Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Hunt for the Wilderpeople Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Quirky Kiwi dramedy promotes teamwork, friendship.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 27 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 23 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sweet messages about family not giving up on one another, the importance of protecting and defending those you love, and helping those in need. Strong themes of friendship and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bella is a wonderful foster parent. She's loving and kind and tries to teach/correct Ricky. Hec is resistant and hesitant at first but grows close to Ricky after they've spent one-on-one time together. Ricky is curious, funny, kind, and just want wants a family and home to call his own.


Hec and Bella hunt game for their food; Bella kills a wild pig with a knife, getting blood all over herself, including her face and hands -- Ricky faints at the sight. Someone dies suddenly; the body is partially visible. Hec is hurt in the bush, and several characters use guns, either for hunting or law enforcement. A character is injured a few different times. Hec and Ricky hold three hunters at gunpoint and then take their guns. Hec and Ricky have a close encounter with an angry wild boar that attacks them. The boar kills one of the two dogs in the movie. Angry, Ricky tells stories (which aren't true) about abuse/molestation by a foster parent.


A young character makes it sound like an older one is an abuser/molester; see "Violence" section.


Occasional use of "s--t," "piss," "bastard," "ass," "d--k," "pervert," and exclamations like "Christ!"

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hunt for the Wilderpeople -- which centers on a Maori boy who ends up in the care of a cranky old hunter near the New Zealand bush -- is an engaging mix of buddy comedy, coming-of-age drama, and family adventure. You can expect some swearing ("s--t," "bastard," "ass") and violent scenes, mostly revolving around hunting, an animal attack, and the death of beloved pet. People are also held at gunpoint and are injured, and one character dies suddenly of natural causes. Ricky tells stories (which aren't true) about abuse/molestation by a foster parent. On the upside, there are great messages about teamwork, friendship, and not judging people too quickly. It's an excellent pick for families with older tweens/younger teens who are interested in something a little outside the mainstream.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byamycoko September 28, 2016

WARNING - sexual content not mentioned in the review by commonsensemedia

For CSM's review to say there is no warning about sex is inaccurate and makes me wonder how carefully the reviewer actually watched the movie. <... Continue reading
Adult Written byhoppybrew October 14, 2016

Not appropriate for kids of same age as protagonist

The overall plot of the movie is moderately entertaining even if very derivative. The main issues are that despite the main protagonist's young age (and th... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 17, 2016

Awesome film has mature moments

This film is about a boy who gets adopted by a family in New Zealand. And after his newly found mother dies he is left with her cranky husband. This film is a m... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old September 21, 2016

worth it!!!!

I loved this movie so much.It has a lot of swearing.I mean alot

What's the story?

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE is set in New Zealand, where Ricky (Julian Dennison), a tween Maori boy, gets one last shot as a foster kid with rural farmers Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her curmudgeonly husband, Hec (Sam Neill), who tolerates the kid for his wife's benefit. Ricky is just starting to get used to his new "auntie" and "uncle" when circumstances leave Ricky and Hec on their own. With child protection services -- led by humorless case worker Paula (Rachel House) -- prepared to take Ricky to juvenile detention, the boy instead heads into the bush with his dog Tupac. Hec follows him, but after an accident, the two must stay in the bush so long that the authorities launch a manhunt to find Ricky and his alleged "kidnapper." The odd couple, of course, believes that staying in the bush and living off the land is the only way to avoid capture.

Is it any good?

This charming odd-couple adventure is the well-acted story of a down-and-out Maori kid and his grouchy foster parent. Quirky and offbeat like all of director Taika Waititi's films, Hunt for the Wilderpeople could have devolved into the cliched or overly familiar (how many stories are there are about foster kids or orphans?), but it manages to stay on the right side of endearing thanks to the chemistry between Dennison and Neill, who, despite having a perpetual frown, looks like he was having the time of his life acting opposite Dennison's dynamic force of optimism and cheer.

As the loving and attentive Bella, Te Wiata is the ideal foster mom, paying attention to all the little details, like making sure Ricky has a "hottie" (hot water bottle) on his pillow every night to keep him warm and cuddly. But she's also fierce enough to slit a wild pig's throat and then casually say to Ricky "well, that's dinner." Her foil is the hilariously hard-nosed child protective services' case worker Paula, who will stop at nothing to "rescue" a boy she considers a "bad egg." But this isn't ultimately their story. It's the story of city-kid Ricky, who learns to appreciate and even love the bush as much as his "uncle" Hec, a man who may not know how to read words but knows how to survive -- something they both become adept at doing together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what aspects of "buddy movies" Hunt for the Wilderpeople exhibits. Why do you think movies about odd-couple teams are so compelling?

  • Which characters do you consider role models? Why? How do they demonstrate teamwork? Why is that an important character strength?

  • Is Hunt for the Wilderpeople a comedy, a drama, an adventure, or all three? What defines each of those genres?

  • What is the movie's message about family?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love quirky characters

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate