All of the movies on this list have been filmed or set in Australia, feature an Australian cast, or were produced/backed by Australian companies. This list is presented in no particular order and no preference as to “best” or “worst.” Each of these fine Aussie flicks is worth watching for their own enjoyable reasons. Most are available for streaming via Shudder, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, or by renting through the regular Amazon platform.
Mad Max Franchise 1979, 1981, 1985, 2015, TBA, Directed by George Miller
A cult favourite like this one needs little to no introduction. This legendary franchise was originated by the infamous Mel Gibson as Mad Max himself. It’s set in a nondescript post-apocalyptic future using the remote Australian wilderness as backdrop. Honestly, you can probably skip the Tina Turner 80s explosion that is Thunderdome and not miss too much, but it is a pretty funny addition to the series. Plus, who doesn’t love making “Two men enter, one man leaves” jokes?! The best installment by far is the female-fronted Fury Road, with Tom Hardy assuming the role Gibson originated. Fans are anxiously waiting with bated breath for the upcoming Furiosa centered follow-up!
The Reef, 2010, Directed by Andrew Trauki
In a refreshing change of pace, this survival-horror film chose the vast, open ocean and the Great Barrier Reef over the omnipresent Outback wilderness. On what was to be a leisurely day of sailing on a swanky yacht with friends, things take a terrible turn for our merry band of travelers after their boat hits an errant reef rock and capsizes. It’s quite literally time to sink or swim for this merry band of travelers: swim 10 to 12 miles back to shore, or stay back and wait for help. Will they swim through the foreboding, shark infested waters or will they wuss out and go down with the ship? Heavy on tension, expertly timed music cues, and plenty of murky, mysterious underwater scenes for you to test your own lung capacity (c’mon, don’t even try and tell me you don’t hold your breath when a character does…I know you’re just as guilty of it as I am!) Although Ship-wreck thrillers are nothing new to the survivalist horror scene, this one successfully delivers well on all its classic tropes. Plenty of homages to Jaws, too. Overall, The Reef is a good “man versus nature” flick you can really sink your teeth into!
Daybreakers,2009, Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig
A post-apocalyptic supernatural neo-noir thriller starring Ethan Hawke as a vampire hematologist. Yes, that’s right, a vampire hematologist. After a rampant virus turns the majority of earth’s population into vampires, vampire hematologist Edward does his best to develop a synthetic blood substitute to solve the impending “blood famine.” There’s a lot of silliness here such as special glass formulated so vamps can move around Earth during daylight hours, industrial farms for harvesting human blood (reminiscent of pods from The Matrix,) a vampire military, etc etc etc. The rogue remaining humans with immunity to the virus claim to have a cure, but only time will tell. This movie is right up there with Underworld as some peak Neo Goth content for your Hot Topic Teenager dreams. This might not be Oscar material, but it’s definitely better than Twilight!
Tidelands, 2019, Netflix Original Series, S01 Now Streaming
This Netflix series is a Supernatural Crime Thriller featuring mermaids. I know, I know, mermaids?! But hear me out. Gone are the wispy, wimpy mermaids waiting for human princes to save them; you’ll find none of that Big Mouse fodder here. It’s hard to put an original spin on Mermaid Lore these days, but the Tidelands writers really did well here on reinventing the wheel: a badass ex-con heroine, half-siren/half-human hybrids, evil witches, drug cartels, serial killers, and murder. This series has a great cast, great backstory, gorgeous settings, plenty of drama and intrigue, and excellent storylines. Tidelands is an unexpected gem in the Paranormal/Dark Drama subgenre of Horror. The full first season is available for streaming on Netflix.
Wolf Creek: The Series, 2016, Shudder Exclusive Series, S01 Now Streaming
This spin-off show from 2005’s Wolf Creek and 2014’s Wolf Creek 2 sees the return of deranged Australian serial killer Mick Taylor, a role once again reprised by John Jarrett. In Series 1, the story centers around 19-year-old American tourist Eve Thorogood, played by Lucy Fry, as she seeks revenge on Taylor after he murders her entire family at their campsite. The characters are solidly developed, intelligent, and fascinating, plus our leading lady is a total badass. The cast delivers some of the most compelling and accessible performances I’ve seen in a series in quite some time. You’ll be screaming, cheering, and gasping as you follow along for all 6 heart-pounding episodes. Beware, though: if you’re not into onscreen murders, blood splatter, gun violence, or similar, you’ll want to take a walkabout far away from this one, because this is not for you. This show is utterly ferocious, terrifying, and cutthroat. The show is relentlessly brutal in its violence and gore; the cold opening on E01 was so ruthless it was hard to believe it was only the opening. The Wolf Creek series is a satisfying watch and definitely fills a niche void in the genre. (And to those following this franchise since the “OG” Wolf Creek, a 3rd film installment is expected to be released in October 2020!)
Better Watch Out, 2017, Directed by Chris Peckover
The less you know about it going in, the more fun you’ll have! So allow me to give you a short synopsis so you don’t go googling and find any spoilers. 18-year-old Ashley is babysitting nerdy, awkward, 12-but-practically-almost-a-man-years-old Luke while his parents are out on the town for a work shindig. It’s the last night Luke will have with Ashley before she moves away, so Luke decides it’s now or never to enact his plan for romance driven by prepubescent hormones. The two settle in for a long winter’s night with pizza and a movie. All is calm and all is bright…until Ashley suspects someone may be stalking them.
This is the least predictable home-invasion slasher horror that I’ve ever watched. It’s smart, witty, clever, and a really enjoyable ride. Better Watch Out is full of twists, turns and hijinks and top-notch performances from its young actress and actors. Although it also checks the boxes for “Holiday Horror”, like 70s classic “Black Christmas”, I can assure you it is as much fun to watch year-round as it is during the Christmas season. Clocking in at just 90 minutes, this throwback to 1980s home-invasion and Babysitter themed horror is just an utter delight. (Reviewer’s Side Note: What the hell was with the late 70s/early 80s and bad nights of babysitting, by the way? I hope those kids got paid more than $5 and a free pizza to thwart death and murder…)
Digging our list and looking for more on Aussie Horror/Thrillers? You can also check out Lake Mungo, Next of Kin, Thirst, Strange Behavior, and Cargo – most of which are available for streaming on Amazon, Shudder, Hulu, and Netflix. Want to learn more about Australian film history and “Ozploitation”? Check out the documentary “Not Quite Hollywood” now streaming on Shudder!
By Ellen Avigliano
Some of these movies were streamed during my free 30-day trial of Shudder. Other films are available through paid subscription streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.