Film Club: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Film Club - Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Released 2016) 

A self-directed film club. Check out the features, facts and discussion questions below, which can help broaden your appreciation of the film.

Watching the Film

You can watch the movie online with library membership on Kanopy Streaming Films


Writer/Director - Taika Watiti 

Screenplay based on the book, Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump

Main Characters

  • Uncle Hector - Sam Neill
  • Ricky Baker - Julian Dennison
  • Bella - Rima Te Wiata
  • Paula - Rachel House
  • Andy - Oscar Kightley
  • Kahu - Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne
  • Psycho Sam - Rhys Darby

Filmed in New Zealand - locations including the Central Plateau and the Waitakere Ranges.  


Fun Film Facts - Collected from Internet/Interviews/IMDB

In the birthday scene, the cast and crew filmed ten takes singing the normal "Happy Birthday" song before finding out they didn't have the rights to use it.  The song "Ricky Baker, It's your Birthday" was created on the spot by the actors. 

The film was the first local feature to gross more than NZ$1 million in its opening weekend at the New Zealand box office.  #1 New Zealand film of all time - the director broke his own record; the film holding that position until this time was “Boy” (2010) by Taika Watiti. 

Director Taika Watiti makes a cameo as the minister - he has a role in all of the films he directs. •

All of the news presenters in the film were actual news presenters on New Zealand TV at the time of filming. 

The fourth film directed by Taika Watiti to premiere at Sundance Festival, after Eagle vs Shark (2007), Boy (2010), and What We Do in the Shadows (2014), which all won critical acclaim.  Other Movies he has directed - Thor Ragnorok (2017), Jojo Rabbit (2019).

In Ricky's haiku, he says that he hates Kingi. Kingi was a character in Boy (2010), another film directed by Taika Watiti. 

Ricky mentions a situation being just like the Lord of the Rings, these movies were also filmed entirely in the New Zealand wilderness. 

The song that Ricky dances to as he listened to his Walkman was ‘Magic What She Do’ by Dave Dobbyn.

The Uncle is portrayed as illiterate. The actor who plays him, Sam Neill however has a BA in English Literature. 

Sam Neill also appeared as a man on the run from the government in the New Zealand bush in ‘Sleeping Dogs’ (1977). 

The scene at Bella's funeral with the Ministers bizarre eulogy was based on an actual experience that writer-director Taika Waititi witnessed. 

There was a part in the book that was left out of the movie - in the book they were in the wilderness for years before being caught.  Their hair and beards were so long that they had to burn/singe them off using hot sticks.

It took 5 weeks to shoot - almost the entire film was shot using a single camera.



1. What did you think of Paula’s character?

  • Initial reaction vs. how her character transformed through the movie.
  • Did she ever have Ricky’s best interests at heart? 
  • What does her job and how she does it reveal about her as a person?                                                 

Her main line “No child left behind”, what does she mean by that when she says it? Is her meaning the same as the intention of the line? In terms of her job, she seems to be quite jaded and cold - do you think she started out that way or did she become that way over time?


2. Ricky Baker - what were your initial thoughts about Ricky?

  • Do you think he acted out as “a real bad egg” because he was always told that and was yearning for attention? 
  • Took him quite a long time to really speak to Bella and Hec - thoughts? 
  • Any other thoughts on Ricky, his character, his past and now his present - his growth?


3. Bella was the kind of person willing to take in a teenager - Hec revealed that Bella had no family and took in others that had no family, making a family of her own out of outcasts - what would be some other reasons people would be willing to take in teenagers?  

  • Thoughts on all the ways Bella tried to reach out and communicate with Ricky?    
  • Super cool when Bella apologized that it took her so long to find Ricky!  Do you think that was a turning point in their relationship? 
  • Bella & Hec didn’t seem to have a lot of communication in terms of Ricky living with them and Bella seemed to be in charge - what could have created that dynamic and do you think Hec was okay with that? 
  • How did Bella’s death affect Hec and Ricky - what affects were the same and which ones were more individual?  Interesting to see how people grieve so differently.  This was a great example of how Ricky is always left, he knows nothing else at this point in his life.


4. How do you think Ricky’s first hunting trip with Bella went - how did that experience impact their relationship?

5. Ricky always seemed to be quite comfortable around Hec, regardless of his dismissal and attitude towards Ricky -  why do you think that was? Did Bella have anything to do with that?

6. Once Ricky and Hec are in the wilderness they seem to blame each other for everything - do you think it is just the stress of the situation or deeper issues that cause this? 

7. At what point in the movie do you feel like Hec starts to understand Ricky more and have compassion towards him?

8. When they found out they were being hunted Ricky said “We’re Famous” - do you think that was attention seeking, a “don’t care anymore” attitude or child naivety to the seriousness of the situation

  • even though Ricky wants to pretend he’s “gangster” and can take care of himself, he is actually very naive
  • what are some other signs of this throughout the movie?


9. Do you think Ricky and Hec had a turning point in there relationship after the episode with the 3 hunters in the cabin?

10. After the cabin as Ricky and Hec are talking, Ricky says “Nobody listens” and “they don’t care about kids like me” - how did Hec change towards Ricky after that conversation?

11. When Ricky meets Kahu, he describes his relationship with Hec as “Best Friends” - how important do you think the idea of having a best friend is to Ricky? Do you think it is just as important to Hec, even though he may not realize it?

12. Thoughts on how the authorities/hunters are portrayed throughout the bush hunts?  They come across as a bit incompetent and ridiculous - do you think that has a deeper meaning in the theme of the movie or more for comic relief?

13. Does anyone remember at what point Ricky uses the term “Wilderpeople” and where the idea comes from?

14. How was Hec was affected when Ricky saved his life from the wild boar? How do you think it affected Ricky, having to step up and kill the boar?

15. When they finally got to spread Bella’s ashes do you think that brought them together even more as a “family”?

16. What did you get from Psycho Sam’s character? Could you relate in any way to the kinds of things he thought or said?

18. Did you enjoy Ricky’s haikus? They seemed to thread throughout the whole movie and have a releasing and healing component for his character, thoughts?

19. What did you think of the final chase scene? In an interview with Taika Watiti he revealed that this was his favorite scene in the movie and that his favorite part was when they flipped the police car.

20. When Hec finally decided to give up, how did this affect Ricky and there relationship? Do you think this reflects the way a lot of people handle stress in real life - for example the way people can turn on one another when stressed or angry.

21. What did you think of the end of the movie? Their communication getting better, going back into the wilderness to find the rare bird, their family unit being put back together - realizing they need each other - thoughts?