As a way to appreciate scenic beauty, watching a film on the big screen is second only to seeing the real thing. If you’re planning on a trip to Australia, or want to evoke memories of a recent vacation, then enjoying a movie that is set in the country is a great idea.
Below is our pick of the five greatest movies of all time that showcase the stunning beauty of Australia – each in its own unique way.
The keenness of filmmakers to capture the beauty of the Australian landscape clearly isn’t anything new! ‘The Back of Beyond’ is an acclaimed documentary feature film that follows a mailman in his travels along the Birdsville Track in the Outback. The film was nominated at the 1955 BAFTAs in the category of Best Documentary Film and was the winner of the Absolute Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival.
The movie is a love letter both to the beautiful – yet hostile – nature of the Australian Outback, as well as to the variety of people that lived on the Track in the 1950s. These characters include a Baloch camel driver, an Aboriginal rainmaker, and Joe the Dogger, named for his hobby of killing wild dingoes.
This cult film from the seventies was rumored to have been inspired by real events, although this has recently been disproved. It tells the story surrounding the disappearance of three students and their teacher during a school picnic at the iconic Outback landmark Hanging Rock on Valentine’s Day 1900.
Haunting and thought-provoking, the movie was the recipient of a BAFTA award, as well as a Saturn Award for Best Cinematography at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films in the US.
Executive Producer Patricia Lovell found the Hanging Rock location so genuinely eerie that she has only returned to the site once since filming wrapped, a decade after making the movie: she left almost immediately and has never returned since.
As the film’s award for cinematography suggests, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ offers wonderful shots of some of Australia’s most dramatic landscapes, merging the otherworldliness of the locations with the languid strangeness of the unfolding storyline. For those amateur filmmakers interested in making their own leftfield horror or thriller shorts or full-length features, the movie can act as a great primer. Note how the atmosphere and tension are developed in the movie, and think about how the lighting and transitions add to the overall mood. If your budget is tight, you can still create the effects you want: look for royalty-free sound effects and free video editing software that’s feature-rich to put together professional-looking, compelling content.
Another cult classic, ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, was a groundbreaking (at the time) movie that follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they travel across the Australian desert, performing in their own inimitable style along the way.
The film won worldwide acclaim and remains beloved by audiences. It won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and won or was nominated for a slew of other accolades; the film was also responsible for a huge spike in tourists taking road trips across Australia, following in the stiletto-heeled footsteps of their favorite characters.
As well as showcasing some of the country’s stunning desert landscapes, there are also scenes shot at King’s Canyon, a sublime landmark that features soaring sandstone walls and domes and enjoys some truly epic sunsets.
This sprawling epic of a movie stars Australia’s own Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman and is set in the period leading up to WWII. Kidman plays an Englishwoman who inherits a large ranch in northern Australia and must, with the help of an experienced stockman (Jackman), drive a two thousand-strong herd of cattle over some of the country’s most unforgiving landscapes.
Critical reviews of the film were mixed, but the beauty of the scenery shot was never in question and left audiences and critics alike awestruck. The majestic cinematography perfectly showcases the grandeur and spectacular vastness of the country and encouraged legions of audience members to subsequently book plane tickets to experience the Australian landscape in real life.
Based on a true story, ‘Tracks’ tells the story of a young woman (Robyn, played in the film by Mia Wasikowska) who embarks on an epic 1,700-mile hike across the deserts of Western Australia, accompanied by her loyal dog – and four camels. Her aim is simply to reach the ocean and learn more about herself along the way.
The trek, both in real life and according to the movie, took nine months to complete, and Robyn’s journey is documented by Rick Smolan, the National Geographic Photographer. As you would expect, the scenery in ‘Tracks’ is breathtaking and asks us, as viewers, to think about how we interact with landscapes as tourists or travelers and what this means to our understanding of the cultures and customs it is home to.