictional film is based on a book that tells the true story of three girls who were captured as part of the Stolen Generation – children taken from their families due to being mixed-race.

Red Dog (2011)

The Australian comedy-drama Red Dog follows the journey of a ‘red’ dog in search of his long lost master. Meeting many people throughout his journey, he makes his way into everyone’s hearts, bringing a local community together at last. This film is based on the legendary true story of a red dog uniting a local community like no other whilst roaming the Aussie outback.

Samson and Delilah (2009)

The brutal, yet brilliant, representation of life in a small isolated community in the Central Australian desert tells a love story in the heart of poverty and addiction. As tragedy strikes, Samson and Delilah embark on a journey of survival. Samson and Delilah has almost no dialogue throughout the entire film, proving that actions do speak louder than words, introducing a perspective of Australia that is often out of sight and out of mind.

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

The low-budget feature film that inspired a long-running international hit stage show introduces you to three men who dress up as women as they tour their show across Australia. Featuring everything that a road trip movie could possibly need, the colourful bus named Priscilla becomes home to drag queen Anthony and his cross-dresser and transgender friends as they travel from Sydney to Alice Springs. With sensational costumes and catchy songs, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a must-watch.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Luhrmann’s more recent film is the adaptation of the iconic book, The Great Gatsby. Introducing a man in search of the American dream, he moves next door to millionaire Gatsby who draws him into the captivating world of the wealthy, and the consequences associated with them. Despite receiving mixed responses from critics, it’s the iconic Luhrmann bedazzling and high-energy party scenes that draw audiences in.

Walkabout (1971)

The moving story of human kindness sees a geologist taking his two children to the outback for a picnic. In an attempt to shoot them and failing, he turns the gun on himself, forcing the teenage girl and six-year-old boy to fend for themselves. In the outback, there is little hope without knowledge of survival. With the help of a passing Aboriginal boy who is on ‘walkabout’ – a tribal initiation into manhood that requires the boy to live off the land, for a period of time, using primitive methods – he teaches the two how to survive in the outback.

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