4 Best Movies to Watch In Maori

Staff & contributors

Find the best Maori-language movies to watch. These movies in Maori are: highly-rated by critics, highly-rated by viewers, and handpicked by our staff.

The story that Whale Rider tells is a familiar one: that of a young girl challenging the expectations of a patriarchal community in order to claim her rightful place in a position of authority. But this isn't a superficial girl-power movie; writer/director Niki Caro maintains the utmost reverence for this Māori community, even if its customs might not appear fair to an outsider's point of view. It's a film full of realistically flawed people, whose struggles are all borne from a common love for their culture in their little corner of the world. What could have been generic and simplistic is made beautiful—especially thanks to a truly moving performance from Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at the time became the youngest nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Rawiri Paratene, Tahei Simpson, Tammy Davis, Taungaroa Emile, Vicky Haughton

Director: Niki Caro

, 2012

Boy is the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time, and a masterpiece of compassion and good humor. Set in New Zealand's rural East Coast in 1984, the film's protagonist, Boy, imagines a world outside, dreaming of meeting Michael Jackson and having adventures. These fantasies serve to distract him from the sad circumstances of his life, living with his grandmother while his father serves out a prison sentence. However, adventure comes to Boy suddenly when his ex-convict father returns to find a long hidden bag of money. Written, directed, and starring Taika Waitit and featuring the new comer James Rolleston as Boy, it's a hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Cherilee Martin, Chris Graham, Cohen Holloway, Craig Hall, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson, Haze Rewiti, Hoanihuhi Takotohiwi, James Rolleston, Jarod Rawiri, Maakariini Butler, Madeleine Sami, Manaia Callaghan, Mavis Paenga, Moerangi Tihore, Ngapaki Emery, Pana Hema-Taylor, Rachel House, Rajvinder Eria, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Stu Rutherford, Stuart Rutherford, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Tuhoro Ranihera Christie, Waimihi Hotere

Director: Taika Waititi, Topaz Adizes

Rating: Not Rated

This excellent new drama is about three indigenous Māori women and their upbringing in colonial New Zealand.

The story is split into two timelines: the present, where two of them are trying to protect their ancestral land from a government project, while the third, Makareta, is wandering aimlessly through a big city. And the past, the story of how they got separated and how Makareta got taken away by a residential-school-like orphanage.

It's a heartbreaking tale, one of how a people can be ravaged by colonialism and decades of discrimination. But being focused on the personal lives of the three women, it’s also heartwarming and deeply humane.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ana Scotney, Briar Grace Smith, Calvin Tuteao, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Cian Elyse White, Cohen Holloway, Erroll Anderson, Freya Milner, Gentiane Lupi, Jim Moriarty, Jonathon Hendry, Kirk Torrance, Miriama Smith, Rachel House, Richard Falkner, Sylvia Rands, Tanea Heke, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne

Director: Ainsley Gardiner, Briar Grace Smith

While best known for his American action thrillers in the early 2000s, writer-director Lee Tamahori returned to his roots in 2016 with the critically acclaimed Māori-centric 1950s historical drama Mahana. Tamahori continues to explore his people’s stories with The Convert. Set right before Britain colonized New Zealand, the film explores the dynamics between the white settlers and the differing Māori tribes, with much more accuracy and sympathy than older films towards the indigenous community, culture, and characters. It’s shot quite beautifully, with stunning landscapes and decent fight scenes, and the performances, especially that of Guy Pearce, make the film watchable. That being said, the film still mostly stems from the white Thomas Munro, whose perspective mostly comes about by passive observation rather than active participation in the story.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: Aidee Walker, Antonio Te Maioha, Dean O'Gorman, Duane Evans Jr., Guy Pearce, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jared Turner, Lawrence Makoare, Mark Mitchinson, Matthew Chamberlain, Stephen Lovatt, Tania Nolan, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Will Wallace

Director: Lee Tamahori