Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Not recommended under 13, parental guidance recommended 13 to 15 due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • a review of Hunt for the Wilderpeople completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 May 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes, and coarse language
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length: 101 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a twelve-year-old foster child, who is described by Child Protective Services worker Paula (Rachel House) as a “Bad egg”. He has been involved in vandalism, graffiti and theft. Ricky is fostered out to a kind-hearted couple, Bella and Hector (Rima Te waita and Sam Neil), who run a farm on the edge of rugged bushland. Ricky quickly warms to Bella and while Hector has a gruff exterior, he begins to accept Ricky.

Just as Ricky begins to feel as if he belongs at the farm, disaster strikes when Bella suddenly dies. Hector is left distraught and Ricky is destined to be returned to Protective Services. Believing that Protective Services will put him in juvenile detention, Ricky decides to escape into the rugged New Zealand bush, and when Hector realises what Ricky is up to he heads into the bush to bring Ricky home. Unfortunately when Hector catches up with Ricky, more bad luck strikes. Hector breaks his leg, forcing Ricky and Hector to stay in the bush for several weeks.  

When Hector’s leg finally heals enough for the pair to limp back to civilisation they discover that they are the focus of a massive manhunt with the police believing that Hector, who now has a bounty on his head, is a pervert who has kidnapped Ricky. They now go on the run across New Zealand, evading the police and bounty hunters alike. Along the way they have perilous encounters with wildlife and meet colourful characters including Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby) before they are eventually taken into custody.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Foster care and families; child protection and child abuse; youth crime

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains violent scenes involving both people and animals which include a number of scenes of Ricky shooting with a rifle. There are some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • Bella kills a boar with a large hunting knife. She repeatedly stabs the boar and blood splatters widely, including on her face. When asked if he would like to help her cut the pig up, Ricky faints. Later a massive wild boar charges at and attacks a dog and we hear the dog yelp as it is attacked (we do not see the dog injured by the boar). Hector tries to kill the boar but is charged and only just saved by Ricky who shoots the boar. The injured dog has to be shot and we later see the dead dog’s grave.
  • While walking through bushland Hector trips and falls. He hits his forehead on a rock and his foot becomes trapped. Ricky attempts to help him by lifting his trapped foot and we hear the sound of bone breaking as Hector screams.
  • Three men holding guns walk into a cabin and point their guns at Hector. There is a heated verbal exchange between Hector and one of the three gunmen. Hector punches the man in the face. The two remaining gunmen jump on Hector and wrestle him to the floor. At this point Ricky enters and fires a rifle into the air, stopping the fight.
  • Ricky and Hector are chased through bushland by a squad of Star Force police with automatic weapons and also by armed locals. 
  • There is a wild car chase when Ricky drives a 4 wheel drive car through bushland while being chased by a dozens of cars, trucks, army tanks and helicopters. The 4 wheel drive jumps over a road and the top of a parked caravan. Police cars fly through the air and crash into the ground and the 4 wheel drive crashes through a fence into a car wrecking yard and rolls over several times before coming to rest upside down.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • As well as the scenes of animals being killed described above, there are a number of scenes of dead animals, including possums, birds and reptiles which have been killed to be cooked and eaten
  • When Ricky runs away from his foster parents’ farm, he makes a mannequin of himself which he sets on fire, hoping that the people from Protective Services will believe that he died in a fire. The burning mannequin also sets the barn alight.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Ricky hears Hector moaning and crying and finds him cradling the lifeless body of his wife.  Later the two scatter her ashes on the river.
  • The idea of having to shoot your dog is also likely to be disturbing for this age group.         

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

The death of the dog and the scene when Ricky finds Hector crying over his wife’s body may be also be distressing for this age group

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may find some scenes disturbing

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Burger Rings; Coke; Cadbury’s Flake

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Ricky suggests that Hector should get a new wife, telling him that there are plenty of women on the internet.
  • Ricky makes covert reference to a prior foster father “menacing” girls.
  • In several scenes Hector is referred to as being a child molester. Three men confront Hector and ask Ricky if he has been ‘hurt’ by the older man. Ricky jokingly says that the older man “made me do stuff” and the men call Hector a “dirty perv”.
  • Some mild flirting between a teenage boy and girl

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie and references to substance use. Examples include:

  • Cigarette smoking by adults in several scenes.
  • Reference to fighting over cocaine in the film Scar Face.
  • Reference to a rapper having been a drug dealer.
  • A teenage girl talks about smoking a “joint”
  • Reference is made to a man smelling like methylated spirits.


Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • bloody; hell ; wanker; arsehole; bugger;  bastard; fricken’; shit; dickhead; bitch.     
  • insults such as “bad egg”, “ idiot”, “silly old goat” and “old perve”

In a nutshell

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a heart-warming and funny film about family, friendship and belonging, being a teenager and rebelling against authority. A real magic exists between Sam Neil as Hector, the gruff loner, and Julian Dennison as Ricky.  As well as the serious themes, there are some very funny one-liners and moments of comedy relief.

Younger children may be upset by the violence which includes scenes of animals being killed and injured, and the themes and coarse language also make the film more suitable for older viewers. It is therefore not recommended for children under 13 and parental guidance is recommended for the 13 to 15 age group.

The main message from this movie is that a good relationship with understanding adult or adults can make big changes in a child’s life.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • the importance of family, including foster families
  • selflessness as shown by Ricky’s foster parents
  • perseverance through adversity

Parents may also like to discuss Ricky’s situation as a young offender, why he behaved like he did and the way in which foster parents can turn a child’s life around. They may also like to discuss the stereotyped way in which the Child Protective Services and other authorities are portrayed and how this relates to reality.