Peter Weir’s best films and where to stream them

From The Cars that Ate Paris to Gallipoli, now is the time to catch up on the recently retired auteur's body of work.

Revered Australian filmmaker Peter Weir confirmed this week that he has retired from cinema, ‘Because, quite simply, I have no more energy’.

Weir’s career has been in a 14-year hiatus since 2010’s The Way back, but hopes and rumours have circulated for years that the genre-hopping auteur might have one more gem in waiting to round out his 40-years in the business. The 79-year-old director made the statement in Paris, where he was appearing as guest of honour at the 11th Festival de la Cinémathèque.

A key figure in Australia’s New Wave cinema renaissance of the 1970s and 80s, Weir is that rare director who managed to find international success with original and genre-defying films that never trod the same track twice – from the comic horror of The Cars That Ate Paris, to the eerie beauty of Picnic at Hanging Rock, the emotionally rich Dead Poet’s Society and the adaptation of Master and Commander: Far Side of the Universe.

Nominated for six Academy Awards and ultimately awarded the Academy Honorary Award in 2022, Weir directed 14 feature films. Here are our favourites, in chronological order, and where to watch them.

The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)

Buy or rent on Apple TV+, Google Play and YouTube.

In this cult horror comedy (made for $250,000), a small town in Australia makes its living by causing car accidents and taking the valuables from the ruins. All is not well when the youth of the town are upset with their status in society.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Apple TV+.

This is the haunting movie that put Peter Weir (and the pan-pipes) on the map and helped to define a new era of Australian cinema. Based on the bestselling 1967 novel by Joan Lindsay, and set at the turn of the twentieth century, the film follows a small group of students from an all-girls college who vanish while on a St. Valentine’s Day outing.

For more Picnic at Hanging Rock, you can also watch the modern drama series adaptation available on Binge.

The Last Wave (1977)

SBS On Demand.

This odd and startling mystery-thriller stars Richard Chamberlain as a Sydney lawyer who is given the pro bono assignment of defending five Indigenous Australians accused of the murder of a tribesman. None of his clients are willing to speak about what happened and the medical examiner can’t figure out how the victim died, and increasingly terrifying apocalyptic visions lead him to believe that Australia may soon be destroyed. The film features one of David Gulpilil’s early performances.

Gallipoli (1981)


This devastating anti-war classic tells the story of Archy (Mark Lee) and Frank (a fresh-faced Mel Gibson), two young Australian sprinters who want to join the army to fulfil their sense of duty. Initially too young, they find a way into service and are finally sent to the front line, where their speed makes them candidates for messengers in one of World War One’s bloodiest battles.

Read: How Anzac movies fuel the Anzac myth, then and now

Dead Poets Society (1989)


At an elite, old-fashioned boarding school in New England, a passionate English teacher (Robin Williams) inspires his students to rebel against convention and seize the potential of every day, much to the ire of the stern headmaster. This is the film where a young Ethan Hawke caught our attention and we all vowed to read more poetry and ‘Carpe Diem’!

Green Card (1990)

Apple TV+, Google Play.

This is Weir’s least successful film from a critical perspective – his only ‘rotten tomato’ on critic’s aggregator Rotten Tomatoes – but I have a soft spot for the odd couple romantic comedy. Urban horticulturalist Brontë (Andie MacDowell) has her eye on a gorgeous apartment, but the building’s board will rent it only to a married couple.

Georges (Gérard Depardieu), a waiter from France whose visa is expiring, needs to marry an American to stay in the country. They must live together to allay the suspicions of the immigration service and, of course, they fall in love. This was Depardieu at his most charming.

The Truman Show (1998)

Binge, Stan, Paramount+.

Jim Carrey stars as the resident of an all-too-perfect seaside community who gradually discovers that he is the subject of a 24-hour TV show. Laura Linney stars as his wife, and Ed Harris plays ‘God’. There’s so much to love in this thought-provoking, funny film that was so prescient about reality TV, celebrity culture, and our thirst for the details of ‘ordinary’ lives.

Master and Commander (2003)


Adapted from the nautical historical novel by Patrick O’Brian, this film is set in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, aboard the H.M.S Surprise, tasked with hunting down and capturing a powerful French vessel off the South American coast. Russell Crowe stars as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany plays his trusted friend, the ship’s scholarly surgeon, Stephen Maturin, and the film shines as a portrait of friendship and rivalry amidst adventure.

Read: Master and Commander at 20: an emblem of wholesome masculinity

Rochelle Siemienowicz is the ArtsHub Group's Education and Career Editor. She is a journalist for Screenhub and is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the co-host of Australia's longest-running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press. Her second book, Double Happiness, a novel, will be published by Midnight Sun in 2024. Instagram: @Rochelle_Rochelle Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk