The Legend of Ben Hall

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The Legend of Ben Hall
The Legend of Ben Hall Poster, Ross Morgan, Oct 2016.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byMatthew Holmes
Produced by
Written byMatthew Holmes
Based onBen Hall
Music byRonnie Minder
CinematographyPeter Szilveszter
Edited byCaitlin Spiller
  • RLC Motion Picture Entertainment
  • Two Tone Pictures
  • Emu Creek Pictures
  • Running Panda Films
  • Odin's Eye Productions
  • SunJive Studios
  • Palmarium LLC
Distributed by
  • Pinnacle Films (Australia)
  • Vega Baby/Sony Pictures (North America)
  • WVG Medien (Germany)
  • High Fliers Films (UK/Ireland)
Release date
  • 1 December 2016 (2016-12-01) (Australia)
  • 28 April 2017 (2017-04-28) (Germany)
  • 1 August 2017 (2017-08-01) (US)
  • 2 July 2018 (2018-07-02) (UK/Ireland)
Running time
139 minutes

The Legend of Ben Hall is a 2016 Australian bushranger film. Written and directed by Matthew Holmes, it is based on the exploits of bushranger Ben Hall and his gang. The film stars Jack Martin in the title role, Jamie Coffa as John Gilbert, and William Lee as John Dunn.

Holmes' goal with The Legend of Ben Hall was to produce an historically accurate film that focuses on the last nine months of Hall's life, when he was a well-established bushranger along with his accomplices Gilbert and Dunn.[1] It explores the relationships within the gang and depicts many of their robberies and clashes with the police. The film also explores the details surrounding Hall's betrayal and his controversial death at the hands of the police on 5 May 1865.

The film was shown on 12 October 2017 at the 7º Almería Western Film Festival.[2][3][4]


After two years on the road and with the law closing in around him, Ben Hall has gone in hiding and is considering surrender. However, he is drawn back into bushranging by the reappearance of his old friend and gang member, John Gilbert. Reforming the gang with a new recruit John Dunn, the trio soon become the most wanted men in Australian history after a series of robberies that result in the death of two policemen. Ben Hall also struggles to reconcile himself with his estranged son now living with his ex-wife and the man she eloped with many years earlier. When the Government moves to declare the gang outlaws, the gang make plans to flee the colony, but they are sold out by a trusted friend.


  • Jack Martin as Ben Hall
  • Jamie Coffa as John Gilbert
  • William Lee as John Dunn
  • Joanne Dobbin as Biddy Hall
  • Adam Willson as Mick Coneley
  • Callan McAuliffe as Daniel Ryan
  • Arthur Angel as Edward Morriss
  • Andy McPhee as James 'Old Man' Gordon
  • Erica Field as Mary Ann Coneley
  • Lauren Grimson as Christina McKinnon
  • PiaGrace Moon as Peggy Monks
  • Lauren Gregory as Ellen Monks
  • Jordan Fraser-Trumble as Sub-Inspector James Davidson
  • Gregory Quinn as Sergeant James Condell
  • John Orcsik as John Kelly


Production for The Legend of Ben Hall began in Melbourne in February 2015. Principal photography started on 29 March in Lauriston in regional Victoria and continued for over four weeks. [5] Other locations included Nulla Vale, Spring Hill, Trentham and Maldon. Because the story is set in New South Wales, locations were selected to accurately represent various regions in New South Wales connected to the Ben Hall story, such as Forbes, Jugiong, Binalong and the Araluen Valley. Some scenes were filmed in New South Wales around Forbes and Jugiong.[6]

Outdoor sets were constructed around the Lauriston area by Production Designer Das Patterson. The production also recycled existing film sets from previous film productions, such as The Man From Snowy River, which was also used in the American western television series Ponderosa. The now defunct Porcupine Historical Village at Maldon was also used for various indoor and outdoor scenes. Filming moved to the Melbourne Docklands Studios in May for another two weeks.[7] The film's post production was completed in Melbourne on 5 May 2016, which coincided with the 151-year anniversary of shooting of Ben Hall at Billabong Creek on 5 May 1865.[8]

Short film origin[edit]

The Legend of Ben Hall started as a Kickstarter[9] crowd-funded 40-minute short film,[10] which exceeded its target production goal of $75,000.[11]

American production company Palmarium LLC joined the project as producers, as did filmmaker Jessica Pearce, who stepped up from production manager to producer as the film geared up for filming. Victorian financier Ross Angelo also joined as a producer.

The production filmed for three weeks in August–September 2014. Locations included Lauriston, Trentham and Spring Hill in Victoria, as well as Jugoing and Forbes in New South Wales.[12] The short film was financially supported by the Forbes Shire Council who believed in the film's potential to boost and promote tourism in the Forbes area due to its affiliation with Ben Hall history.[13]

The project was picked up by Fox Studios Australia based producer Russell Cunningham from RLC Motion Picture Entertainment and Michael Favelle from Odin's Eye Entertainment, who came on board to develop the project as a full-length feature.[14] The script was expanded with new characters and events so that the scenes already shot for the short film could be integrated into the feature.[15] All of the short film cast reprised their roles, as did most of the film crew.

Historical accuracy[edit]

Writer-director Matthew Holmes made a determined effort to make the film as historically accurate as possible.[16] Holmes worked closely with New South Wales historian and author Peter Bradley since 2007, who acted as an historical advisor on the script to ensure the film's accurate portrayal of events. Peter Bradley is a descendant of Ben Hall's younger brother, Henry Hall.[17] Much of the dialogue used by Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John Dunn in the film comes directly from newspaper articles and eye-witness accounts. The film's story is based on real life events that occurred between August 1864 and May 1865.

Cast members were chosen to physically resemble their historical counterparts, with their personalities, wardrobe and hair based on descriptions or photographs of the real person.


The Legend of Ben Hall premiered in Forbes, New South Wales on 12 November 2016 at the Forbes Showgrounds.[18] Almost 800 people attended the premiere. Forbes was chosen due to its historical affiliation with the outlaw and because the Forbes Shire Council had supported the project in its crowdfunding stage.[19] The Forbes showgrounds are less than a kilometer from where Ben Hall is buried in the Forbes cemetery. The premiere was followed by an extensive two-week regional and metro tour throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.[20]

The Legend of Ben Hall had a limited theatrical release in Australia on December 2016. It was released on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital platforms on 2 March 2017. Distribution rights were picked up by Vega Baby for an 1 August 2017 release in North America.[21] The film was also released in Germany in early 2017. It was to be released in the UK and Ireland on DVD by High Fliers Films PLC on 2 July.[22] Both the North American Blu-Ray release and the Australian Blu-Ray release feature the 90-minute documentary Stand & Deliver: Making The Legend of Ben Hall, an in-depth look at how the film was conceived and its journey to completion.[23]


The Legend of Ben Hall received mixed reviews, with several critics mentioning overly lengthy scenes, although its historical veracity was praised.[24][25][26][27][28] In July 2019, it held an average critic's score of 50% and audience score of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.[29]

The score by Swiss-born composer Ronnie Minder was announced as one of the 145 scores eligible in the Best Original Score category in the 2017 Oscars by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[30] The film was declared "Best Foreign Western 2017" by True West Magazine[31] and received the 'Audience Award' from the Cinema Australia website in 2016.[32]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee Result
Australian Screen Industry Network Awards Best Director Matthew Holmes Won
Best Producer Jessica Pearce Nominated
Russell Cunningham Nominated
Best Actor Jack Martin Won
Best Actress Joanne Dobbin Won
Best Cinematography Peter Szilveszter Won
Best Screenplay Matthew Holmes Nominated
Best Composer Ronnie Minder Won
The Wild Bunch Film Festival
Best Feature The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Best Director Matthew Holmes Nominated
Best Actor Jack Martin Nominated
Best Actress Joanne Dobbin Nominated
Best Cinematography Peter Szilveszter Won
Best Supporting Actress Lauren Grimson Won
Festival Director's Choice Matthew Holmes Won
WorldFest Houston International Film Festival
Platinum Remi Award – Western The Legend of Ben Hall Won
Best Supporting Actor William Lee Won
Oniros Film Awards
Best Feature The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Best Director Matthew Holmes Won
Best Costumes Michael Chisholm Won
Best Composer Ronnie Minder Nominated
OzFlix Film Awards
Best Film – Narrative The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Best Direction Matthew Holmes Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Matthew Holmes Nominated
Best Costume Design Michael Chisholm Nominated
Best Production Design Das Patterson Nominated
Vilmos Zsigmond Film Festival Best Feature The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Best Cinematography Peter Szilveszter Nominated
Audience Choice Award The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Critics Choice Award The Legend of Ben Hall Nominated
Australian Cinematographers Society
Bronze Award – Cinematography Peter Szilveszter Won

The Legend of Ben Hall has also participated in the following film festivals:

  • 19th Rencontres Internationales Du Cinema Des Antipodes Saint-Tropez 2017, France[33]
  • Made in Melbourne Film Festival 2016, Australia[34]
  • MonsterFest 2016, Australia[35]
  • 7º Almeria Western Film Festival 2017, Spain[36]
  • Taoyuan Film Festival 2017, Taiwan[37]
  • Great Barrier Reef Film Festival 2017, Australia[38]
  • Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival 2017, Australia[39]
  • Rome Independent Cinema Festival 2018, Italy – Nominated for 'Best Foreign Film'

Planned anthology[edit]

Not long after its release, it was announced that the screenplays for a planned trilogy about bushranging in News South Wales had been written and were in the process of raising funds.[40] Going under the umbrella title of The Legends Anthology, the next two films would be companion pieces to the Ben Hall story, following the criminal careers of Hall's former accomplices, Frank Gardiner and John Vane. Jack Martin and several of the other actors would reprise their roles in the new films, The Legend of Frank Gardiner and The Legend of John Vane.[41]


  1. ^ "Look Australia! Our bushrangers are far more interesting and complex than you realise!". A Guide To Australian Bushranging. 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  2. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall". Almería Western Film Festival (in Spanish). 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Comienza la VII edición de Almería Western Film Festival de Tabernas". Telealmería Noticias (in Spanish). KL Prensa y Comunicación. 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ Jerez, Diego; Europa Press (11 October 2017). "Arranca el VII Almería Western Film Festival". Almería Hoy (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Local Properties Transformed into Movie Sets". Hepburn Advocate. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  6. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall movie". Twin Town Times. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Emerging Filmmakers Update". Docklands Studios. 21 July 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Ben Hall's story ready for release". Forbes Advocate. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  9. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall – an Australian Bushranger film". Kickstarter. 30 May 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  10. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall: KICKSTARTING AUSSIE HISTORY ONTO THE BIG SCREEN". 6 February 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  11. ^ "Ben Hall will be bigger, bolder: $100,000 in crowd funding for film". Forbes Advocate. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Filming of The Legend of Ben Hall happened in Forbes this week". Forbes Advocate. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Ben Hall will be bigger, bolder: $100,000 in crowd funding for film". Forbes Advocate. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Odin's Eye boards bushranger feature". IF. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Hall's gang keeps growing". Forbes Advocate. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Film reveals true story of Ben Hall". Goulburn Post. 1 June 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Family urges new Ben Hall inquest". The Age. 31 March 2007. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Hall comes to life". Forbes Advocate. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Ben Hall Returns to Forbes to Complete Journey". The Forbes Phoenix. 10 November 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  20. ^ "Forbes Welcomes Cast and Crew for World Premiere". FilmInk. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Berlin: Vega Baby Takes Western 'Legend of Ben Hall' for North America (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 12 February 2017. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  22. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall". High Fliers Films PLC. 27 November 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Legend of Ben Hall, The". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  25. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall review: The last days of a mystery man – SMH".
  26. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall Review – Hollywood Reporter".
  27. ^ "Aussie western 'The Legend of Ben Hall' goes on and on – LA Times".
  28. ^ "Film reviews: Legend of Ben Hall; Up for Love; Dancer".
  29. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  30. ^ "Oscars 2017: Best Original Score Category Whittled Down, with 'La La Land' and 'Jackie' Moving Forward".
  31. ^ "Best of the West 2017: Western Movies, DVDs and TV Shows". 12 December 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Cinema Australia 2016 Audience Award winner announced!".
  33. ^ "THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  34. ^ "Opening night film announced for Made in Melbourne Film Festival". 4 November 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  35. ^ "Monster Fest Announces Final Wave of the 2016 Film Lineup – Monster Fest 2016". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  36. ^ "THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL – Almería Western Film Festival 2018". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Australian Film Legend of Ben Hall Hits Global High". 7 April 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  38. ^ "The Legend of Ben Hall". GBRFF. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  39. ^ "The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival" (PDF).
  40. ^ "Director Matthew Holmes on his Australian Bushranger Trilogy". Cinema Australia. 14 May 2016. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  41. ^ "The legend of Ben Hall".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]