Our Best (& Worst) Australian Films

October 29, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | AUSTRALIANIA, Classic Film, FILM | 10 Comments |

"The Devil's Playground"


Bliss (1985) (Directed by Ray Lawrence) [After Harry Joy dropped dead… his life was never the same again.” Hell is real! Ray Lawrence creates a totally original rendering of the Peter Carey novel, as good as his next film (see below) is not, with evocative and surreal touches and a great turn by Barry Otto as fallen adman Harry Joy.]

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) (Directed by Peter Weir) [It gives “Mo-Town” a whole new meaning. No-one got this when it came out, a jet-black comedy of mythic, small-town, country-dark Australia.]

The Castle (1997) (Directed by Rob Sitch) [David v Goliath – Darryl Kerrigan v The Barlow Group – is full of wit, nous and good cheer.]

The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1978) (Directed by Fred Schepisi) [A ferocious account of late 19C race relations in Australia, this vivid, violent film was vastly underrated in release and repays further watching.]

The Devil’s Playground (1976) (Directed by Fred Schepisi) [(See main image) – Australia didn’t need a Royal Commission; we had The Devil’s Playground.]

Love Serenade (1996) (Directed by Shirley Barrett) [One of the best oddest comedies around, a total and delightful original. Ken Sherry on Sunray radio announces: “I’d just like to pay tribute, if I may, to the generous nature of Sunray girls… especially in regard to the easing of a man’s loneliness.”  When restaurateur Albert complains that Ken plays too many songs celebrating ‘acts of procreation,’ and suggests Ken might play Glen Campbell, Charlie Rich and suchlike, Sherry responds by pointing out that Charlie Rich’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’ might be exactly about that.  Albert’s comeback: “At least Charlie Rich seems to base his acts of procreation on a foundation of love and mutual respect.”]

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) (Directed by Peter Weir) [the ne plus ultra of Australian film.]

The Removalist (1975) (Directed by Tom Jeffrey) [Raw, colourful, amusing and disturbing. A domestic dispute on steroids has the removalist attending to collect battered wife Jackie Weaver’s modest possessions, supervised by her sister (Kate Fitzpatrick). Hubby Kenny rolls up to remonstrate. All through the confrontation, the removalist insists that he’s got ‘ten thousand dollars’ worth of machinery tickin’ over there.’  Meanwhile, the great Peter Cummins, as the senior copper on a breach-of-peace-patrol, intervenes very roughly with errant husband, Kenny Carter: “I haven’t left a bruise in 23 years.”]

Romper Stomper (1992) (Directed by Geoffrey Wright) [The Varnished Culture required several strong drinks after watching this one. Incredibly violent, yet not gratuitously, and acted and filmed with genuine passion.]

Samson and Delilah (2009) (Directed by Warwick Thornton) [An unexpected (to us at least) masterpiece, soulful and sad, engrossing and heart-wrenching.]

Sunday Too Far Away (1975) (Directed by Ken Hannam) [An account of a shearer’s strike in the mid-1950s. This was a high point of cinematic realism, with real blokes, real sheep and real situations, plus a charismatic performance by Jack Thompson.]

Wake in Fright (1971) (Directed by Ted Kotcheff) [Leonard Maltin’s review wisely suggested that this one wouldn’t be favoured by the Australian Tourism Commission. Stark, brutal, nightmarish, and (let’s admit it) quintessentially Australian.]



Alexandra’s Project (2003) (Directed by Rolf de Heer)

An Angel At My Table (1990) (Directed by Jane Campion)

Animal Kingdom (2010) (Directed by David Michôd)

Breaker Morant (1980) (Directed by Bruce Beresford)

Careful He Might Hear You (1983) (Directed by Carl Schultz)

The Club (1980) (Directed by Bruce Beresford)

Dead Calm (1989) (Directed by Phillip Noyce)

Death in Brunswick (1990) (Directed by John Ruane)

Don’s Party (1976) (Directed by Bruce Beresford)

The Dressmaker (2015) (Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse)

Mad Max (1979) (Directed by George Miller)

Man of Flowers (1983) (Directed by Paul Cox)

Muriel’s Wedding (1994) (Directed by P. J. Hogan)

My Brilliant Career (1979) (Directed by Gillian Armstrong)

Oscar and Lucinda (1997) (Directed by Gillian Armstrong)

Proof (1990) (Directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse)

Ruben Guthrie (2015) (Directed by Brendan Cowell)

Shine (1996) (Directed by Scott Hicks)

Weekend of Shadows (1978) (Directed by Tom Jeffrey)


OUR WORST DOZEN: (*we have not included cheapie, exploitation movies, like “Turkey Shoot” “Houseboat Horror” “Bait” or “Alvin Purple”)

The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) – It might have been funny, once, after about 10 beers, but actually, it’s a ‘Barry Crocker’ (shocker).

Attack Force Z (1981) – We’ll quote the review by Mel Gibson, who starred: “…so bad, it’s funny.”

Australia (2008) – The film that makes you wish the Japs had won. Apart from the big money it made at the box office, it’s hard to see what drove alleged professionals to turn out this one.

The Babadook (2014) – processed schlock.

The Coolangatta Gold (1984) – Even fans of the Iron Man competition would shy away from this.  Better to watch the D-Generation parody, The Bermagui Bronze, or our offering, The Sellick’s Beach Silver

Crackerjack (2002) – A comedy has to have more than good intentions.  It has to be funny.

Harlequin (1980) – ‘Ra, ra, Rasputin!’ A load of old tripe.

Lantana (2000) – a noxious weed thicket of absurd coincidences and confected emotions. We like ‘Old Dog’s’ online comments on the film: “a 90 minute shampoo ad with about as much emotional impact as a Home and Away promo”.

Looking for Alibrandi (2000) – A total bore, and a snore.  We went looking for Brandy to help us sit though it.

The Man From Snowy River (1982) – One good scene, and it takes all day to get there.

Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) – Ugh.

Young Einstein (1988) – yet another AFI-award-winning, certified dud.


  1. Reply

    stuart adams

    November 1, 2018

    What about rabbut proof fence?

    • Reply

      Lesley Jakobsen

      November 1, 2018

      Where would you put it Stuart? Not a bad film, but some consider it boring as bat guano.

  2. Reply

    Mark Burley

    November 1, 2018

    A big favourite of mine is a little known movie called « Oz »; The Wizard of Oz set in late 20th C Australia. Worth checking out.

  3. Reply

    Lesley Jakobsen

    November 26, 2018

    Thanks for that: a new one on us.

  4. Reply


    December 23, 2018

    Priscilla Queen of the Desert is right down there in the rankings

  5. Reply


    December 26, 2018

    One of the worst movies: In The Red

  6. Reply


    December 30, 2018

    You've got to be kidding about an honourable mention for "The Dressmaker" - My toes curled at this crude, childish and stupid film that pushed our film-making back to the forties. I pray that it wasn't released overseas.

  7. Reply

    I don't even know how I ended up here, but I thought this
    post was good. I don't know who you are but certainly
    you're going to a famous blogger if you aren't already
    ;) Cheers!

  8. Reply

    Aussie public

    April 1, 2021

    You don't knot shit from Clay

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