4 user 4 critic

Burke & Wills (1985)

A story based on true events about two explorers on a doomed journey trying to cross Australia on foot in the 19 century.


Graeme Clifford


Michael Thomas
4 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Thompson ... Robert O'Hara Burke
Nigel Havers ... William John Wills
Greta Scacchi ... Julia Matthews
Matthew Fargher Matthew Fargher ... John King
Ralph Cotterill Ralph Cotterill ... Charley Gray
Drew Forsythe Drew Forsythe ... Brahe
Chris Haywood ... Tom McDonagh
Monroe Reimers ... Dost Mahomet
Ron Blanchard Ron Blanchard ... Bill Patton
Barry Hill Barry Hill ... George Landells
Roderick Williams Roderick Williams ... Bill Wright
Hugh Keays-Byrne ... Ambrose Kyte
Arthur Dignam Arthur Dignam ... Sir William Stawell
Ken Goodlet Ken Goodlet ... Doctor John Masadam
Edward Hepple Edward Hepple ... Ludwig Becker


A story based on true events about two explorers on a doomed journey trying to cross Australia on foot in the 19 century.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The journey of a lifetime See more »


PG-13 | See all certifications »






Release Date:

31 October 1985 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

As Aventuras de Burke e Wills See more »


Box Office


AUD 8,900,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


American star Charlton Heston was considered to play one of the two leading roles, that of Robert O'Hara Burke, but this part in the end was cast with Australian actor Jack Thompson. See more »

Crazy Credits

At the conclusion of the cast list in the end credits it reads: Mr. Stillwell as himself. See more »


Spoofed in Wills & Burke (1985) See more »


British Grenadiers
Performed by the Burwood Brass Band (NSW)
See more »

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User Reviews

Ultimately disappointing
27 May 2014 | by name99-92-545389See all my reviews

I expect the story behind this movie is something like: screenwriter (or director, or producer) reads Alan Moorehead's book "Cooper's Creek" and thinks "that'll make a great movie. But I will have to make a few (minor) changes to make it screen worthy". And so we get something that looks like a film student's very literal translation of book to screen, but "improved".

We have pretty much all the major incidents of Moorehead's book, but we have a vastly overplayed love interest (presumably because someone felt a female presence was necessary). We have someone's attempt to be "arty" with occasional flashbacks and other fractured story- telling, the sort of thing that might have been novel when Theodore Sturgeon employed it (for much the same reasons) in "The Man who Lost the Sea" in 1959 --- but 1959 was a long time ago and the technique has overstayed its welcome. And we have a desperate attempt to add a villain to the mix: whatever Moorehead ascribed to misunderstanding, the movie ascribes to incompetence. what Moorehead ascribes to incompetence the movie ascribes to malice.

So, is it worth watching? IMHO it's worth giving it a few minutes (with lots of fast forwarding) to get a feel for the terrain --- what it actually looks and feels like. But it's not worth more time than that unless you're interested in some particular deconstruction of the movie, like how it handled particular events.

Could it have been better? I don't know. The changes made were formulaic, but without them the movie would still have been somewhat plodding. I think the basic concept, trying to tell the story as a literal movies, was flawed from the start. A better alternative would have been a documentary, telling the same story but allowing for the background information which made the book rather more interesting than this movie. Another alternative would have been a much more grand scale re-imagining, for example an Australian road trip movie that covered the same route and continually referred to the original expedition, or the story of someone obsessed with the expedition and wanting to retrace the route.

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