Australia has always been an important part of film history. In fact, the very first multi-reel feature film was the Australian-made The Story of the Kelly Gang released in 1906. So it’s no wonder that over the years, the films from down underdeveloped a distinctness all their own. Sure, the accents can be a dead giveaway, but there are other elements, sometimes difficult to define, that make a film Australian.

So what does make a film Australian? Is it where it’s made? Where it’s set? The cast and crew? The style of its characters and setting? The answer is a complicated mix of all of these elements that coalesce to give any particular movie an ineffable Australian feel.

Though the answer can be difficult to define, in his video on The Beauty of the Aussie Film, Collector Creations talks through some of the defining traits of great Australian cinema.

What Makes a Film Australian? 

The seemingly obvious trait of an Australian film is where it’s made. However, there’s truly more to an Aussie film’s defining characteristics than simply being made in Australia.

As Collector Creations points out, a film could be set in America, but if it’s made by Australians it could still be “the most Australian thing you’ve ever seen.” Films like Man Thing, Predestination, and Upgrade are not set in Australia but have Australian teams behind them and therefore feel distinctly Australian.

A film that is distinctly Australian typically has a unique narrative specifically focused on Australian culture, history, or landscape. It often features Australian actors and includes references to Australian slang and colloquialisms. It also often has a strong focus on the Australian outback and the unique flora and fauna of the country. Australian films often explore themes of identity, family, mateship, and the Australian dream.

What is an Australian film?'Predestination'Credit: Pinnacle Films/Stage 6 Films

It's About Story and Style

Mark Hadley, a documentary scriptwriter and Australian, once said in a talk that there are four categories of Australian Films:

  • the historical epic
  • the confession
  • the kitsch comedy
  • the nihilistic drama.

Of course, there are exceptions, but it does seem a lot of Aussie films fit these labels.

Australia is a mixed bag of cultures and often the stories that show up in Australian films are a reflection of that. However, the types of stories told are not necessarily distinct to Australia.

Like many films, Aussie films often depict the country's unique landscapes, social issues, and cultural identity. They frequently feature strong and complex characters, as well as themes of mateship, survival, and the challenges faced by marginalized communities. Additionally, many Australian films also showcase a dry sense of humor and a laid-back, irreverent attitude.

Stories about the working class are not uniquely Australian, yet the ways in which they are told do appear to be. For instance, The Castle is a story about a working-class family from Melbourne that must fight city hall, which wants to evict them from their home. It’s a universal story in terms of the characters and what they have to go through, but it’s how the characters are written and directed that makes them uniquely Australian.

The film industry in Australia has a strong tradition of supporting independent and experimental filmmakers and is known for producing both critically acclaimed and commercially successful films.

What is an Australian film?'The Castle'Credit: Roadshow Entertainment

Examples of Aussie Movies

There is no definitive answer to what the best examples of Aussie movies are, as it depends on personal taste and opinion. While we have given you a pretty good list of Aussie films, we want to give you a list of the most popular and critically acclaimed Australian films.

  • Mad Max(1979) and its sequels, directed by George Miller and starring Mel Gibson
  • Gallipoli(1981), directed by Peter Weir
  • Crocodile Dundee (1986), directed by Peter Faiman
  • Priscilla, Queen of the Desert(1994), directed by Stephan Elliott
  • Muriel's Wedding (1994), directed by P. J. Hogan
  • Lantana(2001), directed by Ray Lawrence
  • Rabbit-Proof Fence(2002), directed by Phillip Noyce
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001), directed by Baz Luhrmann
  • Animal Kingdom(2010), directed by David Michôd
  • The Babadook (2014), directed by Jennifer Kent
  • Lion (2016), directed by Garth Davis.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives a good representation of the range and quality of Australian films. These movies are considered great examples of Australian films because they showcase the unique perspectives, stories, and styles of Australian filmmakers. Many of these films also feature memorable characters and performances, as well as captivating storytelling and visually stunning cinematography. They have a strong reputation for being both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, which has helped to establish the Australian film industry as a distinct and highly regarded entity.

What are some of your favorite Australian films and what makes them Australian? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Collector Creations