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Iconic Australian Films Of The Last 50 Years

Australia has produced some fantastic films over the years and, of course, is credited for releasing the very first feature length movie in the form of The Story of the Kelly Gang, which came out back in 1906.

Here we take a look back at some of the most iconic Australian movies of the last 50 years or so, picking one of our favourites from each decade…

We begin with Mad Max, the 1979 cult classic that helped launched the career of a certain Mel Gibson.

This post-apocalyptic, dystopian action film was directed by George Miller and to date has spawned three sequels, each helping to cement the place of the “Road Warrior” in popular consciousness.

The latest one, Mad Max – Fury Road, was released in 2015 with Tom Hardy taking on the role of Max Rockatansky. A further two follow-up films, the first provisionally entitled Mad Max – The Wasteland, is also on the cards.

Switching to the 1980s, you can’t help but go for Crocodile Dundee. This fun 1986 comedy is still Australia’s highest grossing film and helped make Paul Hogan (who took up the lead role as Mick "Crocodile" Dundee) a household name — at least in the 1980s.

Although it was well received and spawned two sequels, it also reinforced a number of stereotypes about Australia. Indeed, it helped to popularise the 1984 Tourism Australia ad starring Hogan, who told American's to put “shrimp on the barbie”, which was as appealing then as it is now in the United States where Memphis, Carolina, Kansas City and Texas all have their own particular regional BBQ styles.


Paul Hogan

Our pick for the 1990s is Babe – another written by George Miller, although very different from Mad Max. It needs no introduction since it was a box office hit bringing in over $36 million (which, for the record, was $11 million less than Crocodile Dundee). Babe received seven Academy Award nominations, winning one for Best Visual Effects, and also scooped the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

For the 2000s, most would probably opt for Australia, the Baz Luhrmann movie starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman; however, our pick is Rabbit Proof Fence. It is based on a true story, and while it has been criticised by some for its historical inaccuracy, it has an emotional truth, and we challenge almost anyone to watch it and not be moved.

Finally, we sign off with The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, which is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel. It is another one of Australia’s most commercially successful films, and, despite possibly being a bit slow by today’s standards, Gatsby has a good story at its heart. It also won, and was nominated for, numerous awards, including being named Best Film at the 2014 AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) Awards.

Those are our five picks from the last 50 years, but there are several others we could have included, such as – in no particular order – Moulin Rouge, Dead Calm, Wolf Creek, The Proposition, Happy Feet, and, released this January, Lion. The Story of the Kelly Gang back at the onset of the 20th century certainly sparked something, and we can be proud of our rich film history and Australia’s contribution to world cinema.

Published June 22, 2017

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