Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople
New Zealand theatrical release poster
Directed byTaika Waititi
Screenplay byTaika Waititi
Based onWild Pork and Watercress
by Barry Crump
Produced by
CinematographyLachlan Milne
Edited by
Music by
  • Lukasz Buda
  • Samuel Scott
  • Conrad Wedde
Distributed byMadman Films and Piki Films
Release dates
  • 22 January 2016 (2016-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 31 March 2016 (2016-03-31) (New Zealand)
Running time
101 minutes[2]
CountryNew Zealand
BudgetUS$2.5 million[3]
Box officeUS$23.2 million[1]

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a 2016 New Zealand adventure comedy-drama film written and directed by Taika Waititi, whose screenplay was based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison play "Uncle" Hector and Ricky Baker; a father figure and foster son who become the targets of a manhunt after fleeing into the New Zealand bush. Carthew Neal, Leanne Saunders, Matt Noonan, and Waititi produced the film.[4]

The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2016.[5] The film opened across New Zealand on 31 March 2016.[6][7][8] The film received a limited North American release on 24 June 2016.[9] The film received critical acclaim, with many critics highlighting Dennison and Neill's performances and chemistry.


Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison), a child in the New Zealand foster care system who has frequently run away or been let go by other foster homes, is taken in by Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her husband Hector (Sam Neill). Though Hector remains distant from Ricky, interested only in hunting, Ricky grows close to Bella. When Bella suddenly dies, Hector is informed that Ricky will be re-located by state services, represented by the agent Paula Hall (Rachel House).

Not wanting to return to the foster care system, Ricky sloppily fakes his own death while burning down Hector and Bella's shed and runs off into the bush. Hector goes after Ricky, and in the process, injures his ankle. The two are forced to remain in the bush until Hector's ankle heals. Meanwhile, Paula finds the wreckage at Bella and Hector's farm and assumes that Hector has kidnapped Ricky, launching a nationwide manhunt for the pair.

After a period of time, Hector's ankle has mostly healed, and the two find a hut in the bush. They see their pictures in a newspaper article about the manhunt before they are suddenly discovered by three hunters returning to the hut. Hector and Ricky manage to escape - but, due to Ricky's innocent and ignorant nature, he accidentally portrays Hector as a molester, causing his reputation to be harmed. The manhunt intensifies and Ricky becomes nationally recognised.

While wandering around together, Ricky and Hector warm up to each other, with Ricky telling Hector about his fears and anxieties concerning the foster care system. When they find an empty hut again for more supplies, they find a man in insulin shock. Hector remains with the man whilst Ricky goes down to a nearby town for help. He finds Kahu (Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne), who he is smitten with, and after pictures with her father and a song sung by her at night he accidentally falls asleep. Upon returning to the hut, he discovers the hut surrounded by police led by Paula. When met with Paula at a ravine she tries to bribe him, asking him to say that Hector was a sex offender in return for not going to juvenile detention. However, he declines and catches up with Hector. Hector's reputation has improved for helping the ill man, as the media changes their view of him.

When they are reunited, however, they rob the same hunters as before, causing his public image to decline again. Later, Hector and Ricky are attacked by a wild boar. In the attack, Hector's dog, Zag, is wounded, forcing Hector to euthanise his dog via shooting. After his burial, Ricky reveals that he has carried Bella's ashes in a container the whole time. They scatter Bella's ashes into a waterfall high in a mountain range.

A man named Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby) who is living on his own is discovered by Ricky and Hector. Sam permits their overnight stay. After five months of survival in the wild and numerous near misses, they are eventually apprehended after a car and chopper chase, and Ricky unintentionally shoots Hector.

Hector is sent to jail for around a year, whilst Ricky stays with Kahu and her family. After his release, they reunite and continue their life of adventure.


Waititi first began to adapt the book Wild Pork and Watercress in 2005, and completed multiple different drafts.[10] The early drafts stayed true to the book. However, later versions departed from it in several ways.[11] Julian Dennison was cast by Waititi from earlier work they did together on a commercial.[12]

The film had a budget of approximately NZ$4.5 million,[12][13] of which $2 million came from the New Zealand Film Commission.

The film was shot over five weeks, in locations including the Central Plateau and the Waitākere Ranges. Almost the entire film was shot using a single camera.[14]


Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Released9 April 2016
GenreSoundtrack, Electronic, Rock
LabelMajestical Production

The soundtrack was composed by Moniker and was released on 8 April 2016 by Majestical Pictures Ltd. All original songs were written and performed by Moniker unless specified.

1."Makutekahu" (Vocals by Pepe Becker, Anna Sedcole, Phillip Collins, Robert Oliver)2:09
2."Ricky Runs"1:46
3."Cloak of the Sky"2:58
4."Ricky Baker Birthday Song" (Vocals by Rima Te Wiata and Julian Dennison)0:51
6."Ricky Alone"1:10
7."Ocean Blue" (Vocals by Moniker)2:26
8."All the Nummiest Treats"1:36
10."Are You Lost?"2:53
11."Ancient Stones"1:10
13."Kahu's House"2:43
14."Forest Spirit"4:14
17."Milestone 2 (Skux Life)" (Vocals by Moniker)2:57
19."Trifecta" (Co-written by Rima Te Wiata (as R Te Wiata), Taika Waititi (as T. Waititi), Julian Dennison (as J. Dennison) and Sam Neill (as S. Neill))2:52
Total length:40:52

Other soundtrack[edit]


The film premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2016[15] and was released in cinemas on 31 March 2016 in New Zealand by Piki Films and Madman Entertainment.[16][17] The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in America on 25 October 2016 by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.[11]


Box office[edit]

The film grossed NZ$1,263,000 in New Zealand on its opening weekend, the highest grossing opening weekend for a New Zealand film (as defined by the New Zealand Film Commission), ahead of What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?'s $912,000 record in 1999.[8][nb 1] It went on to gross NZ$12 million.

Internationally, as of October 2016, the film has grossed A$10,935,319 in Australia, US$507,380 in the UK and US$5,137,201 in North America.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, Hunt for the Wilderpeople received a score of 97%, based on 201 reviews, with an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The charmingly offbeat Hunt for the Wilderpeople unites a solid cast, a talented filmmaker, and a poignant, funny, deeply affecting message."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 30 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[19]

In his review, Hamish Popplestone remarked: "Though both flawed, Neill's and Dennison's characters are so, so charming on-screen and are fully apt at weaving through the dramatic, comedic, and sad points of the script."[20] Empire magazine named Hunt for the Wilderpeople the number one film for 2016.[21]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ While the films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies had higher grossing opening weekends, they do not meet the definition of a New Zealand film per the New Zealand Film Commission Act 1978.


  1. ^ a b "Hunt for the Wilderpeople". The-Numbers. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople': New Zealand's Oddball Hit". The Wall Street Journal. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Wilderpeople (@wilderpeople)". Twitter. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  5. ^ Harvey, Dennis (23 January 2016). "Sundance Film Review: 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople'". Variety. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople takes top spot at the Kiwi box office". New Zealand Film Commission. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople continues smashing NZ box office records". 7 April 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Hunt for the Wilderpeople breaks Kiwi box office records". 4 April 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) - IMDb". Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Taika Waititi Talks Wilderpeople and Ragnarok". 19 July 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b Covert, Colin (15 July 2016). "Next big thing: 'Wilderpeople' director about to hit mainstream with 'Thor' sequel". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 15 July 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Taika Waititi: "Hunt For The Wilderpeople" Isn't So Different From "Thor: Ragnarok"". Fast Company. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Hunt for the Wilderpeople sets new box office record". New Zealand Herald. 4 April 2016. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  14. ^ Kilgallon, Steve (7 April 2016). "Behind the scenes of Wilderpeople: mud, snow, kids and fake pigs". Stuff. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  15. ^ "Taika Waititi's Critically Acclaimed 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' Premieres at Sundance". Little Black Book. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  16. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (27 January 2016). "The Orchard Lands 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople' In $2 Million Deal – Sundance". Deadline. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  17. ^ Lang, Brent (25 September 2016). "The Orchard Releases Digital Sales Results for 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 29 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Hunt For the Wilderpeople (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  19. ^ "Hunt For the Wilderpeople". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  20. ^ Popplestone, Hamish (17 April 2016). "Hunt for the Wilderpeople — Salient". Archived from the original on 5 January 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  21. ^ John Nugent; Emma Thrower; Phil De Semlyen (21 December 2016). "The best movies of 2016, Feature | Movies - Empire". gb. Retrieved 3 January 2017.

External links[edit]