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best australian movies netflix

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The best Australian movies on Netflix

These picks span genres.

Jul 7, 2020, 11:19 am*

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Audra Schroeder 

Audra Schroeder

Australia has always given us a wealth of bigger-than-life characters and wide open spaces. This list of best Australian movies on Netflix cuts a swath as wide as the continent: It includes titles from Australian directors, films shot there, and films that are set there. Here are the best Australian movies on Netflix.

The best Australian movies on Netflix

1) Ali’s Wedding

Giving no short shrift to the film as a standalone, the charming Ali’s Wedding serves as a functional rom-com adapted from Osamah Sami’s memoir Good Muslim Boy, a bright and honest look into the reconciliation of the modern world and Muslim tradition. (This, of course, varies depending on the sect, heritage, country of origin, and adaption to secularity.) Sami and Andrew Knight (Hacksaw Ridge) tell the story of Ali (Sami, in a strong performance), a young Iraqi-Australian trying his hardest to make his cleric father (seasoned Australian TV actor Don Hany) and local community proud—and to beat back the pressure from a rival peer. —Kahron Spearman

2) Cargo

Zombie movies, whether or not they call themselves such, often tend to fall onto a couple of paths: They focus on the initial outbreak or pandemic as the protagonists fight for survival, or they’re more interested in what happens after as people adjust to a bleaker world or find something even worse than the zombies. Cargo, which was adapted from co-directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling’s 2013 short film, falls into the latter category with the backdrop of the Australian Outback and more expansive worldbuilding. Michelle Jaworski

3) Boys in the Trees

Australian director Nicholas Verso created something unique with 2016’s Boys in the Trees. At the outset it could be construed as a horror movie, since it takes place around Halloween in 1997. But at its core, it explores adolescence and memory, as cool skater kid Corey (Toby Wallace) and bullied outcast Jonah (Gulliver McGrath) converge one night and unravel some mythology. —Audra Schroeder

4) Women He’s Undressed

Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Little Women) helms this 2015 documentary about Australian fashion designer Orry-Kelly, who defined a golden era of Hollywood costume design with his work on films like Some Like It Hot and Casablanca. There’s some creative casting as Top of the Lake’s Darren Gilshenan plays Kelly and looks back on his brilliant career, though actual footage of him remains somewhat elusive. Still, you’ll have a lot of beautiful dresses to look at. —Audra Schroeder

5) The Babadook

In Jennifer Kent’s 2014 film, the mother is supposed to be the protector, but she might be the monster, too. This tangled duality pushes The Babadook, a film that takes the idea of a bogeyman and draws a thick black line to the depths of our subconscious. Essie Davis is wonderful as Amelia, a single mother who’s slogging through life with her troubled, high-strung son. Their relationship starts to shift after a creature in a children’s pop-up book starts appearing outside the pages and becomes a terrifying metaphor for grief and depression. It joins a handful of recent horror films (The Witch, It Follows, Ex Machina) in which women aren’t just prey or victims. —Audra Schroeder

6) The Matrix

Seriously? Do you seriously need me to tell you how good The Matrix is? How it’s the Wachowskis’ most sublimely cerebral, gloriously weird, well-executed work ever? How it changed the face of Hollywood, setting the gold standard for sci-fi and action movies for years to come? How Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss created some of the most iconic movie characters of all time? How it’s the movie that makes you go, “Whoa”? Seriously, do I need to tell you all that? If the answer is yes, I just, I can’t with you. Get out of here, go watch this movie already. —Chris Osterndorf

7) Lion

While critics have almost universally praised the first half of Lion for its intense portrayal of Calcutta street life, there’s something kind of exploitative in the film’s focus on poverty. But the second half of the film, which focuses on a young man in Australia trying to find his way back to the home he doesn’t remember in India, Lion becomes something else entirely. The story’s hero, Saroo (Dev Patel), struggles to reconcile the privilege of his current life, mainly the love of his adopted parents (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and girlfriend (Rooney Mara), with the life he lost as a child. With a little help from Google Maps, he begins to obsessively search for the village he was born in. All that Googling might not sound exciting, and some of it is a little dull, but it’s contemporary story this hones in on globalization and technology. —Chris Osterndorf

8) The Gift

Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is a nasty thriller about a man who antagonizes a new couple in the neighborhood in increasing unsettling ways. The script is constructed on sturdy genre blueprints and builds something that is recognizable yet hard to predict. The lead trio of Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as the married couple and Edgerton as the creeper is terrific. Edgerton is well-established as a leading man, and he brings the same vigor and terseness to his work behind the camera. The Gift delivers the goods and offers enough twists to throw you off its scent. —Eddie Strait

9) The Road

This is a bleak, devastating film, with no real sweet spot. If that appeals to you, then The Road—adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name—is a solid look at humanity in upheaval. Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee play a father and son traversing a terrifying, no-rules dystopia after an unnamed event has devastated the country. Director John Hillcoat set the tone with 2005’s The Proposition. —Audra Schroeder

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10) Strictly Ballroom

Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 debut film would set the path for two more in his Red Curtain Trilogy: Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! But here he sets ballroom dance as his medium of choice and places the unconventional style of lifelong dancer Scott (Paul Mercurio) up front. As with many of Luhrmann’s films, there’s a budding romance as Scott pairs up with a new partner, and a cast of colorful, bizarre supporting characters who are very serious about dance. —Audra Schroeder

11) Berlin Syndrome

Australian director Cate Shortland’s 2017 film snuck under the radar at the box office, but this psychological thriller might be better suited for a more intimate viewing. A woman named Clare (Teresa Palmer) meets a man named Andi (Max Riemelt) while on holiday in Berlin, but their romance quickly gives way to dread when Clare discovers Andi is holding her captive in his apartment. Palmer gives an incredible performance of a woman who must fight for her survival and give a piece of herself up in order to do so. —Audra Schroeder


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*First Published: Jun 20, 2018, 5:00 am