Over the course of his decades-spanning career, director Peter Weir has built a truly impressive and enduring legacy for himself. In the nearly 50 years since his first full-length theatrical film was released, the Australian-born filmmaker has directed everything from acclaimed romantic comedies and coming-of-age dramas to anti-war thrillers and period epics. Weir remains one of the world's most highly respected filmmakers and is considered a titan of the Australian New Wave movement, which helped bring greater attention to the Australian-made movies of the late 20th century.
It’s for those reasons and more that the Academy's Board of Governors is set to honor Weir at this year’s Governors Awards. The ceremony, which is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 19, will recognize Weir and his three fellow honorees for their undeniable contributions to the history of cinema.
Below, A.frame presents six essential films directed by Weir.
Based on Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel of the same name, Picnic at Hanging Rock centers on the mysterious, unexplained disappearance of several Australian schoolgirls and their teacher. Set in the early 1900s, this Weir-directed 1975 film is an appropriately hazy, enigmatic adaptation of its source material, one that explores how feelings of grief and madness can blossom in the wake of undeniable tragedy. The film itself not only made Weir a more recognizable name among international filmmakers, but it also helped bolster the burgeoning reputation of Australian cinema.
This 1981 war drama focuses on a pair of young men (played by Mel Gibson and Mark Lee) after they enlist in the Australian Army and get sent to participate in the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I. The film follows Gibson and Lee’s characters as their naive view of combat slowly begins to crumble once they are exposed to the full brutality and chaos of the First World War. While it didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, Gallipoli nevertheless further elevated Weir’s status as a filmmaker when it was released.
This Oscar-winning crime thriller follows an Amish mother and her young son after their lives are turned upside down when the latter emerges as the only witness to a murder. The pair quickly find themselves under the watchful protection of a Philadelphia police detective (played by Harrison Ford), who decides to go undercover in Amish country in order to keep them safe. Following its release in 1985, Witness went on to win the Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing awards at the 1986 Oscars. It received an additional six Oscar nominations that year, including one for Best Picture. Weir, notably, received his first Best Director nomination for the film.
Weir's beloved 1989 coming-of-age drama follows an English teacher (played by Robin Williams) who instills a newfound love of life in his students through his poetry teachings. Writer Tom Schulman won an Oscar in 1990 for the film, which also received nominations that year in the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor categories. In addition to Williams, the film’s ensemble cast also includes stars like Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles and Kurtwood Smith.
The Truman Show may not have won any of the three Oscars it was nominated for in 1999, but it remains one of the more well-known films of Weir’s career. Based on an original screenplay by Andrew Niccol, this Weir-directed dramedy follows Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), an insurance salesman who slowly begins to realize that his entire life is nothing more than a scripted reality television show. Many of the themes and ideas presented in the film, which also stars Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich and Natascha McElhone, only seem more relevant today than they did back in 1998.
An ambitious, boldly staged period epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World follows a British captain and his crew members as they set out in pursuit of a French warship during the Napoleonic Wars. The film, which was well-received when it was released, earned a total of 10 Oscar nominations in 2004. It went on to win two Oscars that year for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Editing. For his work on it, Weir received his fourth Oscar nomination for Best Director.