Since 1906, when we produced the world’s first ever feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, Australians have been keen filmmakers. With a land mass that is roughly the same size as continental USA, but with a population of approximately 1/7, we punch pretty high above our weight in regard to popular films. As we mark the 229th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet to the shores of Botany Bay in Sydney, let’s celebrate just a few of the quirky and iconic Aussie film characters.
Miranda, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Ethereal, untouchable, beautiful that’s Rock’s Miranda (Anne-Louise Lambert). The Picnic at Hanging Rock mystery has captivated Australians since the book was first published in 1967. Presented as a historical mystery that remains unexplained, debate still goes on over whether it was based on a true story and what exactly happened to the girls on the Rock. The image of Miranda captures all this and is instantly recognisable.
Mad Max, Mad Max (1979)
Really needs nothing said.
Jim Craig, The Man From Snowy River (1982)
While we can’t quote the entire poem by Banjo Paterson, few of us would not recognise (if not recite) the opening few lines. The myth, the man, the legend. An underdog… check. Getting the better of the Yanks (well a Yank)… check. Getting the girl (who is independent, free-thinking and more than capable of holding her own)… check. Coming of age story… check. Defying the odds and doing something just a tad reckless… check. Yep, an Aussie story through and through.
Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Probably one of our most iconic film characters and for a long time, Tourism Australia’s greatest asset. However, we would NEVER throw a shrimp on the barbie. A prawn yes, but not a shrimp. It also introduced “that’s not a knife… THAT’s a knife” to our vernacular.
Albert Einstein, Young Einstein (1988)
Bet you didn’t know that Albert Einstein (Yahoo Serious) was really the son of a Tasmanian apple farmer, who on trying to get bubbles into beer (extremely important), he worked out the theory of relativity and split the atom with a chisel? Wanting to patent his idea, he heads off to Sydney. Yep, oh and while there he also invented surfing and rock ‘n’ roll and hooked up with Marie Curie. We’re a talented bunch us Aussies.
Muriel Heslop, Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
It’s hard growing up in Porpoise Spit when everyone hates you, including your own sister who constantly tells you, “You’re terrible Muriel”. No wonder Muriel (Toni Collette) took advantage of a lucky opportunity and got the hell out of dodge and down to Sydney. The ABBA-loving, free-spirited girl just wanted to be loved and to be a bride. While being a bride didn’t work out too well, we certainly all fell in love with her.
The Kerrigan Family, The Castle (1997)
It’s almost impossible to single out one member of this loveable Melbournian family. From the mum, Sal (Anne Tenney) who manages to dish up some good, hearty meals for the brood, to the classifieds obsessed brother (Anthony Simco). From the amateur kickboxing son-in-law (Eric Bana) to Dale (Stephen Curry), the digger of holes and narrator of the piece. And you cannot forget the family’s patriarch Darryl (Michael Caton). The family brought the following classic lines into the Australian vocabulary, among others:
“This is going straight to the pool room”
“How’s the serenity?”
“Tell him he’s dreaming”
“We’re goin’ to Boony Doon”
“Darryl: Whaddya call this, luv?
Sal: Ice cream
Darryl: Yeah, but it’s the way you do it.
Dale: How did you do it, Mum?
Sal: Scooped it out the punnet.”
Mark “Chopper” Read, Chopper (2000) and Ned Kelly, Ned Kelly (2003)
Aussies have always loved the underdog and this often extends to our bushrangers and criminals. Though separated by roughly a century, Ned Kelly (Heath Ledger) is probably our most famous and iconic bushranger and Chopper (Eric Bana) is one of our most infamous modern day criminals. Both figures provided excellent subject material for Ledger and Bana, with memorable performances.
Molly Craig, Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
The image of Molly (Everlyn Sampi) carrying her sister Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) on their journey home along the rabbit-proof fence has become as iconic as Rock’s Miranda. Her image and the film helped to bring home the atrocities of the Stolen Generation.
Mick Taylor, Wolf Creek (2005)
This film still gives us nightmares. Loosely based on a couple of different backpacker murderers, for a generation who had mostly known John Jarrett from hosting lifestyle program Better Homes and Gardens and his role on TV drama McLeod’s Daughters, his portrayal of Mick Taylor scarred us for life.
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