Point Break and Mad Max are two blockbusters that make the history of Cinema, and both have something in common with one another, having been filmed in Australia! When it comes to cinema, Australia isn’t the first place that come in one’s mind, and it’s a real shame because we have so much to thank Aussie for! Although when you think of ‘Hollywood movies’, you think of ‘Hollywood Blvd’ and ‘Los Angeles sets’, a lot of major movies have been shot in Australia, and here’s just a brief glance of what cinema owes to the country Down Under:
1. The History of the Kelly Gang by Charles Tait (1906)
This movie probably doesn’t ring a bell because, nowadays, we can only find one fragment of the movie… But with its more than an hour-length run, it’s really considered to be the first full-length feature film in history! And that’s why, in 2007, it was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the world register! Twenty-six years after Ned Kelly’s death, The History of the Kelly Gang narrates the history of this outlaw. Shot solely in Australia, it was considered as a commercial and critical success, and marked the birth of the bushranging drama genre (a.k.a. Australian Western); an important genre that marks the early years of Australian cinema!
2. Mad Max by George Miller (1979)
Even if it sounds more like a coincidence, we can see a tribute to The History of the Kelly Gang in this movie, as George Miller used the generic Western codes in Mad Max. This Australian dystopian story, is one of the most well-known around the world, partly thanks to the reboot Mad Max: Fury Road.. which is considered one of the greatest movies of the 2010’s! The success of the first version is still very impressive though. Even if it was a low-budget production and only shot around Melbourne, it grossed $100 million USD worldwide making it the most profitable movie of 1979.
Did you know, two versions of Mad Max exist?! As most of Australian’s common expressions are understandable abroad, there’s an Australian version and a Worldwide version of the movie!
3. Crocodile Dundee by Peter Faiman (1986)
First movie of a well-known franchise, Crocodile Dundee is one that definitely put Australia on the cinematic map. As Paul Hogan, star of the movie once said: “I’m planning for it to be Australia’s first proper movie. I don’t think we’ve had one yet—not a real, general public, successful, entertaining movie.”. And a success it was! Croc Dundee was the second highest grossing film in the US the year of release, its worldwide growth became the most important in Australian’s history of cinema and even surpassed Mad Max 2.
4. The Matrix by the Wachowskis Sisters (1999)
As crazy as it sounds, most of The Matrix was shot entirely in Sydney, Australia! Of course, major parts of the movie were shot in Fox’s Hollywood studios, but some outside sequences were filmed in the Australian city itself! As the story is set in US, the production just took extra care not filming any of Sydney’s famous landmarks! For example, if you think of the scene of the bullet-time fight which was shot on the roof of Symantec corporation building – you don’t know it’s in Sydney cause they did such a good job turning Sydney into Hollywood!
Compared to Mad Max, The Matrix doesn’t give away that it was shot I Australia at all, but it does make the magic of cinema stand out… Making us all believe we’re in a futurist America when they were actually in Australia!
5. Rabbit-Proof Fence by Phillip Noyce (2002)
Not the most well-known of all the movies shot in Australia but surely one of the most important. Rabbit-proof Fence narrates the story of the victims of the part-Aboriginal child removal policy that was in vigor in Australia between around 1905 and 1967 and the damage it done to this Stolen Generation. It depicts a rich part of Australia and Australian’s history which people tend to forget; it could even be considered as the most Australian movie of this list so far.
However, it’s release was controversial in Australia, Noyce even stated, “If drama comes from conflict, there’s no greater conflict in Australian history than the conflict between indigenous Australians and white settlers.”. But the movie ended to be a real critical success, it received lots of Audience Awards in important festivals (Durban, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sao Paulo…)
6. Australia by Baz Luhrmann (2008)
Luhrmann, after a thorough research in Australian history, also wanted to talk about the Stolen Generation in this movie, and about the relation between England and Australia. To him, his movie shows “a mythologised Australia”. The whole movie was shot in Australia and shows a wide variety of landscapes, depicting the country as a whole, since production took place not only in Sydney and Darwin, but also in Kununurra and Bowen!
Another very Australian film on this list, Australia is also the third highest-grossing Australian movie of all-time, behind Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max: Fury Road.
7. Thor: Ragnarok by Taika Waititi (2017)
Like The Matrix, the main part of the movie was shot on stage, but all the additional filming was done in Queensland (example, the New-York part in the movie was actually shot in Brisbane’s business center)!
Moreover, even if there is no way to find out the film was shot in Australia, Waititi wanted to make sure that every Australian will be represented during the shooting. As he is Māori, he hired Indigenous and Aboriginal Australians, along with New Zealanders, that was seen as a priority. He stated “It’s a responsibility you have to the Indigenous people. You’re coming to a country and you’re bringing money into the economy and creating jobs, but I think you have an even bigger responsibility to look after the people that have less opportunities.” Not to mention, the start of the film Chris Hemsworth is Australian, so it meant he could be in his native country during filming too!
8. The Invisible Man by Leigh Whannell (2020)
Although co-production was between the United States and Australia, this Universal horror was shot in Sydney alone. The film was theatrically released in February 2020, but due to COVID-19 and the closure of all cinemas, the digital release came just 3 weeks after, on March 20. Because of that, after the third week of cinema exploitation, it was mainly screened on drive-in cinema, which limited its potential growth. Therefore, with 91% of 388 reviews positive on Rotten Tomatoes and an average 7,71 rating. Moreover, lots of critics (The New York Times, Vulture, The A.V. Clun…) warmly welcomed The Invisible Man with great reviews, and the movie was seen as critical success.