The best New Zealand movies ever made

Stories of murder, domestic violence, revenge and kidnapping have been named the best New Zealand movies ever made.

Online film industry showcase, NZ On Screen, has compiled a list of what it considers the 10 best New Zealand films of all time.

The 10 films, made between 1981 and 2010, range from the grim, but powerful Once Were Warriors to Christchurch murder tale Heavenly Creatures. Even the two comedies on the list, Boy and Goodbye Pork Pie, have dark undertones of alienation, poverty and abuse.

NZ On Screen content director Irene Gardiner said the 10 films "are all quite dark".

"I fear that this top 10 would tell people that we are dark. Hopefully, it would also tell people that we are good at making films on not very enormous budgets.

"Even Goodbye Pork Pie, which we think of as the most famous New Zealand comedy, has an underlying sadness.

"Is it something about the moody landscape? Is it just chance? When you look at our top 10 you can see the man alone and the dark themes."

How would someone from outside New Zealand view the country if they watched the 10 films?

"You would get a sense that we have some beautiful landscapes, but you would think we are a bit broody."

The top ten comes as Fairfax launches a poll of filmmakers, critics and the public to find the best New Zealand films ever made. You can vote in the poll here.

Fairfax Media national entertainment editor James Croot said he was surprised the top 10 didn't include films such as Came a Hot Friday, The Scarecrow and Illustrious Energy.

"It seems we have two styles - the darkly comedic or the just plain dark," he said.

"The top 10 reflects that perhaps the halcyon days of native New Zealand cinema are gone and that, aside from quirky films in the past decade, we still champion that cinema of unease from the 1980s and 1990s."

Films that just missed out on being included in the top 10 were given "honourable mentions". Those films are Don't Let it Get You, Death Warmed Up, Footrot Flats, The World's Fastest Indian, Came a Hot Friday, Rain, The Quiet Earth, Sleeping Dogs, Ngati, and Illustrious Energy.

Gardiner said those films were "all great in their own way, but perhaps without quite the wider appeal of those we have included."

That none of the Lord of the Rings films were included in the top 10 could be controversial, Gardiner said.
Peter Jackson is represented by his breakthrough film Heavenly Creatures.

"I think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy as New Zealand films. They were made here. Peter Jackson is a New Zealander and they are made by many New Zealanders. We claim them.

"That wasn't the reason we didn't put them in the top 10. Heavenly Creatures just seems to fit beautifully. Jackson was coming through from his early splatter films, but hadn't gone on to the blockbusters. It is such a beautiful film." 
Gardiner said she "felt bad" no films in the top 10 were made before Goodbye Pork Pie in 1981.

"It is not that things before that were bad. There is a thing in New Zealand that the 1980s is really when we hit our stride. There were tax breaks and incentives and a lot of of great film-makers coming through like Geoff Murphy and Roger Donaldson."

The top 10 was compiled by considering box office, reviews, awards and the opinion of NZ On Screen staff.
"It wasn't massively scientific. There was a huge amount of argument and debate."

NZ On Screen's top 10.

Goodbye Pork Pie

Smash Palace



The Piano

Heavenly Creatures

Once Were Warriors

Whale Rider

In My Father's Den


Don't agree with the top 10? Have your say in Fairfax's poll to find the best Kiwi films of all time.
Visit to vote.

Fairfax Media