Crocs, frocks & shocks: Classic Aussie flicks filmed in the Territory
The Territory’s incredibly beautiful and varied landscapes – from vast deserts and towering gorges to monsoonal rainforests and crocodile-infested waters – have been the backdrop for many classic movie scenes.
Here’s a list of our favourite movies filmed in the NT.
Crocodile Dundee (1988)
Crocodile Dundee is the highest grossing Aussie film of all time.
The comedy stars Paul Hogan as Mick Dundee: wit, rugged crocodile wrangler and bush-hardened folk hero, and takes place in the Northern Territory. Journalist Sue Charlton travels to the NT to interview the legendary Michael J “Crocodile” Dundee, who was wrongly reported to have lost half a leg to a saltwater crocodile before crawling hundreds of kilometres to safety.
Mick Dundee isn’t pure fantasy. The leather-clad bushman with the huge hunting knife is inspired by real-life Rod Ansell, a cattleman and buffalo hunter who was stranded in the Territory Outback in 1977 for 56 days with almost no supplies.
The film is a stream of Aussie iconography: buffalo encounters, snakes, Aboriginal ceremonies and, of course, crocodiles. The sweeping vistas and great scenery seem impossibly exotic but, in fact, are from the immense Kakadu National Park.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Starring Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert follows the hilarious and dramatic journey across the Australian Outback to Alice Springs.
The trans-Australian trek is undertaken by drag queens Mitzi Del Bra, Felicia Jollygoodfellow and their transgender accomplice Bernadette Bassenger to perform in Alice Springs. Along the way they stop for a memorable scene at Kings Canyon.
Queen of the Desert, which was directed by Al Clark and won the Oscar for Best Costume Design, shows off haunting arid Territory landscapes and opened the eyes (even to Australian), to the majesty of The Red Centre. A musical stage version debuted in 2006.
This cult-favourite “giant croc” thriller was directed by Greg McLean as his follow-up to Wolf Creek. When a river cruise tour is stranded in Kakadu National Park, the vacationers soon realise they’re being hunted by an 8 metre man-eating crocodile!
The film features a star-studded Australian cast including Rhada Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt and Mia Wasikowska. Filming took place on-location around Yellow Water Billabong, Katherine Gorge, and Arnhem Land.
While loosely based on tales of the real-life crocodile, “Sweetheart” – whom you can visit at MAGNT – we can assure you the movie croc is highly exaggerated for cinematic effect (though you should always Be Crocwise in the Top End!).
Today the film is remembered as the better of the two giant croc flicks released in 2007 – the other being Black Water, which, while also enjoyable, loses points in our books for being mostly shot around Sydney.
The blockbuster Australia, written and directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann, tells the romantic story of Englishwoman, Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), and Australian bushman, Drover (Hugh Jackman). The film was shot in the NT, WA and Queensland. In Darwin, the cast was allowed to take over Stokes Hill Wharf and a slice of Darwin Harbour.
There were many memorable off-camera scenes as Territorians gathered each day to watch the filming: Jackman strolling over to give an Indigenous woman a big hug, and Kidman comfortable mixing with Territorians, signing autographs and answering questions. She even wrote an open letter to Territorians when filming finished to say how much she had enjoyed her time in Darwin.
Samson and Delilah (2009)
The movie was directed by Alice Springs-born Kaytej man Warwick Thornton and shot entirely in and around Alice Springs. The remote community where Samson and Delilah live is an abandoned Aboriginal community called Jay Creek, 45kms west of Alice Springs.
It’s an edgy film, portraying the drug addiction, abuse, neglect and complex politics of remote Aboriginal communities.
Samson and Delilah was Thornton’s debut film. He says it’s an honest portrayal of the world he knows.
The film follows Samson, a petrol sniffing, deaf 14-year-old boy living in a run-down shack in an Aboriginal community. He’s in love with Delilah, a young girl who lives with her elderly grandmother. After tragedy strikes, the youngsters flee their community and try to survive in the harsh outside world.
Last Cab to Darwin (2015)
Last Cab to Darwin tells the real-life story of Max Bell, a Broken Hill man who learns he’s stricken with terminal stomach cancer. Rather than slowly die in a hospital, Max journeys 3000 kilometres through the centre of Australia to Darwin, where, after the passing of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, euthanasia is legal.
Max takes this epic journey in the taxi he drove for work, experiencing the bizarre world of the Outback. Stopping at iconic NT locations on the way to Darwin, Max visits Alice Springs, has a pit stop in Tennant Creek, stays a night at Daly Waters Pub and enjoys a relaxing swim in the pools at Berry Springs.
The film explores death and acceptance among the harsh and desolate landscape that mirrors the film’s themes.
But like the thematic drive of the film, the landscape that swallows Max Bell is also undeniably beautiful and serene, reflecting Max’s final wish for dignity in death.
Sweet Country (2017)
The title of this period western, also directed by Warwick Thornton and set in 1929, is ironic. There’s a smattering of bush humour, but the movie is a disturbing snapshot of the conflict between European settlers and Indigenous people in Central Australia.
It tells the story of Sam, an Aboriginal man working as a cattle hand who flees after killing a drunken, crazed white man in self-defence. Sam takes his wife with him as they’re hunted through the bush by lawmen intent on hanging him for murder.
Sweet Country, which was co-written by Territory-born Stephen McGregor, was shot entirely in the Northern Territory. The scenery showcases the beautiful landscape of Central Australia, in particular Ooraminna Station, Simpsons Gap and Trephina Gorge.
The movie won a swag of awards, including the prestigious Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Cinematography.
Top End Wedding (2019)
Top End Wedding, co-written by and starring Miranda Tapsell, is the latest movie filmed in the Northern Territory.
This hilarious and heart-warming romantic comedy tells the story of a successful lawyer from Sydney named Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and her fiancé Ned (British actor Gwilym Lee) as they attempt to fulfil their dream wedding in the Top End, surrounded by friends and family.
The film follows the couple as they travel the Top End searching for Lauren’s mother who’s gone AWOL. They have just ten days to search through Darwin, Katherine, Kakadu National Park and the Tiwi Islands so the wedding can proceed as planned.
Throughout their travels, Lauren and Ned find fulfilment in the wild beauty of the Northern Territory’s landscapes, and the quirky local characters they meet along the way.