Which Movies Were Shot in New Zealand?
It wasn’t just The Lord of the Rings that was filmed in New Zealand, you know. There are actually a lot of internationally renowned movies shot in New Zealand making Aotearoa an awesome destination for movie buffs.
With outstanding scenery and the home of world-class directors and top production companies, New Zealand is a movie connoisseur’s dream. The capital city, Wellington, has been nicknamed “Wellywood” (with a hillside sign and all) for its filming locations and movie studios. See the set of Hobbiton in Matamata, the samurai village of The Last Samurai in Taranaki, and a piece of Narnia at Cathedral Cove. We go through the most famous movies filmed in New Zealand, right here.
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
Ok, let’s start with the obvious. The Lord of the Rings was famously filmed entirely in New Zealand thanks to the nation’s natural wonders creating the perfect landscapes to depict Middle-earth! The trilogy was directed by New Zealander, Peter Jackson, and all three films were shot simultaneously.
The Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata – Hobbiton, The Shire
- Kawarau Gorge, Queenstown – Anduin River
- Mt Sunday, Canterbury – Edoras
- Putangirua Pinnacles, Wairarapa – Dimholt Road
- Mt Victoria, Wellington – The Shire.
As there are so many filming locations to go through, we’ve listed the exact places where The Lord of the Rings was filmed in our guide, 25 Best Lord of the Rings Locations in New Zealand. Plus, check out The Lord of the Rings Vacation Guide: How to Plan a LOTR Trip to New Zealand.
2. The Hobbit Trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014)
Again, if you didn’t already know that The Hobbit Trilogy was also filmed in New Zealand, you must have been living in a hole much like a Hobbit. Although these movies relied much more on CGI than physical filming locations compared to their predecessor, there are still a few filming locations that you can enjoy as a visitor to New Zealand.
The Hobbit Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata – Hobbiton, The Shire
- Pelorus River, Marlborough – Barrel run
- Piopio, Waitomo – Trollshaw Forest
- Earnslaw Burn, Glenorchy – Rivendell
- Pass Burn, Glenorchy – Misty Mountains.
We’ve also listed some in the 10 “The Hobbit” Locations you Can’t Miss!
3. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2008, 2010)
When the beloved children’s book series was adapted for the big screen, many of the filming locations were in New Zealand. Or, at least, the majority of the first two instalments of The Chronicles of Narnia movies were. The third one; not so much due to budget cuts. One of the most recognisable locations is at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel.
Narnia Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Cathedral Cove, Coromandel – Cair Paravel ruins
- Elephant Rocks, Waitaki Valley – Aslan’s Camp
- Paradise, Glenorchy – Fairytale country
- Woodhill Forest, Auckland – White Witch’s Camp
- Flock Hill, Lake Pearson – The Great Battle
- Purakaunui Bay, Catlins – Cair Paravel.
4. King Kong (2005)
Kiwi director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Peter Jackson, also directed the 2005 remake of King Kong. The movie is set in 1933 and follows the story of a filmmaker who coerces his cast to travel to the mysterious Skull Island, encountering an oversized gorilla along the way. Wellington was used in representing New York and Skull Island, while the famous Weta Workshop worked on the special effects, which you can learn more about on workshop tours (more info on Viator and Klook).
King Kong Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Shelly Bay and Lyall Bay, Wellington – Skull Island
- Seaview, Lower Hutt – New York
- Auckland Civic Theatre, Auckland – New York Theatre interior
- Kapiti Island and Cook Strait, Wellington – Venture ocean scenes.
5. Avatar Franchise (2009-Ongoing)
Ok, so the Avatar franchise wasn’t “shot” in New Zealand as such but its special effects, props, conceptual design and costume were the work of the Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. The workshop is in Miramar, Wellington where you can go on a behind-the-scenes guided tour (more info on Viator and Klook). Filming took place at the Stone Street Studios, which isn’t open for tours but you can get a photo outside!
Avatar Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Stone Street Studios, Miramar – Special effects studio.
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Tom Cruise returns for the sixth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, this time with filming in New Zealand! Mission: Impossible – Fallout has some very recognisable scenes filmed among the dramatic scenery of Milford Sound and Glenorchy.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Queenstown and Milford Sound – Helicopter chase scene
- The Rees Valley, Glenorchy – Medical camp and small Kashmiri village.
7. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Starring Hugh Jackman and the fourth instalment of the X-Men film series, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was primarily filmed across the pond in New South Wales but had its, arguably, most scenic moments filmed in New Zealand. Interestingly, in many of the scenes depicting Canada.
Wolverine Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Deer Park Heights, Queenstown – Canadian Rockies
- Stirling Falls, Milford Sound – ‘Alkali Lake’ facility
- Paradise, Glenorchy – Old couple at their farmhouse.
8. Alien: Covenant (2017)
One of the prequels to the popular Alien movie series was filmed with effortless recognisability in the popular tourist attraction, Milford Sound (with a few CGI trees added here and there). Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant features some scenes in the “Eighth Wonder of the World” to depict the unchartered Earth-like planet that the film’s protagonists discover.
Alien: Covenant Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Milford Sound, Fiordland – Earth-like planet.
9. The Last Samurai (2003)
Controversial in its plot line, as well as its filming location to use New Zealand to stand in for Japan, The Last Samurai follows the story of an American soldier-turned-samurai. Tom Cruise takes the lead role in this period action drama that was filmed in the Taranaki region of the North Island.
The Last Samurai Locations in New Zealand
- Uruti Valley, Taranaki – Japanese village
- Pukekura Park, New Plymouth – Imperial Army parade area and palace
- Lake Mangamahoe, New Plymouth – Horse and battle scenes
- Port Taranaki, New Plymouth – Japanese fishing village.
10. The Piano (1993)
The Piano is set on the West Coast of New Zealand so what better place to shoot the movie than right here? Most of the filming, however, isn’t precisely in the West Coast region, as most were done within proximity to Auckland. The promotion shot below, for example, is shot on Karekare Beach in the Waitakere Ranges.
The Piano Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Karekare Beach, Piha – Beach where Ada’s piano is abandoned
- Matakana, Warkworth and Awakino, Taranaki – Forest/bush
- Bay of Islands, Northland – Underwater scenes.
11. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
Again, Weta Digital is the team behind the animation of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Based on the Hergé’s comic book series, the action-adventure film was directed by Steven Spielberg. You can learn more about the behind-the-scenes at the Weta Studios in Wellington (more info on Viator and Klook).
The Adventures of Tintin Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Weta Studios, Miramar – Computer animation production.
12. 30 Days of Night (2007)
Based on a comic book mini-series, 30 Days of Night is set in an Alaskan town invaded by vampires as it enters into a 30-day Polar night. The vampire horror flick was partially filmed in New Zealand, despite being set in Alaska. There are filming locations in the Otago region, as well as Auckland.
30 Days of Night Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Otago, South Island – Alaskan outdoors
- Auckland, North Island – Extra shots and soundstage.
13. Whale Rider (2002)
As the book was set in Whangara in the Gisborne region, it’s only fitting that the 2002 adaptation, Whale Rider, was also filmed there. What’s more, the island that looks like a whale actually exists off the coast of the town if you want to check it out for yourself!
Whale Rider Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Whangara, Gisborne – Whangara
- Te Tai Rāwhiti (Gisborne, East Coast) and Auckland – Extra shots and soundstage.
14. Pete’s Dragon (2016)
The Disney flick, Pete’s Dragon, about an orphaned boy who befriends a dragon, was not only filmed in New Zealand but also used New Zealand film studios to produce the digital effects (guess which one!) The live-action movie had a few scenes filmed on the South Island with the dragon added in post-production – if that wasn’t obvious.
Pete’s Dragon Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua – Forest scenes
- Fiordland National Park, Southland – Most aerial shots
- Queenstown, Otago – Mountainous scene where the dragon appears and flies over Pete
- Weta Studios, Miramar – Digital effects.
15. Mulan (2020)
The live-action reboot of Mulan by Disney may have been set in China, but it was primarily filmed in New Zealand. The movie, like the popular animated film, is about the daughter of an honoured warrior who masquerades as a man in order to take her father’s place in the Imperial China army.
Mulan Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Tasman River Valley (with Aoraki Mt Cook), Canterbury – Mountain landscape scenes
- Ahuriri Valley, Otago – Large fortress
- Clay Cliffs, Omarama – Rugged sharp mountain range.
16. Evil Dead Rise (2023)
Among many slashers filmed in New Zealand, Evil Dead Rise and its predecessor Evil Dead (2013) were also filmed here and are perhaps the most famous. Many of the urban scenes were filmed in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.
Evil Dead Rise Filming Locations in New Zealand
- Auckland Central, North Island – Crumbling Art Deco structure and 14th-floor apartment
- Greater Auckland, North Island – The setting for the previous instalment Evil Dead (2013).
More Movies Made (and Therefore Filmed) in New Zealand
Finally, there are, of course, many movies homegrown in New Zealand. Although we don’t have the time to list them all, here are some of the most iconic New Zealand movies:
- Muru (2022) – Top New Zealand movie performers of the early 2020s showcase New Zealand’s social issues in a thought-provoking way.
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – One of the most famous New Zealand movies, this is a heartwarming and funny comedy that gets its message across effectively.
- Boy (2010) – The story of a Māori kid who is a huge fan of Michael Jackson is the award-winning film by Taika Waititi that put him on the map.
- Hinemoa (1914) – This movie is often claimed to be the first feature film produced in New Zealand. It was produced in 1914 on a £50 budget!
More About Movies Filmed in New Zealand
That’s it for our list of the most famous movies filmed in New Zealand. For more movie talk, take a look at our other movie-related guides:
- 10 Blockbuster Movies Made in Wellington
- 14 Inspiring Movies About Travel
- 10 Celebrities from New Zealand
Finally, if that wasn’t enough, inspire yourself with more New Zealand entertainment with What Music is from New Zealand?