The top 10 Australian movies and TV shows of 2022 – so far

From an outback zombie flick to a werewolf love story to an AC/DC documentary, here’s the best viewing of the year so far

Elvis, Baz Luhrmann’s COVID-delayed biopic of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, will certainly be the shoutiest and most hyped Australian film of 2022 – and the one containing the dodgiest Dutch accent courtesy of Tom Hanks – but the year has already yielded a rich harvest of silver (and small) screen gems.

And they were all cobbled together on budgets that wouldn’t cover the daily panel-beating budget on George Miller’s mega-bucks Fury Road prequel, Furiosa, currently filming in outback NSW.

So if all you’ve seen in the cinema so far this year is misfires like Morbius and Uncharted, and your TV habits haven’t strayed beyond free to air pap, you have some serious catching up to do. Let us help.

– Paul Merrill

Top Australian movies of 2022 so far

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson

Cinemas, May 5

No one could accuse Leah Purcell of being half-hearted in adapting Henry Lawson’s 1892 short story about a woman left to look after four kids in a ramshackle outback hut.
The Goa-Gunggari-Wakka Wakka writer and director first staged it as an award-winning play before turning it into a best-selling novel. And now, she’s reimagined the saga as a gritty, feminist feature film, delivering a powerhouse performance in the titular role.

It deservedly scooped the Jury Grand Prix at the Asia Pacific Film Awards and was nominated for the Sydney Film Prize at the Sydney Film Festival 2021. If all you know of drovers comes from Hugh Jackman’s 2008 dud Australia, this will set you right.

How to Please a Woman

Cinemas, May 9

WA writer/director Renée Webster’s debut feature packs a surprising emotional punch, given that its premise is a bored middle-age wife (Sally Phillips, the Finnish PM from Veep) launching a house-cleaning service with young hunks offering to do a lot more than dust the skirting boards for their female clients.

Cue 50 shades of female sexual liberation, guilt-free romps and some broad-brush strokes of comedy. What elevates it is a witty, non-judgemental script that injects some suburban pathos as it becomes clear to characters and audience that the message isn’t about sex with a downmarket Magic Mike troupe, it’s about embracing your own sexuality. And having a nice, clean kitchen to boot.

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse

Cinemas, February 10

Continuing the proud tradition of Antipodean zombie flicks – Undead (2003), Plague (2014), Cargo (2017), Little Monsters (2019) – comes a belated sequel to the surprise 2014 hit Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.

Jay Gallagher returns as the outback mechanic who’d been forced to kill his zombified family with a nail gun first time around and now discovers the authorities are conducting experiments on survivors to help find a cure.

While some of the original’s exuberance and humour has rotted away, it’s still a blast and even has the odd meaningful thing to say. A zombie movie with brains – and not all of them splattered.

Ablaze

Cinemas May 26

Tiriki Onus grew up hearing colourful stories about his campaigning grandfather, Bill, the Aussie PT Barnum of his day who staged theatrical variety shows, championed “native art” to tourists and became the first Aboriginal TV presenter.

But this doco investigates whether newly discovered footage from the 1940s is proof Bill Onus was also the first Indigenous movie maker.

This journey of discovery is also a trip through some uncomfortable truths about post-war Australia in the run up to the 1967 referendum on including the world’s oldest continuous civilisation on the census, a cause Bill fought hard for.

Tiriki is engaging company, and opens up a captivating window into a time and culture with few moving pictures to remember it by.

Gold

Stan, January 26

A mud-caked and blistered Zac Efron is slow-cooked under the outback sun in a sadistic melodrama about greed, loyalty and endurance.

The not-so-pretty boy stumbles across a humongous chunk of gold while stranded in a desolate stretch of never-ending nothingness with a stranger he’s just met. Efron’s unnamed character guards their booty while his companion goes off to get the necessary tools to excavate it.

As he fights off dingoes, flies and his own demons, Efron’s relationship with reality becomes tenuous at best. The actor excels in his bravest role to date, wallowing in the physical and mental deterioration and making up for a distinct lack of plot.

The best Australian TV shows of 2022 so far

The Tourist

Stan, January 2

Definitely not to be confused with the Depp/Jolie shambles, this tense and quirky mystery stars Jamie Dornan as a Northern Irish tourist who wakes up in an Australian hospital with no idea who he is or how he got there.

As he tries to find clues to his identity, he encounters enough weird and eccentric locals to fill a travelling circus, and gradually realises that the sinister elements of his past are about to catch up with him.

So far so dark, but what makes this drama sparkle is its leftfield, surreal humour. It’s Fargo meets Spielberg’s Duel meets Monty Python. At one point, Dornan gets stuck in traffic because two turtles are randomly mating in the road.

Troppo

ABC, February 27

A spirited entry into the mismatched-duo-begrudgingly-solve-crime-then-bond genre, Troppo stars Nicole Chamoun and Thomas Jane as an ex-con and ex-cop enmeshed in a bizarre mystery where a man seemingly commits suicide by swimming happily into a crocodile’s jaws.

Adapted from Aussie pulp thriller queen Candice Fox’s book Crimson Lake, it builds slowly (sometimes too slowly) into a top-notch Top End thrill ride with dead bodies aplenty and a clutch of brooding larrikins concealing some seedy secrets.

It’s ably held together by the sparky chemistry of the two quarrelling leads and the lush Queensland locations.

Wolf Like Me

Stan, January 13

A simple, touching love story by Aussie actor Abe Forsythe about a widower (Josh Gadd) who falls in love with a widow (Isla Fisher) only to discover that she’s actually a werewolf who killed and ate her husband. Well, I guess we’ve all got baggage.

Despite her unseemly full moon activities, they continue dating and the series settles into familiar rom-com territory, albeit a few shades darker than most.

The underrated Gadd brings some welcome depth to his role and there’s more than enough biting wit splattered over the six episodes to make it a worthy evening’s binge.

The PM’s Daughter

ABC Me, January 1

A mildly delinquent teen activist and wannabe Greta Thunberg (Cassandra Helmot) is more than a little miffed when her single mum becomes Australia’s prime minister. Not least because her mum expects her to wear a bright yellow Hillary Clintonesque pantsuit and stop demonstrating against climate change.

She changes her tune when she hears Beyoncé might be about to visit The Lodge, but then suddenly she and her friends uncover a nefarious plot to bring down the government.

The PM’s Daughter might be pitched more towards Gilmore Girls tragics than Gillard fans, but this 10-parter is a first-rate political satire with a lot more to say than most adult sitcoms.

On The Brink: Bon Scott

ABC, May 9

Forty-two years after his death, the legendary AC/DC frontman’s celebrity shows no sign of dimming. This impressive Australian Story doco is the first to persuade his close friends and family to talk, and reveals plenty of previously unknown insights into his songwriting and the mental health issues that increasingly plagued him.

The electrifying concert footage brings home the absolute tragedy that arguably the greatest lead singer of all time died when his band were working on ‘Back In Black’ and on the brink of worldwide superstardom.

A worthy tribute to Australia’s greatest musical icon.