Whale Rider

Synopsis: On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants. Pai, an 11-year-old girl in a patriarchal New Zealand tribe, believes she is destined to be the new chief. But her grandfather Koro is bound by tradition to pick a male leader. Pai loves Koro more than anyone in the world, but she must fight him and a thousand years of tradition to fulfill her destiny.
Genre: Drama, Family
Director(s): Niki Caro
Production: Palm Pictures
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 33 wins & 34 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
101 min

In the old days, the land felt a great emptiness.

It was waiting...

waiting to be filled up...

waiting for someone to love it...

waiting for a leader.

And he came on the back

of a whale...

a man to lead a new people.

Our ancestor, Paikea.

But now we were waiting

for the firstborn of the new generation...

for the descendant

of the whale rider...

- For the boy who would be chief.



There was no gladness

when i was born.

My twin brother died

and took our mother with him.


Everyone was waiting

for the firstborn boy to lead us...

but he died...

and i didn't.

Where is the boy?


- What's done is done. Come home.

Come home.

Start again.

You mean just pretend

it didn't happen.

- That's not what i'm saying.

- You didn't even look at her, dad!

She died.

- Son...

- no, no, no!

No. No, all you want

is your boy.

- It's all right.

- That's all you want. Isn't it?

- You can start again.

- Hey, i've got a child.

Her name's Paikea.

- What?

- You heard me.

No. Not that name.

- It's Paikea.

- No!




Take her away.

- I told you to take her away.

No. You acknowledge

your granddaughter.

She likes you.

He'll have another child.

He just lost a child and a wife.

Isn't that enough?

You give that boy some time.

You hear me?

He'll be back

when he's ready.

Stupid old paka.

You say the word,

and i'll get a divorce, bub.

Just say the word.

- What'd he say to her?

- Same old story.

Not good enough

for him, is she?

He start that early

with me?

You're a man.

You can handle it.

Here. Better get used to it.

This one's gonna need someone

to look out for her.

Yeah. All right.

My koro wished

in his heart that i'd never been born...

but he changed his mind.

- Hey! You old paka!


They were quick.

Must have let them off early or something.

- You've been smoking.

- Says you.

Maori women have got

to stop smoking.

We've got to protect

our childbearing properties.

You coming

to the concert?

- Might.

- Bet she's got her best gears

all laid out on the bed.

- My dad's coming.

- Nay? Better get my flash dress out then.

How long's he staying this time?

Five minutes?

Longer than that.

That's good, 'cause i blinked

and missed him last time.

What time's the concert, bub?

Gee, she's bossy,

that one.

And you'd have to be smoking in a pretty funny

place to wreck your childbearing properties.

If you ask me the name of this house,

i will tell you.

It is whitireia.

And the carved figurehead at the top?

It is Paikea. It is Paikea.

- No good to you, you reckon?

- Shh!

- What are they feeding you?

- You look different.

- Hmm. You do too. Must be growing up.

- Am not.

- Sorry i was late.

- It doesn't matter. It was stink anyway.


Gotta look my best for your brother.

- Hey, bro.

- Rawiri?

- Good to see you, man.

- Yeah, put on a bit of weight

since i saw you last time.

- Yeah.

Hey, this is

my new lady.

- Kia ora.

- Kia ora.

How many of my sons

you need, girl?

Give us a hand with the food.

Make yourself useful.

You too, Pai.

Come on, mate.

Let these important guys have their talk, eh?

Take your time.

They've been

waiting for you.

Been a while

this time, son.

Been away.

Didn't you get any of my postcards?

Your mother put something on the fridge.

I don't know what it was. A bridge or something.

France, probably.

I've been spending

a bit of time in germany too.

- Like you there, do they?

- Some of them do.

- So, you've been busy, then?

- Yeah. Yeah, it's been good.

You know, i got a gallery interested.

Had some good shows.

How about you?

We've been all right.

It's good to see you, dad.

It was my father's waka...

but after i was born he didn't

want to carve it anymore.

He went away.

Everybody did.

- Sorry, mum.

- You've come a long way.

I think you can have a sleep in.

- Isn't he having any breakfast?

- Septic tank's blocked down at the marae.

Can't somebody else do it?

Eat your breakfast. You're too skinny.

Can't hardly see your bum in those pants.

Thanks, ma.

Thanks, ma.

Your timing's spooky, boy.



- Ah! What was that for?

- For the concert last night.

You have more respect next time.

- That teacher of yours got herself a husband yet?

- Don't think so.

She still got those things on her teeth?

Paka, at school we gotta do a speech

on where we come from and that.

So anyway, you know how

we all came on a whale?

That's right.

But where does

the whale come from?

- From hawaiiki.

- Where's that?

It's where we lived before we came here,

where the ancestors are.

- So, Paikea came from there.

- Ae.

- How long ago?

- Long time.

But how long?

See that there?

Look at it closely.

What do you see?

- Lots of little bits of rope all twisted together.

- That's right.

Weave together the threads of Paikea

so that our line remains strong.

Each one of those threads

is one of your ancestors...

all joined together and strong...

all the way back

to that whale of yours.

Useless bloody rope.

I'll get another one.

Paka! Paka!

It's working!

It's working.

- I don't want you to do that again.

It's dangerous.

That's a good one.

Come in.

- A seat for you over there.

- Kia ora.

- Hi.

- Hi. Kia ora.

Have you met Pai's father?


this is miss parata

from the school.

- Kia ora.

Rate this script:5.0 / 2 votes

Niki Caro

Nikola Jean "Niki" Caro (born 1967) is a film director and screenwriter. Her 2002 film Whale Rider was critically praised and won a number of awards at international film festivals. She is the second woman ever hired by Disney to direct a movie budgeted at over $100 million (USD), helming a live-action version of Disney's Mulan. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Whale Rider" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Jun 2024. <https://www.scripts.com/script/whale_rider_23256>.

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