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
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
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

3 stars

Quite touching story, set in the ever-beautiful New Zealand, about a young girl and her determined quest to furfil a special destiny. Great acting by Keisha Castle-Hughes, whose performance here was surely worthy of the Oscar-nomination she later received. Overall, however, this wasn't really my cup of tea, as I was expecting something a bit more engaging and a little less draggy. It's not that it was bad in any way, it's just more of a movie made for the New Zealanders themselves, who may better relate to the Maori traditions upon which the story here is based.

- CloudStrife84, Monday, July 7, 2008

4 stars

It is not very often that I'm impressed with a child actor. I'm usually just greatful when they don't totally annoy me and/or cheapen the film. But every once and awhile, I am blown away (Victoire Thivisol - Ponette / Anna Paquin - The Piano / Christian Bale - Empire Of The Sun) and Keisha Castle-Hughes performance here, is one of those rare ocassions. This film is not overly complex, but it is deeply moving and beautifully shot and told. The cast in general is exceptional, but also worth noting is Vicky Haughton as "Nanny Flowers". I didn't expect to be as moved by this film as I was, but it really touched me and that has everything to do with the performance of Castle-Hughes. She is completely engaging and totally bealievable in her role. A true "natural".

- RCCLBC, Friday, January 7, 2011

4 stars

A great movie for the whole family. The girls will love it, not sure about the boy's. Its one of those real rainny day movies when there's no sugar in the house and the X-box is broke, once they sit down and start watching it they will be glued to the TV. Adults will enjoy it also.

- bbcfloridabound, Friday, March 28, 2008