Top Eight Grossing Films From Down Under

Mad Max Fury Road

Glancing through the list of successful Australian movies reveals more than just the fact that Aussie filmmaking maestros George Miller and Baz Luhrmann are over-represented.

Even though movies about a penguin, a dog, a post-apocalyptic hero and the third adaptation of one of the most famous works of American literature couldn’t be more different from each other, they each reveal a slice of life that’s unique to Australia.

Whether it’s the self-effacing humour foreigners love about us, our love of a lavish good time or landscapes not found anywhere else in the world, the most successful Australian films say something about our national character and can-do spirit. And when it comes to the below list, the rest of the world agreed.

Crocodile Dundee, 1986
Director: Peter Faiman
Global box office: $412m

Along with Hoges’ infamous ‘shrimp on the barbie’ tourism ads, this was Australia’s coming out party to the US, a fish out of water comedy that put the iconic larrakin in the midst of the urban American human condition.

Australia, 2008
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Global box office: $265m

With generous support from the Australian taxpayer, the title alone seemed to signal that this was Luhrmann’s attempt at a Grand unified Theory about the bush myths that made us what we are – of the stockman, indigenous culture and the beautiful but unforgiving wide brown land.

Babe, 1995
Director: Chris Noonan
Global box office: $319m

Taking the talking animals with human problems playbook that had worked for Disney for generations and applying cutting edge film technology to it seemed like a no brainer, and the charm of the triumphant pig and his soft-spoken master (James Cromwell) did the rest of the work to win the world over.

Happy Feet, 2006
Director: George Miller
Global box office: $482m

With Hollywood cementing a new art form – the computer-animated family film – veteran Miller stepped into the breach, finding his inner child and taking cues from real world biology to make the story of a young penguin who loves dancing universal.

Moulin Rouge, 2001
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Global box office: $224m

While it seems a musical set in bohemian era Paris couldn’t be further from Australia’s experience of the world, Romeo+Juliet’s singular aesthetic made Luhrmann a one man moviemaking brand. His love of romance, the stage, cheesy showtunes and the kitsch theatrics of vaudeville gelled with urban Australia right when it was accepting the styles, colours and vibrancy of gay culture as its own.

The Great Gatsby, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Global box office: $440m

The nouveau riche of Depression era America also seems like it couldn’t be further from home, but Luhrmann took F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel and turned it into a spiritual sequel to Moulin Rouge, a glitzy world of finery and gilded debauchery where the music, the movement and the party never stop.

Mad Max Fury Road, 2015
Director: George Miller
Global box office: $475m

Thirty years after the last instalment of Max’s trilogy, Dr George showed Hollywood how action movies were really done with a stripped back, visually eye popping movie that combined raw, armrest-shredding driving sequences with the best female heroine of recent times.

Red Dog, 2011
Director: Kriv Stenders
Australian box office: $21m

It seemed like decades since we’d seen a real slice of Australiana like Storm Boy or Blinky Bill on screens and many might have thought Australia had grown too sophisticated for such vagaries, but the true story of the red kelpie that united a far north mining town in early seventies Western Australia didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.