New Zealand movies have always punched above their weight winning fans here and all over the world. We thought we’d share some of our favourite kiwi films along with the places where they were filmed so you can visit the locations and relive the magic!
1. Lord of the Rings
We begin with the biggest of them all. Sir Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, the biggest feature films to ever take place here which involved thousands of kiwis as cast and crew. There’s no shortage of Lord of the Rings filming locations to explore but some of the most popular include Mount Sunday (Edoras), Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve (Paths of the Dead), the Waiaua River (Anduin River) and we, of course, can’t forget Hobbiton!
2. The Piano
Jane Campion’s beautiful film, The Piano, was one of our earliest critical successes, winning the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and 3 Academy Awards. In one of the most iconic scenes of the film, a young Anna Paquin (who also won an Academy Award) dances on the sands of the rugged Karekare Beach. An amazing spot and definitely one to get to.
3. Whale Rider
Whale Rider was another wonderful movie that hit the heart-strings of audiences at home and abroad. Beautifully directed by Niki Caro, the film made Keisha Castle-Hughes a global star and earned her an Academy Award nomination. The film was almost entirely shot in the small town of Whangara, on the East Coast of the North Island.
4. Once Were Warriors
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, Once Were Warriors, starring Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen was a hard-hitting film that was both gripping in tragic. Unlike many New Zealand films, it wasn’t a showcase of stunning landscapes but instead turned the lens on social deprivation not typically associated with New Zealand. Many of the film’s scenes were shot at a local state house at 33 O’Connor Street in Otara, South Auckland.
5. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Hunt for the Wilderpeople was one of Taika Waititi’s many cult hits (most of which appear on this list) and starred Sam Neil and Julian Dennison. This was a great coming-of-age adventure film with some big laughs along the way. Much of the film, especially when the two go bush on the run, was shot in the stunning Waitakere Ranges.
Another Taika Waititi classic (and for many his best film) is the 2010 film, Boy. This nostalgic film was a tribute to 1980s New Zealand (among other things) and follows the story of a boy who reconnects with his estranged father. The film was shot in Waihau Bay on the East Coast of the North Island and was also the hometown of the director himself!
7. The World’s Fastest Indian
The World’s Fastest Indian was a great film that chronicled the feat of the unlikely bike racing legend, Burt Munro. Starring one of the finest actors of all time, Sir Anthony Hopkins, it’s an entertaining account of Munro’s magnificent achievement, setting a land speed record at the age of 62. One of the best scenes in the film where Munro tests his bike on the beach was shot at Oreti Beach in Invercargill.
8. Heavenly Creatures
Before Peter Jackson achieved global success with Lord of the Rings, he earned critical success with the 1994 film, Heavenly Creatures. With an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, the film was based on a true story about two girls who murdered one of the girl’s mother. The film was shot in Christchurch in a number of locations including Christchurch Girls’ High School, Isaac Theatre Royal and a homestead in Ilam.
9. Bad Taste
Before Heavenly Creatures, the film where Peter Jackson made his name was the ultra-budget splatter film, Bad Taste. The film was about a group of aliens that come to a small town to harvest humans for food. It ended up being one of the goriest films ever made and took four years and many weekends to shoot in Jackson’s hometown of Pukerua Bay.
10. Black Sheep
In a not too dissimilar style to Bad Taste was the 2006 film, Black Sheep, a fun comedy-horror that made monsters out of New Zealand’s famous fluffy livestock. This thrill-ride of a film has plenty of jumps and guarantees you’ll never look at another sheep in the same way again. It was filmed in farming locations around the Wairarapa and Wellington.
Vincent Ward’s Vigil has a special place in New Zealand movie history as the first film ever chosen for selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984. It’s a psychological drama about an 11 year old girl and her family growing up on a farm after the death of her father. The visual look of the film is stark, wild and raw and the filming location of Uruti in the west of the North Island was a perfect choice.
12. The Quiet Earth
Another oldie but a goodie was Geoff Murphy’s unique and creative ‘The Quiet Earth’ made in 1984. One of the few sci-fi films New Zealand has produced, the film was about a scientist who wakes up to find nearly everyone on Earth has disappeared. The Quiet Earth was shot in a number of locations including the University of Waikato in Hamilton.
13. Goodbye Pork Pie
Another 80s classic in New Zealand cinema was Goodbye Pork Pie, a rollicking road trip film that was another directed by Geoff Murphy. The film is considered New Zealand’s first domestic box office hit and follows the story of a man who drives from Kaitaia to Invercargill where his girlfriend lives. All sorts of shenanigans take place with filming locations all over the country. The Interislander Ferry between Wellington and Picton is our pick for this one!
14. Sione’s Wedding
New Zealand has a great Pasifika community and the 2006 hit Sione’s Wedding celebrates the lighter side of it. The film is about four Samoan boys who are put on a quest to start serious relationships a month before Sione’s wedding and their efforts in doing so are very funny. The film is set and shot in Auckland with the nightlife of Karangahape Road featuring prominently.
15. What We Do In The Shadows
The last Taika Waititi classic on this list is his vampire hit ‘What We Do In The Shadows’. A mockumentary-style film, it follows the daily lives of a household of vampires living in Wellington. It’s the first-ever instance of Kiwi vampires on screen and Taika and his crew do a great job in playing them. It was shot all over Wellington including a great scene at the Mt Victoria Bowling Club.
16. The Breaker Upperers
The Breaker Upperers is a more recent comedy hit starring the hilarious Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek. Their characters run a business that helps people break up with their spouses in often very ruthless (and amusing) ways. Recently acquired by Netflix, the film showcased many of Auckland’s great streets, cafes and parks.
17. Guns Akimbo
Last but not least, the recently released Guns Akimbo starring a somewhat dishevelled Daniel Radcliffe is an action flick with a bizarre plot that needs to be seen to be believed. Needless to say, there is a lot that goes on in this one in the various locations around Auckland. One of the highlights has to be the car chase on Queen Street in broad daylight!
Relive Our Great New Zealand Movies
So there you have it! 17 awesome New Zealand Movies and the places they were filmed. We hope you enjoyed the read and that you get the chance to visit some of these places during your next trip here!
- 10 Famous New Zealanders And Where They Were Born
- 19 New Zealand Foods To Try When You Get Here
- 25 New Zealand Animals And Where You Can See Them
Book a vehicle for this trip
Toyota Rav 4