New Zealand was recently voted world’s top film tourism destination in a study commissioned by HBO Entertainment and placed third in USA Today’s ‘Best Cinematic Location’ poll. When you combine New Zealand’s reputation for talent with some significant cost advantages, it is becoming increasingly convenient for international production to come to New Zealand.
From as far back as 2007’s ‘Jurassic Park:The Lost World’, the stunning scenery of the south has been the perfect cinematic backdrop for sci-fi and fantasy films, so it’s no surprise that many movies have been and continue to be filmed within the scenic passages of Fiordland.
Here are the top ten movies filmed in Fiordland.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
What do you get when you combine a beloved children’s story, a slew of world famous celebrities and scenery so magical it could only be imagined? The best possible trilogy of three hour long tourism ads for New Zealand. No other film franchise has ever achieved what the Lord of the Rings films did for New Zealand. So, it’s only fitting to start here with perhaps the most thoroughly publicised filming locations in the world.
If you are a true Lord of the Rings fan who wants to make the most of their Southland experience, jot down these coordinates for each Fiordland location.
- The areas South of Rivendell: You can find the areas south of Rivendell at Fiordland National Park by walking. Use the coordinates: 45° 25.358’S 167° 20.800’E
- Anduin River: Anduin River is featured on the opening scene of The Fellowship of the Rings. You can find it using the coordinates: 45° 29.755’S 167° 40.159’E. It is best to access it from Rainbow Road.
- The Dead Marshes: The Dead Marshes can be accessed from Te Anau highway using the following coordinates: 45° 29.567’S 167° 41.897’E
- Snowdon Forest: As Shadowfax demonstrates nicely, within Fiordland National Park is the location of Fangorn Forest. This is where Gandalf whistles for his majestic horse, Aragorn tracks the hobbits’ trail into the forest, and it is the home of the ents. Location: At Bog Pine Paddock, Snowdon Forest. From Te Anau, take State Highway 94 then Kakapo Road then Takaroa Road. Fiordland National Park, South Island.
The Hobbit trilogy
Luckily, having explored this universe thoroughly with hours of footage, many of the areas made famous by the Lord of the Rings films were either revisited or recreated digitally. However there is a key scene in The Hobbit which the eagles save Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves then fly over Fiordland National Park.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The first of a series of origins films outlining the early years of X-Men’s most beloved characters, ‘Wolverine’ was filmed in Milford Sound.
For those familiar with the film, when the disillusioned James walks away from the team and retreats to a home in the ‘Canadian Rockies’, the dramatic mountain range is actually, you guessed it, in Milford Sound. The ‘Alkali Lake’ facility, is above Stirling Falls, one of the two year-round falls on Milford Sound. At 150 meters high, the falls are three times the height of Niagara Falls.
Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997)
A research team is sent to the Jurassic Park Site B island to study the dinosaurs there while an opposing team approaches with another agenda. The jungle like scenery is the perfect host for t-rexs gone rogue and a scenic holiday for any traveller.
Willow, is small, reluctant dwarf who journeys with a wise elder through a war-torn land of magic and monsters on a special quest. Sound familiar? Though you could be forgiven for thinking we are again describing the plot of ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’, Willow, was fighting his way across Fiordland before it was cool.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
At this year’s Golden Globes, director Ridley Scott said he’d been choppering across the lower half of New Zealand in the lead-up to filming the blockbuster ‘Alien: Covenant’ in which the crew of a colony ship discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination. When asked about the experience Scott explained:
“I go right within nine feet of the highest peak in New Zealand, examine the top and then we go everywhere you couldn’t normally go,” he said.
The simplest way to explore Milford Sound
Remote as it is, the spectacular Milford Sound remains one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations. If you don’t have Scott’s helicopter at hand, the best way to see it is to take a boat tour, which takes around a couple of hours and departs from the Milford Sound Visitors’ Centre.
Road access to Milford Sound is via the Milford Road (SH 94), which runs north from Te Anau and along the edge of the Fiordland National Park.
Milford Sound to play host to production for years to come
When asked about the rise in film interest in Southland, Venture Southland business and strategic projects general manager Steve Canny said a number of new productions were already in the preliminary stages of work.
“There’s quite a number of movies and production options being considered at present,” he said.
Due to commercial interests and the productions being in their very early stages, Canny could not confirm which productions would be carried out there.
He said there are three large-scale and one smaller-scale productions being considered for shooting days and “production people” would be in the area in the next fortnight.
With the next instalment of the Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise on the books and rumours circulating around the 4 Avatar sequels James Cameron has planned for filming in NZ, we echo Canny’s thoughts.
“The year ahead looks as if it’s going to be very busy,” he said.
So whether fantasy is your cup of tea or you’re a die hard Jurassic Park fan, a trip to Southland is sure to keep everyone happy. Just remember when you visit your chosen area that Fiordland is one of the wettest regions on Earth. As such, you are going to need to take a good waterproof jacket with you to get the most out of your day. Make sure yours has deep pockets for your camera, phone and other valuables, and, who knows, with so many new productions planned you may not only find yourself in Middle Earth but also in the middle of the action.