The Big Steal
The Big Steal-1990.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byNadia Tass
Written byDavid Parker
Produced byDavid Parker
Nadia Tass
StarringBen Mendelsohn
Claudia Karvan
Steve Bisley
Marshall Napier
Damon Herriman
CinematographyDavid Parker
Edited byPeter Carrodus
Music byChris Gough
Philip Judd
Distributed byHoyts Distribution
Umbrella Entertainment
Release date
  • 20 September 1990 (1990-09-20)
Running time
99 minutes
Box office$2,351,628 (Australia)

The Big Steal is a 1990 Australian teen comedy film set in Melbourne, Australia directed by Nadia Tass starring Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan and Steve Bisley. David Parker was the scriptwriter and cinematographer. The film went on to win three Australian Film Institute awards.


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Ben Mendelsohn plays 18 year-old Danny Clark looking to increase his cool factor in order to secure the affections of Joanna, played by Claudia Karvan.

Danny offers to take Joanna out for a ride in a Jaguar as a way to impress her, but his actual vehicle is a 1963 Nissan Cedric which Danny does not find very 'cool'. In need of a Jaguar in a hurry, Danny decides to trade the Nissan Cedric in on a more impressive vehicle.

Gordon Farkas, a used car salesman played by Steve Bisley, tricks Danny into buying a 1973 Jaguar XJ6. The Jaguar engine, true to form, blows up. After a confrontation culminating in Joanna leaving, an investigation of the engine reveals it's been swapped by Gordon Farkas. Danny naturally sets about seeking justice and winning back Joanna's affections. The film is peppered with quintessentially Australian humour of the time and is considered a cult classic, especially amongst Australian motoring enthusiasts.



The film was originally known as Mark Clark Van Ark. There were problems raising the money so Tass and Parker mortgaged their house with ANZ Bank, as they did with their first film.[1]

The movie was shot from 6 November to 22 December 1989.[2]


Award Category Subject Result
AACTA Awards
(1990 AFI Awards)
Best Film Nadia Tass Nominated
David Parker Nominated
Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted Won
Best Actor Ben Mendelsohn Nominated
Best Actress Claudia Karvan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Steve Bisley[3] Won
Best Supporting Actress Maggie King Nominated
Best Original Music Score Philip Judd Won
Best Sound Dean Gawen Nominated
John Wilkinson Nominated
Best Production Design Paddy Reardon Nominated


Music: Chris Gough and Philip Judd.

Includes songs by Philip Judd and Tim Finn, the Makers, Schnell Fenster, Boom Crash Opera, Mental As Anything, Bang The Drum, the Breaknecks, Big Storm and the Front Lawn.

Box office

The Big Steal grossed $2,351,628 at the box office in Australia.[4]

Home media

The Big Steal was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in October 2003. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the original theatrical trailer, Umbrella Entertainment trailers, original cast audition tapes, interviews with Nadia Tass, David Parker, Ben Mendelsohn, Claudia Karvan and Steve Bisley as well as audio commentary by Nadia Tass and David Parker.[5]

Umbrella Entertainment released The Big Steal on Blu-ray in September 2021. The Blu-ray is compatible with all region codes, retains the extra features from the DVD release, and includes a new audio commentary by David Parker, moderated by film buff Paul Harris.

Cars Appearing in the Film



  1. ^ David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p. 329.
  2. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, March 1990 p. 72.
  3. ^ "Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection – The Big Steal (1990)". National Film and Sound Archive. Archived from the original on 12 November 2009. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  4. ^ Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  5. ^ "Umbrella Entertainment". Archived from the original on 2 January 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  6. ^ "The Big Steal (1990) Movie Review".