6 Best Movies to Watch From Screen NSW

Staff & contributors

The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Malone, Barbara Lowing, Baykali Ganambarr, Bree Bain, Bruce R. Carter, Daniel Henshall, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Kate Cheel, Patrick Frost, Toby Wallace, Ursula Yovich, Valerie Berry

Director: Kitty Green

Rating: R

A cracking cast including Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton elevate this dark and gripping Australian crime drama, which was received with glowing reviews from critics but was sadly forgotten with time.

Breakout star James Frecheville plays J, a teenager who goes to live with his grandmother, the head of a Melbourne crime organization. As the heat closes in and things go awry, J finds himself caught between his family and a detective who wants to save him.

Jacki Weaver is outstanding as the conniving grandma and the film put Ben Mendelsohn on the road to Hollywood stardom. Animal Kingdom is a superior crime saga with plenty of emotional depth to match the tense drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Andy McPhee, Anna Lise Phillips, Anthony Ahern, Anthony Hayes, Ben Mendelsohn, Ben Ouwehand, Bert LaBonté, Brenda Palmer, Bryce Lindemann, Chris Weir, Christina Azucena, Clayton Jacobson, Dan Wyllie, David Michôd, Dom Phelan, Guy Pearce, Jack Heanly, Jacki Weaver, Jacqueline Brennan, James Frecheville, James Saunders, Joel Edgerton, Josh Helman, Justin Rosniak, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Laura Wheelwright, Luke Ford, Michael Vice, Mirrah Foulkes, Paul Smits, Sullivan Stapleton, Susan Prior, Tim Phillipps

Director: David Michôd

Rating: R

, 2023

Renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied brings an 1875 opera leaping into the 21st century with this modern retelling — through dance and drama — of Carmen. The plot is reimagined along the US border and recenters the titular character (Melissa Barrera), a newly orphaned refugee from Mexico making her way to her godmother (a fabulous Rossy de Palma) in LA. In places, Carmen recalls Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet: aided by Nicholas Britell’s operatic score, it embraces its grand origins to evoke a star-crossed sense of looming tragedy over the romance that blossoms when reluctant border patrol guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) saves Carmen’s life and flees with her to California. 

Where Carmen really soars is in its translation of drama into dance. It’s an inspired move, pairing this almost mythical story with such a primal medium — but, while the movie achieves visceral emotion that words would struggle to produce in its choreographed scenes, there’s something lacking in the moments where dialogue is crucial. The conversations never move as fluidly as the dancing bodies do, and the passion and the fury falter as a result. That being said, this is largely still a boldly inventive filmmaking experiment, one that spotlights the thrilling potency of pure movement as a storytelling medium.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky, Kaan Guldur, Kevin MacIsaac, Melissa Barrera, Morgan Smallbone, Nico Cortez, Nicole da Silva, Paul Mescal, Pip Edwards, Richard Brancatisano, Rossy de Palma, Tara Morice, The D.O.C., Zac Drayson

Director: Benjamin Millepied

While this documentary may not provide the level of insight or as cohesive a narrative as other films from recent years about children's entertainment, Hot Potato benefits from the sheer charm and approachability of The Wiggles themselves. It's inspiring to see these men and women be perfectly ordinary people who just patiently put in the work to get to where they are today. The film doesn't necessarily find a central idea or philosophy behind The Wiggles' music, but their creativity and enthusiasm for performing manages to turn the simplest things (like fruit salad) into a celebration of life. The documentary isn't particularly good at balancing its tones, especially when it deals with the struggles that various Wiggles have faced in their personal lives, but it remains likable and wholesome all the same.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Anthony Field, Bindi Irwin, Caterina Mete, Emma Watkins, Evie Ferris, Greg Page, Jeff Fatt, John Travolta, Lachlan Gillespie, Lucia Field, Matthew Broderick, Murray Cook, Paul Field, Paul Paddick, Robert De Niro, Sam Moran, Sarah Jessica Parker, Simon Pryce, Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Tsehay Hawkins

Director: Sally Aitken

, 2022

You can tell that Blaze director Del Kathryn Barton is an award-winning visual artist first and foremost. The images that she puts together in this film are frequently stunning—making use of the camera in fascinating, freeing ways, and with lots of practical and computer-generated/animated effects that paint her young protagonist Blaze's world in glitter and feathers and lush colors. The imaginary dragon, which acts as a shorthand to symbolize Blaze's complex psychological response to her trauma, is a wonderfully tactile life-size puppet that lead actress Julia Savage responds to in an entirely convincing way.

But you can also tell that this is Barton's debut feature. Ultimately her visuals don't do enough to shake off or give meaning to the graphic scene of rape and murder that occurs at the beginning of the film. And the way she structures the movie threatens to make it feel like a series of music videos or video art pieces. Despite its originality and the level of commitment displayed by both Savage and Simon Baker, Blaze has difficulty communicating a coherent message about trauma—the film strung together by heavy-handed scenes that spell out various ideas and lead to the most obvious conclusions.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Bernie Van Tiel, Heather Mitchell, John Waters, Josh Lawson, Julia Savage, Morgan Davies, Neal Horton, Rebecca Massey, Remy Hii, Simon Baker, Stephen James King, Will McDonald, Yael Stone

Director: Del Kathryn Barton