Whale Rider

image for Whale Rider

Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Lang. Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Whale Rider
  • a review of Whale Rider completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 April 2003.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Due to the content and nature of this film not recommended for children under 7.
Children aged 8-12 Should be able to see this film with parental guidance but might find it boring
Children over the age of 13 Should be okay to see this film with or without parental guidance.

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: Whale Rider
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Adult themes, Low level coarse language
Length: 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Koro is a Maori chief of a coastal village whose ancestor Paikea arrived there over 1000 years earlier riding on the back of a whale that had saved him from drowning. The movie starts when Koro’s son’s wife is giving birth to twins a boy and a girl. Unfortunately both the boy and the mother die leaving the girl Pai alone. Porourangi, the father, is distraught and leaves Pai to be brought up by his parents Koro and Flowers. Koro is a very traditional man who believes that the death of his grandson was a bad omen for the village and won’t accept Pai, a female, as his heir.

Consequently Koro teaches young men to be warriors so that one can succeed him. He throws a whale’s tooth into the ocean and sends the boys in to fetch it – the one who finds it will be his successor. However none finds it and Koro feels that he has failed. Koro fails to see that Pai has inherited many gifts and when she retrieves the whale’s tooth it only makes him angry. One day as Koro is walking down to the beach he finds that many whales have beached themselves which distresses him deeply. The whole village come to try and save the whales and get them back in the water to no avail. Then when all have left Pai approaches one of the whales and climbs on its back. She lovingly strokes it to which the whale responds and starts moving its tail. It then manages to turn around and heads out to sea with Pai on its back. It appears that Pai is drowning in the water but she survives and finally Koro accepts that Pai is his rightful successor.


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.

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.

There are a few violent scenes; however none are glamorised or performed by attractive heroes:

  • Koro loses his temper and bangs on the table smashing some crockery
  • Stick fighting is taught to boys to become warriors
  • Koro teaches boys to extend their tongue which says to their enemies that they are going to eat them.

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.

There are scenes in this movie that would scare children in this age group:

  • The movie starts with a mother giving birth; she is obviously in much pain. Both the Mother and the boy baby die in the process
  • The violent scenes mentioned above may be frightening for some small children
  • Uncle demonstrates stick fighting with a broom and looks quite fierce
  • Maoris do traditional dance in which men look very fierce
  • The whales washed up on the shore is a distressing sight.
  • Pai falls off the whale’s back and appears to drown.

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.

Children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

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.

Some children in this age group could be upset by the scenes mentioned above as it set in a realistic situation

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.

Children in this age group should be able to cope with the realities of life and death portrayed in this movie.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references


Nudity and sexual activity


Use of substances

There is drinking of alcohol and smoking.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language. Some of the women’s talk is coarse. The Grandfather tells the boys that there are consequences for not getting it right – “their dicks will fall off – hold on to your dicks”.

In a nutshell

The take home message of this film is that traditions can be challenged and changed if need be and that girls are able to take on traditional male roles.

Values that parents may wish to encourage include:

  • girls are as capable as boys
  • loyalty
  • respect
  • empathy
  • resilience.

Values that parents may wish to discourage include:

  • laughing at one’s misfortunes
  • disobedience
  • belief that girls aren’t allowed to do anything boys do.