8 films to watch before you travel to New Zealand

Get under the spell of New Zealand's nature.

New Zealand's landscapes seem to capture the imagination of many directors. In any case, they are often captured on screen in a wide variety of film genres. This is not surprising because there are only a few other places in the world that offer such a wide range of contrasts in landscape and nature as New Zealand.

The spectrum ranges from deep blue lakes to impressive glaciers, rolling green hills to dense rainforests and giant ferns. Of course, you can't ignore The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit either. The filming of J.R.R Tolkien's books was mainly done on location in New Zealand. Following the success of these films, other directors have turned the New Zealand landscape into film sets: from The Chronicles of Narnia to King Kong.

Before you embark on your journey to New Zealand, get to know the country through film.

It's action time!

1. Whale Riders (2002)

​​The film 'Whale Rider' is a must-see for anyone interested in the Maori culture. It's also the perfect film for a cosy evening on the couch with the whole family. Actually, it is a modern fairy tale that shows the culture and history of the Maori in a contemporary way. The film tells the story of 12-year-old Pai, who lives with her grandparents in the village of Whangara on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. Tragically, her mother and twin brother died at childbirth, and her father is no longer in her life.

Pai's family descends from the Maori chief Paikea, who - according to legend - came to New Zealand on the back of a whale more than 1000 years ago. Traditionally, the firstborn son becomes the head of the tribe. Pai's grandfather Koro is the current leader and finds it unacceptable that his granddaughter should assume this role in the future since her twin brother is no longer alive.

That's why he's looking for a suitable male successor. His sense of tradition does not allow him to recognize the positive qualities that Pai has. However, with the help of her grandmother and her uncle, she wants to claim her birthright. But to break the tradition, she must achieve the seemingly impossible and win over her ultra-conservative grandfather.

Whale Rider not only shows the tensions between Maori culture and modern life, but also the natural beauty of the east coast of the North Island.

2. Boy (2010)

The film Boy was directed by one of New Zealand's best-known directors, Taiki Waititi. The story is about an 11-year-old boy who lives with his brother Rocky on their grandmother's farm in Waihau Bay. Their mother has died and their father is in prison. When the grandmother leaves the two alone for a few days, their father suddenly appears at their door. The boys are happy to see their father, whom they have missed and idealised for years. But they soon realise what he really is like.

This funny film gives an insight into the life of the socially disadvantaged Maori in New Zealand. The image presented in the film is very poignant in some scenes, especially when it comes to alcohol abuse and domestic violence. The film tackles the serious topic with a lot of heart and humour and takes the viewer on an emotional journey through tears and laughter. This film is definitely worth watching!

3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is also a must-see for your New Zealand film list. This movie touches on the story of Ricky Baker, a rebellious boy who is passed from foster family to foster family. Eventually, he ends up on a remote farm in the middle of the New Zealand countryside. Here, Ricky is taken in by the great Bella and her grumpy husband Hec.

Ricky finally seems to have found his place, but after Bella's sudden death, child welfare services are again threatening to take the boy away. Ricky flees into the wilderness with Hec. What follows is a national manhunt, in which the two unequal find each other ever closer. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a film that will make you laugh as well as occasionally bringing a tear to your eye.

4. Bride Flight (2008)

Bride Flight tells the story of three young Dutch women, Ada, Marjorie, and Esther who want to start a new life in New Zealand. The women meet at the famous London to Christchurch air race in 1953. What they do not know, is that this encounter will bond them for life. The beautiful images of Christchurch, Waimakariri River, Queenstown, and Central Otago, just burst from the screen in this film. While watching, you will surely be thinking - I absolutely have to go there.

5. Lord of the Rings (2001 -2003)

Based on the novel by J.R.R Tolkien and directed by Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings is a series of three epic fantasy adventure films. Each film was shot entirely in New Zealand with over 150 locations on both the North and South Island. New Zealand's spectacular nature provided the perfect setting for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

If you are a huge Lord of the Rings fan, our travel specialists can create an itinerary based on visiting the various film locations including The Hobbit series. You can visit Hobbiton in Matamata but there are also a lot of locations that can be visited free of charge. Many film locations can be found in the Otago region.

6. The Piano (1993)

Set in the mid-19th century, a mute Scottish lady, Ada is sent to a remote part of New Zealand along with her young daughter Flora and prized piano. She has been sold by her father for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, a New Zealand frontiersman, named Alisdair.

Ada has not spoken a word since she was six years old and expresses herself through playing the piano. When Alisdair says there is no room for her piano in the house and abandons it on the beach, Ada turns cold and the complications begin. Holly Hunter plays the character of Ada and her performance won an Academy Award.

7. Chasing Great (2016)

As well as beautiful nature, New Zealand also has an extremely strong rugby team, the 'All Blacks'. If you are a sports fan, this documentary will surely be of interest to you. Richie McCaw is considered one of the best and most successful rugby players of all time. Filmmakers followed him every step of the way for one year and the film documents, among other things, his last days as team captain.

8. New Zealand - A Voyage of Discovery (2018)

Petra and Gerhard Zwerger-Schoner are two professional travel photographers and filmmakers. They have toured Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with travel reports presented live on the big screen. For this visually stunning feature film production, they travelled for six months through New Zealand and captured the most beautiful images and moods, from north to south.

The filmmakers travelled by campervan and offroad vehicle, by plane and helicopter, by canoe, and on foot. Their impressions and experiences combine to make an entertaining and impressive road movie. The film takes you on adventures in untouched nature, tells of rare animal species and dream landscapes in endless expanses, of lovable people and the rich culture of the Maori.

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