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Australia's Best Movies

Top Australian Films Selected by AFI and AACTA


The Australian Film Institute has been an arbiter of fine Australian movies, giving out film awards from 1958 to 2010 in yearly recognition of outstanding Australian work in film.

Until 1975, AFI Awards included work in non-features and documentaries, but has since made awards solely to feature movies, aside from those in the television categories.

In August 2011, AFI launched the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, which was to continue the AFI Awards for the year as the AACTA Awards.

The inaugural AACTA Awards, covering films released in 2011, were announced on January 31, 2012, at Sydney Opera House. The following year's wards were announced at The Star on January 30, 2013.

Winners of the 2012 and 2013 AACTA Best Film Award and the AFI Best Film Awards since 2001 — together with price comparisons for DVDs, when available — are:

2013: The Sapphires

The story of an indigenous girl band in the 1960s, The Sapphires won a total of 11 AACTA Awards, among them best picture, director (Wayne Blair), lead actress (Deborah Mailman), lead actor (Chris O'Dowd), supporting actress (Jessica Mauboy), adapted screenplay, editing, production design, costume design, and sound. Not only was the film recognised for its over-all excellence but it was a hit as well among Australian moviegoers and was the highest grossing Australian film in 2012. Based on the true story of Australian Aboriginal singers who gained fame as a group and entertained troops in Vietnam, The Sapphires was adapted for the screen from its original stage production.

2012: Red Dog

The inaugural AACTA Award for Best Film went to Red Dog, a film set in the Pilbara region of Western Australia which told the true story of a red kelpie that had endeared itself to the communities of the region. Starring in the film directed by Kriv Stenders were Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Noah Taylor, Keisha Castle-Hughes — and Koko as Red Dog, remembered as the Pilbara Wanderer in whose memory a statue has been erected in the Western Australia town of Dampier. The AACTA Award for Red Dog, 2011's top-grossing Australian movie, proved that box office and critical success can in fact go hand in hand.
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2010: Animal Kingdom

This film, director David Michod's first feature film, was nominated for AFI Awards in 18 categories, winning 10, including best film, director (Michod), actress (Jacki Weaver), actor (Ben Mendelsohnn), supporting actor (Joel Edgerton), and original screenplay (Michod). It's a strong unflinching look at a dysfunctional Melbourne crime family and the relationships the family members have with one another and with the police. Engrossingly taut from start to finish. Weaver was one of the top 10 supporting actresses in 2010 and was a best supporting actress nominee for her role in this film at the 2011 US Academy Awards.
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2009: Samson and Delilah

The story of two love-struck Aboriginal teenagers living in central Australia, Samson and Delilah won not only the AFI best film award but also the awards for best original screenplay and best direction for writer/director Warwick Thornton. The film's young actors, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, who had had no previous acting experience, shared the AFI award for best young actor. Set in a dirt-poor rural community outside Alice Springs, Samson and Delilah charts the plight of the two teenagers who seek to escape the area's poverty, violence, addiction and hopelessness by going on the run.
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2008: The Black Balloon

This is the feature film directorial debut of Australian filmmaker Elissa Down, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story of a family dealing with an autistic child. It won six AFI awards, including those for best film and best direction. Earlier in the year, The Black Balloon had received the Crystal Bear Generation 14plus best feature film award at the Berlin International Film Festival, among other Australian and international honors.
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2007: Romulus, My Father

The directorial debut of actor Richard Roxburgh (picture from Sanctum 2011 premiere) is from a screenplay by poet and playwright Nick Drake. Romulus, My Father stars Eric Bana as Romulus, father to the young Raimond Gaita (played in the film by Kodi Smit-McPhee). The book on which the film is based is professor of philosophy and author Raimond Gaita's celebrated memoir detailing his parents' struggle in the face of great adversity to bring up their son Raimond.
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2006: Ten Canoes

Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer and Peter Djigirr, won six Australian Film Institute awards: best picture, director, original screenplay, cinematography, editing and sound. This is the first Australian feature film to have been made completely in an indigenous Aboriginal language. Set in both the distant past and a nearer time frame, Ten Canoes weaves an almost mythic story of jealousy and desire. Narrated in English by David Gulpilil, with the spoken Aboriginal language subtitled in English.

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2005: Look Both Ways

The debut feature of animator Sarah Watt, Look Both Ways is an innovative mix of animation and live action, set over a scorchingly hot weekend, when people dealing with unexpected events find their lives intersecting. Watt also won the AFI awards for best direction and best screenplay. Cast member Anthony Hayes won the AFI best supporting actor award.
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2004: Somersault

This was the year of Somersault at the Australian Film Institute Awards. Cate Shortland won for best direction and best original screenplay, Abbie Cornish was best actress, Lynette Curran best suporting actress and Erik Thomson best supporting actor. Additionally, the film won the AFI awards for original score, sound, production design, costume design, editing and cinematography. Somersault was Shortland's debut feature. Its evocative setting is the New South Wales town of Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains where Cornish plays a 16-year-old on the run from her family and a troubled past. See film review.
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2003: Japanese Story

Directed by Sue Brooks, Japanese Story tells of a relationship forged in the Australian Outback where a high-strung Australian geologist (Toni Collette) escorts a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) through Western Australia's Pilbara region. With an initial mutual dislike arising from vast cultural differences — the egalitarian freewheeling Aussie lifestyle versus the structured, strictured, sometimes sexist customs of another race — the pair suddenly find themselves in a fight for survival which forges a deeper connection between the two. Then comes a sudden, unexpected shock. (See Toni Collette interview about Japanese Story).
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2002: Rabbit-Proof Fence

Set in 1931 Australia, Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the story of three Aboriginal girls snatched from their homes who escape from a government camp where, along with other half-caste children of mixed parentage, they were to be trained to work as servants. Directed by Philip Noyce and based on the true story of Aboriginal woman Molly Craig, the film tells part of the story of what is now known as the Stolen Generation. The Aboriginal cast comprised mainly untrained indigenous actors. The film also features British actor Kenneth Branagh as the legal guardian of the Aboriginal people, and Aboriginal actors David Gulpilil and Deborah Mailman among the film's cast and crew. See film review and DVD review.
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2001: Lantana

Lantana is a mosaic of complex relationships superbly acted by an ensemble cast including Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Russell Dykstra, Daniela Farinacci, Vince Colosmo, Peter Phelps, Rachael Blake and Leah Purcell. It is director Ray Lawrence's first film since Bliss in 1985. The Lantana screenplay was adapted by Andrew Bovell from his own play Speaking in Tongues. The film won seven Australian Film Institute Awards for best picture, best director (Lawrence), best actor (LaPaglia), best actress (Armstrong), best supporting awards (Blake, Colosimo), and best adapted screenplay (Bovell). See Lantana movie information.
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