Aside from the very obvious fact that The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies are filmed in New Zealand, here are the other movies that mesmerized viewers with the stunning landscapes but I bet they probably didn’t know they’re looking at New Zealand (as was I, in some movies).
We’ve been there twice ourselves, once in Auckland and Hobbiton; and once in Queenstown and Milford Sound. Although we planned to go there a few more times and probably migrate there, Covid-19 has temporarily suspended that plan.
We got married in Queenstown and we have a helpful article here that shows the process for non-NZ residents and citizens planning to get married in the country in this link.
So let’s start with a couple of Tom Cruise movies – you’re probably thinking, “what??? which two?”
First on the list is the 2003 Japanese period film that co-starred, and I would say, the actor who outshone Tom Cruise in this film, Ken Watanabe. The Last Samurai was shot in New Zealand, particularly in the Taranaki region, because Mt. Taranaki (Egmont) resembled Mt. Fuji. They still filmed in Japan (you’ll see familiar palaces and temples in the movie), too.
Below are our photos of Mt. Fuji in summer of 2016 from the 5th Station, and then The Last Samurai’s set.
The more recent Tom Cruise movie is the Mission Impossible: Fallout where they shot the helicopter scene in the triangle of Queenstown, Milford Sound and Lake Wanaka. The cast and crew checked in at St. Moritz right in the heart of Queenstown, about 6 mins from where we stayed (Oaks Hotel).
Below are our photos of Milford Sound and other scenes in the Fiordland National Park and Queenstown center.
These locations were supposed to be Kashmir, but the mountains were actually The Remarkables in Queenstown. It’s just a bit sad that twice, New Zealand, a beautiful country with landscapes you only see in travel photos, were actually used as stand-ins to Japan and Kashmir.
Vertical Limit starring Chris O’donell, this movie was shown in 2000, at a time when traveling the world wasn’t as affordable and trendy as it was until before Covid-19.
Although we haven’t been to Christchurch, it was one of the two places in New Zealand we were choosing to get married. The Christchurch mass shooting incident has veered us away from the city, and we chose Queenstown altogether, without regrets. Hope next time we go, we could actually visit Christchurch.
Another stand-in for K2 (the second-highest peak in the world next to Mt. Everest), Mt. Cook, the highest peak of New Zealand in the Southern Alps was the choice for filming the movie.
Fact: K2 is also known as Savage Mountain because it’s the deadliest mountain to climb in the world. Although Vertical Limit is fiction, it may be loosely based on the 1996 tragedy that befell 8 climbers in their attempt to scale Mt. Everest when a storm ravaged the mountain without warning.
Without A Paddle is available on Netflix and was released in 2004. It’s supposed to be about a small town of Oregon, a river and a mountain, plus 3 buddies looking for a treasure. It’s not as scenic as the the Mission Impossible movie I mentioned, but this showcases the capital of New Zealand (Wellington), and the Waikato and Hutt rivers. It also showed Hunua Falls, which is less than an hour drive from Auckland. The movie is the lightest on this list; and less editing for sure on VFX.
A Wrinkle In Time is a star-studded magical movie shot in the South Island of New Zealand, showcasing yet again its equally stunning landscapes. Oprah (the Queen, no less) and other actors and crew were in the country. Reese Witherspoon posted a photo of her and fellow actor Mindy Kaling with Lake Hawea in the background.
X-Men Origin Movie: Wolverine in 2009 was also partly shot in New Zealand. The Motorcycle vs Helicopter chase as well as the cabin of the couple where he stayed at, were both in Paradise and Glenorchy; the Alkali Facility was shot in Milford Sound. Here’s a still of the first scene mentioned above, and photos of Glenorchy from our friend.
The film responsible for making me ugly-cry one weekend – Falling Inn Love. It’s not a heavy drama movie, it’s a rom-com shot mostly in New Zealand. When we watched this straight out of Netflix, we thought it’d be nice to reminisce. But instead, I felt melancholic about how Covid-19 has impacted our lives in general. I thank God everyday that we’re healthy, but the pandemic has closed out borders to places we want to go, or settled down into.
It was shot in Thames, near Coromandel and you’d appreciate the beauty here because it’s shot without VFX.
And of course, the most popular trilogies – Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia.
We went to Hobbiton specifically for Mary’s birthday in 2018. We were supposed to stay in North Island longer but we had a delayed flight from Melbourne, so we had to say goodbye to Rotorua.
But we had 2 magical, wet hours in Hobbiton (the sun shone just as we ended at The Shire). You can revisit how our experience went in this link. The Hobbit trilogy was filmed ENTIRELY in New Zealand, with studios in Wellington and the 1,250 acre sheep farm in MataMata now known as the Hobbiton Movie Set. They are accepting different kinds of tours before Covid-19 happened (and from what I gathered as of May 26th 2020, domestic travel in NZ is now allowed, so tours are welcome!)
Other Hobbiton film locations were Lake Pukaki (Laketown), Lake Pelorus, and again Milford Sound and Waitomo, as seen below.
Lord Of The Rings trilogy is probably one of the best movie/tv adaptations of books. And JRR Tolkien’s genius came to life in New Zealand.
The official website that lists all LOTR filming locations in New Zealand listed Kawarau River, Gibbston near Queenstown, as the site of the Gate of Argonath (Pillars of Kings). This is one of the rivers that Lake Wakatipu actually drains to. If you’ve researched or done bungy jumping in Queenstown, it was probably in the Kawarau Bridge, known as the world’s first commercial bungy jumping site.
Mount Doom in Mordor is Mount Ngauruhoe on the North Island of New Zealand. Mount Olympus, which is primarily a ski resort, is also one of the locations for South of Rivendell.
William Patino, a full-time landscape photographer captured the lake as perfectly as one could imagine.
Other LOTR locations are found here.
It is notable to mention that not only the LOTR and Hobbit trilogies came to life by Weta Workshop in Wellington, but it is also responsible for movies such as: Alita, MIB International, Alien, Warcraft, Adventures of TinTin and Planet of the Apes. It is also reported that the Avatar sequels will be crafted by Weta. There is also a Weta Cave in Wellington that tourists can visit with their popular creations.
If you search the hashtag #wetacave on Instagram, you would see these top posts:
Last but not the least, The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy also features some of the best places in New Zealand.
Some of the locations they used were in the North Island, some are even within Auckland itself.
While you’re in Auckland, it’s not so bad to also check out the marina, which is also a dock for boats going to different destinations, such as vineyards.
If your wanderlust is still not triggered by the list we have above, check out the rest of the Honorable Mention films shot in New Zealand:
Pete’s Dragon was filmed in Rotorua and many other places.
King Kong (2005) used Auckland in place of New York’s Broadway Street.
The Fastest Indian – this film was shown on our bus tour from Milford Sound back to Queenstown. It’s a real-life story shot in New Zealand starring Anthony Hopkins.
The Piano – Anna Paquin’s breakaway movie, was also partly shot in New Zealand.