9 Must-See New Zealand Movies


3 minute read

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Now it’s time to load up the popcorn bowl and take your pick from a variety of movies that will introduce you to the sights, sounds, people and stories of New Zealand. Of course, there are movies like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Pete’s Dragon, which you have probably heard a lot about – they are all fantasy stories filmed amongst our stunning scenery, but there are so many others that tell our stories and introduce our people too.

Here are nine of the best New Zealand movies.

1. Whale Rider (2002)

Discover what happens as an ancient custom is upset when a child selected to be the next chief of a Māori tribe dies at birth. His twin sister, Pai, survives and enlists the help of her grandmother to claim her birthright. It’s a stunning portrayal of rarely seen New Zealand culture and classic themes.

Whale Rider - one of the best New Zealand movies

2. World's Fastest Indian (2005)

The wonderful Anthony Hopkins plays New Zealander Burt Monroe in this easy-to-watch movie. A motorcycle enthusiast spends years of his life rebuilding and perfecting a 1920 Indian motorcycle and after putting everything on the line, unbelievably sets a land speed world record. 

World's Fastest Indian - New Zealand movie

3. Once Were Warriors (1994)

This film depicts the story of an urban Māori family and their problems with poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence, centring around the patriarch, Jake. It became the highest-grossing movie of all time in New Zealand at the time and won numerous awards. It’s been described as brutal, powerful and raw.

4. Boy (2010)

This charming coming of age comedy-drama follows the story of a young boy who discovers his father isn't the heroic adventurer he’d imagined him to be. Directed by Taika Waititi and filmed in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island, the film is inspired by "true and imagined memories." You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll get a great insight into what small-town life in New Zealand is like.

Boy - New Zealand movie

5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Another brilliant adventure comedy-drama movie, this film follows the story of a boy and his new foster father (played by Sam Neill) as they become the subject of a manhunt after getting stranded in the wilderness. Great fun and a light-hearted, easy-to-watch movie.

6. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

This New Zealand mockumentary is a comedy-horror movie following the lives of a bunch of vampires that live together in a flat in Wellington. It’s strange, it’s quirky, it’s fun – it’s New Zealand through and through!

7. Mr Pip (2012)

This movie is based on the novel Mister Pip by the New Zealand author, Lloyd Jones. The movie follows the story of the last white man remaining on the war-torn island of Papua New Guinea, who reopens the local school and starts teaching Great Expectations to the students. The leading role is played by the amazing Hugh Laurie and was shot in the South Island town of Oamaru, as well as in Papua New Guinea where the movie is set.

Mr Pip - a must-see New Zealand movie

8. The Lovely Bones (2009)

Based on the award-winning bestselling novel of the same name, The Lovely Bones is a supernatural drama that follows a missing girl who watches over her family from the afterlife as they try to figure out what has happened to her. Parts of the movie, which was directed by the famous New Zealand director Peter Jackson, were made in the North Island. 

9. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Another Peter Jackson movie, this psychological drama is based on the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case in Christchurch. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey made their silver screen debuts in Heavenly Creatures as Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, two teenagers whose intense friendship ultimately leads to the murder of Honora Parker — Pauline’s mother. The film is shot entirely on location in Christchurch.

Heavenly Creatures - a movie made in New Zealand

Having watched some or all of these great New Zealand films, are you ready to put yourself in the picture? If you are, then picture yourself on one of our New Zealand guided hiking and adventure tours.


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