Movies to inspire your student life in Australia

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Australia has a thriving film industry, producing hit films, top directors and movie stars like Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, and Nicole Kidman. Whether you’re off to study in Sydney at the University of New South Wales, heading to RMIT in Melbourne, or becoming an SAF Scholar at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, there’s always time for a movie night.

So, settle in for a movie or 10 set in Australia to get a feel for your new study home through these classic Aussie favorites.

Muriel’s Wedding

A quirky 1990s romantic comedy with an occasionally dark edge, Muriel’s Wedding is a thoroughly Australian movie by PJ Hogan that’s easy to love. Toni Collette stars as the wedding-hungry, Abba-loving protagonist who goes through crashing lows, has a wedding, and finds a new happiness through her friendship with Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths).

Shot along the Gold Coast and in Sydney, it’s a charming movie with hidden depths that has a distinctly Aussie feel.

Rabbit-Proof Fence

This 2002 film tells the true story of three children who, in 1931, escape a Perth settlement and undertake an epic 1,500-mile trek, following a rabbit-proof fence, to their home state in the north.

As Australian government policy dictated until 1970, Molly Craig, her half-sister Daisy, and their cousin Gracie were forced from their mothers and raised in training schools to prepare them for life as domestic servants and factory workers. This important film about the treatment of the Indigenous peoples of Australia is an educational watch as a student coming to live in Sydney.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

This LGBTQ+ cult classic (which will probably be on a screen somewhere in Sydney during Pride week) puts Australia right at the heart of this movie. It’s a road-trip movie featuring two drag queen artists and a widowed transgender woman who take a trip across the desert in a converted bus they call Priscilla. They quarrel, wear fantastic costumes, and run into plenty of trouble as they attempt to get to a hotel gig that promises them much-needed money. It will have you longing to embark on your own Australian road trip!

Strictly Ballroom

You could watch Baz Luhrmann’s 1930s epic, Australia, but this 1992 comedy has a unique charm that will have you dancing to “Love is in the Air” in no time. Filled with sequins and spray tan, this is a ballroom-themed love story that launched the directing career of Baz Luhrmann and received a standing ovation when it was shown in Cannes. It features Scott, a ballroom dancer who wants to try new steps, and Fran, a novice and ugly duckling in need of a ballroom makeover. It’s camp with a sense of madness and full of the beautiful cinematography Baz Luhrmann is now known for.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Peter Weir’s 1975 haunting mystery centers on a Valentine’s Day picnic in 1900 at a local rock formation called Hanging Rock. A group of girls from a strict boarding school in Victoria and one of their teachers disappear.

The movie showcases Victoria’s stunning landscape and a style of cinema different from anything Hollywood. It’s based on a 1967 novel by Joan Leslie, who hinted the fictional story may be based in fact. There’s a director’s cut of this movie too which removes shots rather than adds them. Expect few answers but a mystical journey that hints at an ancient power of the landscape.