20 essential Australian films?

11 April, 2014 by Don Groves

Any list of must-watch films is likely to be so arbitrary and subjective that it buys plenty of arguments, and so it proves with the Taste of Cinema website’s compilation on Australian cinema.

Its selection of 20 Essential Australian Films You Need To Watch overlooks many classics and more than a few stand-outs of the past 30 years.


Writer Liam Clark, a film/literature/music student in Sydney, acknowledges the first-ever feature length film was The Story Of The Kelly Gang in 1906. He then observes, “Since then, antipodean auteurs of the screen have been weaving their imagerial visions into challenging portraits of Outback Australia, racism, crime and hauntingly beautiful stories.”

The list omits everything produced before 1971 and there are some questionable choices.

His Essential 20: Strictly Ballroom (1992), Sweetie (1989), Mad Max (1979), Gallipoli (1981), Muriel’s Wedding (1994), Lantana (2001), Snowtown (2011), The Dish (2000), Candy (2006), Dogs in Space (1986), Somersault (2004), Shine (1986), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), Wake in Fright (1971), Samson & Delilah (2009), The Hunter (2011), Animal Kingdom (2010), Walkabout (1971), Last Ride (2009), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975).

As the runners up he nominates Breaker Morant, The Tree, My Brilliant Career, Sleeping Beauty, Mystery Road, Balibo, Wolf Creek, The Proposition, The Last Wave, Ten Canoes, The Loved Ones, Chopper, Bad Boy Bubby, Blessed, Beautiful Kate, The Castle, Noise, Romper Stomper and Two Hands.

So, no room for Newsfront, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Sunday, Too Far Away, Bliss, Caddie, Careful, He Might Hear You, Crocodile Dundee, The Devil’s Playground, The F.J. Holden, The Getting of Wisdom, Storm Boy and numerous other fine films and documentaries.

Predictably the list prompted some derisive comments on the website and Facebook. “Total rubbish,” said Deborah Parsons.

Perhaps the most apt comment is from Michael Favelle of Odin’s Eye Entertainment: “I think most of these lists deliberately throw in a few stupid choices just to get people talking about them.”









  • Simon de Bruyn

    STONE. Take the trip.

  • Yowieman

    Any list without The Road Warrior or Breaker Morant is a joke.

    When you’re including morose pseudo arthouse crap like Somersault and Last Ride then you are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Just because you have long-winded, wanky panned shots of the rugged Australian landscape does not make the movie an Aussie classic.

  • anne

    Essential Australian Films

    How about Fran, Shame and Father ??

  • Greg Saunders

    Not a mention of Craig Monahans minor masterpiece ‘The Interview’?

  • paul brennan

    I can see that some of those ‘questionable choices’ might also be studied on what NOT to make, or ‘how not to make an appealing film’. Nominating runner ups such as some listed there are laughable, but might make the ‘avoid this mistake’ Bad Taste Of Cinema part of the listing. Students can learn a lot from a terrible film.

  • Bobby Galinsky

    Hmmm… well, it is HIS list. So, based on the films he’s seen maybe they are HIS essentials. There are some wondrous choices… Certainly some of them not quite essential unless they fall into the rarified air of that ultimate cinema list:

    “Films you must see (if semi conscious) during non-effective chemotherapy to give you a perspective on just how bad your life can be”

    Perhaps a clarification of of what medication the writer was on and what size smart phone he downloaded some of his choices on to view would account for a few of the choices. A few of them might have seemed provocatively widescreen to him on a big Samsung rather than an iphone…

    But since he put Bad Boy Bubby in the runners-up, he deserves to live another day 🙂

  • Graeme Bond

    ‘The Tracker’ is the finest Australian film made. An overlooked masterpiece.

    Graeme Bond, Birdsong Press, WA

  • Robin the Boy Wonder

    MALCOLM couldn’t get a guernsey in the article never mind any half-arsed list…

  • Sarah Walker

    Glad to see Beautiful Kate at least made it to runners up list – but what about High Tide? Or a Paul Cox beauty – Lonely Hearts? With all due respect to those behind the well-loved The Dish and Dogs In Space – neither of these supercede My Brilliant Career.

  • Matt Norman

    It’s a pity doco’s like SALUTE didn’t get a mention or any other awesome Aussie Doco.

  • Brian

    No love for Bubby?

  • Theo

    “The Year my Voice Broke” is a classic loved this film.

  • Aniano Enrique

    I agree on “The Year My Voice Broke”. Just wonderful stuff.

  • Liam Clark

    Hi, this is Liam Clark. I am the one responsible for the list. As i value your comments and understand ones individual perceptions and values, I have to ask, did anyone even really read this piece or did they simply skim through to see what ranked where?

    The most intelligent comments and feedback I have received thus far, praise the actual writing instead of whinging about what films were not included. Regardless of any film i may have added or not, or where they may have placed, someone will always criticise as it does not meet there personal “list”. The internet is full of scared people who are not heard in the real world and instead take their anger out with their fingers..and hands.

    I had limitations writing this piece and did not personally use the word “Essential”. I am not the editor, simply the writer.

    What i have gained from this experience is many great Australian film suggestions that i will go now and watch as i have an infinity for cinema.

    I invite everyone who has commented so far to write their own list with a 100 word explanation about why they chose it for their own personal subjective list.

    Go back and actually READ 20 Essential Australian Films You Need To Watch and be aware of the runners up section.

    I look forward to hearing back.

  • Brenton

    Not one film listed by the director, Paul Cox? Have you ever seen any of them, Liam? I suggest, ‘Man of Flowers’ and ‘A Woman’s Tale’

  • Joshua

    That list is still annoying this week.