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10 Best Movies About New Zealand To Watch

These movies about New Zealand show heartfelt tales rooted in cultural heritage to epic fantasy realms which skillfully showcase the breathtaking beauty of this island nation.


Movies About New Zealand

Whether exploring the challenges of contemporary Maori life in films like Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors, or seeing the beauty of the country’s landscape through the mystical landscapes of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, these movies about New Zealand offer a cinematic journey through the diverse facets of the country’s identity.

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Tip: You can get a 1-month free trial of Amazon Prime (get with that link) where you can watch these movies about New Zealand if you don’t already have an account.


Whale Rider (2002)

Whale Rider is based on the 1987 novel of the same name by Witi Ihimaera. It is a coming-of-age drama that tells the story of a young Maori girl named Paikea Apirana, who aspires to become the chief of her tribe, despite traditional gender roles and the opposition of her grandfather, Koro.

The film is set in Whangara, a small coastal village in New Zealand, where the Maori people believe their ancestor Paikea rode on the back of a whale to establish their community. Koro, the current chief, is determined to find a male heir to succeed him, as tradition dictates. However, Paikea’s twin brother and mother died during childbirth, leaving Paikea as the only descendant of the line.

Despite her grandfather’s resistance and the scepticism of the community, Paikea believes she is destined to lead her people. The story unfolds as Paikea faces various challenges and attempts to prove herself worthy of her ancestral heritage.

The film is known for its beautiful cinematography, strong performances, and its portrayal of Maori culture and mythology. It has become a beloved and culturally significant film, both in New Zealand and internationally and is definitely one of the best movies about New Zealand to watch.

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The Piano (1993)

The Piano is a romantic drama film known for its unique and atmospheric storytelling, capturing the beauty and complexity of emotions through its cinematography and score.

Set in the mid-19th century, “The Piano” follows the story of Ada McGrath, a mute Scottish woman who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage with a wealthy landowner, Alisdair Stewart. Ada communicates through her piano, and her daughter, Flora, serves as her interpreter.

The story takes a dramatic turn when Ada becomes infatuated with George Baines, a local labourer who trades for the piano. A complex and unconventional love triangle develops, exploring themes of desire, communication, and power dynamics.

The film has stunning cinematography that captures the lush landscapes of the country and is one of the best movies about New Zealand.

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Once Were Warriors (1994)

Once Were Warriors is a New Zealand drama film that is a powerful exploration of the social issues faced by the Māori community in urban New Zealand.

The story revolves around the Heke family, particularly focusing on the patriarch Jake Heke and his wife, Beth. The film depicts the struggles of the Heke family as they grapple with poverty, domestic violence, and the impact of cultural dislocation. Jake’s character is especially complex, as he battles inner demons and a sense of identity loss.

It’s worth noting that the film is considered a significant work in New Zealand cinema, and it has sparked discussions about social problems and the challenges faced by indigenous communities.

The title “Once Were Warriors” suggests a reflection on the proud warrior heritage of the Māori people and the challenges they face in contemporary society. It’s one of the more serious movies about New Zealand to watch.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a New Zealand adventure-comedy film directed and written by Taika Waititi, who is known for his distinctive style and humour and is one of the funniest movies about New Zealand to watch.

The story revolves around Ricky Baker, a troubled city kid who is placed in a foster home in the New Zealand countryside. He forms an unlikely bond with his foster “Aunt” Bella and her husband “Uncle” Hec. After a series of events, Ricky and Hec find themselves on the run from the authorities in the wilderness.

The film is characterized by its unique blend of humour and heart, exploring themes of family, friendship, and belonging. Taika Waititi’s signature style, characterized by quirky characters and offbeat humour, is evident throughout the film.

The dynamic between the two main characters, Ricky and Hec, is a central focus, and the movie also explores the impact of society and the child welfare system on troubled youth.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople was a critical and commercial success, becoming one of the highest-grossing New Zealand films.

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Boy (2010)

Boy is a New Zealand coming-of-age comedy-drama film and is also directed by Taika Waititi, who also plays the role of the main character’s father in the film.

The film is set in 1984 and follows an 11-year-old boy named Alamein, nicknamed Boy, who lives in a rural New Zealand community. Boy idolizes his absent father (played by Taika Waititi), who he believes is a heroic figure involved in exciting adventures.

However, when his father returns home after a seven-year absence, Boy discovers that reality doesn’t match his imagination. The movie explores themes of family, fantasy, and the impact of absent parental figures. It combines humour with moments of poignancy, creating a heartfelt and entertaining narrative.

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

What We Do in the Shadows is a New Zealand mockumentary comedy horror film that revolves around a group of vampires who share a flat in Wellington, New Zealand.

The film takes a comedic and satirical approach to the vampire genre, following the daily lives and struggles of the vampire roommates as they navigate modern society. The characters, ranging from a centuries-old vampire to a newly turned vampire, provide a mix of personalities and comedic situations.

The mockumentary format adds to the humor, as the vampires discuss their experiences, conflicts, and the challenges of being immortal in a world that has changed significantly over the centuries. The film cleverly blends supernatural elements with mundane, everyday situations, resulting in a hilarious and fresh take on vampire lore.

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Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Heavenly Creatures is a psychological drama film directed by Peter Jackson. The film is based on the true story of the Parker-Hulme murder case in New Zealand in the 1950s.

The movie focuses on the intense and obsessive friendship between two teenage girls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme. The girls bond over their shared creativity and vivid imaginations, creating a fantasy world together. As their friendship deepens, they become increasingly isolated from the outside world, and their fantasy world begins to take on a more sinister tone.

The film explores themes of friendship, adolescence, and the consequences of unchecked imagination. It delves into the darker aspects of the girls’ relationship, leading to a shocking and tragic conclusion. It’s one of the best movies about New Zealand to watch.

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The Frighteners (1996)

The Frighteners is a 1996 horror-comedy film that stars Michael J. Fox as Frank Bannister, a man who can see and communicate with ghosts. In order to make a living, Bannister befriends these spirits and stages hauntings to exorcise them for a fee.

However, when a malevolent spirit begins causing real harm and death, Bannister finds himself at the centre of a supernatural mystery.

The film blends elements of horror, comedy, and fantasy, and it features impressive visual effects for its time. Peter Jackson, known for his later work on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, brings his signature style to “The Frighteners,” creating a film that is both entertaining and visually inventive.

Watch it here:

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

Although these are not movies about New Zealand itself, they are filmed in the country and they showcase the stunning landscapes the country is famous for.

“The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy is a highly acclaimed and successful fantasy epic directed by Peter Jackson. The trilogy is based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien and consists of three films released in consecutive years: “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), “The Two Towers” (2002), and “The Return of the King” (2003).

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is celebrated for its faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s novels, groundbreaking visual effects, epic storytelling, and memorable characters. It is often regarded as one of the greatest film trilogies in cinematic history.

Watch the first movie of the trilogy to start:

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The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

The World’s Fastest Indian is a biographical sports drama film that tells the true story of Burt Munro, a New Zealand motorcycle racer who set numerous land speed records with his highly modified 1920 Indian Scout motorcycle. The film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as Burt Munro.

The story follows Burt Munro, an elderly and eccentric man from Invercargill, New Zealand, who is determined to fulfil his lifelong dream of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA.

Facing financial and health challenges, Munro works tirelessly on his vintage motorcycle, making it race-ready. Against the odds, he travels to the United States to participate in the Speed Week at Bonneville in 1967.

The title refers to Munro’s Indian motorcycle, which he affectionately named the “Munro Special” and which became famous for its remarkable speed achievements. The film celebrates the indomitable human spirit and the triumph of an individual against the odds.

Watch it here:

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New Zealand

These movies about New Zealand offer a mix of genres and perspectives, providing a glimpse into the rich cultural and natural tapestry of the country.

For more on the country have a look at the best documentaries about New Zealand.

Again a tip: You can get a 1-month free trial of Amazon Prime (get with that link) where you can watch these movies about New Zealand if you don’t already have an account.


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