Looking for the best of our local film content? Look no further than TVNZ OnDemand. Tara Ward catches up on the service’s New Zealand movie selection.
Put down your atlas and wave goodbye to old mate Google, because the best way to learn about New Zealand is to chuck on the gogglebox and take a deep dive into our finest homegrown movies. Though we are little, we are fierce, and New Zealand has a long history of producing quality films that win international awards, that make you laugh and cry, and share our stories and cultures in fresh and challenging ways.
We’ve pulled together a list of the essential, must-see New Zealand movies. Step inside our best creative minds by watching films by Taika Waititi and Niki Caro, or soak up the acting talent of legends like Keisha Castle Hughes, Sam Neill and Cliff Curtis. Whether you want box office hits, internationally acclaimed documentaries or thoughtful pieces of arthouse cinema, we have you covered. Also, can you call yourself a Kiwi if you’ve never seen the movie where Temuera Morrison plays a flesh-eating suburban dad? Mmm, tasty.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Taika Waititi’s 2016 Kiwi classic bought ‘skux’ into our national vernacular and turned Ricky Baker into a national folk hero. Foster child Ricky (Julian Dennison) is sent to live on Bella (Rima Te Waiata) and Hector’s (Sam Neill) farm, but things take a turn when Ricky and Uncle Hector have to go bush to evade the police. A charmer from start to finish.
Born To Dance
Like David Seymour in a pair of fluoro shorts, we are all born to dance, but not all of us are blessed with the talent of Parris Goebel. Tu (Tia Maipi) sees dance as an escape from joining the Army, and will do whatever it takes to make it as a hip hop professional. Set in Papakura, Born to Dance is a high-energy dance story with a Kiwi twist, and showcases the incredible choreography of the legendary Parris Goebel.
Sione’s getting married, but his mates Michael, Sefa, Albert and Stanley have a reputation for misbehaving at family celebrations. They’re given a month to find a girlfriend to bring to the wedding, but how hard can it be? Written by Oscar Kightley and James Griffen, this feel-good romantic comedy celebrates Auckland’s Polynesian culture and comedy, and features a fantastic cast including Madeleine Sami, Robbie Magasiva and Teuila Blakeley.
Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business
And, of course, you can’t have Sione’s Wedding without Sione’s 2: Unfinished Business. Five years after Sione’s wedding, the four best mates are older but not necessarily wiser, and are on a quest to find their missing friend Bollo aka “one Samoan, in the biggest Polynesian city in the world”. It’s more bittersweet than the original film, but the hilarious mayhem continues with the original cast and brilliant soundtrack.
The Orator (O Le Tulafale)
A New Zealand and Samoan made-film, The Orator (O Le Tulafale) is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Samoa, spoken in the Samoan language, and featuring a Samoan cast and story. It’s a visually stunning drama about Saili, a villager who lives a simple life but must find the courage to defend his family and land. The Orator was acclaimed for its depictions of traditional Samoan society in a modern world and went on to win three awards at the Venice Film Festival and eight at the 2012 NZ Film Awards.
Being tickled sucks. Ask Elmo, then ask David Farrier and Dylan Reeve, who fell down a bizarre rabbit hole of something called ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’. What began as a simple news story about a seemingly quirky but innocent hobby led Farrier and Reeve into a sinister world of bullying, online harassment and legal threats. It’s surprising and shocking, and further proof that all forms of tickling should be banned by law.
It’s the film that took Keisha Castle Hughes to the Oscars and introduced Witi Ihimaera’s story to the world. Niki Caro’s award winning 2003 film about Paikea, the young girl who has to fight to fulfil her destiny as leader of her tribe, is a hauntingly beautiful and genuinely moving piece of New Zealand cinema.
You might think a movie about chess would be boring, but two incredible performances from Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston make Dark Horse “one of the greatest New Zealand films ever made”. Based on a true story, Dark Horse follows bipolar sufferer Genesis as he teaches at-risk kids to play chess. It’s a powerful and raw watch that scooped the 2014 NZ Film Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
Taika Waititi writes, directs and stars in this heartfelt story about Boy, an 11 year old Michael Jackson fan growing up on the East Coast with his brother Rocky, his Nan, and a goat. When Boy’s dad (Waititi) turns up out of the blue, Boy realises the heroic father figure he’d imagined is far from the reality. Boy is a coming-of-age tale of heartache and hope that will make you laugh, then cry, then call everyone an egg. Do it, it feels good.
There’s a lot going on in Fresh Meat, a chaotic horror-comedy about a Māori family of cannibals taken hostage by a group of runaway criminals. With a strong Kiwi cast including Temuera Morrison and The Gulf’s Kate Elliot, Fresh Meat will be a hit with anyone who likes their romance mixed with random body parts in the fridge.
The Pa Boys
“What’s a Māori without roots, eh?” Danny, Tou and Cityboy are the Pa Boys, a Wellington reggae band who take off on a gig tour ‘down north’ to Cape Reinga. This beautifully gentle road trip film features some of New Zealand’s most scenic landscapes, with themes of whanau and whakapapa, identity and belonging.
This content was created in paid partnership with TVNZ. Learn more about our partnerships here.
Go to TVNZ OnDemand, where you’ll find a ton of other great shows (…way beyond just what’s played on TV)
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.