Ned Kelly (2003 film)

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Ned Kelly
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGregor Jordan
Screenplay byJohn Michael McDonagh
Based onOur Sunshine
by Robert Drewe
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byJon Gregory
Music byKlaus Badelt
Distributed byUniversal Pictures (through United International Pictures)
Release date
27 March 2003 (2003-03-27)
Running time
110 minutes
Box office$6.6 million[1]
Replica of Ned Kelly's armour, designed for the film and now in the collection of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image

Ned Kelly is a 2003 Australian bushranger film based on Robert Drewe's 1991 novel Our Sunshine. Directed by Gregor Jordan, the film's adapted screenplay was written by John Michael McDonagh. The film dramatises the life of Ned Kelly, a legendary bushranger and outlaw who was active mostly in the colony of Victoria. In the film, Kelly, his brother Dan, and two other associates—Steve Hart and Joe Byrne—form a gang of bushrangers in response to acts of police brutality. Heath Ledger stars in the title role, with Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts and Geoffrey Rush. The film received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $6 million worldwide.


After saving a young boy from drowning and being awarded a "hero sash" when he was himself a 10-year-old, Ned Kelly grows up in the colony of Victoria where he was born. The son of a Catholic Irish settler, he lives with his widowed mother Ellen, his younger brother Dan, and his two younger sisters Kate and Grace. Ned's best friend Joe and Dan's best friend Steve are also often at the house. One day in 1871, when he is 17 years old, he sees a white mare grazing alone in the outback. He rides it into town to impress a local girl named Jane, only to be arrested and subsequently imprisoned for supposedly stealing the horse, even though it had actually been stolen by an acquaintance of his, Wild Wright.

He is released and comes home three years later, and starts helping his family with their small horse-breeding farm located near Beechworth. He takes vengeance on Wild Wright by beating him in a prizefight, and befriends Julia Cook, the beautiful wife of a wealthy landowner who lives nearby. One night at a bar, a local constable named Fitzpatrick is abusively courting Kate. Ned intervenes and hostilities erupt with Fitzpatrick and his fellow officers. To get back at Ned, they take the Kellys' horses, but with the help of his brother and their friends, Ned steals them back. Some nights later, while Ned and Julia are consummating their blossoming passion in the Cooks' stables, Fitzpatrick shows up at the Kelly farm and asks to see Kate; when she once more rejects him, he tries to arrest Dan for horse stealing, invoking non-existent warrants for him and Ned. A fight ensues and Fitzpatrick is wounded, and falsely reports that it was Ned Kelly who shot him. In retaliation, the police arrest Ned's mother.

Ned asks Julia to testify he was with her the night Fitzpatrick was at the Kelly's farm, but she refuses, saying that she would be disgraced by the public acknowledgement of their affair and her husband would take her children away. Ned, Dan, Joe and Steve become outlaws on the run. They later meet a patrol in the bushland and kill three officers in a shoot-out, despite Ned's efforts to have nobody get hurt. During the following months the "Kelly Gang" avoids capture, living in the outback, often without food. On one occasion, Julia gives them shelter at her farm while her husband is away.

A large bounty is placed on their heads, and a decree is passed that allows anybody to shoot them on sight without consequences. The gang rob two banks and burn the mortgage documents relating to selectors. They give the money from their robberies to poor families in need, and soon become acclaimed as folk heroes by the Victorian population as much as the media depict them as violent criminals. To solve a situation in danger of escalating into widespread revolt, the Colonial Government sends in stern Superintendent Francis Hare, who arrests many sympathizers, including Joe's childhood friend Aaron. Being promised they won't harm Joe, but only the Kellys, Aaron agrees to work as an informant. During a quick visit back into Beechworth, Joe learns Aaron has been seen talking with cops, so the gang decide to feed him false information about their next heist, to test his loyalty. When they see a large group of constables heading to the bank Aaron was told about, they know Aaron betrayed them, and Joe kills him at his house.

Ned devises a plan to foil Superintendent Hare. The gang lures him in by taking over the town of Glenrowan. They gather all the townspeople, most of whom are friendly to their causes, at the Glenrowan Inn, to better protect them in the upcoming fight. In the meantime, they sabotage the railroad tracks leading into town, to derail the train on which Hare and his army of constables are travelling. They've also built metal helmets and plates of body armour to survive bullets. They count on the derailment to kill most of them constables, planning to then capture Hare and exchange him for Ned and Dan's mother.

Unfortunately, an escaped hostage stops the train in time to avoid the incident. Hundreds of officers lay siege to the inn late at night. Determined to go out in a blaze of glory, the Kelly Gang emerge from the inn and begin shooting, protected by their armour, but are forced inside again. The police once again raid the inn, killing innocent civilians during the shoot-out. To buy the time needed for the townspeople to flee from the back, Ned exits and charges forward alone; he is ultimately shot in the arms and legs and falls out of sight. Near dawn, Joe is shot and dies inside the inn. Dan and Steve, down to their last bullets and knowing all is lost, commit suicide. Ned regains consciousness and, even though gravely injured, continues to fire at the police until he is finally taken down. Ned is loaded onto the train to be brought back and face justice; Hare asks if he may have his beloved green-and-gold sash, which he's still wearing 15 years after he saved the drowning child.

In the end, even with a petition of over 32,000 signatures strong asking for a pardon, Kelly is hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880.



Filming locations in Australia

Principal photography started on 29 April 2002, Most of the filming was done at the Little River Earth Sanctuary, Mount Rothwell, near Geelong. Street scenes were filmed in Clunes and Ballarat. Other locations include Broadford, Glenfern House in St Kilda East, Hepburn Springs and Melbourne.


Ned Kelly [Music From The Motion Picture]
Soundtrack album by
Released6 April 2003

The album Ned Kelly – Music from the Motion Picture was released on Decca Records on 6 April 2003. Film score by Klaus Badelt. Bernard Fanning sings "Shelter for My Soul", and "Moreton Bay".

1."Shelter for My Soul"04:51
2."Saving A Life"03:17
3."Ned Kelly"05:37
5."The Light"02:00
7."Stringybark Creek"03:21
8."Back Home"06:23
9."Moreton Bay"02:50
12."The Jerilderie Letter"02:08
14."The Glenrowan Inn"07:01
15."Remembering Ned Kelly"01:24
Total length:56:48


In total, the film grossed $5,040,860 internationally, $86,959 in the United States and $6,585,516 worldwide.[2] The film received mixed reviews, with a 56% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.7/10 based on 54 reviews. The critical consensus states that "More depth about the legendary outlaw would be welcome, but as it is, Ned Kelly is a reasonably entertaining Western."[3]

A review of the film comments "Heath Ledger gives a solid performance in the lead but Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush are woefully underused."[4] BBC film reviewer Nev Pierce gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, stating "there is some impressive action, albeit great scenes rather than sequences", concluding with "a rousing, watchable western".[5] Jay Richardson from stated "this is a competent and blandly enjoyable film with a solid central performance from Heath Ledger".[6]

Megan Spencer from said "Thankfully Ned Kelly is a very cinematic Australian film, the international and local cast and crew made the most of their $30 million budget. And some of the best sequences are due in part to Heath Ledger's well delivered internal dialogue voice over, giving an inner life to the musings of a troubled anti-hero".[7] Clint Morris, a reviewer from Film Threat, who gave the film 3 and half stars out of 5, said "It's an exciting movie filled with plenty of action, adventure, beautiful cinematography and best of all, terrific performances" while praising Ledger: "Heath Ledger is fantastic as Kelly. He gives a very immersing performance, and has misshapen himself into the character. When he wears that infamous tin helmet in the finale, we actually feel that's the real deal."[8] More critically, one review describes the battle for Glenrowan, with masses of police and civilian casualties, along with a lion and monkey as "fictional nonsense".[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
(2003 Australian Film Institute Awards)
Best Direction Gregor Jordan Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Best Actor Heath Ledger Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Orlando Bloom Nominated
Best Cinematography Oliver Stapleton Nominated
Best Editing Jon Gregory Nominated
Best Sound Gary Wilkins Nominated
Colin Miller Nominated
Adrian Rhodes Nominated
Chris Burden Nominated
Best Production Design Steven Jones-Evans Won
Best Costume Design Anna Borghazi Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ned Kelly (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Ned Kelly (2004) Summary". Box Office Mojo. 6 June 2005. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  3. ^ "Ned Kelly Movie Review". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 19 August 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  4. ^ "Ned Kelly". Tiscali. Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  5. ^ Pierce, Nev (4 October 2003). "Ned Kelly (2003)". BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  6. ^ "Ned Kelly Movie Review". 9 February 2004. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  7. ^ "Ned Kelly: triple j film reviews". Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  8. ^ "Ned Kelly". Film Threat. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  9. ^ "Film Review: Ned Kelly (2003)". News Weekly. 19 April 2003. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2009.

External links[edit]