Twenty-Four Exceptional Films by Indigenous Australian Filmmakers That You Can Stream Right Now

Celebrate Australia's First Nations filmmakers with these coming-of-age gems, Top End rom-coms, outback noirs, Aussie westerns and expressive dance flicks.
Sarah Ward
Published on January 24, 2024

In 2017, when Warwick Thornton's Sweet Country first reached cinema screens, the blistering Indigenous Australian western won awards in Venice, Toronto, Luxembourg and our own backyard. It's a sublimely shot and performed work of art that powerfully interrogates Australia's past and draws parallels with the country's present, so that's not surprising — and it joined a long list of acclaimed work by Indigenous Australian filmmakers.

Thornton himself is no stranger to the spotlight, with his debut Samson & Delilah winning the Camera d'Or at Cannes in 2009. Sixteen years earlier, Australian artist Tracey Moffatt premiered BeDevil at the prestigious international festival, too, with her feature marking the first ever directed by an Australian Aboriginal woman.

From Ivan Sen's Mystery Road and Goldstone to Rachel Perkins' Bran Nue Dae and Jasper Jones, the list of exceptional films by Indigenous Aussie directors goes on. Showcasing the breadth and depth of the nation's filmmaking talent — and, crucially, showcasing Indigenous Australian stories — they demonstrate Aussie cinema at its best. And if you're wondering where to start, here are 24 movies that you can stream right now.


Mystery Road, Goldstone, Toomelah and Limbo

When Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen (High Ground) teamed up for 2013 film Mystery Road, they gave Australia the ongoing gift of outback noir. Sen's writing and directing was so finessed, Pedersen's performance as Indigenous Australian police officer Jay Swan so riveting and the movie's entire concept so engaging that it's no wonder everyone wanted more. So, another followed. Across fellow big-screen effort Goldstone, Swan went to a different remote corner of the country, tried to solve a different case and became immersed in a different set of small-town politics.

In both films, the franchise lays bare the state of Australia today, especially when it comes to the nation's treatment of its First Nations peoples. And if you're instantly hooked, it has also spawned its own two-season TV series also starring Pedersen — plus an exceptional prequel series as well.

Also worth seeking out: Sen's 2011 drama Toomelah, as set in the titular New South Wales town, with ten-year-old Daniel (Daniel Connors, who is also in Mystery Road) at its centre.

And, in 2023, Sen brought Limbo to cinemas, this time starring Simon Baker (Boy Swallows Universe) in a black-and-white Coober Pedy-shot tale about another police officer riding into a small Aussie town, and looking into a case that few people have been all that fussed about until now because the victim isn't white.

Mystery Road streams via StanYouTube Movies and iTunes. Read our full review.

Goldstone streams via ABC iView, Netflix, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review, and our interview with Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen.

Toomelah streams via ABC iView and Netflix.

Limbo streams via iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review, and our interview with Ivan Sen and Simon Baker.


Samson & Delilah, Sweet Country and The New Boy

Before Warwick Thornton turned his camera on himself in the personal and reflective TV documentary The Beach — which is the best piece of Australian television that hit screens in 2020 — he directed two of the great Aussie films of the 21st century. And, since then, he's also added another,

The first: a love story, a tale of fighting to survive and an unflinching look at teenage life in Australia's red centre, aka 2009's equally heartwrenching and stunning Samson & Delilah. Indeed, it's little wonder the multi-award-winning movie firmly put Thornton on the international map.

With Sweet Country, he then returned to the Northern Territory with a film that makes a firm statement, as becomes clear when an Indigenous stockman (Hamilton Morris) kills a white station owner in self-defence. He's forced to flee with his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber), but a local posse is soon on their trail. As Sweet Country decisively confronts this all-too-real situation, it also confronts the country's history of racial prejudice.

In 2023's The New Boy, Thornton headed to a remote monastery with a mission for Indigenous children, where Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett, Tár) is in charge. Her faith is tested when the titular child (newcomer Aswan Reid), a nine-year-old orphan, arrives and has his own experience with religion, which clashes with the mission's take on Christianity.

Samson and Delilah streams via SBS On Demand, Netflix, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.

Sweet Country streams via ABC iView, Netflix, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

The New Boy streams via YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review, and our interview with Warwick Thornton.



One of Australia's most astonishing films — and yet one of the country's lesser-celebrated gems — Tracey Moffatt's BeDevil took the Queensland visual artist, photographer and filmmaker to Cannes and back. That external validation is all well and good; however it's really just the cherry on top of a potent triptych of haunting tales that demands attention on its own merits.

In not only her first and only feature, but the first feature by an Australian Aboriginal woman, Moffatt takes inspiration from ghost stories told to her as a child by both her Aboriginal and Irish relatives. A thoroughly distinctive and immersive horror movie is the end result, and one that smartly and engagingly explores Australian race relations in a disarmingly unique way. Surreal, eerie and simmering with intensity, it'll also show you the Aussie landscape in a whole new light.

BeDevil streams via SBS On Demand and Vimeo.


Sweet As

In Sweet As, the red earth of Western Australia's Pilbara region couldn't be more pivotal. For this coming-of-age drama, Jub Clerc (The Heights) deploys the patch of Aussie soil as a place where teenagers find themselves. The first-time feature director and writer draws upon her own adolescent experiences for her full-length debut, while also crafting the first WA flick that's helmed and penned by an Indigenous female filmmaker.

Murra (Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Firebite) is one of Sweet As' adolescents learning to be shutterbugs; with her mother (Ngaire Pigram, also a Firebite alum) grappling with addiction, the 16-year-old's police-officer uncle Ian (Mark Coles Smith, Mystery Road: Origin) enrols her on a trip that she doesn't initially want to take — with youth workers Mitch (Tasma Walton, How to Please a Woman) and Fernando (Carlos Sanson Jr, Bump) as guides and chaperones, plus Kylie (newcomer Mikayla Levy), Elvis (Pedrea Jackson, Robbie Hood) and Sean (fellow first-timer Andrew Wallace) as her new friends.

Sweet As is available to stream via Binge, Prime Video and iTunes. Read our full review.


The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson

A searing and impassioned take on a well-known Australian tale — a First Nations, feminist and anti-colonial version, too — The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is the film that Leah Purcell had to make. See: her lengthy history with Henry Lawson's short story of almost the same name. In 2016, she adapted The Drover's Wife for the stage. In 2019, she moved it back to the page. Now, she's brought it to the screen — and the end result is a must-see.

Only minutes in, in what marks the actor-turned-director's feature filmmaking debut, it's easy to see why Purcell keeps being drawn to retell this 19th century-set story. In her hands, it's a story of anger, power, prejudice and revenge, and also a portrait of a history that's treated both women and Indigenous Australians abhorrently. And, ever the powerhouse, she writes, helms and stars.

The Drover's Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson streams via Netflix, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.


Bran Nue Dae, Jasper Jones and Radiance

When Rachel Perkins brought hit Aussie musical Bran Nue Dae to the big screen in 2010, she turned an already beloved stage musical into one of the country's cinema box office successes. The lively love story takes a road trip through 60s-era Australia, and brings plenty of famous faces along for the ride, with Jessica Mauboy (The Secret Daughter), Ernie Dingo (Squinters) and Deborah Mailman (Total Control) among the cast.

Then, in 2017, she adapted another Aussie classic. This time, she set her sights on Craig Silvey's novel Jasper Jones, which examines race relations in a rural Australian town — particularly the treatment of the teenage titular character (Aaron L McGrath, Gold Diggers), who is considered an outcast due to his ethnicity. The book was already intelligent, thoughtful and engaging, and the film proves the same.

Similarly worth watching is Perkins' moving 1998 filmmaking debut, Radiance, about three sisters (Wentworth's Rachael Maza, Deborah Mailman again and The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart's Trisha Morton-Thomas) working through their baggage after their mother's death.

Bran Nue Dae streams via NetflixYouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.

Jasper Jones streams via Netflix, StanYouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

Radiance streams via ACMI Cinema 3.


The Sapphires, Top End Wedding and Firestarter — The Story of Bangarra

An actor and a filmmaker, Wayne Blair boasts an eclectic resume. You've seen him on-screen in Wish You Were Here, The Turning, Emu Runner, Seriously Red and The New Boy, and he both directed and featured in episodes of Redfern Now and the second season of the Mystery Road TV series. Behind the lens, he's also helmed episodes of Lockie Leonard, and directed the 2017 US TV remake of Dirty Dancing.

But, Blair is probably best known for The Sapphires and Top End Wedding. They're both big films — and Blair has a definite feel for feel-good material. One follows a group of four Indigenous Australian female singers (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Preppers' Shari Sebbens and The Artful Dodger's Miranda Tapsell) sent to Vietnam to entertain the troops. As for the other, it tracks an Indigenous Australian woman's (Tapsell again) whirlwind quest to stage her perfect nuptials in her hometown of Darwin.

Also on Blair's resume: documentary Firestarter — The Story of Bangarra, about Australia's acclaimed Indigenous dance theatre. Co-directed with Nel Minchin (Matilda & MeMaking Muriel), it's a powerful portrait that also steps through the nation's past and focuses on three siblings — Stephen, David and Russell Page — with dreams as big as their talents.

The Sapphires streams via 7PlusYouTube Movies and iTunes.

Top End Wedding streams via YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.

Firestarter — The Story of Bangarra streams via Netflix, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. Read our full review.


Here I Am

Marking not one but two feature debuts — for writer/director Beck Cole (Deadloch) and star Shai Pittman (Around the Block) — Here I Am tells one of the oldest tales there is. It's also a prime of example of taking a familiar narrative and giving it a new voice; viewers have seen this story before in various guises over decades and decades, but never championing Indigenous women.

When Karen (Pittman) is released from prison in South Australia, she embarks upon a quest for redemption, including reconnecting with her unimpressed mother Lois (Marcia Langton) and her young daughter Rosie (Quinaiha Scott). Unsurprisingly, that reunion doesn't go smoothly, but both Cole and Pittman are committed to riding the ups and downs. Both hit the big-screen for the first time in a striking fashion, and with a film that proves both intimate and clear-eyed in its multi-generational portrait.

Here I Am streams via iTunes and Prime Video.


We Are Still Here

It begins with stunning animation, shimmering with the rich blue hues of the sea. From there, everything from lush greenery to dusty outback appears in its frames. The past returns to the screen, and a vision of the present finds a place as well — and crossing the ditch between Australia and New Zealand, and venturing further into the South Pacific, is baked into the movie's very concept.

That film is We Are Still Here, which makes an enormous statement with its title, responding to 250 years of colonialism. Of course, filmmakers in the region have been surveying this history since the birth of the medium, because the topic is inescapable. Combining eight different takes from ten Indigenous filmmakers (including Here I Am's Beck Cole, A Chance Affair's Tracey Rigney, Carry the Flag's Danielle MacLean and A League of Her Own's Dena Curtis from Australia) instantly makes We Are Still Here stand out, however — and this Pacific First Nations collaboration isn't short on talent, or impact.

We Are Still Here streams via Netflix, Binge, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.



An Australian dance movie that uses its fancy footwork to step through the plight of the country's First Nations peoples, Spear is a striking cinematic achievement. First-time feature helmer, Bran Nue Dae and The Sapphires choreographer, and Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page turns the company's performance work of the same name into a big-screen spectacle unlike anything crafted locally, or anywhere else for that matter.

Mood, music and movement are pivotal, as a teenage boy wanders from the outback to the city to try to reconcile his ancient culture in a modern world. His journey is just as transporting for those watching as it is for everyone within the movie, as well as anchoring one of the most expressive pieces of Australian film perhaps ever made. Watch his with the aforementioned Firestarter — The Story of Bangarra for a fantastic double feature.

Spear streams via Beamafilm. Read our full review.


Satellite Boy

On paper, it might seem easy to spot exactly why Satellite Boy proves so charming. Writer/director Catriona McKenzie smartly enlisted the now-late David Gulpilil (Storm Boy) as Indigenous elder Jagamarra, one of ten-year-old Pete's (first-timer Cameron Wallaby) guardians and the person teaching him about life on the land. It's a stroke of casting genius, clearly — and crucial to the film.

That said, this dreamlike 2012 movie has several impressive casting touches as it traverses the Western Australian landscape, including unearthing young Wallaby as its lead and similarly finding fellow debutant Joseph Pedley to play Pete's pal Kalmain. McKenzie's feature also boasts a delightful narrative, which sees the two boys take to the bush en route to the city to save the home that Pete adores: a rundown drive-in cinema that this big-dreaming kid simply wants to get back into action.

Satellite Boy streams via YouTube Movies and iTunes.


Buckskin and Finke: There and Back

The past few years have been memorable for Dylan River. The Alice Springs filmmaker directed delightful SBS web series Robbie Hood, was the cinematographer on rousing Adam Goodes documentary The Australian Dream, worked as the second unit director on the aforementioned Sweet Country, lensed The Beach (with the latter two both helmed by his father, Warwick Thornton) and co-directed Mystery Road: Origin.

He also wrote, directed and shot two impressive documentaries of his own: Buckskin and Finke: There and Back. The first tells the tale of Jack Buckskin, Australia's only teacher of the near-extinct Kaurna language, while the second covers the rough, tough, two-day off-terrain trek that gives the doco its name. Both prove insightful, and showcase the astute skills of one of Australia's emerging filmmaking talents.

Buckskin streams via SBS On Demand and Vimeo.

Finke: There and Back streams via DocPlay, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video. It's also one of our ten best movies of 2019 that hardly anyone saw.


Servant or Slave and Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky

Watching a documentary directed by Steven McGregor involves exploring Australia's complicated history. There's much for the director of Black Comedy and co-writer of Mystery Road, Redfern Now and Sweet Country to cover, of course. In 2016's Servant or Slave, he turned his attention not only to the nation's Stolen Generation, but to the Indigenous girls who were forced to work as domestic servants. The powerful film features five women recalling their experiences — and it's impossible not to be moved and horrified by their accounts.

With 2020's Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky, the filmmaker takes a more irreverent approach to Australia's past, while still remaining just as probing. The charismatic Steven Oliver leads the show on-screen, as this clever and engaging movie revisits the story of Captain Cook from a First Nations perspective, including via songlines with the assistance of Indigenous performers.

Servant or Slave streams via DocPlay, Brollie, Prime Video, YouTube Movies and iTunes.

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky streams via SBS On Demand.

Published on January 24, 2024 by Sarah Ward
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x