Australian War Movies: A List

Australia, like so many other countries, has participated in many wars and  it is actually amazing that, even though it hasn’t done all that many war movies, has done some that are considered to be the best of their kind. I am talking about the three movies of the Australian New Wave, Gallipoli, Breaker Morant and The Lighthorsemen. They are very different but all three are outstanding. When just starting this blog I watched and reviewed another, much more recent movie, Kokoda. It is flawed but still a very good movie. I started to wonder if there are any other ones and found a few that I haven’t seen. The latest one on the list is from 2010.

Whoever is familiar with my blog knows that I make lists that I often consider to be a work in progress. It is very possible that this list will change over the months and years.

40’000 Horsemen (1941): WWI

The Rats of Tobruk (1944): WWII; North Africa.

The Odd Angry Shot (1979): Australians in Vietnam.

Breaker Morant (1980): Second Boer War. True story. The court-martial of Breaker Morant. Three officers are accused of a war crime. Outstanding legal drama and a truly tragic story (see my post on Breaker Morant).

ANZACS (1985, TV mini-series): Thanks to Soldier’s Mail I can add this one to my list. WWI, ANZACs are followed from Gallipoli to the battlefields of the Somme, Vimy Ridge etc.

Gallipoli (1981): WWI, ANZACs on the Turkish front. Intense infantry combat. Magnificently displays the senselessness of it all.

The Highest Honor (1982): WWII. True story. British and Australian raid on Japanese occupied Singapore harbour.

Attack Force Z (1982): WWII, Southwest Pacific.

An Indecent Obsession (1985): WWII, Pacific (?)

The Lightorsemen (1987): Australian cavalry. WWI. There aren’t many movies on cavalry combat that are truly outstanding. This is one of them (see my post on The Lighthorsemen).

Blood Oath (1990): WWII, Indonesia. Australian POWs suffers abuse from Japanese captors.

The Last Bullet (1995, TV): WWII, South Pacific

Changi (2001, TV mini-series): WWII, Singapore, Australian POW’s.

My Brother Jack (2001, TV): Outbreak of WWII.

Kokoda (2006): The war in the Pacific. On the Kokoda trail. Pretty gruesome look at an untrained group of volunteers who meet a fierce enemy in the jungle. Focuses on the story of two brothers. Not bad at all (see my post on Kokoda).

Beneath Hill 60 (2010): WWI, Western front. Australian miners fighting in the tunnel systems.

Any important movies that I left out?

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86 thoughts on “Australian War Movies: A List

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Thanks for the recommendations. I have only seen the big three – Gallipolli, Breaker Morant, and The Lighthorsemen. The others sound intriguing. Hopefully Net Flix has them. Especially interested in The Odd Angry Shot. I have heard about the Aussies in Vietnam. They had quite a reputation.

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    Pooey! I can’t get any of them on Net Flix. Thanks a lot for getting me excited for nothing LOL. I should have known because I tried a while back to get The Lighthorsemen (to complete my trilogy reviews) and if they don’t have that one, why would they have more obscure movies?

  3. I recall a TV miniseries called ANZACS which was done sometime in the early 1980’s and starred Paul Hogan (during his heyday). It was an Australian production and filled the niche of a “Band of Brothers” involving ANZAC troops during World War I, following them from enlistment to Gallipoli and then to the Western Front. Given the limitations of the TV miniseries format, it was both very watchable and treated the history well. Don’t know if you’ve seen it? If so, I’d like to know what you think.

    • This sounds interesting… No, I haven’t seen it. It will probably not be easy to track it down but I might give it a try… I just added it to my list, thanks, and did mention you, of course.

      • Miss Aussie says:

        I first encountered ANZACS in early 2004 and it’s become a favourite of mine and my brothers. I recently replaced our VHS set with the DVD set, which can be purchased at the ABC shop for about $40 (although I think it was originally $80!).

      • Thanks, Miss Aussie. I managed to watch it meanwhile and even reviewed it. I really liked it a lot. It’s one of the best mini-series.

  4. […] already attached the trailer in my List on Australian War Movies but decided to attach it […]

  5. […] need to thank Soldier’s Mail who left a comment on my post Australian War Movies: A List mentioning ANZACS. This is really, really worth […]

  6. […] Here are the reviews of Part I Gallipoli and Part II The Somme and a List of Australian War Movies. […]

  7. Graham Gales says:

    “The last Bullet”
    “An Indecent Obsession”
    “Attack Force Z”
    “40,000 Thousand Horsemen”
    “The Fighting Rats of Tobruk”
    “My Brother Jack”

    • Thanks a lot, Graham! This is great, I will add them to my list.

      • Graham Gales says:

        Oops, forgot

        “Changi”

        There is also “The Rats of Tobruk”, a British film about Australian soldiers.

      • Someone did recommend Changi on one of my ANZAC posts but I couldn’t find it. Thanks a lot. I need to update my list.

      • Bogong Jack says:

        Another few TV Miniseries

        “The Cowra Breakout”
        Japanese PWs escape from a camp in Australia

        “The Dunera Boys”
        European refugees interned in Australia

        “A Town Like Alice”
        Romance during the war, across PW camps
        (This was also a film in the 1950s with Australian actor, Peter Finch, and Virginia McKenna in the lead roles.)

        TV Series

        “Spyforce”
        Australian soldiers conducting operations against the Japanese.

      • Great, thanks a lot, I’ll add them all.

  8. […] to take this opportunity to thank those who contribute regularly and to mention especially the List on Australian war movies which has undergone a lot of changes since I first posted it. I recently got a few new suggestions […]

  9. dizzy says:

    don’t forget the pacific :)

  10. Ian says:

    The Rats of Tobruk was a very lousy, rotten movie and it was not even Australian, it was a British production, whereas the raid on Singapore harbour, if it is about the exploits of the Krait, was an Australian event. Breaker Morant was really good but the Odd Angry Shot and Gallipoli were not that good. Kokoda I have not seen, but the historical accuracy of this fight often annoys me – 20,000 ( including 12,000 South Seas Veterans) Japanese soldiers landed and pushed their contingents inland and oppossing them were only 542 Australian soldiers, the battles that took place along that track until the Japanese were finally stopped, through over extending, sickness and Australian reinforcements arriving at the right time have never been dealt with in the correct element. Truly heroic and poignent stuff.

    • You should watch Kokoda. It’s not bad at all. It certainly gives a feel for what they had to go through.
      I have to go over the list again. I don’t always only include movies I’ve seen in those lists. I quite liked Gallipoli, at least i found the endmade the whole movie wortwhile. Breaker Morant and The Lighthorsemen are some of the very best.

  11. […] and stars Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson, among others.All About War Movies has really great list of Australian War Movies that you may wish to check out.   If you’ve got something to add about Anzac […]

  12. Lenno says:

    had to watch it at school :) love the movie! :D

  13. Breaker Morant was a good movie. I need to emphasize that it basically ‘dabbles’ with the truth occasionally. Australia didn’t do too many war movies until the 1970’s when we got a very ‘jingoistic’ view given to us that was kicked off by the version of Breaker Morant Kit Denton gave us – something he regretted in his later years. Its this more fanciful version Bruce Beresford went with in the movie. Gallipoli is another example, a great movie but not very accurate. A big feature of the 70’s and early 80’s films was always painting the British in a very bad light and giving Australians credit for a lot more than they were due. And I say this as an ex-Digger and someone who reads a lot of Australian military history. Enjoy the movies for what they are: Good Entertainment.

    The Odd Angry Shot is my favourite, always has been since I was a kid…once you can get past Graham Kennedy being an SAS Corporal ;)

    Kokoda was alright – but you need a mini-series for that campaign to really capture the feel of it – a movie just can’t do it and that is what was sadly lacking in the movie. Without knowing the context its a pretty ordinary movie, sadly.

    The Lighthorsemen was filmed straight after the brilliant series The Anzacs and it shows. Both have a great cast of Aussie actors and in essence the same production across both series. Both series are brilliant and do capture our WW1 ‘experience’. People don’t realise the sheer scope of the Australian involvement in WW1 across 3 different theaters of war. If you are going to watch some quality Australian military history – start with these. They were made in the 90’s but they are still great.

    Blood Oath is another one you cannot miss. A brilliant film that shows the War Crimes trial of Japanese officers and soldiers who executed Australian commandos captured trying to sneak in and blow up shipping in Singapore Harbor. The Aussie movie ‘The Heroes’ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095297/) tells the story of the first successful commando raid on Singapore. The second one didn’t go as well. Blood Oath shows the court room trial interspersed with flashbacks back to what happened during the war.

    And the last Aussie war movie made was Beneath Hill 60 – which is a fairly good movie and is well made. I’d recommend it.

    Keep an eye out for a new movie on the Battle of Long Tan. The bloke who made the award winning documentary on the battle is in pre-production on a feature length movie on the battle. Its still early days yet but it sounds promising.

    • *Typo – The Lighthorsemen and The Anzacs were made in the 80’s..not 90’s

    • Thanks a lot for this interesting comment.
      I haven’t seen the Odd Angry Shot, nor Blod Oath but will do so after your recommendation. Meanwhile I’ve seen all the others I guess. I think I liked them all, some more, some less but overall I thought they were well done. Yes, the clash between the British and the Aussies is a frequent theme. Understandbly so, I guess.
      I thought Kokoda wasn’t that bad but it has a few weird moments.
      I’ll certainly look for Battle of Long Tan.
      I agree, it’s amazing on how many fronts they were fighting in WWI. I found many of these films quite instructive. Especially Beneath Hill 60.

      • I’d definitely recommend both. The Odd Angry Shot is, in my mind, the greatest Australian movie of all time – let alone a great War Movie. Brilliant cast, brilliant writing, brilliant dialogue and it ‘gets it’ better than any other movie on Vietnam. It was made a decade before the plethora of Vietnam movies came onto the scene in the late 80’s when Vietnam became ‘popular’ again.

        If you can, try and dig out Heroes and Heroes II. They are made for TV movies about Operation Jaywick and Operation Rimau (the famous Commando raids on Singapore Harbour) filmed during the early 90’s from memory.

        There are also 2 Vietnam based mini-seires that came out in the 80’s as well. Sword of Honour, which is very very good and stars Andrew Clarke (Played Martin Barrington in the Anzacs) and Vietnam starring Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Eadie. I think Sword of Honour was the better of the two.

      • Thanks so much for your suggestions. As you may have gathered I’m a huge fan of Australian movies. I’m looking forward to watching The Odd Angry Shot. I eally hope I can find it, and some of the others too.

  14. […] comment on my post Australian War Movies: A List put me in the mood to watch the Australian film  The Odd Angry Shot. The topic is quite unique as […]

  15. Brett says:

    you may want to check out”LONG TAN” it’s a doco/movie very good. also a movie coming out in about a year about Long Tan.

  16. arthur dunger says:

    1915 mini series, a fortunate life an excellent mini series deal with the first world war for a bit,

  17. ham says:

    you left out a couple of great ones mate but i cant find the 2nd one anywhere accept for youtube…. HEROES OF THE KRAIT AND HEROES THE RETURN about z force the first one is a movie but the the sequal was a mini series and they are outstanding to watch, made in the mid 80’s. The highest honour is about the same subject matter but was made earlier and is not as realistic an account of what really happened even though that too is a great movie

  18. ham says:

    also you remembered rats of tobruk but you forgot “tobruk” and for anyone who is looking or bload oath it is under 2 titles “blood oath and prisoners of the sun” also you forgot merry xmas mr lawrence
    cheers

    • Thanks, again. I’ll update the list when I get a chnace.
      Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is one of my favourite movies but I don’t thik it is Australian.

      • ham says:

        merry xmas mr lawrence is australian and david bowie plays the lead role, also there is a movie called death of a soldier which is about the americans in australia in ww2 and a us navy guy raping and murdering australian women, this sparks a true incident that was covered up by both the australian and us government cause there was a massive gun battle at melbourne station between returned australian kokoda veterans and the newly arrived yanks. Many died in this battle and the families were told lies about how they came to pass “DEATH OF A SOLDIER” good movie, someone mentioned the cowra breakout before that too is an excellent movie and anzacs i agree is one of the best mini series ever made

      • Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.

  19. ham says:

    and “to end all wars” has several diggers in the japanese prison camp so technically you could count that one

  20. ham says:

    just want to point out there are far too few movies and mini series on australian battles and wars. I just remembered another 2 australian mini series on war “sword of honour and vietnam. Sword of honour is nearly impossible to find and there is a newer british one with daniel craig by that name

  21. ham says:

    The longtan movie “Letters from Longtan” was supposed to be made years ago, it has run short of funding i believe and there is no definate continuation of this production. I hope they do make it still

  22. ham says:

    theres also o kiwi Galipoli movie called Chunuk Bair but that is impossible to find i know its kiwi but hey they are our brothers and they are anzacs too

  23. Natalie says:

    Wondering movue name that follows two aussie brother. One is a sergeant the other an officer both army. Follows their stories in the service and their families. Desperate to find out the name pla

  24. TuttleinNewEngland says:

    Attack Force Z!! I totally forgot the name of this movie. I watched this religiously when I was a kid. Thanks for putting this list together. I was in the mood for something new and was having a tough time finding a good war movie that I haven’t seen. I am taking a crack at Kokoda and Beneath Hill 60.

  25. TuttleinNewEngland says:

    Also, for those that like well done documentaries – there is one narrated by Sam Worthington called Battle of Long Tan. Its on YouTube and its top production quality.

  26. James says:

    I know this is a documentary movie rather than a movie movie per se, but i recently watched this and think it would make a good addition to your list. IN THE ANZAC SPIRIT: Review here: http://www.classicoldmoviesofyesterday.com/?p=749

  27. Jared says:

    Need to add:

    Australian War Movies:
    The Heroes
    The Heroes – The Return
    The Last Bastion
    Paradise Road
    Canopy
    Parers War
    Next year “Danger Close”

    Australian War TV Series:
    1915
    Sword of Honour
    The Cowra Breakout
    Spy force
    Sisters of War

  28. LONG TAN BATTLE, THE HUMAN WAVE’S TACTIC DISASTER.
    HOA MINH TRUONG.
    an ex-lieut of ARVN.
    ( author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)

    In Vietnam war, Vietcong applied the tactics are such as circle post then attack the reinforce ( công đồn đả viện), previous shell then later attack ( tiền pháo hậu xung), the barricade spot; each one had 3 guerrillas: weapon used 2 AK and 1 B40 ( đóng chốt), three barricades formed by the Chain ( kiềng) with a common weapon as 12,7 mm.
    Therefore, the human wave tatic ( chiến thuật biển người) could apply when the Vietcong wanted to extract a post or fire base, mostly the numerous troopers would be used at least more than 5 times of the defense force.
    The human wave tactic devised by Mao Ste Tung in the Korea War, he used the huge numerous troopers to cover the weapon lacks. Mao chairman who totally fell the inhumane tactic with a million People’s liberation Army troopers killed, including his elder son. In Vietnam war, Vietcong applied the human wave tactic, despite they barbecued 10,000 troopers in Dien Bien Phu’s battle, exclusive ten thousand lives of the battle field’ s laborer, instead French just lost 1,000.
    The Long Tan battle applied as the same tactic, on August 18, 1966, Vietcong gathered from 1,500 to 2,500 troopers of regiment 275 ( North communist) and provincial mobile battalion D445 ( regional force), they attacked D company of 6th battalion, Royal Australian Regiment ( 6RAR).
    The battle field was not equal the numerous troop between both sides, therefore the D company fought bravely, despite its company just had 108 men, then the human wave tactic crushed down badly. Vietcong laid 245 bodies, not including the casualty and injure troopers to be brought by their comrade, the D company lost 18 men, but it was the ever victory of Australian Royal Army from the most conflicts marked before.
    However, after Long Tan battle, Vietcong propagated the fake victory to the rural people, mostly the peasant. However behind the line, Vietcong couldn’t hide the pain with their comrade, they named the Australian army as a nickname ÚC ĐẠI HẠI that means Australian causes the big damages, instead the Vietnamese call the Australian as ÚC ĐẠI LỢI that means Australia great benefit.
    Although the Vietnam war was over from April 30, 1975, but the sounds are still remaining into the society, actually, annually, the date of 18 August coming. Vietnam war has been controversial by the toxic of pro-communist propaganda hidden under the title the peace movement, it has effected into the most Vietnam veteran and family in US, Australia, New Zealand.
    Remember, in 1959, there was not any allies military unit in South Vietnam, but on May 1959, Hồ Chí Minh pointed Major General Bùi Xuân Đăng who gathered more than 100,000 laborers built Ho Chi Minh Trails, then they also launched the propaganda:” fighting against the imperial American”. After Ho Chi Minh trails set, lieutenant General Đồng Sĩ Nguyên contiuned to upgrade the road linking three nations Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia.
    The human wave tactic badly failed again in Vietnam war, Vietcong wasted 1,500,000 lives, now they are still facing more than 300,000 missing in the forest, mostly at the central Vietnam, therefore they have not find the comrades, but the Hanoi regime keens to find the US, Australia soldiers missing in action for money.
    Whoever endorsed Vietcong in Vietnam war, they must know the inhuman regime in Hanoi, likely a gang takes control your house, after 1975, a high ranking cadre, Mr. Nguyễn Hộ, 56 years member, he told to his comrades at Saigon:” their houses, we occupy-Their wives, we take and their children, we enslave”. There is just only Ho Chi Minh, he killed 1,700,000 people that bases on the Polska media of Poland released the list of 13 most massacres in 20th century.
    Vietcong’s lie propaganda failed, after winning the war on April 30, 1975, Mr. Lê Duẫn, General Secretary of Vietnam Communist party confirmed:” we fought against the American Empire for great masters Soviet Union and China”, it is the strong message to whose joined the anti-war movement in Vietnam war’s period./.
    Show less

  29. AJ says:

    ANZAC Girls – a tv mini-series made this year. It follows a group of Australian and New Zealand nurses through the first world war,

    http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/anzac-girls/DR1301S001S00

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  33. […] Australian War Movies: A List | All About War Movies – Australia, like so many other countries, has participated in many wars and it is actually amazing that, even though it hasn’t done all that many war movies, has …… […]

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  35. Mark Hobley says:

    I saw a World War 2 film that I think was called Twelve Remembered, but I can’t find it in a film listing anywhere.

  36. Vijay tamil says:

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  37. Australia involved into the most conflict in the world, the movies are valuer than thousand articles. The movies of two world wars have, but Vietnam war is not much, actually the Long Tan battle needs to show the world how the brave of Australia army, a single infantry company crushed the Vietcong armed forces with regiment plus regional battalion. The world admire Australia army in Long Tan, the other hand, the Long Tan battle proved the failure of Human wave tactic that designed by Mao Ste Tung. I am author of Vietnam war, I hope the film maker will do some films of Vietnam war, remember, Vietcong was barbaric more than Islamic state, from decades of 1940, Vietcong beheaded people by machete, break skull by hammer, burying still alive..likely the Tet offensive at Hue 1968, Vietcong killed more than 7,000 people and buried into the mass graves in this region. I fully support the films of wars, as an expert soldier in Vietnam war, I admire the Australia army, the Long Tân is among the well fighting, actually Australia applied the wonderful ambush tactic in the region in charge. They used the raincoat carrying two in one, when soldiers enter the Vietcong village, the Aussie unit left the same soldier number, Vietcong had wrong guessed, so after then, they appeared and fell into the ambush trap. After Long Tan battle, Vietcong tipped the lie propaganda to its people, but the fake victory being showed the potential damage and pain by the nickname called Australia :” Úc ĐẠi Hại”( it means Australia made the big damage for Vietcong), therefore, Vietnamese call Australia” ÚC ĐẠI LỢI” ( it means Australia is great benefit)
    Hoa Minh Truong.
    (author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)

    • Thanks, a lot for your comment. There are certainly many more topics that films could cover, I agree,
      I didn’t know how the Vietnamese felt about the Australians. That’s interesting.

    • Hi Hoa,

      Interesting comments and I enjoyed reading them.

      Just to let you know, MArtin Walsh made a brilliant documentary recently on the Battle of Long Tan. You can view it here in full: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gUSq7pxux4 and he is almost ready to start flming a major motion picture base don the movie afte ryears of writing a script and securing funding. The documentary is brilliant and is narrated by Sam Worthington, who’s making a bit of a name for himself around Hollywood nowadays. he is also cast to be in the movie on the Battle as well.

      You can also join the Facebook group Martin created all about his upcoming Long Tan movie here: https://www.facebook.com/battleoflongtan

      Also, and I hope I don’t upset Caroline too much with all the links here :) If you want to view what is undoubtably the greatest Australian War Movie of all time, you can, in full, on Youtube as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzSTFRXiDIg

      Your comments reflect somethign that is unique about Australian soldiers. Some of our best and most enduring friendships are not only with our long time allies but also, strangely enough, with some of our most bitter enemies. Turkey and Australia have had a unique friendship you won’t find replicated anywhere else starting after WW1. One of the very few military memorials dedicated to western forces the North Vietnamese allowed to stay post 1975 was the Long Tan cross commemorating the Battle.

  38. Roger Hamblett says:

    Roger Hamblett says:

    December 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    Am looking for the film of one of these operations it starts by trying to enlist men for the operation then it shows them putting a 6 Cyl Gardner engine in the junk for the long journey to Singapore to limpet mine the ships then on the return some were captured and beheaded I watched it on English television about 2000yr

    Reply

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