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Once Were Warriors

Once Were Warriors (1994)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 29,068

My Rating

Movie Info

This powerful drama was a major hit in its native New Zealand, outgrossing Jurassic Park in Kiwi cinemas. Jake and Beth Heke (Temurea Morrison and Rena Owen) are a couple of Maori descent who are living in a slum in Aukland. While it's obvious that they still love each other, Jake's alcoholism has driven a wedge into their relationship and has left their children emotionally scarred. Jake is charming while sober, but when drunk, he's a violent psychopath given to blink-of-an-eye mood changes and



Sep 2, 2003

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All Critics (36) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (30) | Rotten (2) | DVD (16)

A gut-grabber from New Zealand ... that stays with you for days.

June 18, 2002 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As often happens when films are intent on getting a message across, Once Were Warriors can't stop itself from overdoing things.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times | Comments (12)
Los Angeles Times
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Works, to some degree, on three levels: the visceral, the emotional, and the intellectual, and it is the amalgamation of these that makes this a memorable film.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Yet familiar as the pattern is ... the film holds because of the acting and because it functions as travelogue.

January 1, 2000
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is powerful and chilling, and directed by Lee Tamahori with such narrative momentum that we are swept along in the enveloping tragedy of the family's life.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most powerful, ultra-realistic dramas about domestic violence--As the battered wife, Rena Welson should have received a Best Actress nomination.

December 23, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comment (1)

Overrated and nauseating.

November 14, 2005 | Comments (8)

Packed with bloody raw emotion.

January 3, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Excellent performances in this New Zealand import

October 25, 2002
Lawrence Journal-World

One of the year's best films. Totally unforgettable.

September 20, 2002

Speaks volumes about the self-destructiveness of peoples who have turned their rage inward.

August 30, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

It is an impressive first feature for its director, Lee Tamahori, and a splendid dramatic vehicle for its stars, especially Rena Owen.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco Examiner

It is a painful and very effective tale about the destructive power of abuse, rape, alcoholism, and violence in general that easily transcends its New Zealand origin.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

Heartbreaking, frustrating, an observation of domestic violence and a tribute to the wives who ultimately refuse to remain victims.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

The film's searing performances are matched by the lovely camerawork of cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Everything about this powerful, poignant film makes it a must-see experience, if you have the stomach for it.

January 1, 2000
Jam! Movies

Audience Reviews for Once Were Warriors

April 11, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

A powerful story of love, loss, violence and cultural awakenings. Not for the faint hearted, this film contains some of the most extreme scenes of domestic abuse I've witnessed. Compelling stuff!!!
August 8, 2012
Graham Willis

Super Reviewer

I went for this one presuming it's a war movie. Little did I know that it was instead a social story of a family headed by a violent person. Anyway, as the credits started rolling in somewhat unusual way, I thought that this is gonna be some offbeat movie beyond my grasping abilities (somewhat is still left, honestly). Fortunately, it wasn't so. It was a simple story of a beautiful woman marrying a lower class, violent man and the disastrous consequences of her decision. It was a simple story of a woman's struggle to survive against all odds and who learns a lifetime lesson only after a dreadful tragedy. There was too much violence in the movie, but I can't say it was unnecessary. Hell, it was difficult to even merely look at the face of the lead actress after her husband beats her badly. I'm glad that I was able to sit through those painful scenes and it was well worth my time.

All in all, it's a brutally realistic tale told in an incredible way, thanks to the best efforts put in by those involved in the making of the film. Rena Owen was second to none in the role of tolerant wife, and Temuera Morrison was so natural as a violent asshole that you start hating his guts in no time.
February 12, 2011

Super Reviewer

True to the core...
There is something in this movie that ever body can relate to, from rape to suicide, from drugs to alcohol and gangs to gangsters from Parents to children, from boyfriends to girlfriends, from crime to criminals and depression to optimism, from loyal words to broken promises, from love to revenge and Traditions/cultures to poverty the list goes on...
This movie does well to cover all such subjects based on the truest nature of any community...Local and Global.
February 25, 2010

Super Reviewer

    1. Jake Heke: Too much weights, not enough speed work.
    – Submitted by Joshua G (6 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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Latest News on Once Were Warriors

February 2, 2006:
Director Lee Tamahori Charged With Solicitation
According to celeb-watching site, New Zealand-born director Lee Tamahori was arrested...

Foreign Titles

  • Once Were Warriors (DE)
  • Once Were Warriors (UK)
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