Find a list of famous movie locations which were filmed in areas of New Zealand, including popular movies like Lord of The Rings, new films & classics.

Famous Movie Locations in New Zealand

Date: 3 March 2021

New Zealand has stunning scenery and incredible vistas, no matter where you’re situated in the country and we’re not the only ones who have caught on- more box office movies are being filmed around New Zealand than ever before. With the latest Lord of The Rings series being filmed in the Queenstown region, we wanted to give you a local’s tour of movie locations in our backyard. We’ve created a list of movies and locations you can visit on your next journey.

1.   Lord of The Rings

Film Released: Three films released from 2001-2003

Areas Filmed: Over 150 locations between the North & South Islands. 

The director of the Lord of The Rings trilogy, Sir Peter Jackson is a Kiwi, which is why most of the beautiful filming locations shot are areas found around New Zealand. Known as Middleearth™ in the films, these filming locations are must-see areas of Aotearoa.

Best LOTR Filming Locations to visit:

  • Mount Sunday – Location of Edoras, the main city of Rohan people. Take an easy walk on the Mount Sunday Track for the full experience.
  • Glenorchy – The view of Mount Earnslaw from the village was one of the opening shots of the two towers.
  • Arrowtown - Gladden Fields scenes were filmed at the Ford of Bruinen, located along the Arrow River.
  • Waiau River (between Te Anau and Manapouri) – This filming location was the River Anduin where the Fellowship paddled south from Lothlórien.
  • Kawarau Gorge - the fellowship were greeted by two giant statues on either side of the river as they paddled down the River Anduin. Book a rafting trip with Go Orange to sail right past this location!
Rafting on the Kawarau River

Rafting the Kawarau Gorge

2.   The Hobbit

Film Released: 2012

Areas Filmed: North & South Island, NZ

This movie trilogy follows after the Lord of The Rings trilogy, as it is set with similar characters and some the same. Directed by Sir Peter Jackson, these films also incorporate stunning vistas found around Aotearoa.

Best Filing Locations of the Hobbit to visit:

  • Matamata – This is the set location of Hobbiton, which is the village used to film both Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit.
  • Twizel - The Battle of the Pelennor Fields

3.   The Chronicles of Narnia

Film Released: Three films from 2005-2008

Areas Filmed: North and South Island of New Zealand

The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy was filmed in multiple areas around New Zealand, including the Coromandel Peninsula, Canterbury, Glenorchy and Waitaki. Originally a series of books, this movie trilogy film scenes around New Zealand’s most scenic locations.

Best Filming Locations of The Chronicles of Narnia to Visit:

  • Flock Hill, Canterbury- The great battle scene was filmed in this location and it’s not hard to see why the director, Andrew Adamson chose this spot.
  • Elephant Rocks, Waitaki – This is where the set of Aslan’s Camp was filmed. The rocks are located on private land, but there is a car park where you can find access after a short stroll.
  • Purakanui Falls – This area is located in the Catlins, where computer-generated imagery created the castle of Cair Paravel on the cliff tops of this location. Check out the easy 20-minute walking track to access this iconic site.
  • Paradise- Yes, there’s a place called Paradise in Aotearoa and it’s not hard to see why it picked up this name. The specific filming location is on a privately-owned horse ranch in the area, but the area is still definitely worth seeing for yourself.

4.   King Kong

Film Released: 2005

Areas Filmed: Auckland & Wellington

King Kong was created by Kiwi, Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Digital which is based in Wellington. The film is set in 1933 and used locations found on the North Island of New Zealand.

Best Filming Locations of King Kong to Visit:

  • Lyall Bay, Wellington – Skull Island in the film was predominantly filmed on Lyall Bay, which is located on the south side of the Rongotai Isthmus in Wellington.
  • Shelly Bay, Wellington – Larger-scale versions of Skull Island were filmed on a nearby bay in Wellington.
  • Cook Strait/ Kapiti Island – Scenes which were filmed aboard the steamship were filmed between Picton and Wellington (Cook Straight) or Kapiti Island, which they discovered for filming purposes when their boat began taking on water during filming.
  • Seaview, Lower Hutt, Wellington – This location was used to film all 1930’s New York location scenes, completed with Times Square and Macy's department store for authenticity.

5.   Mission Impossible 6

Film Released: 2018

Areas Filmed: Central Otago

Mission Impossible 6, starring Tom Cruise was filmed around Milford Sound, Queenstown and Lake Wanaka. The film has epic action shots where actors jump from cliffs and helicopters, as well as featuring New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Best Filming Locations of Mission Impossible 6 to Visit:

  • Nevis Valley- Located in the Remarkables Conservation Area, this spot is where a prison-type structure had been built to replicate Iraq.
  • Rees Valley – Close to Paradise and Mount Earnslaw, this Valley is located in Mount Aspiring National Park, meaning there are plenty of walking tracks nearby the filming location. 

6.   X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Film Released: 2009

Areas Filmed: Otago & Milford Sound

Originally based on the fictional Marvel Comics, the X-Men trilogy films many scenes from the movie, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, around areas known for being beautifully rugged such as Otago and Fiordland. With a budget of $150 million, it’s not hard to see why they travelled to Aotearoa for world-class scenery shots.

Best Filming Locations of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to Visit:

  • Stirling Falls – This is one location that is famously known for its untouched and rugged beauty, it is a must-visit for your list!
  • Deer Park Heights- This is private land but can be visited by purchasing a ticket for your vehicle to enter.
Misty Milford Sound

Stirling Falls, Milford Sound

7.   The Last Samurai

Film Released: 2003

Areas Filmed: Taranaki

Taranaki is where the film “The Last Samurai” was filmed, using Mount Taranaki as a replacement for Mount Fujiyama. Hollywood movie stars like Tom Cruise and Billy Connolly who starred in this film loved enjoying activities like surfing and fishing in this beautiful place!

Best Filming Locations of The Last Samurai to Visit:

  • Uruti Valley – This valley is set in the 1860s as a Japanese village in the film.
  • Pukekura Park – This was the set for the Imperial Army Parade area and Palace.
  • Lake Mangamahoe – The horse and battle scenes were filmed in this spot.
  • Port Taranaki – A Japanese fishing village was built for the movie to then burn it down as part of the storyline, however, the area is still visible from the port where it once stood.


Where will you visit first? Make sure you add some of these activities to your holiday itinerary for a remarkable experience you’ll never forget, or check out our other blogs for more inspiration!

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