10. Predestination – dir. The Spierig Brothers – 2014
The finest performance from any actor in an Australian film in the 2010’s comes from Sarah Snook in the Spierig Brothers sci-fi flick, Predestination. Look, if you haven’t seen Predestination, then don’t read any further, just go and watch it, it’s best not knowing anything. But, if you have seen it, you’ll know that Snook simply astounds as Jane, a person looking for the man who ruined their life. She’s joined by Ethan Hawke, who plays a barkeep who listens to Jane’s story, and possibly could provide her with the avenue of tracking down that man. Taut science-fiction this immersive comes along so rarely, that when it does it needs to be cherished and admired with all its perfection. This is a film that doesn’t falter on repeat viewings either.
9. Terror Nullius – dir. soda_jerk – 2018
It’s with great thanks to soda_jerk that Terror Nullius exists to remind us that Australia does have a culture, and it’s a culture that deserves a solid tear down and a reckoning like no other. This raucous and ruthless film is at once a celebration of Australian cinema, but also a rampantly left-leaning takedown of all that is wrong in Australia. This is delicious stuff, exceptional with its genius, stunning with the way comedy is employed, and just about one of the great Australian films ever.
8. Meal Tickets – dir. Mat de Koning – 2017
Meal Tickets is the kind of film that is a ‘slap down’ film. Meaning, it’s the kind of film that when you find out that someone hasn’t seen it, you rush off to find your copy of it, and ‘slap it down’ on the nearest table and demand they watch it there and then. Filmed over ten years, Mat de Koning’s film tells the story of local Perth band, the Screwtop Detonators, and their bid to make it big around the world. I’ve seen Meal Tickets more than a few times, and the brilliance of how Mat manages to immerse you in the friends and family of the band is stunning – so much so that on my fourth viewing, you can’t help but feel part of the family. This is Australia’s Dig!, an essential documentary about the rise and fall of a band, and all the troubles that come with it.
7. Sherpa – dir. Jennifer Peedom – 2015
Looking at Sherpa through the perspective of the closure of climbing Uluru, one can’t help but cringe at how privileged and obnoxious people can be about wanting to climb things. Jennifer Peedom’s essential documentary takes a look at the horrific events that took place on Mt Everest as predominantly white climbers fought with Sherpas over being able to reach the summit. Peedom’s camera is observational, always watching, leaving the judging up to the viewer, and in turn, the climbers and those who facilitate the climb are given enough rope to hang themselves on. Disturbing, unsettling, powerful, and important viewing, this is one of the great modern documentaries.
6. Pawno – dir. Paul Ireland – 2015
Pawno is one heck of a film. A script by Damian Hill delivers distinctly Australian quotable lines like ‘it’s a c*nt of a world, and a world full of c*nts’. A core performance from Damian Hill cements the emotional core of the film, with tangential characters who come into the Pawn shop that his character works at all having their own emotional truths to live with. Empathetic direction from Paul Ireland helps make this one of the finest modern Australian films around. Everything about Pawno makes for comfortable, easy viewing, with it being the filmic version of the laid back Aussie way of life. Top shelf material.
5. Strange Colours – dir. Alena Lodkina – 2018
Alena Lodkina’s Strange Colours feels like a film solely crafted for me. It’s a quiet, contemplative film, full of unsaid truths and monologues of silence. Kate Cheel gives one of the finest performances of the decade, with Justin Courtin carrying a very Damian Hill-esque vibe to his performance. Everything is understated, which may admittedly make for difficult viewing for some viewers, but for me, Strange Colours packs an emotional punch like no other.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road – dir. George Miller – 2015
Do I need to say anything further to what has already been said about George Miller’s explosive six time Oscar winning flick, Mad Max: Fury Road? I mean, it’s full of high octane, frenetic action that’ll leave you slackjawed and overwhelmed in all the right ways. Sure, the plot might appear slight, but Miller knows that that framework allows him to make one heck of a feminist film. If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, then what are you doing with your life? If you’ve seen it already, then why aren’t you watching it again? This film is a miracle. It shouldn’t exist. But it does, and for that, we need to be thankful.
3. All This Mayhem – dir. Eddie Martin – 2014
‘There’s three sides to every story. There’s my side, your side, and the truth.’ So says Tas Pappas as Eddie Martin’s masterpiece of a documentary opens. All This Mayhem is about the rise and the devastating fall of the Pappas brothers – two of Australia’s greatest raw talents when it comes to skateboarding. In the nineties, they reached peaks that no other Aussie skateboarder was reaching, and in the ever competitive world of extreme sports, they battled Tony Hawk, drugs, alcohol, and a lot more in a bid to stay on top. At once, this is a story about two brothers finding their way through fame, and at the same time, it’s about the difficulties of success. Tas Pappas’ life story is one you won’t want to miss, and he makes sure that you’ll be entertained and engaged all along the way.
2. Charlie’s Country – dir. Rolf de Heer – 2013
Rolf de Heer is the best Australian director around, and Charlie’s Country is, simply put, his finest film. It’s also David Gulpilil’s finest work, as he takes on the titular role of Charlie, an Indigenous bloke who is angry at the ways that white folks have impacted Indigenous Australia, taking away tradition and their livelihood and replacing them with booze and nonsense. This is not an easy film to sit through, and while I struggle to apply the label of ‘important film’, I can’t help but do so for this one. Yes, this is an important film, and it’s one that every Australian should watch.
1. Sweet Country – dir. Warwick Thornton – 2018
And, if Charlie’s Country needs to be watched by all Australians, then that label applies even more so for Warwick Thornton’s masterpiece, Sweet Country. I’ve long championed this film, and I stand by my reasoning that it’s one of the truly great Australian films ever. What Warwick Thornton has created is a document of the brutal history that Indigenous Australians have lived with for generation upon generation. It’s a wound that refuses to heal. Given this is Thornton’s second film, I can only imagine what brilliance he has to come.