With all the hype over the release of The Hobbit movie, you’d think that only movies ever filmed in New Zealand focused on Middle Earth.

But over the years, there have been a number of successful movies in which the  New Zealand landscape has been a star.

Here is just a few locations around New Zealand immortalized on film…

The black sands and wild surf of Karekare Beach just west of Auckland was the backdrop for Jane Campion’s 1993 Academy Award winning The Piano.  This beach played a pivotal role in this powerful movie setting the scene from the beginning when mother and daughter, and piano, are ceremonially deposited onto the beach by the ship’s crew and left to fend for themselves in mid-19th century New Zealand.

Also in the North Island but further south, the Whanganui River starred alongside Keifer Sutherland and Samantha Morton in The River Queen, a movie set during the violent 1860s land wars between Maori and colonial troops.

Even further south, Queenstown and Fiordland was the backdrop for the Race for the Yankee Zepher. And in Invercargill, Oreti Beach was used for the beach racing scenes in The World’s Fastest Indian.

But not all the movies location featured a New Zealand story.

The South Island’s Mt Cook was transformed in to the Himalayas in the movie The Vertical Limit.

The North Island’s Mt Taranaki was turned into Japan’s Mt Fujiyama during the shooting of Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai.

Many locations around New Zealand were used as mythical landscapes for the  ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series, including the fascinating Elephant Rocks (picture)  in the Waitaki district of the South Island.

And Without a Paddle, an Oregon whitewater adventure thriller starring Burt Reynolds, was shoot on rivers north of Wellington.

Seems there’s more to New Zealand than meets the eye, especially when it comes to the big screen.

(image of Elephant Rocks by itravelnz – flickr)

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.