If you’ve seen Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople you will know that the hit film pays homage to some New Zealand movies of years gone by, but just what are those classic film references? NZ On Screen Content Director Irene Gardiner runs through them and backgrounds the films concerned.

It might take you a second viewing to work them all out, but there's no missing the fact that Hunt for the Wilderpeople is full of sly references to other New Zealand films, as well as a couple of classic TV commercials.

Director Taika Waititi has said "for those who know their Kiwi film they will find a bunch of Easter eggs of references to classic Kiwi films."

And lead actor Sam Neill says "there are many conscious nods that Taika makes in this film to people like Roger Donaldson and Goodbye Pork Pie director Geoff Murphy. I saw Roger the other night and he was very touched."

So which films are referenced in the movie, and in what way - with careful writing to avoid spoiling anything for first time viewers of the film, here is the list.


Perhaps the most obvious reference is to Roger Donaldson's 1981 film Smash Palace. The car wrecker's yard at Horopito near Mount Ruapehu that features so prominently in the original movie is also seen in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and the almost comical shoot-out at the end of Smash Palace is also referenced.

Smash Palace is a Kiwi cinema classic and launched Donaldson's American directing career. Al Shaw (a brilliant, brooding Bruno Lawrence) is a racing car driver who now runs a wrecker's yard. His French wife Jacqui is unhappy there and leaves him, taking up with Al's best mate.

When she restricts Al's access to his young daughter, his frustration explodes and he goes bush with the girl, desperate not to lose her too. Noted New Yorker critic Pauline Kael called the film "amazingly accomplished."

You can see an excerpt from Smash Palace here:

Some Wilderpeople reviewers have also noted a connection with Donaldson's earlier feature film, Sleeping Dogs, from 1977. Waititi says there is no specific reference to Sleeping Dogs in his film, but there is a slight similarity in that they share a lead actor in Sam Neill and he is on the run in the New Zealand landscape.

Based on the CK Stead novel Smith's Dream, Sleeping Dogs heralded the new wave of NZ feature films back in the 1970s. Smith (Neill), is devastated when his wife runs off with his best friend, Bullen (Ian Mune).

He takes off to the Coromandel. Meanwhile, New Zealand is at war with itself and the government has enlisted an anti-terrorist force to viciously crack down on its op-ponents. Smith is framed as a revolutionary and arrested, but escapes. Bullen, now a guerrilla, hides him and tries to persuade the reluctant Smith to join the revolution.

See an excerpt from Sleeping Dogs here:

Wilderpeople has quite a similar tone and feel to Geoff Murphy's comedy classic Goodbye Pork Pie, but there is also a moment that is a direct reference to the film which involves a little yellow Mini (not THE little yellow Mini, however).

The original film was made in 1981 and proved that Kiwis could make block-busters too. Young rascal Gerry (Kelly Johnson) steals a yellow Mini from a Kaitaia rental company.

Heading south, he meets John, who wants his wife back; and a hitchhiker named Shirl. Soon they are driving to Invercargill to find her, with the cops in pursuit.


Eluding the police with hair-raising driving, verve and trickery, it's not long before the Blondini gang are hailed as folk heroes, on-screen and off. A remake of the film is currently in production, directed by Murphy's son Matt.

Watch an excerpt from the original film here:

As with Pork Pie, the style of Kiwi humour in Wilderpeople has tonal similarities to Ian Mune's 1985 hit Came a Hot Friday.

Waititi says Rhys Darby's cameo appearance as "Psycho Sam" in his film was also a little influenced by Billy T James' memorable cameo as The Tainuia Kid in Hot Friday. The characters are not similar as such, but their outrageous comedic style is.

Based on a Ronald Hugh Morrieson novel, Came a Hot Friday features two scheming conmen, who hit town to encounter bookies, boozers, country hicks, nasty crim Marshall Napier, and Prince Tui Teka playing saxophone.

Not to mention Billy T's loony turn as The Tainuia Kid. At the time of the film's release, critic Nicholas Reid described it as "the funniest, liveliest, most exuberant film ever made in New Zealand."

View an excerpt from Came a Hot Friday here:

As well as the more subtle nods to classic New Zealand films, there is also an actual name-check for more recent movie trilogy The Lord of the Rings, when Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) are hiding beneath some big tree stumps in a scene that directly references a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring - and Ricky says "this is like Lord of the Rings."

The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his three-movie adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time.

Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the movie, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its ear-nestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve."

Watch the trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring here:

Waititi says only a couple of his screen homages were actually pre-planned, others evolved as opportunities presented themselves. "It was partly the reali-sation that we were making such a strongly New Zealand film and so it kind of just started happening along the way."

There was no direct reference planned to 1982 film Bad Blood, about the Stanley Graham man-hunt and shootings, but a few eagle-eyed viewers have noted that the house in the woods in Wilderpeople is similar to that in Bad Blood.

Made by acclaimed British director Mike Newell (of future Four Weddings and a Funeral fame), Bad Blood tells the true story of the notorious 12-day 1941 man-hunt for Stan Graham. The West Coast farmer went bush after a shooting spree that followed police pressure to have him hand over his firearms (seven men were ultimately killed).

You can see an excerpt from Bad Blood here:

As well as the above mentioned feature films, Wilderpeople also directly references two classic New Zealand television commercials.

One is the Crumpy and Scotty Toyota Hilux ad from the 1980s, which has one of the most planned and obvious references in the film when the lead characters are in-volved in a car chase in an old ute.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is, of course, based on Barry Crump's book Wild Pork and Watercress. And don't miss Lloyd Scott's cameo appearance.

You can see the original Crumpy and Scotty TV ad here:

Less directly connected, but equally funny, is the take-off of the now rather cheesy 1980s Cadbury Flake TV ad and its rather sensual connotations, in a scene where Ricky is developing quite a crush on his young female friend.

Watch the Flake ad here: