Read

Our top three favourite Australian films

Scroll to content

Which three Australian films does any discerning cinefile or movie lover need to see?

Opinions vary of course, that's why Adelaide Film Festival is allowing anyone and everyone to vote in their poll of the top three Australian films #YOUMUSTSEE.

Voting is now open and the #YOUMUSTSEE films will be screened at the Adelaide Film Festival in October.

Have some tough choices ahead of you? We did too. To get you inspired we asked our Director and CEO (and founding director of Adelaide Film Festival) Katrina Sedgwick and our film curators to nominate their favourite Australian films that you must see. 

Once you've seen our picks, why not cast your vote at the Adelaide Film Festival website?

Director and CEO Katrina Sedwick

Samson and Delilah (2011)

This debut feature film by Warwick Thornton is a masterpiece that tells the love story of two young Aboriginal people (Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson) who live in a town camp outside Alice Springs. Stunningly shot, with minimal dialogue and searing performances by both of the young leads, this revelatory film was not only deeply affecting but it had a profound impact in Australia and garnered acclaim globally (winning the Camera D’Or at Cannes Un Certain Regard) through the telling of this Indigenous story by this Indigenous filmmaker.

Look Both Ways (2005)

After a career as a multi-award winning animator, Sarah Watt burst onto the scene with this, her delightfully idiosyncratic, debut feature film that combined animation and live action to great effect. With a superb cast led by Justine Clarke and William McInnes, Look Both Ways follows a group of random people who are connected over a weekend by a tragic accident. Sad, funny and poignant, this film brought Watt’s skill in revealing our fragility and need to connect with each other, using her hand painted animations as a way to bring our subconscious to life with great effect.

The Boys (1998)

Adapted by Stephen Sewell and directed by Rowan Woods, The Boys is one of the most chilling films Australia has produced, exploring how a group of young men could become motivated to commit a truly heinous crime. Loosely based on the tragic 1986 Anita Cobby case, and adapted from the Griffin Theatre Company production, the film features a superb cast with devastating performances from David Wenham, Anthony Hayes, John Polson and Toni Collette – and a soundtrack by The Necks that is unforgettable.

Head of Film Programs Kristy Matheson

Sweet Country (2017)

Released in 2017 to huge global critical acclaim, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country tells the story of an indigenous stockman who kills a white station owner in self-defence. In Thornton’s Western, bold stylistic choices sit flush again classic tropes of the genre to present an untold history of colonial Australia which is powerful, timely and proves yet again that he is one of contemporary cinemas most vital directors. Official Selection Venice Film Festival 2017 (Winner Special Jury Prize)

The Boys (1998)

Using the real-life murder of Sydney nurse Anita Cobby as its starting point, Rowan Wood’s feature debut is a nuanced examination of family dysfunction, class and masculine relationships. Featuring some of Australia’s finest acting talent including Toni Collette, David Wenham and Anthony Hayes, The Boys remains one of the most chilling and creatively accomplished films produced in Australia. Official Selection Berlin Film Festival Competition 1998

BeDevil (1993)

For her feature debut, acclaimed visual artist and filmmaker Tracey Moffatt was inspired by stories that she heard as a child. Her politically charged triptych of ghost stories is presented in her signature visual style which draws on classical Hollywood motifs and bold colour palette to build a hyper-real atmosphere which is haunting and unforgettable. Official Selection Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival 1993

Film curator Reece Goodwin

Wake in Fright (1971)

The Yabba is scary enough, but when teacher John Grant loses all his savings and is stranded there, it’s his complete lack of control that’s the true monster in this horror film, giving control freaks everywhere nightmares for months.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

One of the few films that demands you take it with you when you leave the cinema and then follows you around like a ghost for years or decades after.

Lake Mungo (2008)

Flipping the “show, don’t tell” modus operandi on its head, this is-it-or-isn’t-it-a horror film relies on 60 Minutes-style interviews, still photography and lo-fi video-recordings to weave its creepy web.

Film curator Roberta Ciabarra

On the Beach (1959)

Technically an independent U.S. production shot in Melbourne’s CBD - (and Frankston!) - Stanley Kramer’s adaptation of Nevil Shute’s dystopian novel turned Melbourne into an in-limbo, end-of-the-road city marking time before its impending annihilation from nuclear fallout. You may as well take a shot at (doomed) love with Ava Gardner or Gregory Peck given those odds!

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

I saw Peter Weir’s haunting film for the first time on a school excursion when I was eleven. Rachel Roberts’ imperious Mrs Appleyard was a character straight out of a Poe short story. Helen Morse’s sympathetic French teacher, Mademoiselle de Poitiers, Russell Boyd’s cinematography and Georghe Zamfir’s pan flutes were all perfect elements in a film that remains a peerless exemplar of the Australian gothic.

Careful He Might Hear You (1983)

Carl Schulz’s noir-inflected adaptation of Sumner Locke Elliott’s novel cast Sydney’s North Shore in shades of Polanski’s LA in Chinatown. Wendy Hughes was never more glamorous in a film shot by the talented John Seale that also featured Robyn Nevin and a remarkable performance by eight year old Nicholas Gledhill as PS.

Film curator James Nolen

Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train (1988)

If Wendy Hughes was born thirty years later there is every chance she would be as great (and global) as Cate Blanchett. Here you can see one of her many tour-de-force performances that will leave you begging for more.

Dogs in Space (1987)

Could this be THE quintessential Melbourne film?! 30 years later Lowenstein’s ode to a city and one of its music scenes seems to have vanished behind decades of inner city gentrification and is forever tinged by the premature loss of it leading man.

Pawno (2015)

Apart from Footscray’s starring role, the true revelation of the film is Damien Hill’s understated performance (and authentic script) and some great appearances from new and notable Aussie actors.

Don't forget to cast your vote at the Adelaide Film Festival website now