New Zealand is literally the most beautiful place on earth, and our “clean, green” image is one of the few reasons (cc: tax incentives) why international film projects love to film here. With international travel out of the question, many of us are setting our horizons closer to home and putting on our road trip thinking hats.
Why not see with your own eyeballs the reason why these Hollywood big wigs love to film in our little slice of heaven? Here is a list of great (or potentially not-so-great) films you might not have realised were filmed in god’s zone. You’ll notice we didn’t include Lord of The Rings in this list, because we respect that you whilst you've been in isolation for the past seven weeks, you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two decades.
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
We’ve all been to Cathedral Cove, and even if you haven’t, everyone has talked about it so much it almost feels like you’ve been there yourself. So when Cathedral Cove gets a standout scene in the second Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe film, watching Prince Caspian on screen is similar to the feeling you get when New Zealand gets a verbal mention on a movie, leaving you more patriotic than at an All Blacks game. For those of you who haven’t seen it IRL, it’s the perfect road trip length from Auckland to the Coromandel, coming in at just under two and a half hours—depending on how much of a nana driver you are.
One of the greatest films to come out of New Zealand—perhaps of all time, The Piano is set near the beginning of the colonial era and is a colonisation story which we are actually interested in seeing—albeit for its thrilling storylines and forbidden romantic ventures. Another venture you might be interested in is to explore the jaw-dropping Karekare beach where this film is largely set. You’ll find this windswept beach in between the Waitakere Ranges and the West Coast where fans have flocked to honour the place partly responsible for Anna Paquin’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It also makes for some great wedding photography.
The Last Samurai
There are many things we think of when we plan our tour of Japan. Whether it’s the hustle and bustle of Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing or the bowing deer of Nara (I mean, there is so much more to dream about but we only have so many words), it’s crazy to think that if we squint hard enough, we can make our Nippon dreams come true right here in our backyard. Imagine if you could walk the same path as Tom Cruise? And by that, we don’t mean going in the direction of the scientology building in Grafton, rather making the trek to the awe-inspiring Mount Taranaki where much of The Last Samurai was filmed. Chosen for its resemblance to Japan’s Mount Fuji, it’s located on the west coast of the north island. Feel free to take in its beauty or take to the slopes of its eastern Manganui ski field.
This is a story stranger than fiction, but a simple Google search will give you all the facts you need to know. Based on a true story about the murder of Honora Parker, the majority of these places where Heavenly Creatures takes place are also where the events unfolded. Starring Kate Winslet (!!!) and Melanie Lynskey (who you’ll likely recognise her as the hopelessly in love/cray cray girl next door of Two And A Half Men), two gals form an inseparable bond which ultimately ends in murder. For fans wanting to recreate some historical accuracy and indulge some of their more morbid fantasies, you need to look no further than Victoria Park in Christchurch. Located in the Port Hills above Christchurch, the park boasts panoramic views of the city, the Canterbury Plains, Pegasus Bay and the Southern Alps. But if you can get past the events which unfolded, we hear it’s a great mountain-biking spot.
One of Peter Jacksons earlier works, The Frighteners recruits Michael J. Fox as a medium who can talk to the dead. Using his gift as a less-than-honourable way to con the living, life is good until a murderous ghost sets his sights on the living. Ten guesses as to who is the only one who can save the day? The idea came out of the writing phase for Heavenly Creatures, and husband and wife duo Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh got a Hollywood Studio to make the trek to Wellington, doing a wonderful job of making New Zealand look like mid-western America. Whilst shooting was mainly done in miscellaneous places in Wellington, for those wanting to hunt out some of the spots where the magic happened, you’ll find a bit of solace in Lyttleton near lil' old Christchurch. In one scene, Michael J. Fox can be seen in front of the Lyttleton Post Office, which can be found on London Street.
Mission Impossible Fallout
This is the last time we are going to mention Tom Cruise in this article, we promise. What’s more interesting than the fact that one of his front teeth are aligned perfectly with the middle of his face, is the natural beauty the film crew took advantage of in the sixth Mission Impossible film. Bringing back Cruise for some more stunning landscapes, you’ll recognise where the film uses the South Island to stand in for the Middle East. Henry Cavill also stars and named Queenstown as one of the most favourite places he’s ever filmed in. Located in Nevis Valley, it rubs shoulders with the Remarkables, which is named for a very obvious reason.
A Wrinkle In Time
Not only did we get Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon in our country at the same time, but the one and only Oprah made the trip for Disney’s book adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. This film is out of this world, and follows a girl who is trying to unlock the truth about her father. With a portion of the film made in Wanaka, filmmakers were looking for a part of the world that could reflect the majestic qualities of the movie. If you’ve ever been to Wanaka, you’ll likely agree they hit the nail on the head with this one.
It's level two! Unsure of what mischief you can get away with? Check out everything you can and can’t do in New Zealand at alert level 2.
Image credit: Mike Swigunski