Picking the top movies from any country is difficult, but picking ten from an entire continent (and including New Zealand) is even harder. Missing from this list are great movies like "Cactus," "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith," "Praise," and Nicolas Roeg's "Walkabout,"--a terrific film that was (unfortunately for our purposes) made in England. As always, this top ten is just a place to start exploring. If you want to nominate your own favorites, let us know about it in the forum.
Popularity, in this case, is not the enemy of quality. Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of Tolkien is a courageous epic of astounding proportions that succeeds on every level. The former schlockmeister who transformed New Zealand into the mystical Middle-Earth went on to become his country's preeminent director--so make sure to give his older films a chance, including "Heavenly Creatures," "Bad Taste," and "The Freighteners."
George Miller burst on the scene with "Mad Max" in 1979, a trilogy of post-apocalyptic movies that jumpstarted Mel Gibson's career and broke new ground for profitability in Australian cinema. Then, he turned to pigs. Far from being "just" a kid's movie, the second "Babe" is a visually and emotionally astonishing experience that should not be missed.
Before "Master and Commander," "Dead Poets Society," and "The Truman Show," Peter Weir made his debut with this small movie about the mysterious disappearance of a group of girls in the Outback. Also by Weir: "Gallipoli," a World War I drama with Mel Gibson.
Lee Tamahori's gritty, depressing look at the problems of contemporary Maori culture.
Anna Paquin turns delirious cartwheels on the magnificent New Zealand coast while Holly Hunter pounds away on her grand piano washed ashore in one incredible scene in Jane Campion's most celebrated film. Campion was Oscar-nominated for best director, and Hunter and Paquin took home statuettes for their performances.
Imagine "Moulin Rouge" crossed with a Christopher Guest mockumentary, and you get an idea of Baz Luhrmann's first film, set in the world of championship dancers. He displays the same love for eye candy as in the over-the-top Nicole Kidman musical, but with less of a budget and more downhome characters. Together with the stunning "Romeo & Juliet," they form the "Red Curtain" trilogy. All three are worthwhile, but "Strictly Ballroom" is Luhrmann's most Australian film.
Bruce Beresford's courtroom film about three Australians who are court-martialed during the Boer War is an utterly compelling histroical drama. Beresford went on to make "Driving Miss Daisy."
Judy Davis has often said she doesn't like this 1979 film by Gillian Armstrong, but don't listen to the lead actress. Davis is great as the magnificent Sybylla Melvyn, an earnest young writer who must choose between love and art.
In one of his ealiest roles, Russell Crowe portrays a brutal neo-nazi skinhead in Geoffrey Wright's unsparing drama.
John Duigan's 1991 film about love, sex, and akward relations in an Austrialian boarding school has become a cult classic. The then unknown cast includes Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton, Noah Taylor, and Naomi Watts.