Moving Pictures were formed in Sydney in 1978 with Charlie Cole on keyboards and trumpet; Paul Freeland on drums; Garry Frost on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Ian Lees on bass guitar (ex-This Side Up); Alex Smith on vocals and guitar (Bilgola Bop Band, This Side Up); and Andrew Thompson on saxophone (Bilgola Bop Band). Initially they performed as a "hard working, R&B-inspired pub-rock outfit", playing up to 250 shows a year, with their early influences being Bruce Springsteen, Graham Parker and Van Morrison. In early 1981 Moving Pictures were signed to the Wheatley management team – run by former Masters Apprentices' bass guitarist Glenn Wheatley – and the allied Wheatley Records label. Their debut single, "Bustin’ Loose", broke into the Top 50 on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart in October.
Their debut album, Days of Innocence, also appeared in October 1981 and initially failed to reach the Top 40 on the Kent Music Report Albums Chart. It was produced by Charles Fisher (Radio Birdman, The Radiators, Air Supply). The band's live show was all about their rock leanings but the album featured strong ballads that belied that live rock act. In January 1982 they issued another single, "What About Me", which remained at No. 1 for six weeks early that year.Renewed interest in the album saw it reach No. 1 in February on the Kent Music Report Albums Chart. The album became the fourth highest selling album of the year. "What About Me" won the 'Best Single' category at the 1982 Countdown Awards. It was the second highest selling single in Australia for 1982 – behind Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger".
The second single, "Sweet Cherie", from Days of Innocence did not chart, while the third one, "Winners", reached No. 12 in November. By that time Freeland had been replaced on drums by Mark Meyer (ex-Stylus, Richard Clapton Band, Mark Gillespie Band). Moving Pictures had signed to the Elektra distribution label in the United States, which issued Days of Innocence and "What About Me" in North America. The single reached No. 29 on the Billboard pop singles chart, spending 26 weeks inside the Billboard Hot 100. It made Billboard 's year-end Hot 100 list for 1983, at No. 88 – a rare feat for a single with such a low peak position. The song made an unusual comeback in 1989, peaking at No. 46. On the eve of their planned US tour to capitalise on their success there, Elektra was substantially reorganised and their relationship collapsed. The tour was to include support slots with REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty and Hall & Oates as well as their own headlining shows. In hindsight this was Moving Pictures' best opportunity to enter the US market but it was ruined.
In October 1983 their second album, Matinee, also produced by Fisher, was released. It reached No. 16 in Australia and, of its four singles, only "Back to the Streets", reached the Top 40. Their non-album single, "Never", was used for two film soundtracks, Footloose (1984) and Hot Rod (2007). The album captured more of the band's live show feel and rock leanings. Late in 1983 the band toured Japan; due to band problems Frost left the group in 1984, "the group had lost direction". He was temporarily replaced on guitar by Joey Amenta (ex-Taste, Redhouse, Russell Morris Band, Wendy and the Rocketts) until Kevin Bennett (Allied Harp, Wild Colonial Boys) joined the line-up in 1985. The group continued to tour domestically and had gained a strong, loyal following. In May 1987 they undertook the Live Picture Show Tour and disbanded afterwards. In December that year the next album, The Last Picture Show, based on the tour was issued. By the end of 1987, the group had disbanded with reunions occurring in 2005, 2011, 2013 and 2014.