Culture

Eight Movies To Binge For A Couch-Bound Australian Road Trip

With self-isolation in full effect, we could all use a little escape. If we can’t take a real Australian road-trip right now, why not do the movie marathon version?

A whole lot of movies, from Hollywood blockbusters to micro-budget indie films, have captured Australia in all its beauty and contradictions.

Australia is also the backdrop for some pretty bad movies. We won’t be giving Mission: Impossible 2, Fool’s Gold or Kangaroo Jack a rewatch any time soon. (The jury’s divided on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, which probably doesn’t deserve its definitive title.)

Read on for eight entertaining movies you can stream right now to feel excited about Australia. There’s a bit of danger too, but don’t expect to see Wolf Creek.

The Shallows

The Travel Vibe: Secluded beaches just waiting for you to find them.

Where To Watch It: Google Play (rental).

Sure, The Shallows might be about a killer shark hunting a surfer (Blake Lively) trapped on a rock in the middle of the ocean, but doesn’t the ocean look pretty!

The survival thriller is set on a secret beach in Mexico, but it was actually filmed on Lord Howe Island off the coast of NSW.

We’re not surprised that our picture-perfect island was chosen as a stand-in when the production crew couldn’t make it to Mexico. It’s pretty damn gorgeous. And, best of all, there are no killer sharks in sight – just sand, waves and paradise-worthy sunsets.

Looking For Alibrandi

The Travel Vibe: A whistle-stop tour of Sydney, including such landmarks as Central Station and Oporto.

Where To Watch It: iTunes (rental).

If you already feel on the edge of crying and laughing, why not help it along with some Looking For Alibrandi?

The 2000 movie, adapted from the book of the same name, stars Pia Miranda as the titular Josephine Alibrandi. There’s teenage conflict and real tragedy, but it’s also a breezy hang.

Sydney is prominently featured, from the rarified Kincoppal School in Rose Bay (standing in for Josie’s school) to the streets and backyards of Glebe. The trailer alone is quite something.

The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert

The Travel Vibe: Wide-open vistas and dusty outback towns.

Where To Watch It: Foxtel Now or YouTube Movies (rental).

We could all use a feelgood couch session right now, and that balm is called The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.

The elevator pitch is simple: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp are drag performers touring across the Australian outback in a beat-up tour bus. There’s drama and prejudice along the way, but you’ll spend most of the 103 minutes beaming.

Shot in the real outback locations, the movie always feels authentic. Several scenes were shot at the Palace Hotel in the remote mining town of Broken Hill.

Today, the Palace Hotel boasts a special Priscilla Suite in honour of the movie. Schedule a visit when you’re next free to travel.

Somersault

The Travel Vibe: Wintry ski towns perfect for your cosiest knitwear.

Where To Watch It: YouTube Movies (rental).

If you need something low-key and quietly dramatic this weekend, try Somersault.

This Australian indie drama from 2004 follows Heidi (Abbie Cornish), a teenage runaway who leaves her fraught home life in Canberra and ends up in Jindabyne. Much coming of age ensues.

The movie was shot over winter in Jindabyne and rural NSW, which sets it apart from the dry, dusty Australia we often see in movies.

Somersault was directed by then-emerging Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland. Her next project, coming at a TBC post-COVID-19 date: a little Marvel movie called Black Widow.

Where The Wild Things Are

The Travel Vibe: Wild, windswept beaches, rugged cliffs and mysterious forests.

Where To Watch It: Netflix.

If you didn’t grow up reading Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, I’m sorry.

It was only a matter of time before the 1963 children’s classic was made into a movie. That adaptation finally came in 2009, but not exactly for the under-10 crowd. Instead, we got a deeply melancholy fantasia that made a blubbering mess out of adults everywhere.

I mean, this thing was written by Dave Eggers, directed by Spike Jonze and soundtracked by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

In addition to its late-2000s indie cred, the movie also looks great. That’s partly down to the filming locations around Melbourne. Several of the best scenes were shot at Bushrangers Bay, a rugged stretch of coastal Victoria.

Dead Calm

The Travel Vibe: Diving from a yacht into crystal-clear water off the coast of Queensland.

Where To Watch It: Google Play (rental).

The Dead Calm trailer opens with a deadly serious voiceover: “Alone on a sea of endless calm, it was easy to imagine they were the only two people on earth.”

Sounds like the dream social distancing scenario, right? Well, not exactly.

Those “two people” are Rae (Nicole Kidman) and John (Sam Neill), a married couple who head out on a yacht vacation to work out their grief. Out in the open ocean they come across distressed stranger Hughie (Billy Zane) and – surprise! – thriller stuff unfolds.

Dead Calm was shot over two weeks in Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands. Billy Zane’s murder plot aside, the Whitsundays yacht life looks pretty sweet.

Two Hands

The Travel Vibe: Sweaty, frenetic Sydney in summer. Think long days at the beach and buzzing (pre-lockouts) Kings Cross at night.

Where To Watch It: YouTube Movies (rental).

If you’ve never seen Two Hands, you’re missing out. This 1999 time capsule features two then-emerging stars: Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne. They both look like babies, and it’s incredibly charming.

Two Hands is the story of Jimmy (Ledger), a striver who gets mixed up with local crim Pando (Bryan Brown). Jimmy works as a strip club hawker in Sydney’s Kings Cross, long before the lockout laws killed its vibe.

The movie zips around Sydney, from the Cross to Bondi Beach to the outer suburbs. You’ll also enjoy über-1999 music cues from the likes of Powderfinger, Alex Lloyd, Skunkhour and Crowded House.

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Travel Vibe: Post-apocalyptic desert-scapes and none of the fun, relaxing stuff.

Where To Watch It: Stan.

When you’re confined to your couch, it’s fun to throw on a movie that’s anything but sedentary. For a story that’s a long way from any apartment setting, turn to 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

This two-hour instant classic was largely filmed in the Namib Desert near Swakopmund, Namibia. The original plan was to shoot in the NSW outback town of Broken Hill – until heavy rain left the landscape looking not so arid.

While previous Mad Max movies made vivid use of the Australian outback, the Namib Desert was an uncanny stand-in. However, some scenes were still shot in Sydney’s Penrith Lakes.

You might not recognise any local landmarks, but you’ll still feel the pure Australianness of director George Miller’s vision.

(Lead Image: Where The Wild Things Are / Warner Bros. Pictures)