Whale Rider (2002)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Family  |  29 August 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 33,298 users   Metascore: 79/100
Reviews: 346 user | 148 critic | 31 from Metacritic.com

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



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 31 wins & 31 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Vicky Haughton ...
Nanny Flowers
Uncle Rawiri
Mana Taumaunu ...
Rachel House ...
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?


Niki Caro said during the director's commentary that Pai's crying speech scene was done in one take, but using two cameras. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties there was a short break however, in which time Keisha Castle-Hughes's tutor and chaperon helped her to stay in character in with the same emotions. See more »


When the grandfather is attempting to fix the small outboard motor, the rope he is using snaps leaving portions of the rope still attached to the motor. A moment later, the rope fragments are completely gone. 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

Made by New Zealand See more »


Referenced in Death Valley: Assault on Precinct UTF (2011) See more »


Kaikoura Dub
(Michael Hodgson (as M. Hodgson) / Paddy Free (as P. Free))
Performed by Pitch Black
Courtesy of Pitch Black
See more »

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User Reviews

What a Find!
30 January 2003 | by (Park City) – See all my reviews

Whale Rider is a story of the quest for the new leader of an indigenous Maori tribe living on an island off the coast of New Zealand. Often this type of film ends up making a caricature of the people, accentuating their quaint customs and idiosyncratic behaviors and causing us to smile condescendingly at their ignorance and stunted development. Whale Rider does nothing of the kind. Director Niki Caro treats her subject matter with profound respect, genuine curiosity and effortless grace, while refusing to ignore the signs of cultural disintegration. It is as if we are invited into the Whangara community, and are free to observe comfortably, without fear or embellishment. The 11-year-old first-time actor Keisha Castle-Hughes gives the most astonishing performance by a child that I have ever witnessed, and lifts the movie from being just plain good to a profoundly moving experience. Whale Rider is a tale of the evolution of a culture, wrapped in humor and hope. It is a story of an indomitable spirit. It is a movie about love and change, about the grim realities of life and the marvelous miracles of faith. If you have a chance to see this film, do not miss it!

32 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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