Over the past few years the Australian and New Zealand film industries have grown exponentially, and as a result we’ve been able to witness some uniquely creative stories.
In this article I will share with you a list of 10 of my favourite Aussie/Kiwi films. I may be biased towards these places because I was born in one and grew up in the other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be recognised.
The following films are not only worth watching but most of them are either significant, historical stories or iconically classic Kiwi/Aussie humour. Included are their scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
For the first one, I will start with something obvious …
(AUS. 2016. RT score: 85%)
Clearly this movie is amazing. It’s an incredibly inspirational story of an Indian born man, raised in Australia, discovering his identity and what it means to belong. I won’t try and convince you to see it because chances are you already have, but in case you haven’t, please watch it.
There are some amazing performances by Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar portraying the main character, Saroo. This is one of the best films to come out of Australia in the last few years.
The Black Balloon
(AUS. 2008. RT Score: 85%)
This film may have slipped under the radar but the fact that it isn’t as well known doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the watch.
This honest and raw coming of age story gives a look into the chaotic life of a young Queenslander as he figures out what it means to have his own identity when all the attention is put on his autistic brother.
Out Of The Blue
(NZ. 2006. RT Score: 84%)
Another film slipping under the radar, this is the true story of the small town of Aramoana, New Zealand completely crumbling under the devastation of a gunman who went on a rampage on November 14th, 1990.
Famous Kiwi actor Karl Urban stars as the main character Nick Harvey, a local policeman and family man doing everything he can to protect the town.
Rabbit Proof Fence
(AUS. 2002. RT Score: 82%)
Another historic film, this Australian story follows three half white – half Aboriginal girls as they’re stolen from their home and forced to attend the Moore River Native Settlement, a camp focussed on ‘domesticating’ children referred to as ‘half-castes’.
After escaping, they spend months on the run with a fence as their only guide home.
Based on real events, this film is important to understand the significant history of early 20th century Australia.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
(NZ. 2016. RT Score: 96%)
One of Taika Waititi’s last indie films before he joined the big leagues.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople is equal parts classic kiwi humour, coming of age story, and portrayal of typical NZ country life, while showcasing the country’s beautiful landscape.
The film features newcomer Juilian Dennison in his breakout role as Ricky Baker, a 13 year old delinquent brought up in the foster care system, who is joined by Hec (Sam Neil) as they adventure through New Zealand’s unforgiving bushlands.
What We Do In The Shadows
(NZ. 2014. RT Score: 96%)
Another one of Waititi’s (because his films are perfect). This quirky mockumentary follows the typical week in the life of 4 vampires living in NZ’s capital, Wellington.
If you’re sick of movies about vampires then this one is certainly a refreshing take on the otherwise overused trope.
It has now evolved into a successful TV series set in Staten Island, New York, under the same title.
The World’s Fastest Indian
(NZ. 2005. RT Score: 82%)
Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, this heartwarming true story follows an elderly NZ country town man, Burt Munro, as he spends his latter years restoring an old 1920 Indian motorcycle. He then uses it to set the land speed record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.
Hopkins’ attempt at a NZ accent might be the only downside to this otherwise compelling story, which captures your attention from start to finish.
(AUS. 2017. RT Score 96%)
This confronting look into Australia’s history is hard to watch but overall an important film.
It follows an Aboriginal farmhand on the run as he’s hunted down after shooting a white man out of self defence.
With it’s unique editing style, and some really great performances by a mix of seasoned and extremely fresh actors this is the sort of story that needs to be told.
(NZ. 2002. RT Score: 91%)
A beautiful tale of a young Maori girl who’s destined to become the chief of a traditionally patriarchal tribe. The themes in this story are ahead of its time as we get a glimpse into what it means to be a leader regardless of gender or tradition.
This film is an iconic piece of cinema hailing from Aotearoa, (which translates to The Land Of The Long White Cloud) and is an insightful look into New Zealand’s Maori culture.
(NZ. 2010. RT Score: 87%)
Finally, ending on another Taika Waititi masterpiece, Boy tells the story of a Michael Jackson obsessed young man named … Boy, as he gets to know his estranged hero-of-a-father, Alamein, played by Waititi.
Alamein turns out to be quite the deadbeat when Boy finds out the real reason his father came home was to dig up a bag of money he buried in the backyard many years ago.
This film is a fun, yet deep take on the realities of family and responsibility. Also there’s a goat.
If you haven’t had much experience in Aussie or Kiwi cinema, I would suggest giving it a crack. There are some real creative gems out there.