When Rob and I backpacked through Europe for 3 months, we started a tradition of choosing a locally set movie to watch for each new country we visited.
We watched In Bruges right before our trip to Belgium, and played The Sound of Music after our arrival in Austria. It was as though we were getting a little glimpse of the destination before we arrived, making it even more exciting to experience it ourselves.
When anyone mentions to me that they’ll be visiting Australia, I usually suggest a few Aussie films for them to watch in preparation for their visit. These films don’t necessarily show Australia in a beautiful light like you might see in a tourism campaign, but I think that they capture the Australian personality perfectly.
Here’s my suggestions for classic Australian movies to watch for your trip down under!
This one is my personal favourite of the Aussie movies! The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a 1994 film about a drag queen (played by Hugo Weaving, i.e. Agent Smith from The Matrix series) who, along with some friends, drives a big pink bus from Sydney through the desert to Alice Springs in pursuit of a gig.
The drag costumes in this movie are beyond fabulous. In one scene, the main character walks around a rural Australian inland town wearing a dress made entirely of brightly coloured thongs (which is what Australians call flip-flops).
This movie also touches on a number of social issues such as homophobia and the difficulties for LGBT people to gain acceptance in society. It’s a treasure of a movie with a wonderful feel-good ending. Definitely give it a watch!
Nearly every Australian has the ability to instantly pull out movie quotes from The Castle on request. This 1997 film features a standard Australian family who battle to keep their home (which is sort of a dump but they love it anyway) from being forcibly purchased and demolished by the government.
It’s hilarious to watch the main character over-appreciate strange things, like his wife’s mediocre cooking and the large electricity cables that pass over his family small holiday home in Bonnie Doon (which I just discovered is available to book on Airbnb!).
We Aussies are very sarcastic and tend not to take anything seriously, so The Castle appeals to our relaxed sense of humour. If you want to see stereotypical Australians in your choice of movie, watch this one!
If your aim is to get accustomed to Aussie accents before your trip (not the sexy ones that you normally see on TV, the really awful ones) then Muriel’s Wedding is an excellent choice. This 1994 film is one of Toni Collette’s earliest features as an actress, before her Hollywood fame when she eventually pretended to be American.
The storyline is about a small-town girl from Queensland who decides to move to the big city (Sydney) to escape her embarrassing family and to search for popularity and love. The movie comes with an ABBA soundtrack and some awkward scenes that are surprisingly relatable for anyone who can remember being a teenager.
Rob and I like this movie so much that we recently attended a performance of Muriel’s Wedding: The Musical here in Sydney. Turning this classic movie into a theatre show was an excellent move! We both totally loved it and have been listening to the catchy soundtrack ever since.
Based on a true story, The Dish (released in 2000) is set in the rural town of Parkes, New South Wales, in the 1960s. The town has a large radio telescope/satellite dish that was perfectly positioned for use by NASA to communicate and broadcast the moon landing.
The Dish features Sam Neill, an actor and director from New Zealand who you might recognise from his role in Jurassic Park. Some of the movie was filmed on the actual dish, making the set very realistic. The costumes are also phenomenal and look exactly as you might imagine they would in 1969.
This movie is particularly good for Americans to watch as it shows the contrast in cultures between Australia and the US.
More Aussie movies:
While the above 4 are my top choices, there are plenty more Australian movies that you can watch for your trip down under:
- Chopper – The true story of a famous Australian criminal played by our very own Eric Bana.
- Wolf Creek – A horror film about some backpackers who are taken captive in the Australian outback.
- Rabbit Proof Fence – The story of some Aboriginal girls who were part of the stolen generation.