Box art for Whale Rider

Whale Rider

  • Rated PG13

children & family, drama

A small Maori village faces a crisis when the heir to the leadership of the Ngati Konohi dies at birth and is survived only by his twin sister, Pai.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 11
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
0 out of 5

Excellent to watch and discuss as a family.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has some tense family confrontations. The death of a mother and baby in childbirth is very sad. A character is injured, but ultimately recovers. There is brief strong language. Characters drink and smoke and there is a brief drug reference. The movie presents a minority culture with great dignity and respect, and the theme of equality is exceptionally well handled.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about talk about the traditions of their own cultures.

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 19
    see all Whale Rider reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: A thoughtful, vivid spiritual coming-of-age story that transcends its particular cultural context.

- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, Friday, June 20, 2003

Fresh: A story that J.K. Rowling fans young and old will savor.

- Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Friday, June 27, 2003

Fresh: There is magic here, enough to make Whale Rider worthy of the audience-choice awards it has earned at film festivals worldwide.

- Connie Ogle, Miami Herald, Friday, June 27, 2003

Audience Reviews

5 stars

A really touching film, Keisha Castle-Hughes should have won the Oscar in what was one of the greatest performances ever! The speech scene is just awesome cinema!

- SirPant, Tuesday, September 22, 2009

4 stars

Koro: When she was born, that's when things went wrong for us. This is a great movie about tradition and acceptance. It is set in New Zealand, revolving around a Maori tribe. In particular the life of a young girl played by Keisha Castle-Hughes. She is the youngest daughter in a family where the young male child is always the next in line to be chief. Unfortunately, the male has died, leaving a tension between the grandfather and the young girl. The story is so absorbing, slipping in and out of coming of age comedy and drama. There are a number of memorable moments, especially towards the end. All of the actors do what is needed. The film is well made, for a limited budget. The tone and pacing is well balanced. This is a wonderful little movie. Koro: If you have the tooth of a whale, you must have the jaw of a whale to yield it.

- DrZeek, Tuesday, September 11, 2007

3 stars

A poetic look into a different culture that really isn't too different, simply remembering that it was at one time and wanting to hold that memory. A small coastal community of Maoris deal daily with being New Zealanders while not being entirely so, particularly hard for a young pubescent lass ostracized because of her sex, despite that she offers hope of continuing traditions. Good performances by all the leads though the story worries around a barn door being open long, long after the horse has already gone.

- ApeneckFletcher, Thursday, February 7, 2013