Adding yet another slab atop the pile of already monolithic evidence that Australians are tastemakers extraordinaire, movie critics Down Under have just named Mad Max: Fury Road as the greatest damn home-grown flick of the admittedly still-young 21st century.
Director George Miller’s 2015 fourth installment in the post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise had to beat out some serious Aussie contenders to claim most-favored status among critics, topping acclaimed Australian movies familiar to American genre fans like 2014’s The Babadook (it came in 6th) and Ethan Hawke’s Predestination (also from 2014), which came in 25th.
What qualifies as an “Australian” film? Any feature-length movie made in Australia after 2000, regardless of genre, was eligible to make the cut. A total of 51 Australian movie critics participated in the voting, with results released on Australian and New Zealand-focused movie guide website Flicks.com.au.
Fury Road’s feminist twist on Mel Gibson’s original Mad Max formula — and particularly Charlize Theron’s urgent portrayal of Imperator Furiosa — was one among many distinguishing features that endeared the movie to critics.
“In a film of few words, [Theron’s] refusal to give in made for a radical alignment of feminist warrior and full-throttled action,” wrote critic Craig Mathieson of The Sydney Morning Herald, who called Fury Road a “magisterial movie” in summarizing its first-place finish.
Social commentary aside, the on-screen action didn’t hurt Fury Road’s chances in front of the home crowd. “The vehicular combat is extravagant and electrifying, made real by the physical heft of mutated big rigs and muscle cars and balanced by impeccable editing that finesses the framing instead of screwing with it,” Mathieson gushed.
If Fury Road can achieve such lofty heights in the land Down Under, why not loosen the rules a little and start racking our brains for mentions of other great Australian-made movies — even those made before the turn of the century?
While the critics’ list encompassed all genres, maybe there’s an all-sci-fi Aussie A-team waiting to be assembled from the likes of Red Planet (which technically qualifies, since it was released in 2000), or maybe Jupiter Ascending (hey, it’s the Wachowskis, so give it another chance), or crikey, even shot-in-Sydney The Matrix. If artsy sci-fi is more your thing, there’s always an underappreciated auteur milestone or two, like 1989’s Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds — Dark City director Alex Proyas’ very first feature film.
We’ve given you some ideas to get you started. Now kick back with a Foster’s, pop on some Tame Impala (or AC/DC, or INXS, or Bee Gees, or Men at Work, or whatever your Oz-based jam happens to be), and beat the critics at their own game by giving us your best crack at cobbling together your own Australian sci-fi movie short list.