2016 Reel Gospel Film of the Year: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

by Sam Robinson

2016 has been a year of hits and misses at the cinema. It’s been a year that’s seen some powerful (and important) true stories shared, such as Spotlight and The Founder. It’s also seen some real big budget blockbuster duds, such as Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice and Independence Day: Resurgence. But the film that has stood out among the pack for our writing team this year is a little film out of New Zealand that has captured hearts around the world – Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

On paper, it’s an absurd idea for a film, and on screen it’s just as strange, yet it pulls together to become an enjoyable experience. Wilderpeople treads the line between laugh-out-loud comedy and emotional drama very well.

Writer/Director Taika Waititi has used great local talent to craft a film that celebrates the need for relationship, which for Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is with foster parents that will provide him with a loving home. Labelled a ‘bad egg’ for some bad behaviour he is shipped off to a remote farm to live with new foster parents. After a poor attempt to run away, Ricky ends up traversing the NZ bush with his ‘Uncle’ Hec (Sam Neill), being tracked by authorities.

There’s a lot to love about this film. As our reviewer Lachlan Anderson pointed out in his five-star review earlier this year, it’s a ‘piece of storytelling that works at every level’. It seamlessly weaves between funny and serious moments, all the while being engaging viewing. There’s also great cinematography – capturing gorgeous NZ landscapes, bush, and mountaintops. And it does a climactic car chase as good as the best big-budget Hollywood flicks.

In a year when we only awarded three films with five star reviews (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Room, and Finding Dory), it’s Waititi’s perfectly-made family adventure that is the best film of the year for us.

Congratulations to Taika Waititi for Hunt For the Wilderpeople, the 2016 Reel Gospel Film of the Year.


  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  2. The Big Short
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  5. Zootopia



  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  2. Hail, Caesar!
  3. Zootopia
  4. The Jungle Book
  5. 10 Cloverfield Lane


Come back tomorrow as we announce the 2016 Reel Gospel Album of the Year!

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is available now on home media. Click here to read our review.

Connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

*Films eligible for votes were those released in Australia and reviewed on Reel Gospel between December 1st 2015 and November 30th 2016.

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