Whale Rider

User Score
6.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 186 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 54 out of 186

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User Reviews

  1. Nov 10, 2013
    7
    "Whale Rider" has an emotional and powerful story. The acting of young Keisha Castle-Hughes was great, in fact, the acting of the entire cast was fantastic. The only problem with this film is that, because the film doesn't give you much background of New Zealand cultures, and if you don't know much about it, you will be slightly puzzled in some places.
  2. Mar 2, 2013
    8
    Whale Rider is a film about a young girl named Paikea who struggles to be taken seriously by her grandfather. It is a highly emotional and gripping story which has you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. It is set in Whandara, New Zealand. It is based on the legend of Paikea and it shows us how the Maori tradition works and operates. The main character, Keisha Castle-Hughes,Whale Rider is a film about a young girl named Paikea who struggles to be taken seriously by her grandfather. It is a highly emotional and gripping story which has you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. It is set in Whandara, New Zealand. It is based on the legend of Paikea and it shows us how the Maori tradition works and operates. The main character, Keisha Castle-Hughes, stars as Paikea and wants to become the leader of the Maori tribe. She plays a very convincing role and looks like she badly wants to be the leader of the Maori tribe. Rawiri Paratene plays Paikea’s grandfather and is unsure if Paikea is really capable of being a leader, but is shown throughout the story that she is indeed worthy. The soundtrack used in the movie keeps us on the edge of our seat and the camera work really helps the viewer get an idea of the Maori culture and the way that the characters are feeling. This movie teaches us that anyone, regardless of their age or gender, can be a leader. The storyline can sometimes be quite challenging to follow for someone that does not know much about the Maori culture, but in conclusion, Whale Rider is a great movie for any age group. It has powerful morals, fantastic actors and a great storyline. Expand
  3. Anonymous
    Apr 26, 2009
    10
    I absolutely loved this movie, and thought it was a great drama. I cried my eyes out towards the end. So to you, "retroboy" who says this movie was "crap" and that those of us who enjoyed it need to get a life, I say that you need to use more punctuation and learn to spell, because it looks like a ten-year-old wrote your review.
  4. marieb
    Oct 3, 2008
    10
    This movie was outstanding , it was very inspriring and spiritual . I would watch it again . The movie was very moving and touched my heart as i cried my eyes out :) sry to hear that the others didnt like it . But thats there opinion .
  5. Michelle
    Sep 23, 2008
    9
    Whale Rider was a very meaningful film putting yourself in the mind of a determined young girl. Why do people rate zero? It's because they don't appreciate what they have and keeping themselves in their tiny shells. Never be a person like that.
  6. LauraR
    May 28, 2008
    10
    Moving. Spiritual. Stirring. Breathtaking. An utterly refreshing film for which there is no comparison.
  7. ChrisH.
    Sep 2, 2007
    8
    This movie gets top marks for purpose. If you know nothing of the legacy of colonialism upon indigenous cultures around the world then you would be smart to pick up a book or two and start reading. If you are not up for that then simply watch Whale Rider for its beautiful story of personal determination and community and love. The gorgeous cinematography will help you along.
  8. IsaacI.
    May 19, 2007
    10
    A very moving and spiritual film, I feel sorry for the people who gave it a 0 or a 2, they are probably used to the killing and shooting in movies and not entitled to understand a movie which deserves a standing ovation.
  9. Louise
    Jun 13, 2006
    10
    This movies is the best! I watched it in my english class and my whole class bawled their eyes out. Everyone with unkind comments - if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all.
  10. RitaP.
    Feb 4, 2006
    9
    An amazing film. If you have any doubts about watching this film given some of the dubious reviews given by users on this site, then just look at the comments of the users who gave it low scores. These people struggle to complete a coherent sentence, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they struggled to enjoy a truly beautiful film. Perhaps they should stick to big momma's An amazing film. If you have any doubts about watching this film given some of the dubious reviews given by users on this site, then just look at the comments of the users who gave it low scores. These people struggle to complete a coherent sentence, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they struggled to enjoy a truly beautiful film. Perhaps they should stick to big momma's house and big momma's house 2 and leave gems like whale rider for the rest of us. Expand
  11. JamesP.
    Jan 13, 2006
    10
    Some ofthe negative comments here beggar belief. I can only suggest that those who failed to appreciate this film stick to their normal diet of mind-sapping video game adaptations and worthless smut-fests. After all, we would not want them do damage their poor little brains by doing something as radical as thinking. As a New Zealander, can I please ask that they never be given a passport Some ofthe negative comments here beggar belief. I can only suggest that those who failed to appreciate this film stick to their normal diet of mind-sapping video game adaptations and worthless smut-fests. After all, we would not want them do damage their poor little brains by doing something as radical as thinking. As a New Zealander, can I please ask that they never be given a passport so that they can never come over here and weary us with their small-minded opinions. Everyone else welcome of course. Expand
  12. NorbertO.
    Sep 7, 2005
    10
    I have never seen one and the same movie more than twice in the theatre before. But Whale Rider changed my mind. It really is a magnificent masterpiece and sureley made for the whole family. I watched it 7 times in the cinema and i am into it still today. Niki Caro was so lucky to find and choose this natural Keisha Castle Hughes. Very, very impressive the whole story and the actors and I have never seen one and the same movie more than twice in the theatre before. But Whale Rider changed my mind. It really is a magnificent masterpiece and sureley made for the whole family. I watched it 7 times in the cinema and i am into it still today. Niki Caro was so lucky to find and choose this natural Keisha Castle Hughes. Very, very impressive the whole story and the actors and actresses. Everybody who really understand the plot of Whale Rider can't give less then 9 rating...! Expand
  13. luciR.
    Jun 14, 2005
    10
    Really really good.
  14. nathanh.
    Jun 4, 2005
    7
    It was alright, but just not good enough to say it was great.
  15. JoeA.
    May 28, 2005
    9
    Nice story & electric performances.
  16. MattF.
    Feb 5, 2005
    10
    This was a very beautiful and emotional film! Highly recommended!!
  17. IanM.
    Nov 5, 2004
    9
    I realy enjoyed this movie.
  18. LHoney
    Oct 29, 2004
    7
    I thought that the acting in this mvie was pretty awesome, esp. the little girl, Paikea. But the grandad's voice got on my nerves. I loved the music.
  19. KaivenS.
    Oct 24, 2004
    10
    It was a great movie because it showed love and compassion and love and compassin. Did i say love? Recoment to critics to watch this film.
  20. DannyB
    Oct 17, 2004
    9
    I LOVED IT IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
  21. LeaH.
    Jul 25, 2004
    10
    I found the movie awesome.
  22. AndyM.
    Jul 23, 2004
    10
    Deeply moving and emotional work that combines the subtleties of familiar and cultural conflict without overwhelming the audience. Keisha Castle-Hughes is mesmerizing as twelve-year-old Paikea Apirana who struggles to come to terms with her hertiage in the face of inevitable modernization. The fact that it wasn't a Hollywood film is one of its saving graces.
  23. LucF.
    Jun 10, 2004
    10
    Fantastic but the idea of a Whale Rider 2 is a no no.
  24. RoxanneS.
    Mar 31, 2004
    10
    It is a great film, and i want it to have a Whale Rider 2.
  25. MelanieR.
    Mar 10, 2004
    10
    This is a awesome movie and Im reallyn happy for Kiesha that she got the part and the fact that I was one of the gurls that went to the workshop and auditioned it ewas a great Oppurtunity. I hope Kiesha shows in many more movies she is a really good actor.
  26. FaithH.
    Feb 25, 2004
    10
    Great movie. Inspiring and insightful.
  27. D.C.
    Feb 6, 2004
    8
    This movie is as enjoyable as you'll let it be. The first half drags a little but the climax and wonderful performance of Castle-Hughes make sticking with it worthwhile. Rent this instead of Charlies Angels for your kids.
  28. WillO'G.
    Jan 28, 2004
    10
    This movie was inspirational in the same light as films such as Rudy and Remember the Titans. Sometimes we need to remember that it is those who do not seem to have a chance that do the greatest deeds.
  29. CharlesH.
    Jan 16, 2004
    10
    Warm and spirited.
  30. ChristophvomB.
    Jan 9, 2004
    10
    A beautiful peace of mind !
  31. JodieD.
    Jan 4, 2004
    10
    I love this movie so much because it means something and Keisha is so good! Everytime i watch the movie i cry and i can feel where im from when i watch the movie! I love it also because it was made where im from Whangara mai tawhiti and it was beautiful seeing our little hometown on the movie. Niki Caro is a great director and thanks so much for making the movie its the bomb!!!!
  32. LeeD.
    Dec 31, 2003
    9
    Very touching. Just a little slow, but Castle-Hughes is fantastic.
  33. PatC.
    Dec 29, 2003
    7
    Whales have only one facial expression, which is one more than most of the characters in this story. There's not really a free spirit in the lot. This movie isn't structured as plot in contemporary format. Rather, it presents a primitive people who take life extremely seriously until they are assured their culture will go on intact. Whereupon they burst into song. While it can Whales have only one facial expression, which is one more than most of the characters in this story. There's not really a free spirit in the lot. This movie isn't structured as plot in contemporary format. Rather, it presents a primitive people who take life extremely seriously until they are assured their culture will go on intact. Whereupon they burst into song. While it can be interpreted as a spiel of female prejudice and liberation, nobody, regardless of sex, was allowed to presume leadership without proving themselves, just as the first whale rider unexpectedly did long ago. Anyway, if you can stay awake through the first half, an interesting story begins to emerge. Oh, and Lisa Gerrard does the soundtrack but doesn't sing. Next Eric Clapton will do a soundtrack without playing guitar. What a disapointment for Gerrard afficionados. Expand
  34. AmandaP.
    Dec 26, 2003
    10
    A beautifully made movie. It can be brought into every culture. Best movie I've seen all year so far.
  35. TakaM.
    Dec 21, 2003
    9
    This movie was kind of slow paced, but the performance by Castle-Hughes won me over. Just looking at the cover, and the title, 'whale rider,' I though this would be another free willy, but I was way off. By the end of the film, I felt like I'd been at the beach for a couple of hours. go watch it.
  36. TakaM.
    Dec 21, 2003
    9
    This movie was kind of slow paced, but the performance by Castle-Hughes won me over. Just looking at the cover, and the title, 'whale rider,' I though this would be another free willy, but I was way off. By the end of the film, I felt like I'd been at the beach for a couple of hours. go watch it.
  37. JillA.
    Nov 10, 2003
    10
    Wonderful, wonderful movie, in the top five of my greatest movies of all time.
  38. MikeyM.
    Nov 7, 2003
    9
    I just saw this on DVD the other night. Amazing film with great performances. If you haven't seen it go rent it now!
  39. LisaA.
    Nov 6, 2003
    10
    Saw this movie 12 twelves and now a proud owner of 3 copies of the DVD. It was a simple, honest movie without the hoopla and fakeness of Hollywood. It was a movie from the heart - from those that produced to - to those that acted in it. Great lesson to be learned in watching it. One greatest being how tradition is important even in this day and age and should not be forgotten. I highly Saw this movie 12 twelves and now a proud owner of 3 copies of the DVD. It was a simple, honest movie without the hoopla and fakeness of Hollywood. It was a movie from the heart - from those that produced to - to those that acted in it. Great lesson to be learned in watching it. One greatest being how tradition is important even in this day and age and should not be forgotten. I highly recommend everyone to see it! Expand
  40. DavidG.
    Nov 6, 2003
    10
    A few words The best film of the year!
  41. KuniD.
    Sep 29, 2003
    10
    I give it 10 rating because there are far too many non-sense. non-educating, non-worthwhile, non-useful and non-tasteful movies being released. This one is a winner! It really makes you predict what is going to happen next but you won't be sure what to predict more or less. Great story, excellent acting, excellent direction, excellent background score and visually appealling. A must I give it 10 rating because there are far too many non-sense. non-educating, non-worthwhile, non-useful and non-tasteful movies being released. This one is a winner! It really makes you predict what is going to happen next but you won't be sure what to predict more or less. Great story, excellent acting, excellent direction, excellent background score and visually appealling. A must watch movie of this year. Must Watch. Again, a must watch movie of the year! Expand
  42. DivineH.
    Sep 18, 2003
    10
    My Family loved this movie..it was a special treat non that I ever since before. Wonderful performance, good story moral, great acting, emotionally ecstatic. I would recommend this movie for all families to watch together...
  43. SarahM.
    Sep 17, 2003
    9
    A must see for any New Zealander. It would pay to find out a bit about the Maori people before viewing the film.
  44. Dave
    Sep 15, 2003
    10
    "The genius of the movie is the way is sidesteps all of the obvious cliches of the underlying story and makes itself fresh, observant, tough and genuinely moving.". Dito.
  45. MichelleP.
    Sep 14, 2003
    8
    This is truly one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The flawless acting made all of the characters extremely believable, and the characters themselves were rich with development. I for one love these type of movies that teach you about what the different cultures around the world are like, and this movie was a beautiful portrayal of one of those cultures. While I may not want This is truly one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The flawless acting made all of the characters extremely believable, and the characters themselves were rich with development. I for one love these type of movies that teach you about what the different cultures around the world are like, and this movie was a beautiful portrayal of one of those cultures. While I may not want to see this movie over and over again, I do highly recommend it to many other people. As I said before, beautiful movie. Expand
  46. BertH.
    Sep 13, 2003
    10
    Great family film, didn't want to watch it initially but my wife talked me into it, glad I went. My kids loved it. We're Samoan Americans so the Maori whom are also Polynesians was a great treat for us. You never get to see Polynesians on American TV unless its The Rock wrestling or NFL defensive players getting interviewed. The Pai character was excellent, she's a star in Great family film, didn't want to watch it initially but my wife talked me into it, glad I went. My kids loved it. We're Samoan Americans so the Maori whom are also Polynesians was a great treat for us. You never get to see Polynesians on American TV unless its The Rock wrestling or NFL defensive players getting interviewed. The Pai character was excellent, she's a star in my estimation. Sure would like to see Hawaiian and Samoan Americans make movies like our Maori or Tahitian cousins.....Aloha! Expand
  47. AlexB.
    Sep 12, 2003
    10
    This was an excellent film. Much better than I thought it would be. Since I live in New Zealand I got to see this in January.
  48. MarcK.
    Aug 18, 2003
    7
    Perhaps the build-up was too great for me on this movie. I thought it was good, but certainly not great. Interesting spin on a predictable story, but quite slow at times.
  49. MovieFan
    Aug 17, 2003
    10
    A masterpiece. I've seen it three times. Keisha-Castle Hughes gives an Oscar worthy performance.
  50. S.Ffirst
    Aug 16, 2003
    10
    I only wish it were true.
  51. KenK.
    Aug 13, 2003
    10
    The similarity between the Maori present and the present of the Native American is uncanny. More than anything else the film is about the love one holds for one's family. And the scene where she rides the whale will thrill the most jaded viewer.
  52. SallyB.
    Aug 12, 2003
    10
    Took the kids! Loved it!
  53. RubensA.
    Aug 8, 2003
    10
    The best film of the year so far...
  54. [Anonymous]
    Aug 8, 2003
    9
    Whale rider was a great movie. It was even better then the book. But it deffinently applies more to a smaller audience.
  55. TonyL.
    Aug 6, 2003
    8
    This was a pretty good one. I saw the ending a mile away, but I thought the young actress in the lead role was charming.
  56. PhilF.
    Aug 3, 2003
    9
    This movie is very good. It is not like the typical trash that Hollywood continues to produce.
  57. Christopher
    Jul 31, 2003
    10
    I am very wary of reviews that use the word "masterpiece", but after seeing this film it's the word that fits. If you are at all tuned into the power of myth and are intrigued by communities faced with extinction, this is your movie. See it now.
  58. JONC.
    Jul 30, 2003
    10
    I took my 8-year-old niece to this movie and at the end she exclaimed: I can't wait to get this one on DVD! AHEM, this from a little girl who just last year was counting Scooby Doo as one of her favorite films. I could not agree more with her reaction. This is among a handful of the year's best so far.
  59. WilliamS.
    Jul 18, 2003
    10
    Sincerely imaginative and captivating.
  60. WAKOJAKO
    Jul 17, 2003
    9
    A slowly captivating film that builds to an unexpected crisis with a satisfying conclusion. Not mindblowingly good, but good in the best family film traditions that focus on a disadvantaged young hero or heroine that accomplishes something extraordinary in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. This film, like Holes, is raised a notch by the excellent scrip and performances from A slowly captivating film that builds to an unexpected crisis with a satisfying conclusion. Not mindblowingly good, but good in the best family film traditions that focus on a disadvantaged young hero or heroine that accomplishes something extraordinary in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity. This film, like Holes, is raised a notch by the excellent scrip and performances from the heroine and her grandparents, all played by unknown actors, who play their roles so well at times I had to remind myself they were only acting in a film. The director does a wonderful job of showing the plight of all three lead characters, allowing the viewer to embrace and understand them without judging them unfairly. Expand
  61. ChadS.
    Jul 12, 2003
    7
    Rawiri Paratene has the hardest job in the film. Male chauvinism and grandfatherly love is like water and oil. "Whale Rider" is meant to be a feel-good movie, so it's important we feel good about Koro. This uncomfortable duality falls apart late in the film when he blames Pai for a catastrophic event on the beach. It's unforgivable for an adult to guilt-trip a child so Rawiri Paratene has the hardest job in the film. Male chauvinism and grandfatherly love is like water and oil. "Whale Rider" is meant to be a feel-good movie, so it's important we feel good about Koro. This uncomfortable duality falls apart late in the film when he blames Pai for a catastrophic event on the beach. It's unforgivable for an adult to guilt-trip a child so mercilessly. It propels Pai to heroics that puts her life in danger. The film endorses Koro's beliefs that girls are to be devalued. Pai has to earn her equal standing with boys when it should already be a birthright. But "Whale Rider" is still a good movie. The camera loves its young star. She has some of the same qualities as Evan Rachel Wood. Expand
  62. SteveH.
    Jun 30, 2003
    10
    This movie is what real movies are all about! What a powerful and moving story. This is the best film of 2003 thus far!
  63. Maria-ElenaM.
    Jun 26, 2003
    9
    Powerful and Teaching. Keisha Castle-Hughes gives an amazing performance!
  64. CorinneM.
    Jun 24, 2003
    10
    A religious experience. And I never have religious experiences when I see films. The story seems to me a parable for the saving power of feminine energy in our entire sorry world.
  65. BarbaraP.
    Jun 22, 2003
    10
    This will be one of my all-time favorites. I only own 5 videos, but will purchase this asap. THANKS!
  66. NickS.
    Jun 10, 2003
    9
    One of the best movies of the year! Finally, a film that makes you laugh and cry and inspire you like you would never believe. It's such a simple and touching story but it's directed brilliantly by Niki Caro. And Keisha Castle-Hughes was unbelievable! She allowed everyone in the audience to identify with her and admire her struggle to be accepted by her grandfather. People in One of the best movies of the year! Finally, a film that makes you laugh and cry and inspire you like you would never believe. It's such a simple and touching story but it's directed brilliantly by Niki Caro. And Keisha Castle-Hughes was unbelievable! She allowed everyone in the audience to identify with her and admire her struggle to be accepted by her grandfather. People in Hollywood need to see this film, to take notice of what a story is all about. I've been telling everyone to go out and see this film and I know after you see it, you will be doing the same thing! Expand
  67. DirkG.
    Jun 5, 2003
    9
    There is little doubt about the overall direction of this film as soon as the conceit is revealed. But that isn't really the point. While it is mainly a powerful, yet restrained tale of female empowerment, the truly magnificent accomplishment of this film is how it is able to portray contemporary Maori poverty (of the spiritual and cultural as well as economic variety) without There is little doubt about the overall direction of this film as soon as the conceit is revealed. But that isn't really the point. While it is mainly a powerful, yet restrained tale of female empowerment, the truly magnificent accomplishment of this film is how it is able to portray contemporary Maori poverty (of the spiritual and cultural as well as economic variety) without becoming a racial-underclass-MESSAGE film. Far from flinging dramatic elements like a melancholic prizefighter, Whalerider delivers its themes with the velvet gloves of good humor, rich characters, and genuine affection. It portrays a community who may lack agency, but who have mainly given up hope and self-respect in the face of dwindling prospects. The resounding call for self-empowerment, hope, and optimism despite an abysmal colonial inheritence is Whalerider's most astonishing feat, which, while employing some tribal mysticism, doesn't portray sacred beliefs as exotically quaint, but familiarly desperate. Whalerider is not so much a tear-jerker as tear-coaxer--an excellently crafted film. Expand
  68. DeborahP.
    Jun 3, 2003
    10
    Absolutely wonderful movie! Highly recommended, especially for families.
  69. JamesC.
    Jun 2, 2003
    10
    Whale Rider is an excellent coming-of-age story brilliantly told through the excellent direction of Niki Caro. The Maori culture is expressed as a strong and vibrant culture with a proud heritage, while at the same time touching on the problems current facing Maoris as they attempt to adapt to the new world while intergrating it into the old. Keisha Castle-Hughes is fantastic in the lead Whale Rider is an excellent coming-of-age story brilliantly told through the excellent direction of Niki Caro. The Maori culture is expressed as a strong and vibrant culture with a proud heritage, while at the same time touching on the problems current facing Maoris as they attempt to adapt to the new world while intergrating it into the old. Keisha Castle-Hughes is fantastic in the lead role and we can expect to see her in bigger, but probably not better, things in the future. Simply 'Wow'. Expand
  70. ClaireM.
    Jun 2, 2003
    8
    Whale Rider is a really sincere and engaging coming-of-age/ underdog story. Though the storyline is generally familiar, the new elements of its Maori tribe setting and young heroine make it feel fresh and unique. It feels like the filmmakers really know the world they're portraying, and it's refreshing to be in a place and culture that is so far removed from our own, yet is Whale Rider is a really sincere and engaging coming-of-age/ underdog story. Though the storyline is generally familiar, the new elements of its Maori tribe setting and young heroine make it feel fresh and unique. It feels like the filmmakers really know the world they're portraying, and it's refreshing to be in a place and culture that is so far removed from our own, yet is still very much a part of our modern world. Lead actress Keisha Castle-Hughes is fantastically winsome; she manages to be tough and vulnerable and sweet within the space of a single look. This movie couldn't work or even exist without her performance, and it's worth checking out the movie on the strength of her performance alone. The film is beautifully directed by Niki Caro, as she manages convey a sense of Maori mysticism and magic, giving the movie a dreamy sense of enchantment. The script's sharp humor keeps the movie from veering off into sentimentality, and the supporting cast are uniformly excellent. Expand
Metascore
79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31
  1. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    88
    Caro gives the fablesque story -- based on a 1,000-year-old Maori legend -- both a contemporary and timeless quality, anchored by newcomer Castle-Hughes' powerful and haunting performance.
  2. 75
    There is magic here, enough to make Whale Rider worthy of the audience-choice awards it has earned at film festivals worldwide.
  3. The rhythms of Whale Rider are hypnotic as the ebb tide, haunting as the song of the humpback sea mammal, bracing as the ocean spray. It's a movie that rewards the patient viewer.