Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Celebrities from New Zealand

45 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©

© Gage Skidmore on Flickr
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Small Country: Big Stars! Here are the Most Famous New Zealanders

With only 5 million people in New Zealand, it is pretty hard to secure a place in celebrity magazines. And it’s not like the 30 million sheep are going to help! Nevertheless, we’ve still managed to spruce up a list of top celebrities from New Zealand. Did you know any of these stars were from New Zealand?

From singers to actors, New Zealand has its fair share of famous people you may want to familiarise yourself with. So, you know, to get a photo when you spot them in the New World supermarket… (That’s a joke, most of them now live abroad!)

Also quick note: We ranked this list is absolutely no particular order, our affinity for one show, movie or band did not affect rankings at all.

1. Lorde (Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor)

Kicking off our list of famous New Zealanders is Lorde. Born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, she is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter from New Zealand who gained international fame with her distinctive music style and deep, introspective lyrics said to reflect her upbringing in Auckland. Lorde hit the big time with her first single Royals which won three Grammy Awards, and since then has released numerous award-winning albums such as Pure Heroine, Melodrama and Solar Power. Although present on the international stage, you never know, you might catch her performing at New Zealand festivals.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Annette Geneva on Wikipedia

2. Russell Crowe

The world-famous Gladiator was born in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. However, he has lived most of his life in Australia yet he maintains a strong connection to his New Zealand heritage. Otherwise, what you need to know is that he’s a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award-winning actor starring in over 50 films.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Paul Cush on Wikipedia

3. Peter Jackson

When looking for famous people from New Zealand, Peter Jackson is always around the top of the list. His work on The Lord of the Rings shot him straight to stardom and by showcasing the breathtaking landscapes and talent of his home country to the world, branding New Zealand as “Middle-earth”. Learn more about his work at the Weta Workshop in Wellington.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Flickr

4. Taika Waititi

Fast becoming one of the biggest celebrities from New Zealand, filmmaker and director, Taika Waititi directed the likes of Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder, as well as hit New Zealand movies like Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He has received an Academy Award nomination for Two Cars, One Night and has played acting roles in Thor: Ragnarok, Boy, Green Lantern, Free Guy and more. Taika is known for infusing his Māori heritage and distinct comedic style into internationally acclaimed films, making significant contributions to both New Zealand and global cinema.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Wikipedia

5. RosƩ (Blackpink)

Roseanne Park, known professionally as RosĆ©, is a New Zealand-born South Korean singer and a prominent member of the globally acclaimed K-pop girl group Blackpink. Born in Auckland and raised in Melbourne, RosĆ©’s connection to New Zealand remains a significant part of her identity, bridging the cultural gap between her birthplace and her South Korean heritage. Her illustrious career is marked by numerous achievements, including chart-topping singles and albums with Blackpink, as well as a successful solo debut with her single On The Ground. In 2023, RosĆ© was recognised as the third most-followed Korean individual and the fourth most-followed K-pop idol on Instagram, a testament to her immense popularity and influence both within and beyond the music industry. Her unique vocal timbre and charismatic stage presence have earned her a dedicated global fanbase, making her one of the most prominent figures in K-pop today.

40 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©© Blackpink - Polydor Universal

6. Flight of the Conchords

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie formed New Zealand’s funniest band highlighting their Kiwi origins in their television series and live performances. They had a hit TV series also named Flight of the Conchords. For more Flight of the Conchords, check out our list of the best NZ ads from the TV show. The New Zealand actors also feature in The Lord of the Rings and Avatar sequels.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Kim Metso on Wikipedia

7. Cliff Curtis

Born in Rotorua, Cliff Curtis has featured in many TV series, perhaps most famously The Walking Dead. A versatile actor, he is known for his ability to portray a wide range of characters in international films, reflecting his Māori heritage and contributing to the global representation of New Zealand’s diverse culture. He also has a few movies under his belt, such as Live Free or Die Hard, Training Day, and NZ-made movie Boy.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Wikipedia

8. Temuera Morrison

Temuera Morrison, a distinguished actor from New Zealand, has achieved international fame through his versatile acting career, notably for his role as Jango Fett in the Star Wars franchise and as Aquaman’s father in the DC Extended Universe. Born in Rotorua, Morrison’s Maori heritage has been a pivotal aspect of his identity and career, often infusing his roles with depth and authenticity. He became a cultural icon not just for his acting but also for his off-screen persona, epitomised by the viral video meme “ah… the Polynesian spa,” where his laid-back and quintessentially Kiwi demeanor captured the hearts of fanss worldwide. This moment, showcasing his genuine connection to his roots and his charismatic nature, has endeared him further to fans and accentuated his status as a beloved figure in both New Zealand and international cinema.

40 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Karl Urban

RED, Star Trek, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Bourne Supremacy, The Lord of the Rings, Dredd, Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerKarl Urban is a busy actor with roles in one blockbuster after the other. But that’s not all; the restless actor is also the lead in the popular Amazon show The Boys where he fights evil superheroes. Karl Urban was born in New Zealand’s capital city: Wellington.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Wikipedia

10. Keith Urban

Another famous New Zealander who spends most of his time in Australia and the US is Nicole Kidman‘s hubby and country singer, Keith Urban. He won a Grammy and a Golden Globe for his soundtrack contribution to the movie Act of Valor.

Celebrities from New Zealand© J-smith.17 at English Wikipedia

11. Frankie Adams

Frankie Adams is a Samoan-New Zealand actress and amateur boxer, best known for her role as Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Draper in the science fiction television series The Expanse. Born in Samoa and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, Adams started her acting career on the popular New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street, where she played the role of Ula Levi. Her breakout role in The Expanse garnered international attention, where her portrayal of the fierce Martian marine has been praised for its depth and physicality, reflecting her dedication to character development and her athletic background. Beyond her acting career, she serves as an inspirational figure, representing the strength and talent of Pacific Islanders in the global entertainment industry.

40 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©© Amazon Studios

12. Antony Starr

The terrifying leader of the Seven in the Amazon series The Boys is a Kiwi too! In the show, he plays opposite Karl Urban, another New Zealand actor on this list. Starr is quoted to say: “We’ve got an American show with a Kiwi playing an all-American hero psychopath and another Kiwi playing an Englishman. It’s a pretty bizarre mix-up.” We agree!

13 Celebrities from New Zealand© Amazon Studios

13. Sonny Bill Williams

The “sexiest rugby player” is a true product of New Zealand. He is most famous for his career as an All Black, the New Zealand rugby union team. He also played rugby league and is a heavyweight boxer. Other famous rugby players include Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. Admittedly, Sonny Bill Williams may not be the most famous New Zealand celebrity around the globe, but he is a megastar here.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gerard Barrau on Wikipedia

14. Lucy Lawless

Here comes the most famous of all the New Zealand actresses. That’s right, Xena the Warrior Princess is from New Zealand! Lucy Lawless also acted in Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation and for a glorious three seconds in Spider-Man. Lucy perfectly mixes strength and empowerment while showcasing her Kiwi roots to a global audience.

Celebrities from New Zealand© Gage Skidmore on Flickr

15. Martin Henderson

Dr Nathan Riggs is a Kiwi too. Born in Auckland in 1974, Martin Henderson has starred in New Zealand TV shows such as Shortland Street, as well as US shows such as Grey’s Anatomy. On the big screen, Martin Henderson is famous for his roles in Little Fish, Smokin’ Aces and Everest, bringing a touch of his New Zealand heritage to global audiences.

10 Celebrities from New Zealand© ABC Network / Disney

16. Kimbra

Kiwi-born Kimbra Lee Johnson, more commonly known as Kimbra, is a singer-songwriter. Her debut album, Vows, reached the top five on the New Zealand and Australian charts and 14 on the Billboard 200 in the US. Most know Kimbra, however, for her feature on the multi-platinum single Somebody That I Used to Know with Gotye which earned her two Grammy Awards.

11 Celebrities from New Zealand© Fred von Lohmann on Flickr - Public Domain

17. Chelsea Winstanley

Chelsea Winstanley, a New Zealand film producer of Maori descent, has made significant contributions to the film industry, both locally and internationally. Renowned for her work on critically acclaimed films like What We Do in the Shadows, Winstanley has been a staunch advocate for Maori culture and representation in cinema. Her efforts culminated in getting major Disney movies, including Moana and Frozen, translated into te reo Maori, showcasing her commitment to promoting and preserving the Maori language and culture. Winstanley’s work extends beyond production; she is recognised for her activism in indigenous and women’s rights, making her a notable figure in both the New Zealand entertainment industry and global cultural advocacy.

40 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©© Youtube

18. Edmund Hillary

Did you know that the first man to climb Mt Everest, along with Tenzing Norgay, was from New Zealand? Edmund Hillary, or officially Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG ONZ KBE, became the first to reach the summit of Mt Everest with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on 29 May 1953. Hillary lived from 1919 to 2008. His achievements earned him a spot on New Zealand’s $5 banknote!

12 Celebrities from New Zealand© Public Domain

19. Sam Neill

The actor known for his roles in Jurassic Park, The Hunt for Red October, and Peaky Blinders is a prominent actor born in Northern Ireland but raised in New Zealand, which he considers his homeland. Sam Neill is renowned for his versatility in acting, with a career that spans several decades and includes iconic roles in international cinema. Neill’s connection to New Zealand is not only through his upbringing but also through his active involvement in the country’s film industry and his advocacy for New Zealand’s cultural and environmental causes.

14 Celebrities from New Zealand© Universal Pictures

20. Chris Rankin

Chris Rankin, born in Auckland, is an actor best known for his portrayal of Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter film series. His New Zealand origin brings a unique cultural background to his work, though he moved to the UK at a young age. Rankin’s role in the globally celebrated Harry Potter saga has endeared him to fans around the world, making him a notable figure in the franchise’s expansive cast. Beyond Harry Potter, Rankin has been involved in various aspects of the entertainment industry, including behind-the-scenes roles, demonstrating a versatile talent rooted in his early beginnings.

35 Celebrities from New Zealand© Warner Bros.

21. Melanie Jayne Lynskey

Melanie Jayne Lynskey, hailing from New Plymouth, is a celebrated actress renowned for her versatility and depth in acting. She first captivated audiences with her debut performance in Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed film Heavenly Creatures. In the international arena, she is perhaps best known for her role as Rose on the popular American sitcom Two and a Half Men, where her character’s quirky, yet endearing, qualities won over fans worldwide. Lynskey’s career spans a range of genres, from indie films to major Hollywood productions, showcasing her ability to imbue each role with authenticity and complexity.

35 Celebrities from New Zealand© CBS Television

22. Bruce Spence

Bruce Spence, a towering figure in the cinematic world, is originally from Auckland, although he is often associated with Australian cinema due to his extensive career in Australia. Notably, he appeared in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the Mouth of Sauron, a role that, although brief, left a lasting impression. Additionally, Spence played the role of Tion Medon in Star Wars: Episode III ā€“ Revenge of the Sith, further cementing his status in the realm of fantasy and science fiction.

Beyond these roles, Bruce Spence has been involved in a plethora of significant projects that showcase his versatility as an actor. He played a key role in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior as the Gyro Captain, a character that became one of the most iconic in the Mad Max franchise. His extensive career also includes roles in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and the science fiction film The Matrix Revolutions among others.

35 Celebrities from New Zealand© Lucas Films

23. Julian Dennison

Julian Dennison, hailing from Wellington, has rapidly emerged as a standout actor. He captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with his role as Ricky Baker in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a film that celebrated his Kiwi roots and showcased his exceptional talent. Dennison’s leap to international fame was further solidified with his portrayal of Russell Collins/Firefist in Deadpool 2, where his comedic prowess shone on the global stage.

35 Celebrities from New Zealand© Marvel Studios

24. Rose McIver

Rose McIver is a celebrated actress from New Zealand, best known for her starring role as Olivia “Liv” Moore in the critically acclaimed television series iZombie. Born in Auckland, McIver has been acting since her childhood, beginning her career in local film and television before making her mark internationally. Her diverse range of roles across various genres, including her performances in The Lovely Bones and the fantasy series Once Upon a Time, has showcased her versatility and talent. McIver’s ability to embody a wide array of characters has earned her acclaim and a dedicated following in the entertainment industry. Her contribution to the arts extends beyond her acting prowess; she serves as a cultural ambassador for New Zealand, bringing a slice of Kiwi talent to the global stage and cementing her status as one of the country’s most beloved and successful actresses.

40 Celebrities From New Zealand šŸ¤©© DreamWorks Studios

25. Anna Paquin

Anna Paquin, originally from Winnipeg, Canada, but raised in Wellington (so that counts!!!), has established herself as a versatile and acclaimed actress on both the international stage and in her adopted homeland. Paquin achieved early success, winning an Academy Award for her role in The Piano at the tender age of 11, showcasing her extraordinary talent from a young age. However, it is her portrayal of Rogue in the X-Men film series that has become one of her most iconic roles, bringing her to the forefront of the superhero genre. From 2008 to 2014, she also played the lead character of Sookie Stackhouse in HBO’s True Blood television series.

35 Celebrities from New Zealand© Twentieth Century Fox

Quick List: 15 More (Less Well-Known) Celebrities from New Zealand

Where is the line between “celebrity” and “famous person”? Well, there are, of course, more famous New Zealanders you might have heard of that didn’t quite make it to our list of celebrities from New Zealand. Because it would be a shame to forget anyone, here are a bunch of extra famous faces you may not know were from New Zealand:

  1. Kiri Te Kanawa – A world-renowned opera singer, known for her beautiful soprano voice.
  2. Steven Adams – A professional basketball player known for his time in the NBA, particularly with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
  3. Rhys Darby (pictured) – An actor and comedian known for his role in “Flight of the Conchords” and “Jumanji” films.
  4. Jonah Lomu – A former rugby player considered one of the sport’s greatest ever wings.
  5. Rose McIver – An actress known for her roles in “iZombie,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “The Lovely Bones.”
  6. KJ Apa – An actor known for his role as Archie Andrews in the TV series “Riverdale.”
  7. Rebecca Gibney – An actress known for her work in Australian and New Zealand television, including “Packed to the Rafters.”
  8. Zane Lowe – A radio DJ, live DJ, record producer and television presenter known for his work with Apple Music’s Beats 1.
  9. Neil Finn – The lead singer and songwriter for Crowded House, known for hits like “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
  10. Daniel Gillies – An actor known for his roles in “The Vampire Diaries” and its spin-off “The Originals.”
  11. Bic Runga – A pop singer-songwriter known for hits like “Sway” and “Drive.”
  12. Eleanor Catton – An author known for her novel “The Luminaries,” which won the Man Booker Prize.
  13. Brooke Fraser – A pop and folk singer-songwriter known for her hit songs like “Something in the Water.”
  14. Ernest Rutherford ā€“ Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner (find out more in Who are the People on the New Zealand Banknotes?)
  15. Keith Park ā€“ The WW1 military commander was given command of No. 11 Group in the Battle of Britain, 1940.
14 Celebrities from New Zealand© Columbia Pictures

From the News: 5 Famous New Zealand Politicians

New Zealand is home to several politicians who have made significant impacts both domestically and on the international stage, gaining recognition for their leadership, innovative policies and contributions to global discussions on issues like environmental sustainability, peace and social welfare. Travellers will find a rich political landscape, with figures such as Jacinda Ardern and Helen Clark symbolising the country’s progressive values and its commitment to equality and community well-being on a global platform.

  1. Jacinda Ardern – Served as the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2017 to 2022, known globally for her leadership and empathetic approach to governance, particularly in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Helen Clark – Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, later served as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), making significant contributions to global development and gender equality.
  3. David Lange – Prime Minister from 1984 to 1989, best known internationally for his government’s anti-nuclear stance, which led to a disagreement with the United States over ship visits and highlighted New Zealand’s commitment to nuclear-free policies.
  4. John Key – Served as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2016, known for his pragmatic leadership style and for steering New Zealand through the financial crises of the late 2000s, as well as for significant contributions to the deepening of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
  5. Bill English – Served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2016 to 2017, following a long political career including roles as Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister; known for his focus on economic issues and for implementing policies aimed at fiscal stability and social investment.

More From New Zealand

That’s it for our list of celebrities from New Zealand. Interested in more things from New Zealand? How about these insightful lists:

Finally, if you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, be sure to bookmark The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand or the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand for even more interesting tips!

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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