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Movies filmed in New Zealand

Mt Taranaki New Zealand

Movies filmed in New Zealand

What better way to get excited about New Zealand than to get a taste of it in a movie? Read below about the best movies filmed in New Zealand.

Foreign movies filmed in New Zealand

Lord of the Rings/ The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films are the most famous movies filmed entirely in New Zealand. They chose New Zealand because of the beautiful landscapes. In addition, many props and digital special effects were also made in New Zealand, in the WETA workshop in Wellington. The film locations are located on both the North and South Island. You can visit many of these locations, read here about my 10 favourite LOTR film locations in New Zealand.

The Chronicles of Narnia 

Some of the Narnia movies were mainly filmed in New Zealand. The most famous filming location is Cathedral Cove, in The Coromandel. You can see this in the second film, where the children find the ruins of Cair Paravel.

Woodhill Forest is located an hour north of Auckland, in this beautiful forest you will find many hiking and biking trails. This forest was used for the white witch’s camp in the movies. The castle has been placed on the cliffs of Purakaunui Bay (in The Catlins on the South Island) with digital effects.

The great fight for Narnia is filmed in Flock Hill. This is an area full of rocks and surrounded by hills. It is located on the South Island, a 90-minute drive outside Christchurch, on the way to Arthur’s Pass.

Another New Zealand film location is Elephant Rocks. This is also located on the South Island, between Dunedin and Christchurch, near the small village of Oamaru. Here you will find many limestone rocks in the strangest shapes. Including one rock that looks like an elephant, hence the name. This filming location has been used as the camp of Aslan the lion.

In the second film you see even more beautiful landscapes in New Zealand, such as Dart River in Glenorchy and Lake Moeraki in the West Coast.

The third film features White Island, which is located on the coast of the Bay of Plenty.

King Kong

The King Kong movie from 2005 was mainly filmed in New Zealand, near Wellington. The most used filming locations are the islands of Shelly Bay and Lyall Bay, which have been used as a backdrop for Skull Island. These islands are both off the coast of Wellington. The scenes on the Steamer Venture boat were mainly shot around Kapiti Island. This is a protected bird sanctuary that, sadly not everyone can visit. Other scenes on the water were filmed in the Cook Straight, the area in the north of the South Island. This is a beautiful area that can be admired on the Interisland Ferry. The scenes that take place in New York were actually also shot in the vicinity of Wellington, namely in Lower Hutt. The big “New York” theater in the movie is actually the theater in Auckland.

The Last Samurai

The Last Samurai movie is set in Japan according to the movie, but it is actually mainly filmed in New Zealand. The most used filming location is the Uriti Valley, this area was slightly modified to show rural life in Japan around 1860. They, for example, built a Japanese village there. Mount Taranaki is used in the movie as Mount Fuji. Pukekura Park in New Playmouth is a beautiful park with two lakes, a waterfall, fountain, children’s play areas and more. The Imperial Army Parade and the palace were filmed in this park. In addition, Lake Mangamahoe has been used for the battle scenes. This is a lake surrounded by forests, where you can see Mt Taranaki. In Port Taranaki they built a Japanese fishing village and then set it on fire for the film. These filming locations are all close to each other and can all be visited.

Mission Impossible 6: Fallout

The Latest Mission Impossible movie, that came out in 2018 was partly filmed in New Zealand. For example, the scene where Ethan and Julie get married was filmed in the beautiful Milford Sound. The legendary scenes where Ethan climbs the rope to the helicopter is filmed over Queenstown and surrounding areas. Sutherland Falls (near Milford Sound) can also be seen on this helicopter tour, which is where he tries to drop his cargo.

Vertical limit

In this movie, Peter Garrett climbs the second highest peak in the world, K2. Peter risks his life to save his sister, Annie. The movie was not just filmed at K2 mountain, but also in New Zealand. New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, was used for this film. View this impressive mountain by hiking the Hooker Valley Trail.


Without a Paddle

Without a paddle is an adventure comedy in which three friends go on a rafting trip in Oregon. This movie was filmed entirely on New Zealand’s North Island. Locations used during this movie include Wellington, Taupo, Rotorua, Waikato River, Huka Falls, Lower Hutt and Okahune.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This 2009 movie was filmed in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand sites used are Glenorchy and Paradise, both near Queenstown. Paradise has been used as Hudson’s farm, as well as for hunting through the woods. Glenorchy is used for the bridge to the farm. These places can be admired on a tour from Queenstown.

The Frighteners

The Frighteners is a horror comedy shot entirely in New Zealand. The main character is Michael J. Fox. The film is mainly set around Wellington and Lyttelton. Lyttelton is a fishing village near Christchurch. In addition, Christchurch can also be seen in the film.

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New Zealand movies

The three movies discussed below are all made by New Zealanders and are set in New Zealand. These movies give a picture of both Maori culture and the beautiful places in New Zealand.


Boy is a New Zealand drama-comedy. The story is about an eleven-year-old New Zealand boy who lives with his brother on his grandmothers farm in 1984. His mother passed away and his father left. One day his criminal father suddenly returns to dig up a bag of money. Boy is very happy that his father is back and would like to get to know him. The father turns out not to be quite what Boy had hoped for. This film shows how poor Maori families used to live.

Whale rider

Whale rider is the most famous New Zealand film, it is known as “the one New Zealand film that has won awards.” It is a drama film about a Maori girl, Pai, who lives with her grandparents in Whangara. Pai is descended from the Maori leader Paikea, who arrived in New Zealand on the back of a whale more than a thousand years ago. The head of the tribe is always the firstborn son of her family. Her grandfather Koro is the current chief and since her brother died in birth and her father left, there is no one to take his place right now. Within the tribe, Koro looks for a boy who can become the new chief. Tradition says it must be a man and so nobody looked at Pai for this role. But Pai wants to prove to her grandfather that she can lead her village.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a dramatic comedy set in New Zealand. It is about a boy who keeps moving from foster home to foster home. When he was placed with his Aunt Bella and Uncle Het, he thinks he has finally found his home. Sadly youth care threatens to take him away again and then he decides to run away with the dog into the wilderness. A big search for the two follows.

To be seen soon

Avatar 2

Like the first Avatar movie, most of the special effects are done by the WETA workshop in Wellington. Only a very small part of the first movie was shot in Wellington, but the second seems to be shot more in New Zealand. Although not too much has been filmed in New Zealand, it is all inspired by New Zealand. There are many similarities between the local population of Pandora and the Maori. The place names also have more of a Polynesian sounds. The largest Kauri tree in New Zealand is also very similar to the Tree of Life in the movie. In New Zealand you can see glow worms in many places, this is very similar to the glowing insects and plants on Pandora. James Cameron, the creator of Avatar has lived in New Zealand for many years and was probably inspired by its nature. The premiere date of Avatar 2 is currently on December 16, 2022.


Mulan is the next Disney movie to be released in a remake. This film was shot in both China and New Zealand. Places that are already known are the Omarama Clay Cliffs, Ahuiri Valley, Poolburn and the famous Mt Cook. All of these locations are on the South Island surrounding Queenstown and Mt Cook. Due to the Corona virus this movie won’t come into the cinema in most countries but it can be viewed on Disney+.

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