Explore the movie set that is New Zealand

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New Zealand filmmakers Peter Jackson, Jane Campion, Lee Tamahori, and Taika Waititi give you their vision of New Zealand on screen. Get to know the dramatic landscape, local culture, and history of this country through the silver screen when you’re studying in Auckland or Otago as an SAF Scholar.

These movies will inspire your travels, give you an insight into the people who call this country home, and make you more knowledgeable about New Zealand’s unique culture.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

No list would be complete without Peter Jackson’s fantasy trilogy, which turned New Zealand’s beautiful landscape into Middle Earth. With locations and the movie set now a tourist hotspot, the trilogy has attracted record visitors keen to follow hobbit footprints.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were shot and edited together, so you can block out a weekend and watch all 10 hours if you fancy. Watch Frodo Baggins and the fellowship take a treacherous quest to Mordor to destroy the One Ring.

Once Were Warriors

This is a chilling and brutal film exposing the horrors of domestic abuse in urban New Zealand. It unflinchingly portrays a Māori family treated like outcasts, with their historic ties destroyed and suffering the damage of unemployment, alcoholism, and violence. Released in 1994, One Were Warriors won a fistful of awards and remains a menacing film to watch today as you wait for the charming father, Jake (played by Temuera Morrison), to reveal his violent side again.

The Piano

Jane Campion’s fiercely haunting period film transports you to a world filled with female desire and creativity. Set in the mid-1800s, The Piano tells the story of mute Scotswoman Ada (played by Holly Hunter) married off to a New Zealand colonist but finds herself drawn to her neighbor George. The opening shot of Ada and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), and their piano on a windswept New Zealand beach sets the tone of this beautifully shot film where the smallest glance carries a huge emotional weight.

It’s an important feminist film that rightly earned Jane Campion the prestigious Palme d’Or.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Another New Zealand director who has gone on to international acclaim is Taika Waititi. This laugh-out-loud comedy adventure is a charming delight to watch. The plot centers on Ricky (Julian Dennison), who is taken by child services to live in the countryside in the hope he won’t get into trouble. Sam Neill gives a star turn as the cantankerous Hec who ends up on he run in the forest with Ricky. This film is Waititi’s fourth feature film, and Empire’s top film of 2016.

If you enjoy it, you can explore more of this director’s work by watching his gothic comedy What We Do in the Shadows, set in Wellington.