Once Were Warriors (1994) - Rotten Tomatoes

Once Were Warriors (1994)

Once Were Warriors (1994)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Once Were Warriors Photos

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 terrible cruelty against his loved ones. Liquor has also made it difficult for Jake to hold onto a job, leaving him dependent on the dole to feed his family. Nig (Julian Arahanga), Jake's oldest son, has turned his back on his father and joined a gang of Maori youths whose initiation rituals include tattooing and torture. Jake's 13-year-old daughter Grace (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) prefers to spend her time with her drug-addicted boyfriend -- rather than stay home and fight off the advances of her father's friends. And Boogie (Taungaroa Emile) ends up in juvenile hall when Jake's drinking prevents him from going to court to speak on Boogie's behalf. Once Were Warriors was based on an acclaimed novel by Alan Duff.
Directed By:
Written By:
New Zealand Film Commission

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Rena Owen
as Beth Heke
Temuera Morrison
as Jake Heke
Taungaroa Emile
as Boogie Heke
Rachael Morris Jr.
as Polly Heke
Joseph Kairau
as Huata Heke
Pete Smith
as Dooley
George Henare
as Bennett
Ray Bishop
as King Hitter
Ian Mune
as Judge
Richard Mehana
as Taunter in Court
Rangi Motu
as Matawai
Robert Pollock
as Policeman
Jessica Wilcox
as Policewoman
Stephen Hall
as Prosecuting Officer
Wiki Oman
as Youth Advocate
Richard Meihana
as Taunter in Court
Spike Kem
as Old Drunk
Arona Rissetto
as Nig's Friend
Fran Viveaere
as Nig's Girlfriend
Brian Kairau
as Joking Man Outside Club/Jake's Mate
Charlie Tumahai
as Karaoke Singer
Tama Renata
as Party Guitarist
Guy Moana
as Evicted Partygoer/Pub Customer
Maree Moschonas
as Gang Rape Victim
Riwia Brown
as Bully's Girlfriend
Mac Hona
as Core Gang Member
Percy Robinson
as Core Gang Member
Jason Kerapa
as Core Gang Member
Robbie Ngauma
as Core Gang Member
James Dean Wilson
as Core Gang Member
Chris Mason Johnson
as Core Gang Member
Marshall Kairau
as Jake's Mate
Joseph Te Whiu
as Jake's Mate
Jim Ngaata
as Jake's Mate
David Te Rare
as Jake's Mate
Donald V. Allen
as Jake's Mate
Charles Marsh
as Jake's Mate
Winstone Bedgood
as Jake's Mate
Piki Mark
as Jake's Mate
Royal Waa
as Jake's Mate
Jack Grace
as Jake's Mate
Manuel Apiata
as Jake's Mate
George Tiopira
as Jake's Mate
Maru Nihoniho
as Jake's Mate
Jaye Cassidy
as Jake's Mate
Vivienne Wilson
as Jake's Mate
Hiraina Kume
as Jake's Mate
Thomasina Perana
as Jake's Mate
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Once Were Warriors

Critic Reviews for Once Were Warriors

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (9)

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

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top 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

Reserve judgment until this raw, uncompromising working-class saga is over, and you might find yourself unforgettably moved -- and grateful for the experience.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Once Were Warriors

A melodrama of sorts, but one so vigorous and full of rage and despair, that it will inevitably linger in you.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


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!!!

Graham Willis
Graham Willis

Super Reviewer

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