The 20 best movies to watch on TVNZ+

Liam Maguren has combed through the extensive free-to-stream movie selection on TVNZ+ and pulled out some of the best to watch. We’ll update this post each month as films come and go.

Anatomy of a Fall


It’s nigh impossible to bring something fresh to a genre as rigid as the criminal procedural, but writer-director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or and Academy Award-winner managed just that. Sandra Hüller’s in top form as a woman accused of her husband’s murder—and the only witness to the incident is their blind son. Flashbacks are limited to the evidence presented, placing the audience right in the jury booth as witnesses to both the case and France’s confronting prosecution system.

As Flicks’ Rory Doherty wrote, the film “is as interested in the process of investigations as the crime being investigated,” with Luke Buckmaster adding how Triet “subverts the murder mystery and procedural genres by playing games with what we can and can’t see, what we know and don’t know, what we can reasonably deduce and what may lie forever beyond our ken.”

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The Boxtrolls


A young orphan boy is raised by a loving family of underground box-wearing trolls in this Oscar-nominated family adventure from Laika Entertainment. While it’s based on the children’s novel Here Be Monsters by Alan Snow, you could easily mistake the film’s gorgeously rendered Victorian world for a classic Roald Dahl setting. With an irresistibly charming sense of familial whānau bonds and a wry message about class inequality, The Boxtrolls remains one of Laika’s less-appreciated films (though you can still appreciate the likes of Coraline, ParaNorman and Kubo and the Two Strings, which are also on TVNZ+).



Karl Urban is judge, jury and executioner in this beloved adaptation of the violent sci-fi comic. Set almost entirely in an overcrowded building complex, the story (penned by Alex Garland) follows Judge Dredd and a rookie cop (Olivia Thirlby) as they make their way up a 200-level slum in pursuit of a heavily-armed dealer of a time-altering drug named SLO-MO.

Determined to not waste a single minute of the viewer’s time, the film blasts through its future dystopia (and plenty of crims) with acerbic joy and violent glee. Unlike the unfavoured Stallone version, Urban made the honourable call never to take the helmet off. Is there any wonder that, a decade on, fans are still calling for Judge Urban to return?



Based on a true story, this tense BAFTA and Cannes-winning drama revolves around IRA member Bobby Sands and the hunger strike he leads in prison as a means of defying the British occupation of Northern Ireland. The film delivered two key breakout stars: the first is director Steve McQueen, who would go on to make Best Picture Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave; the second is two-time Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender, who lost a worrying amount of weight for this film (something he recently said he wouldn’t do again). The pair reunited for 2012’s incredibly good, incredibly uneasy Shame, which is also available on TVNZ+ if you dare.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Taika Waititi’s smash hit needs no introduction, given how pivotal it was to his career ascension and the fact that it’s still the highest-grossing New Zealand movie ever (second only to his previous film Boy, also on TVNZ+). But to recap: the film adapts Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress with Julian Dennison as rebellious foster kid Ricky and Sam Neill as grumpy foster uncle Hec who find themselves on the run in the native bush after mistakenly being branded as outlaws. Also stars Rima Te Wiata as Ricky’s loving foster aunty Bella and Rachel House as a doggedly determined officer of the law with a hilarious sense of duty.

In My Father’s Den


A decade and a half prior to his Succession success, Matthew Macfadyen led this excellent New Zealand crime mystery as a war photographer who returns to Otago only to become engulfed in the search for a missing teenage girl. As the case thickens, so do the past traumas that forced him to leave in the first place.

An adaptation of Maurice Gee’s novel, In My Father’s Den boasted supremely sophisticated storytelling that felt both refreshing upon release and a worthy addition to the Cinema of Unease, and remains one of Aotearoa’s strongest feature debuts. Tragically, writer-director Brad McGann passed away in 2007, making it his first and last feature film.

The Lobster


Before his ascension to Oscar-worthiness with 2018’s The Favourite and recent hit Poor Things (which will almost certainly be in the running at this year’s Academy Awards), Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos made his English language feature debut with this hard-to-forget dystopian rom-com. The premise? A man in a near-future world must find a romantic partner within 45 days or else he will be turned into an animal (of his choice).

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are in fine form as two of the many people in this world who are arrested for being single and forced to become (maybe literal) guinea pigs in this forced-coupling system. There’s a lot to mentally chew on when it comes to societal expectations of monogamous relationships. Or, when it comes to thinking what animal you’d like to be if you stuck to being single. Either way, Lanthimos milks every drop from the themes and the absurdity of the story, which would explain the film’s bone-dry sense of humour.



Tom Hardy. In a car. For 82 minutes. That’s the eye-catching conceit of this minimalist thriller from filmmaker Steven Knight, who previously scored an Oscar nomination for writing Dirty Pretty Things. His suspenseful script here doesn’t rely on there’s-a-bomb-in-the-car gimmicks, but rather the slow squeeze of seeing a man on his (touch-free) phone calmly trying to keep his career and home life from obliterating over the course of the night. Tremendously tense all the way through, with a typically fine-tuned performance from Hardy.

The NeverEnding Story


This beautifully, tragically ’80s family film brings a fantasy novel to life for one bookworm of a kid. Needing a place to escape his bullies, the young boy finds an adventurous otherworldly realm that may or may not have ties to his own.

You wouldn’t necessarily expect to see a filmmaker take charge of a flight-of-fancy kids film just a few years after making a two-and-a-half hour submarine war thriller, but that’s exactly what Das Boot director Wolfgang Petersen did. Boasting some truly incredible practical effects that hold up to this day, The NeverEnding Story presents a window to a completely different universe—one that isn’t afraid to get dark or trippy.

Night of the Kings


A nominee for Best Film at the Toronto and Venice film festivals, this ambitious hybrid of crime-thriller and fantasy centres on a young thief sent to a prison run by prisoners. If he hopes to survive the night, he must keep telling stories. He starts with a tale about a fellow criminal in the slum of Abidjan…

Filmmaker Philippe Lacôte made waves previously with his film Run, which became The Ivory Coast’s second-ever submission to the Academy Awards. Here, he made even greater splashes with a film beloved by critics. “An assured, energetic piece of epic filmmaking,” boasted. “Blends elements you’d think could never go together into a swirling, striking whole,” Boston Globe praised.



Sylvester Stallone’s boxing classic hardly needs a write-up. You know the deal: the film won Best Picture in 1977, it became the blueprint of how to make an underdog sports film, it spawned a flurry of sequels (all on TVNZ+) plus the Creed trilogy (first two are also on TVNZ+), and made Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger instantly recognisable from the moment you hear: Duh! Duh, duh, duh!

But if you haven’t revisited the first Rocky in a good long time, its worth a refresh—the persistent pop cultural references and silliness of the later sequels can make it easy to forget the potent drama of the original.



Adapting the novel by Shûsaku Endô, Martin Scorsese’s ruminative 2016 historical drama stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Portuguese Catholic priests in the 17th Century who travel to Japan to spread The Lord’s word. During their propagation, they attempt to find their mentor (Liam Neeson), rumoured to have abandoned the religion.

Released three years after The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese’s faith-v-faith-based epic couldn’t have been more different. Slow, brooding, and boldly candid with the moral complexities of the story, Silence is the kind of work typical of a master craftsman freediving into a subject matter close to their soul, aided by some engulfing cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto (nominated for an Oscar here) and an outstanding turn from Tadanobu Asano (if smiles could kill, his would be the sharpest).

The Silence of the Lambs


Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic creation of author Thomas Harris, became a pop cultural icon in director Jonathan Demme’s classic adaptation of the titular book. Brian Cox played the good doctor previously in Michael Mann’s superb Manhunter and you’ll hear nothing but love for Mads Mikkelsen’s disturbingly charming take on the professional people eater in Bryan Fuller’s excellent series Hannibal.

But neither men won an Oscar for the role, nor did they place the humble fava beans and a nice Chianti in the public consciousness. Those honours went to the mighty Anthony Hopkins, who did his part in making The Silence of the Lambs the third film to score The Big Five at the Academy Awards: Best Screenwriting, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress (for Jodie Foster), and Best Picture.



In this quietly riveting, loudly uneasy French festival favourite, a lonesome 15-year-old girl (played remarkably by rising talent Noée Abita) discovers a talent for slalom skiing. A strict coach and former champion is determined to take her skills to the next level, but the physical and emotional demands threaten to push her to breaking point. Deftly dealing with the issue of sexual abuse, director Charlène Favier’s feature debut expertly weaves the predatory nature of narcissistic men with the undue pressures of a sport that’s all about dodging red flags.

The Social Network


This Oscar-winning depiction of the rise of Facebook seems to grow more relevant with every year since its 2010 release. Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made for an inimitable combo, aptly fuelling this boardroom war of ego and success with appropriate cinematic gloom and snark-heavy dialogue. Endlessly rewatchable thanks largely to its gallery of god-teir performances, The Social Network is a constant reminder of the soulless origin powering a social revolution.

Stranger than Fiction


A low-key Will Ferrell comedy? Yes, it does exists, and it comes in the form of this very witty and incredibly charming meta-movie. Ferrell stars as an everyday man with an everyday name, Harold, who doesn’t realise he’s a character in a novel—until he hears the author (a perfectly cast Emma Thompson) narrating his every move. It’s a strange but harmless phenomenon until the narrator announces that he’s going to die soon. How does Harold change a predetermined story? That’s a big part of the joy of watching Stranger Than Fiction unravel. The other big part is seeing Ferrell’s range as an actor, presented with a role that suits both his comedic sensibilities and his dramatic range.

Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton


There are a lot—a lot—of surf documentaries out there. Few are as engrossing as this one. Colossal as the waves it captures, Take Every Wave tells the humongous life story of surfer Laird Hamilton and the unlikely career he made riding the most monstrous of waves. Much more than a biography and surf doco, the film goes in-depth about the team effort involved in executing these stunts and the technological advances that came from the high-stakes hijinks of these adventurous beach bums.



Eight wāhine Māori bring the whaea power to this hard-hitting Aotearoa anthology revolving around the tangi of a boy who died at the hands of his caregiver. The very definition of a trailblazer, this landmark feature gave Māori female filmmakers the platform they’ve long been owed. Since then, we’ve seen these directors flourish with the likes of Whina, Cousins, Rūrangi‌, Ahikāroa and Not Even while Waru producers Kiel McNaughton and Kerry Warkia continued using the format to platform more underrepresented filmmakers with Vai and Kāinga.

Whale Rider


Pretty much a staple in any cinema Aotearoa diet, Niki Caro’s adaptation of Witi Ihimaera’s book is a certified classic. There’s not a bung performance to be found but the biggest powers come from a young Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar-nominated for her role as Paikea, and the great Rawiri Paratene, Paikea’s grumpy koro who refuses to recognise her as the new chief. Hitting the heart hard before healing it whole, it’s a triumphant story of aroha overthrowing the patriarchy.



Who knew a film about jazz drumming would be one of the most intense thrillers of 2014? Miles Teller stars as a bright-eyed, 19-year-old Buddy Rich hopeful who goes through a gruelling jarhead-like experience under the ruthless tutledge of a renown music teacher (JK Simmons in an Oscar-winning performance). Powered by heart-in-your-chest suspense and a true showstopping climax, Whiplash proved itself to be a remarkable breakout feature for writer-director Damien Chazelle, who would go on to make Oscar hit La La Land, Oscar bait First Man, and Oscar-dunking oddity Babylon.