It may have starred English actor Tom Hardy and South African Charlize Theron and been shot in the deserts of Namibia – thanks to unseasonal rain in the intended Broken Hill – but Mad Max: Fury Road has been crowned the best Australian film of the 21st century by the country’s top critics.
The poll, conducted by flicks.com.au, tasked 51 reviewers – 26 men and 25 women including much-loved former ABC duo Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton – to nominate their top-10 Australian feature films released since 2000, ranked in order.
When the votes were tallied, Australian director George Miller’s diesel-fuelled epic of crazy proportions burned into pole position in a tough race that favoured our world-renowned reputation for dark crime dramas, horror movies and westerns.
The 2015 hit returned to the dystopian future 30 years after Mel Gibson hung up the dusty leather jacket in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, though Gibson does pop up as director of war drama Hacksaw Ridge in 23rd place.
Wowing audiences worldwide with its death-defying stunts, bigger-than-life performances and frenetic pace, a sequel to Fury Road is stalled, with Miller locked in litigation with Warner Bros. over unpaid bonuses.
David Michôd’s striking debut feature Animal Kingdom took second place. Critics rated its nail-biting mad, bad mob-family antics, ruled over by an Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver as the Cody clan’s terrifying matriarch.
Indigenous director Warwick Thornton was one of only two filmmakers to secure two top-25 spots, locking third place for his doomed Outback love story Samson & Delilah, and eighth for his stunning Australian western Sweet Country.
The top 10 was rounded out by Eric Bana’s blistering performance in Chopper (4), swirling mystery Lantana (5), home-grown horror The Babadook (6), Nick Cave-penned western The Proposition (7), stomach-turning true-crime movie Snowtown (9), and Ivan Sen’s Aaron Pedersen-starring Mystery Road (10), recently adapted into an ABC TV series.
Dutch import Rolf de Heer, who moved to Australia aged eight, was the only other director to appear twice, rightfully recognised for his mesmerising feature Ten Canoes (12) and The Tracker (18).
Both movies star living legend David Gulpilil, who also pops up in John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, making him the only actor to mark three appearances in the top 25.
Popular hits making the list include Jocelyn Moorhouse’s incendiary The Dressmaker (15) starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth and Judy Davis, and Greg McLean’s backpacker slasher Wolf Creek (24).
And if the gulf between critics and audience sometimes seems to be widening, it’s worth noting that of the six films from this century currently residing in the all-time Australian box office top 10, two make the grade here: Garth Davis’ true-story weepy Lion and Baz Luhrmann’s razzle dazzle Moulin Rouge.
Both featuring Nicole Kidman, her brilliance appears to be something we can all agree on.