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Whale Rider (2002)

PG-13 | | Drama, Family | 29 August 2003 (USA)
2:24 | Trailer

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A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.



, (book)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 32 wins & 32 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vicky Haughton ...
Nanny Flowers
Uncle Rawiri
Mana Taumaunu ...
Taungaroa Emile ...
Tammy Davis ...
Mabel Wharekawa ...
Maka (as Mabel Wharekawa-Burt)
Rawinia Clarke ...
Tahei Simpson ...
Miss Parata
Roi Taimana ...
Hemi's Dad (as Roimata Taimana)
Elizabeth Skeen ...
Tyronne White ...
Jake (as Tyrone White)


On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny. Written by berkeley

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In the ways of the Ancients, she found a hope for the future See more »


Drama | Family

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for brief language and a momentary drug reference | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

29 August 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Domadora de Baleias  »

Box Office


NZD 6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$198,471 (Australia) (2 May 2003)


$20,772,796 (USA) (21 November 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The cat visible in several scenes instinctively walked into picture wherever the crew was filming. The crew named it Ringworm. See more »


The father and grandfather argue after the slide show, and the father goes to pull down the white sheet that was hung over some drapes to act as a screen. He pulls it down, along with the rod and orange drapes that the sheet was hanging from. Moments later, the drapes are back up in place and hanging perfectly straight, without enough time for him to re-hang the drapes. See more »


[first lines]
Paikea: In the old days, the land felt a great emptiness. It was waiting. Waiting to be filled up. Waiting for someone to love it. Waiting for a leader.
[child birth scene]
Paikea: And he came on the back of a whale. A man to lead a new people. Our ancestor, Paikea. But now we were waiting for the firstborn of the new generation, for the descendant of the whale rider. For the boy who would be chief.
Paikea: There was no gladness when I was born. My twin brother died, and took our mother with him.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Dedicated to those who have gone before See more »


Featured in Reel Injun (2009) See more »


Journey Away
Music Composed By, Arranged By Lisa Gerrard
Copyright owned by 4AD LTD Under License from South Pacific Pictures LTD.
© (P) 2003 4AD LTD
See more »

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User Reviews

Emotional Powerhouse!
30 June 2003 | by (Washington, DC) – See all my reviews

A present day New Zealand community of Maori tribe people is waiting for the sign of a new chief to be born and lead the village and it's community to greatness. Many have been born, but for the village elder all have been disappointments. The beginning of the movie starts out with the birth of 2 fraternal twins, with the grandfather patiently awaiting the birth of the son. Unfortunately the boy dies while the girl lives, and resentful is the elder who blames the girl for the sons death since he was the last recent hope for the village to gain a chief.

Then something happens as the film flashes forward 12 years. The girl "Pai" (pie), is discovering that her community needs her, and all the signs point that she must lead her people. There is only one problem. The chief must be a man.

It's at this point the film literally becomes a simple story, as a young girl goes about trying to convince her awful grandfather that she is to lead the village. Many obligatory scenes are set up, and we all see the pre-destination, but it is the transformation that the viewer witnesses that is so powerful, and a payoff that can only be described as awe-inspiring.

Incredibly touching, deeply moving, wonderfuly acted, and beautiful cinematography, it's not small surprise why this film is a winner. Pai is a complete scene stealer, and it's finally nice to see Cliff Curtis show off some true acting skills. For Cliff who has played everything from a tattoed Hispanic gang leader in Training Day, to a Arab villan in the Majestic, it's pleasing to see him in a character that mirror's his true national identity since he is actually a New Zealander and not a Hispanic or Arab person. He must be incredibly proud to be part of this special film. The actors who played the grand parents are exceptional particularly the stubborn grandfather who's demands Pai keep away from all male activities (The grandfather's insistence to teach a young group of boys in a special school how to be chiefs, and Pai's insistence to learn without her gradfather's knowledge provides most of the light humour in the film).

Amazing film easily one of the best of the year

Rating 9 out of 10.

47 of 59 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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