Peter Weir Films Ranked

6. The Last Wave (1977)

A successful lawyer (Richard Chamberlain), who ordinarily specialises in corporate cases, gets drawn into defending a group of aboriginal men living in Sydney who have killed one of their own for unknown reasons and is visited by disturbing visions in the process.

In this engrossing horror-tinged murder-mystery, Peter Weir had aboriginal consultants advise him on the more culturally sensitive aspects of this script to ensure this didn’t verge into exploitation movie territory which they easily could have done. 

This film’s criticism of Australia’s historical treatment of its aboriginal people isn’t subtle – their sacred cave is shown to have a sewer network built on top of it – but it strikes the right balance between giving the original inhabitants of the continent their voice and compelling characters (especially Walk About star David Gulpilil). It uses their unique belief systems and rituals to inform the telling of a slow-burn story you cannot predict moment to moment. 

5. The Mosquito Coast (1986)

Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) is a driven inventor who has become dissatisfied with the state of modern US society and so moves his family to the jungles of Central America for a more simple and self-sufficient life.

Adapting Paul Theroux’s acclaimed novel, this is an extreme and warped version of the American Dream perpetuated by an increasingly unstable family man, a story that rapidly becomes a fight for his and his family’s survival.

One of the main draws of The Mosquito Coast is getting to see Ford play the type of part he very seldom gets to do: an unrepentant a-hole. Allie is “The worst kind of pain in the neck: a know-it-all who’s sometimes right!”. The contraptions Allie is able to improvise out of wood and scrap metal are incredible, but he well and truly goes off the deep end here, driving his family towards ever-increasing danger out of pride and stubbornness.

This didn’t make the intended splash critically or commercially until many years later, Ford sadly ruminating that “It’s the only film I have done that hasn’t made its money back. I’m still glad I did it.”

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4. Gallipoli (1981)

Two young Australian athletes (Mel Gibson and Mark Lee) join the war effort in 1915 just as the worldwide conflict is reaching a decisive phase on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli.

This was a real proving ground for Gibson not only as an intense and charismatic actor but as an opportunity to observe and learn from a filmmaker who had undeniable influence on his own directorial works, such as Hacksaw Ridge.

While dramatic licence is certainly taken here and there, this ends up being one best examples of an affecting war movie because we spend the majority of our time with these characters when life is good; Gallipoli is funny and warm right up to the point when it becomes harrowing and terrifying. Few lines of dialogue could be as tragically ironic in a film about wasted youth as the seemingly throwaway “See you when I see you”, and Peter Weir is unflinching in his depiction of ridiculously young men having their lives robbed from them in service of a pointless conflict. 

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