Scenery Worthy Of The Big Screen 2021: Movies & TV Series Made In Queenstown

Unless you were living under a rock in the early 2000s, you probably heard of a movie franchise called The Lord of The Rings.

The film trilogy catapulted director Peter Jackson to superstardom. And for Queenstown͛s tourism industry, it had a similar effect, which then knocked onto more films and tv series being shot here.

The Lord of the Rings Effect

Glenorchy is a popular movie location

When the first Lord of The Rings film hit the big screens in 2001, the jaw-dropping landscapes of New Zealand's South Island were thrust upon audiences around the globe. Peter Jackson delivered New Zealand to the world as the embodiment of ͚Middle-earth͛. And it had a massive impact. The film was a three-hour advertisement for sightseeing in New Zealand, and the fine folk at TourismNZ couldn't have been happier. Before long, Lord of The Rings tours and sites popped up everywhere, giving eager fans the chance to walk amongst the scenery immortalised in the movies.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was shot throughout New Zealand. The filmmakers unearthed a wealth of uninhabited locations to recreate the fantasy landscapes of Tolkien͛s imagination. But no other location featured as heavily as Glenorchy, at the top of our beautiful Lake Wakatipu, and its surrounding mountain ranges. During filming, the cast and crew were based at Glenorchy and Queenstown for so long, they became honorary locals. Many were on hand to help the town when it succumbed to a major flood in 1999.

Now, over 10 years later, Lord of The Rings mania has died down. Sort of. Just like other cinematic classics (think Star Wars or The Sound of Music), the appeal continues many years after the movies have left the cinema. The local tour company, Nomad Safaris, runs a 4WD Lord of The Rings locations tour, which is still hugely popular today, 10 years on!

Queenstown's Showreel

The scenery of Queenstown and it's surrounds speaks for itself.   We have a uniquely special place, carved by glaciers and weathered over time.  And we are more than content to share it with the world...  Take a look at this impressive list of movies filmed in our very own backyard...

Mission: Impossible - Fallout - The dazzling helicopter chase that was filmed in the "triangle" between Milford Sound, Queenstown and Lake Wanaka. The Rees Valley, near Glenorchy, also stood in for a Kashmiri village in the film.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

From Dear Park Heights, you'll see sweeping vistas of the Wakatipu, the Remarkables and even across to Coronet Peak, meant as a replacement for the Canadian Rockies.  And at the top of the lake, Paradise is also featured.

 Vertical Limit (2000)

Filmmakers moved mountains in this movie by subbing in The Remarkables and Mt Cook for K2, and its base camp.

 Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001 –2003)

In a nutshell, much of the adventures undertaken by our hobbit heroes was filmed in and around Queenstown, Glenorchy, Arrowtown and across the divide to Wanaka.  Locations included:

  • Arwen’s river flood – Skippers Canyon
  • Dimrill Dale – Lake Alta
  • Edoras to Helm’s Deep – Deer Park Heights
  • River Anduin – Kawarau Gorge
  • Faramir Vs. the Oliphaunts – Twelve Mile Delta
  • Isengard – Paradise
  • Rivendell (The Hobbit) – Earnslaw Burn

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian

Escape to the mythical landscapes of Narnia - created for the film adaptations of everyone’s childhood favourite Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. Watch out for Paradise (near Glenorchy) which stands in for fairytale country in the films.

10,000 BC (2006),  largely filmed at Snow Farm located in the Cardrona Valley, a roughly 1 ¼ hour drive from Queenstown’s CBD.

The Water Horse (2007), This family-friendly fantasy adventure movie used Lake Wakatipu as a stand-in for a Scottish Loch.  Dear Park Heights was also used for its elevated views of the Wakatipu

30 Days of Night

This American horror film used locations around NZ, but closer to home, Cardrona Valley and Queenstown surrounds were used extensively

Pete’s Dragon

When you watch Pete's dragon soar, you'll see it sore over the mountains surrounding Queenstown and further afield around Otago! 

I Hate Luv Storys (2010)

Pretty much filmed entirely in Queenstown, this Bollywood mega-hit showcases the beautiful scenery of Queenstown, including our township!

The Hobbit Trilogy

Again, Glenorchy features heavily in these movies as Bilbo and friends depart Rivendell on the journey over the real Earnslaw Burn Track while Passburn played the part of the entry into the Misty Mountains.

TV Series 

Top of the Lake (Season One)

This NZ 'Golden Globe' winning and BAFTA-nominated series was shot in several locations across Queenstown and Glenorchy and Moke Lake locations.

One Lane Bridge 
More recently, this NZ tv series is set and filmed entirely in Queenstown! 

 

Why Queenstown?

Making movies at Moke Lake

In case the scenery isn͛t enough to entice the filmmakers, Queenstown also offers a few other benefits.

  • The location is close to a world-class resort with plenty of appropriate accommodation for A-list film stars and large film crews.
  • With many of the local landscapes and mountaintops owned by the Department of Conservation, access is relatively easy but also comes with strict terms of use to ensure no damage is done.
  • Queenstown͛s mountain ranges give great versatility and have starred as the Scottish highlands, the Himalayas and the fictitious landscapes of Isengard and Lothlorien.
  • The South Island is also seriously underpopulated, which makes it a lot easier to avoid a power pole or random passer-by getting caught in the shot.
  • And let's not forget our wonderful welcoming locals!

Queenstown is home to a full industry of filmmakers with the latest technology and equipment to create films, features, television shows and commercials. Filmmakers are drawn here because of a rich diversity of landscapes. Here they can find alpine vistas, fiords, raw coastlines, waterfalls, sparse, rocky landscapes, farms, vineyards and historic towns.

The Lord of The Rings movies did something amazing for New Zealand tourism, and the effects will carry on for many years to come. In all its cinematic glory, New Zealand was showcased to a global audience who quickly put the little country at the bottom of the planet straight to the top of their travel wish list.

And for anyone who visits Queenstown or Glenorchy, it͛s easy to see why the landscapes are worthy of the big screen. 

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