Australian movie locations

Mad Max at Coober Pedy (Lonely Planet Images)

With Baz Luhrmann's Australia set to be the latest film to provide a boost to the Australian tourism industry, we take a look at the locations that have felt the movie magic in the past.


The buzz around Baz Luhrmann's flick is big. It stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who comes to Australia to deal with a huge property. She forms a pact with a stockman (Hugh Jackman) and ends up driving cattle across the country to the backdrop of Japanese bombing raids on Darwin during World War II.

Darwin will obviously be a huge beneficiary — it has plenty of excellent war-related attractions, including the East Point Military Museum.

However, Darwin's a bit bigger now than it was in the 1940s, so Luhrmann decided to find a "double". Bowen in Queensland did nicely and this fruit-picking town on the Whitsunday Coast can expect a surge in visitors once the film comes out.

There are also scenes filmed at Strickland House in Sydney, but the other real winner will be the Kimberley in northern WA. Many of the cattle-driving sequences were filmed across that area's rugged landscape and properties that were filmed on or around are fully prepared to shout about it. One impressive sequence takes place at the Pentecost River by the Home Valley Station. Others were shot at the El Questro Wilderness Park. Meanwhile, the crew stayed in Kununurra for much of the film.

The Matrix

The sci-fi classic with the distinctly non-classic sequels was mainly shot in Sydney's Fox Studios. But when technological trickery and studio effects wouldn't suffice, Sydney's CBD had a chance to shine. Chosen because it could be made to look like any other big city skyline (they avoided the harbour, obviously), a few key scenes were shot on the city's streets.

These include the helicopter crash — that was at the BT Tower in Market Street — and the meeting on top of the government building — that was the AON Tower on Kent Street.

Perhaps the most memorable of all, however, is the agent training scene where Neo is distracted by a woman in a red dress. That was filmed outside the fountain in Martin Place.


After scaring the living daylights out of anyone travelling in the Northern Territory with Wolf Creek, director Greg McLean did it again with a film about a killer croc. Again, the Territory provided the backdrop, with scenes shot at Yellow Water in Kakadu National Park. In the dry season, tourists can see crocs at Yellow Water in safety — there is a superb cruise of the wetlands that leaves from Cooinda.

Most of the outdoor scenes, however, were filmed at Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. The crocs here are generally a little less fearsome than those in the film — they're the slightly smaller (and less bitey) freshwater variety.

The Man Who Sued God

This whimsical 2003 comedy only made a moderate impact at the box office, but it did manage to put the picturesque town of Bermagui on the map.

The Billy Connolly vehicle, about a man who decides to take the Almighty to court when his boat is struck by lightning, had to pick somewhere for the outdoor scenes. Bermagui's gorgeous harbour was just the spot. Luckily, the boats there now seem to be lightning-free.

Dead Calm

The star of Australia, Nicole Kidman, came to international attention in this Phillip Noyce thriller. The plot — couple take yacht trip to get away from it all but come across stranded madman — should have required filming in the South Pacific. However, the Whitsundays off the Queensland coast proved a more than passable substitute for the far flung swells of Polynesia.

Okay, it was something of an achievement to hide the resort islands and tour yachts from view, but the film still provides a stunning showcase for the area. And of course, the chances of coming across a murderous Billy Zane while cruising around the islands are very slim indeed.

Mad Max

Of course, if you want outback locations, the Mad Max trilogy throws up many. It got in way before Baz Luhrmann...

The first Max was largely filmed in Victoria. The town where Toecutter's gang wreaks havoc, for example, is Clunes near Ballarat, while other scenes are shot on roads and highways across that state. A detailed list can be found at the Mad Max website.

The second instalment of the apocalyptic trilogy was filmed in and around Silverton and Broken Hill, the main settlements in far western NSW. Most of the big scenes were, of course, filmed on the open road (check out the stretch around the Mundi Mundi lookout for the beginning and end of the film), but the Silverton Hotel also features. It'd be rude not to drop in for a beer or two...

As for Beyond the Thunderdome, that was all over the place. Bartertown was constructed in a quarry near Sydney, the tribe kids lived in Mermaid's Cave in the Blue Mountains, NSW, while Max undergoes a fair bit of suffering at The Breakaways in the South Australian desert.

A lot of the scenes are in Coober Pedy, South Australia, however. Jebediah's cave house is actually owned by local eccentric Crocodile Harry, who organises tours of his home.

Seen any of these movies? Been to some of the locations? Share your experiences with us: