10 forgotten Aussie movie classics

If your memory of 1980s Aussie movies is restricted to Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max II, you’re missing out on a bunch of hidden gems from a vintage decade for Antipodean cinema. Paul Merrill has rummaged through the dusty archives for Citro to uncover some true blue Aussie classics, all available to rent or stream…

Starstruck (1982)

The most outrageous Aussie musical ever made

A gloriously energetic explosion of taffeta, hairspray and show stopping tunes, this life-affirming musical is Grease meets Strictly Ballroom in a Cyndi Lauper fever dream, and was director Gillian Anderson’s unexpected followup to the sublime My Brilliant Career.

Cousins Jackie (Jo Kennedy) and Angus (Ross O‘Donovan) are wannabe popstar and wannabe popstar manager working at Sydney’s Harbour View Hotel, but plotting to use a TV talent show to make their dreams come true. We challenge you not to be uplifted.

The movie has been digitally remastered and the soundtrack - which should have your toes tapping - is available on YouTube.

Rent it from ACMI Cinema 3

The Starstruck music includes tracks by Tim Finn of Split Enz and music by The Swingers, who perform on screen at key moments.

Dogs in Space (1986)

Michael Hutchence as a punk rocker, directed by Richard Lowenstein

If today’s teens think they invented rebellion, this post-punk delve into Melbourne’s drug-addled music scene might make them think again. INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who knew a thing or two about drug-addled music scenes, is terrific as the lead singer (or, more accurately, ‘slurer’) of the eponymous band, drifting from house party to gig back to house party as director Richard Lowenstein intercuts footage of Laika, the actual first dog in space.

Stream on Apple TV

Dogs in Space was supposedly based on punk musician Sam Sejavka and filmed in Richmond.

Gallipoli (1981)

Watch Mel Gibson's finest hour (with great 80s electronica music)

An absolute masterpiece starring a young Mel Gibson as a talented sprinter who enlists to fight in the Great War with his rival (Mark Lee).  As members of the Australian Light Horse, they’re proud soldiers wholly unprepared for the horrors that await them on a Turkish beach. Director Peter Weir stages the heart-wrenching battle scenes with impeccable attention to detail, and Gibson’s never bettered the performance he delivers here.

Stream on Amazon Prime

SBS film critics David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz count Gallipoli among their favourite films.

Bliss (1985)

A classic that provoked a walk out

When this disturbing black comedy first screened at the Cannes Film Festival, a quarter of the audience walked out in disgust. But that shouldn’t put you off as it’s a riotous cavalcade of Pythonesque ridiculousness and surreal tragedy starring the always reliable Barry Otto.

He’s a grizzled ad exec whose wife is cheating on him while his son and daughter are trading sexual favours and cocaine. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, an elephant sits on his car.

Watch it on the internet archive

Kangaroo (1987)

Political kerfuffles from a century ago

Adapted from the semi-autobiographical DH Laurence novel, this bleak parable about an English pacifist who flees the turbulence of Europe in 1922 only to become embroiled in fascism and gang warfare in Australia probably didn’t do much for our tourism industry. Stellar performances from Colin Friels, Judy Davis and Hugh Keays-Byrne make this a powerful slab of celluloid whose themes resonate just as loudly today as 101 years ago.

Stream on Beamafilm

The Fringe Dwellers (1986)

Be moved by this compelling family drama

No Aussie director has better credentials than Bruce Beresford (we’ll even forgive him for The Adventures of Barry McKenzie) and this tender family drama centres on proud and determined Aboriginal teenager, Trilby (Kristina Nehm), and her family who are ‘fringe dwellers’ forced to live on the outskirts of society. When they move to a white community, the unrelenting racism pushes Trilby into mystical new realms.

It was the first film to feature Indigenous actors in leading roles and all conjure spellbinding performances.

Stream on Amazon Prime

Breaker Morant (1980)

Courtroom dramas don't get more tense than this

Another Beresford cracker about Australian soldiers accused by the British of murdering prisoners during the Boer War with stand-out performances from Edward Woodwood, Jack Thompson and Brian Brown. As the men fight for their lives, they’re abandoned to their fate by the senior brass while questions swirl around the ethics of warfare and loyalty to comrades. So good that we can forgive the liberties it takes with historic accuracy.

Breaker Morant was filmed in the South Australian country town of Burra, where several locals also became film extras.

Stream it on SBS On Demand

Careful, He Might Hear You (1983)

Duelling aunts squabble over their nephew

After his mother’s death, young PS goes to live with his nice Aunt Lila in Sydney, but his happy new routine is shattered when his posh-but-not-nice Aunt Vanessa rocks up to demand custody and suddenly Harry Potter’s broom cupboard childhood looks rosy by comparison.

Director Carl Schultz’s bold-hearted tear-jerker deservedly swept the board at the AACTA Awards, but sadly hasn’t lingered in many memories.

Stream it on Netflix

The Club (1980)

Watch the greatest ever footy movie

Backstabbing, feuds and betrayal at a fictionalised Collingwood footy club are the basis of this sharply observed satire with Jack Thompson playing the beleaguered coach, John Howard as a misfiring star recruit and Graham Kennedy appearing as the club president and pie factory owner.

As the hapless team stumbles hilariously through its season with more hidden agendas than points, old rivalries threaten to derail any Grand Final hopes.

Stream on comparetv

The Club was filmed in and around the club rooms and grounds of the actual Collingwood Football Club.The real Collingwood football team appear on field and as extras in the film, including club legend Rene Kink.

The Man From Snowy River (1982)

Immerse yourself in an Aussie legend

Never has a poem been adapted so skilfully than here with Spartacus himself (well, Kirk Douglas) as the iconic Aussie stockman rounding up colts, surviving in the wilderness and falling in love with the same woman as his brother (also played by Douglas).

No one can truly be a full-on ocker larrikin unless they’ve sat through this several dozen times. Until E.T. scampered into view a year later, it was the highest grossing film in Australian history.

At the opening ceremony for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the theme song from The Man from Snowy River movie played as Australian horses came in.

Citro member offer:

P&O Cruises offer short 80s-themed cruises and are giving Citro members a  free room upgrade and $50 onboard credit. Other sailings receive a $300 credit. Terms and conditions apply with more detail at this link. Download the Citro App and link your Citro Card.

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