The 2002 film Whale Rider, directed by Niki Caro, is an adaptation of Witi Ihimaera's 1987 novel The Whale Rider, itself based on the Māori legend of Paikea, or Kahutia Te Rangi, who rode from the ancestral home of Hawaiki to New Zealand's East Coast on the back of a whale.The tribe founded by Paikea has always been led by the previous chief's firstborn son, in a line of descent stretching back to the whale rider himself. However, in the late 20th century, a daughter, Paikea Apirana "Pai", is born, and the death of her mother makes her the only child in the line of succession. The story follows her as she challenges the traditions of her people and struggles for recognition and acceptance.
Contains examples of:
- Badass Grandpa: Koro Apirana. Subverted towards the end when he is unable to save the beached whales.
- Daddy Didn't Show: Paikea is heartbroken when her grandfather doesn't show up to hear her speech. That she wrote for him.
- Embarrassing Slide: When Pai's father does a slide show to tell the family about what he's been doing in Europe, a problem with a projector results in the show suddenly skipping to the last slide, which he'd been planning to lead up to gradually: a photo of him with his new girlfriend. Especially embarrassing because his parents invited an unattached local woman to the slide show in the hope that she and he would hit it off.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: In the book, Uncle Rawari is the first person narrator who tells the story of Paikea Apirana.
- Girl of the Week: Rawiri's many interchangeable girlfriends in the book. In the film he seems to be in a steady relationship with Shilo.
- Once Upon a Time: 'In the old days, in the years that have gone before us...'.
- Ocean Awe: It's about the Maori in New Zealand. The Pacific Ocean is part of their culture, after all.
- Scenery Porn: Again, New Zealand. There are many, many shots of the beautiful landscape, and there are especially long shots of the Pacific coastline. Becomes Scenery Gorn for the last half-hour, when the pod of whales are beached and dying.