Culture / Film

5 of the best films from the king of excess himself, Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann films

Subtlety is not Baz Luhrmann's bag. If you want low-fi slow-moving angsty indie dramas, then what can I tell you? The director's back catalogues will offend you. But if you dive in with an open mind and a pure heart then Luhrmann films will sing to you forever. They're a spectacle of course, everything is blinged-up to oblivion with elaborate sets and soundtracks that read like a greatest hits album. But this is why we love him. As the much-anticipated biopic of Elvis Presley does the film festival rounds, we're bringing it all back to the Australian director. Below, find 5 Baz Luhrmann films to gorge on, from The Great Gatsby to Romeo + Juliet.


1. Romeo + Juliet (1996)

If there was ever a valid reason to defund the arts, it would be to prevent another Shakespeare adaptation entering the ether. Why would we need another anyway, when we have this gift from old mate Baz? In fair Verona he lays this scene, of oiled up Capulet cowboys and grungy Montague boys warring with each other. Like any Luhrmann production, the soundtrack is a hit and the costumes, as directed by Kym Barrett, continue to hold sway in our own wardrobes each time we reach for a Cuban shirt or need material for a spur of the moment Halloween costume (Juliet as an angel works every time). Plus, we could watch a young Leo falls to his knees and deliver that tearful line "I defy you stars" on loop.


2. The Great Gatsby (2013)

Who'd have thought it would be an Australian that delivered this pitch perfect portrayal of the American Dream? Luhrmann riffs off of one of America's most sacred texts, decking it out with elaborate sets, decadent style courtesy of Academy Award Winning costume designer Catherine Martin, and an unforgettable soundtrack featuring Jay Z, Beyoncé, Fergie, Florence and Sia. A cautionary tale that has haunted us since its roaring debut in 2013.


3. Moulin Rouge! (2001)


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Take everything you know about Baz Luhrmann films and dial it up twenty notches. Even then, your imagination would be considered restrained in comparison. A tremendous amount of detail is compressed into this spectacle led by our Nic and Ewan McGregor. Baz takes us to Paris, weaving in a salacious plotline or two, to deliver this melodrama on sexuality and desire. The colour red becomes its own character, taking on myriad textures and displaying an emotional range that could rival half of Hollywood.


4. Strictly Ballroom (1992)


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Some prefer Dirty Dancing, but I'll gorge on its gaudy cousin from Down Under every single time. It's camp as hell, with the spandex leotards and costume jewellery of 80s ballroom to vouch for it. Critics will call it sugary, we argue endearing. Plus, it's the reason why you'll never catch us sitting if Love is in the Air is playing from the speakers.


5. Elvis (2022)


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Luhrmann continues to go where few folks will, using rock icon Elvis as fodder for his latest biopic. Has he committed cultural sacrilege or delivered an on screen drama of epic proportions? The reviews have already started flowing out following its debut at Cannes and so far they're mixed. Even still, we'll be gobbling up Austin Butler as Elvis regardless of how many stars the film receives.

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