Once Were Warriors

Watch Once Were Warriors

"A family in crisis, a life in chaos... Nothing is more powerful than a mother's love."
  • R
  • 1994
  • 1 hr 39 min
  • 7.9  (36,482)
  • 77

Once Were Warriors, directed by Lee Tamahori, is a powerful and emotional film that explores the struggles of a Maori family living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Auckland, New Zealand. Based on the novel by Alan Duff, the movie portrays the social and cultural issues prevalent in the Maori community, including domestic violence, substance abuse, and generational trauma.

At the center of the film is the Heke family, led by Jake (Temuera Morrison) and his wife Beth (Rena Owen). Jake is a former gang member who struggles with alcoholism and a violent temper, while Beth is a strong-willed woman who tries to hold her family together despite the challenges they face. Together, they try to raise their children in a harsh environment where poverty and violence are everyday realities.

The film begins with a celebration of Beth's birthday, which quickly turns sour when Jake gets drunk and starts a fight with his friends. This sets the stage for the rest of the movie, as Jake's explosive behavior and drinking problem become increasingly destructive. Meanwhile, Beth tries to keep their family together, but faces her own struggles as she deals with Jake's abuse and the societal pressures that come with being a Maori woman.

Throughout the film, we see the effects of Jake's violence and alcoholism on his family. His eldest son Nig (Julian Arahanga) is drawn into a life of crime and gang activity, while his daughter Grace (Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell) is forced to grow up too quickly as she navigates the dangers of her surroundings. The youngest son, Boogie (Taungaroa Emile), is still innocent and naive, but he too will eventually face the harsh realities of his environment.

Despite the intense subject matter, Once Were Warriors is not without hope. Through the struggles of the Heke family, we see the resilience and strength of the Maori community, as well as the importance of cultural identity and connection to one's roots. Beth, in particular, serves as a symbol of hope and strength as she fights to protect her family and maintain her cultural traditions.

The film also features powerful performances from its cast, particularly Rena Owen as Beth. Owen brings a depth of emotion and strength to her portrayal of a woman who is constantly fighting against the odds. Temuera Morrison is equally impressive as Jake, bringing a sense of vulnerability to his character that makes him both sympathetic and terrifying. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, making the scenes between them all the more impactful.

In addition to its emotional resonance, Once Were Warriors is a visually stunning film. The cinematography captures the raw beauty of New Zealand's landscape, while also highlighting the stark reality of life in the city's slums. The film's soundtrack, which features traditional Maori music as well as contemporary hip-hop and rock, adds to the atmosphere and provides a deeper understanding of the film's cultural context.

Overall, Once Were Warriors is a powerful and thought-provoking film that explores important social and cultural issues. Through its portrayal of the Heke family, the movie sheds light on the struggles faced by many in the Maori community, while also highlighting the strength and resilience of its people. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in exploring themes of identity, family, and community, and is sure to leave a lasting impact.

Once Were Warriors is a 1994 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 39 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.9 and a MetaScore of 77.

Once Were Warriors
Where to Watch Once Were Warriors
Once Were Warriors is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Once Were Warriors for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 39 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.9  (36,482)
  • Metascore