3. The Truman Show (1998)
Adopted by a media corporation as a baby so his every moment can be observed by audiences around the world in an elaborate reality TV show, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) has no idea nothing in his 30 years of life has been real. But what happens when the world’s most famous man finally wakes up?
Even putting aside the wit, the melancholy, and Jim Carrey’s best performance ever, how ridiculously prescient was this sci-fi dramedy?
Peter Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) knew that character mattered above all else here. Thankfully, we fall in love with Truman from first sight and are completely and utterly invested in his experience – in his instinctual, epic quest to find out who he is and where he might fit into the real world.
A clever philosophical treatise could easily leave you cold, but only this one can bring you to tears multiple times.
2. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
On Valentine’s Day at the turn of the 20th century, a school trip to a local geographical landmark turns tragic when three girls and one of their teachers go missing without a trace.
Picnic at Hanging Rock isn’t one for those who like neat resolution in their stories. Joan Lindsay’s novel was so naturalistic and ingrained in Australian culture that many presumed it was a true account of a real mystery, but the film all-but states something otherworldly is going on.
This is poetry in film form, photographed by Weir’s regular collaborator Russell Boyd to give it an eerie and dreamlike palette. It’s not the kind of film that will answer many questions to your satisfaction but it leaves you feeling you’ve had some profound, almost spiritual experience that you can’t quite explain.
1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
An adaptation of Patrick O’Brian’s imposing Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels following Captain Jack Aubrey and the crew of the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic wars, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World follows Aubrey (Russell Crowe) and friend and confidant surgeon Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) as they attempt to intercept a French privateer but are forced to take a circuitous route via the Galápagos Islands when their ship is severely damaged.
Right at the top of this list and any list of fantastic films cruelly denied a sequel is Master and Commander. This is Weir’s crowning achievement, combining a vivid setting, layered characterisation and essential humanity that typifies his most successful works.
Despite the scale, the visceral nature of the sea battles and the grisliness of the film’s two ship-bound surgery scenes emphasising the challenges of survival at this time and place, this really is a story of an intimate friendship enduring through trying times. The two men both have tough jobs to do and play their essential parts in keeping the ship’s crew together, but they always find time to bond over music, anticlimactic Lord Nelson anecdotes and terrible puns (“The lesser of two weevils”).
Recommended for you: Jane Campion Movies Ranked
Do you agree with the order of this list? How many of Peter Weir’s many and varied films have you seen?