Though there are stacks more than just 15 that you should watch stemming from the land of the Great White Cloud, her’s a list of essential New Zealand films you really need to see before you head off for the big dirt nap! The New Zealand film industry is such a vibrant, relevant and in-touch content creator for its country and internationally that, more often than not, they put Australia to shame! It’s easy to see why when you go scrolling below… Not busy this weekend? Here’s 15 ways to fill your time:
1. ONCE WERE WARRIORS (1994)
Lee Tamahori’s explosive Moari drama that’s still as relevant today as it was when the film stunned audiences back in 1994. This is one of the only films I’ve ever seen at a cinema and couldn’t even speak for 2 hours after it.
2. BOY (2010)
Taika Waititi’s feature, expanded from his sensational short Two Cars One Night, is one of the most charming, hilarious yet socially insightful films in recent memory. Not only is it outwardly off beat and drenched in affection, Boy also is a scathing social commentary on living in poverty in 1980’s New Zealand. Most of all it is one of the best films you’ll probably ever see and ranks as one of my favourite films of all time.
3. BRAINDEAD aka DEAD ALIVE (1992)
This is how I know and love Peter Jackson. This spectacularly hilarious horror comedy, that he was renowned for back in the late 80’s and 90’s, is the centrepiece in a collection of films that include Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles. Braindead is Jackson firing on all exploitation cylinders and the result is a cult film everyone needs to see!
4. FOOTROT FLATS: THE DOG’S TALE (1986)
This animated flick, based on the hit comic strip, was a smash when it rolled into cinemas in Australia back in 1986. It also carried with it one of the 1980’s biggest hits by Dave Dobbin ‘Slice Of Heaven’.
5. UTU (1984)
A rousing period actioner of the Maori People’s fight with British Colonials to keep tribal land in the 1860’s is one of the most accomplished films 30 years on. When a Maori warrior Te Wheke is betrayed by the Brits, he enacts ‘Utu’ (revenge) to win back the lands his people lost.
6. CAME A HOT FRIDAY (1981)
Two scammers try and set up a con in the New Zealand country town of Tainuea in 1949. Problem is the town is already over run with scams and corruption and these two idiots just walk into disaster after disaster. Sure, it’s dated, but it is still very funny and shouldn’t be missed.
7. WHALE RIDER (2002)
What’s not to love about this gorgeous provincial New Zealand school girl drama of a daughter trying to find meaning in her life, connection in her family and her place in a world steeped in tradition. Niki Caro’s heart tugger is a must see and with a knock out central turn from Keisha Castle-Hughes, you can’t go wrong with this.
8. THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS (2009)
This hoot of a documentary of a pair of NZ comediennes, who happen to be lesbian country singers, is an absolute riot and one that stormed the box office when it released in 2009. It’s touching, intimate and hilarious.
9. IN MY FATHER’S DEN (2004)
When a journalist returns home after covering a war, he befriends a teenage girl whilst trying to grapple with the disconnection with his family. When the girl goes missing, he is implicated and brings to ahead skeletons from his past. This is heady drama/thriller territory and it is expertly delivered in the hands of director Brad McGann.
10. SIONE’S WEDDING aka SAMOAN WEDDING (2006)
When Sione decides to get married, his 4 30+ year old friends are called into action to find themselves brides before the big day! It’s unashamedly feel good, cheesy, schmaltzy and light hearted. It’s also a crackingly good time with a nice insight into Pacific Islander culture and humour.
11. THE PIANO (1993)
Jane Campion’s double Oscar winner for Holly Hunter & Anna Paquin is a masterclass in period drama. Add to that Michael Nyman’s exceptional score and there’s little wonder why this film is so loved.
12. EAGLE VS SHARK (2007)
Two socially awkward friends attempt to find love in the ways and means they know how. It’s off-beat, challenging, grating but nevertheless endearing and a prime example of contemporary comedy from New Zealand.
13. SMASH PALACE (1981)
Roger Donaldson’s thriller about a former racing driver who destroys his marriage and kidnaps his daughter in a northern province of New Zealand is the film that got the notable director Hollywood attention. It’s taught, tough and motors along with an on-fire performance from Bruno Lawrence.
14. GOODBYE PORK PIE (1981)
When petty crims Gerry and John hire a mini car they call “Pork Pie”, they set off on a road trip so John can speak to his estranged wife and along the way set in motion a trail of comedic crimes and capers that earn them the name ‘The Blondini Gang’. With police in hot pursuit, will the boys make it to their destination before they get nicked? A totally 80’s retro fest of a flick that is as much a buddy comedy as it is a love letter to New Zealands countryside!
15. THE DARK HORSE (2014)
This biopic on chess prodigy Genesis Potini, who suffered a nervous breakdown and spent time in hospital before being released, is a searing drama and intimate insight into the abject poverty of modern Maori life and the tribal culture that still exists. Filled with dynamite performances all centred around Cliff Curtis’ titanic turn, The Dark Horse is a real achievement and one not to be missed when it releases on November 20, 2014 in Australia.