Movie Locations in New Zealand
New Zealand has been a popular destination for making films since the 1970s. Using New Zealand as a location for filming has spiked in popularity in the last fifteen or so years.
Best of all, it’s easy to visit many of these spectacular movie locations in New Zealand – to begin your journey through cinematic history, start by looking at what car rental New Zealand has to offer, pick your vehicle and get ready to roll.
The Last Samurai
Watching Tom Cruise’s the Last Samurai; it would be difficult to tell that the filming took place in New Zealand and not in Japan.
This movie was released in 2003 and centres around the traumatised American Captain Nathan Algren who, in 1876, agrees to train conscripts for the new Japanese Meiji government. Algren is captured in battle and begins to embrace the culture of the Samurai he was initially hired to destroy.
During the filming, Mount Taranaki made a nice stand-in for Mount Fiji in Japan. According to Maori legend, the mount once lived with other volcanoes on North Island, but fell in love with a hill called Pihanga.
The hill was the wife of another volcano, Tongariro and, after a fiery battle, Taranaki was exiled from the central region. His tears were responsible for creating the Whenganui River as he fled to his current location.
This is also a great place to learn and interact with native Maori tribes. There are eight tribes that still live in the region, and many experiences combine adventure with traditional Maori practises, such as going for a waka ride and following it up with a quad bike ride through native bush.
The Chronicles of Narnia
While much of the adaptation of this famous and beloved book, the first in a series, was filmed on a stage, several locations around New Zealand were used for outdoor scenes.
The movie tells the story of two children who are magically transported into the fantasy land of Aotearoa and become embroiled in a battle between the brave lion Aslan and the frosty White Witch.
Locations such as Woodhill Forest, which was used for the White Witch’s camp, were used in the movie. Other locations include:
- Flock Hill - Just 90 minutes from Christchurch, this area was used for the Great Battle
- Purakaunui Bay - South of Dunedin, the castle of Cair Paravel was superimposed on the cliff tops of this beautiful coast.
- Elephant Rocks - This ancient outcropping of rocks became Aslan’s Camp in 2004. The town of Oamaru nearby makes a great base for exploring the area.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Perhaps the most well-known movie filmed in the area is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The tales of the hobbit and the Fellowship of the Ring against the vile forces of Sauron and the machinations of the One Ring are well-known to movie and fantasy buffs everywhere.
There were many locations used to film the movie. Some highlights include:
- Matamata, Waikato - Used as the hobbit village, Hobbiton, you can still peek into the hobbit holes that remain.
- Kawaru River - This was the location of the iconic Pillars of the Kings on the Anduin River, though the pillars were computer generated.
- Kepler Mire - Remember the creepy swamp with the floating dead? That was in fact the Kepler Mire wetlands of Te Anau.
- Southern Alps - The treacherous Misty Mountains of Middle Earth the Fellowship tried to pass through in the Fellowship of the Rings were actually the Southern Alps.
- The Shotover River at Skippers Canyon - This is where the elf Arwen defeated the ringwraiths.
- Tongariro National Park - You might know this World Heritage site better as Mordor. Fortunately, one can simply walk into Tongariro.
- Mount Ngauruhoe - This active volcano is gorgeous. It was also the body double for Mount Doom.
With so many great films having made such extensive use of New Zealand’s beautiful natural resources, movie fans will love being able to visit the shooting locations of their favourite flicks. Such a visit is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime.