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 that you may want to familiarise yourself with. So, you know, to get a photo when you spot them in the New World supermarket…
For more things about New Zealand, check out the 10 Things You Did Not Know About New Zealand. Plus, if you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, be sure to bookmark The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand for even more interesting tips. But for now, let’s go over our list of celebrities from New Zealand.
Kicking off our list of famous New Zealanders is Lorde. 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. She can still be seen playing New Zealand festivals.
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. He’s a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award-winning actor starring in over 50 films. No doubt that he is the most famous of all the New Zealand actors.
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 branded New Zealand as “Middle-earth”. Learn more about his work at the Weta Workshop in Wellington.
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.
5. Flight of the Conchords
Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie formed New Zealand’s funniest band. They also had a hit TV series also named Flight of the Conchords. For more Flight of the Conchords, check out our list of the 10 best NZ ads from the TV show. The duo of New Zealand actors also features in the Avatar sequels.
6. Cliff Curtis
Born in Rotorua, Cliff Curtis has featured in many TV series like The Walking Dead. He also has a few movies under his belt, such as Live Free or Die Hard, Training Day, and NZ-made movie Boy.
7. Karl Urban
RED, Star Trek, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Bourne Supremacy, The Lord of the Rings, Dredd, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker… Karl 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.
8. Keith Urban
Another famous New Zealander who spends most of his time in 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.
9. Anthony 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 (see above), 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!
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
Kiwi-born Kimbra Lee Johnson, more commonly known as Kimbra, is a singer-songwriter. Her debut album, Vows, reached the top five in 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.
14. 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. Learn more about the famous New Zealander in our guide to Who are the People on the New Zealand Banknotes?
Celebrities from New Zealand: Honourable Mentions
Where is the line between “celebrity” and “famous person”? Well, here are some more of the famous New Zealanders you might have heard of that didn’t quite make it to our list of celebrities from New Zealand.
- Jacinda Ardern – New Zealand prime minister
- Keith Park – The WW1 military commander was given command of No. 11 Group in the Battle of Britain, 1940
- Kiri Te Kanawa – Opera singer
- Ernest Rutherford – Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner (find out more in Who are the People on the New Zealand Banknotes?)
- Steven Adams – NBA star for Oklahoma City Thunder.
That’s it for our list of celebrities from New Zealand. Interested in more things from New Zealand? How about these 16 Products of New Zealand or 10 Businesses that are Putting New Zealand on the Map?