A movie a year: 20 movies released since the 1997 Hong Kong handover

By YP cadets Hayley Chow, Geraldine Cheung and Shum Long-hin

What better way to commemorate the handover than by taking a trip down memory lane to rewatch some of our favourite movies from the past 20 years

By YP cadets Hayley Chow, Geraldine Cheung and Shum Long-hin |

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Sometimes, 20 years doesn't feel like a long time, until you realise that it actually is. And in the movie world, it means any number of excellent - and disastrous films - get released to the public. Here is a list of 20 films that came out in the past two decade since the Hong Kong handover in 2997; one for each year.

1. Men in Black (1997)

NYPD cop James Edwards (Will Smith) is recruited to join the Men In Black - a police force the monitors and manages alien activity on Earth, while also preventing the public from knowing about these extraterrestrial's existence. When a rogue alien steals a huge energy source, it is up to Edwards - now Agent J - and his new mentor, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), to stop a massive disaster. The special effects and alien designs may feel a little dated, but this films moves at such a fun pace and it's so full of laughs, it still remains a great summer blockbuster.   

2. The Legend of 1900 (1998)

On a cruise ship out at sea, an orphaned baby boy is raised by a black labourer on the ship, who names him Danny Boodmann T.D. Lemon Nineteen Hundred '1900'. After 1900’s guardian dies, the boy shows a talent for the piano and becomes a renowned musician, but grows up never having left the ship. This film is the mournfully romantic tale of 1900's (Tim Roth) musical journey, personal journey from boy to man, and self-imposed fate to never leave the ship.

3. The Matrix (1999)

What makes The Matrix so special is not only its creative story, but its insistence on filling every second with impressive cinematography and dialogue that’s quick and memorable. It’s a cyber-adventure about a parallel reality that exists alongside our own, the latter which is actually run by computers that want to eradicate our world we've come to know as reality. Only Neo (Keanu Reeves) has the power to stop it, but at what cost?

4. Being John Malkovich (2000)

Being John Malkovich is a quirky mess of a story set in an office where Craig (John Cusack) is trying to impress his colleague Maxine (Catherine Keener). While doing so, he discovers a hidden portal in his workplace that transports people literally into the mind of famous actor John Malkovich. This film is an abstract rendering of the human condition, who we are and our frequent desires to be more than that.

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

The first in one of the most well-known movie franchises ever, this begins the story of Harry James Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), an eleven year old wizard who must defeat the evil Voldemort. As the start of Harry’s progressively dark tale, Philosopher’s Stone is a fun and innocent film about the powers of courage and friendship, and how happiness can be found in the darkest of times and strangest of places.

6. Adaptation (2002)

Adaptation is the story of Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), a failing screenwriter given one last chance to write a manuscript about a protagonist who is seeking beauty. Other characters are introduced, who are all on their own journeys to the next phase in their lives. It's super meta and uber confusing .... just watch it.

7. Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo follows clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks), who's so cautious about everything all he wants is stay close to home with his only son, Nemo (Alexander Gould). But being young and adventurous, Nemo gets taken far away one day by accidental during one of his ventures, and Marlin has to go a long way to find him. On the way, Marlin meets  Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who suffers from short-term memory loss, and the two meet sharks, turtles and seagulls on their way to rescue Nemo. You can't go wrong with this modern Pixar classic.

8. I, Robot (2004)

An exciting addition to the sci-fi genre, I, Robot is the story of Del Spooner (Will Smith), a detective who lives in an age where robots co-exist with and serve humans. Upon the death of the founder of a large robotics company, Spooner is sent to investigate and uncovers a specially made robot created by the deceased founder. Joined by robopsychologist Susan (Bridget Moynahan), Spooner and the special robot investigate the cause of the man's death, and finds much more than they expected ... or were supposed to. 

9. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005)

The beloved children’s classic tells the story of the four Pevensie children who discover a magical land through a wardrobe. All the child actors deliver excellent performances, but the one who stands out most is Georgie Henley with her poignant portrayal of Lucy’s childish innocence and wonder. Intricately designed sets, realistic creatures and a beautifully haunting score all help bring Narnia to life. 

10. Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig made his debut as James Bond in this film. The exotic locations and breathtaking action sequences are as much a part of the movie as the elegantly dressed characters. The film’s plot is dark and fascinating, but what makes this movie shine is the sheer energy of Craig’s performance.

11. Ratatouille (2007)

There is no secret recipe and no one really knows the right ingredients to make a successful animated film, but Ratatouille manages to excel and warm audiences' hearts. Remy (Patton Oswalt) is passionate about cooking and his dream is to become a chef. There is just one teeny tiny problem: Remy is a rat. Enter Linguini, a young man who works as a cleaner in the kitchen of a Michelin star-restaurant in Paris, who wants to be a chef also but has absolutely no cooking talent. Thanks to the powers of Disney magic, Remy becomes Linguini's BFF and also cooking mentor who guides him hidden beneath his chef's hat. Naturally, this relationship is compromised by the villain, who wants to uncover their secret, and by Remy and Linguini's stubborn personalities.

12. Kung Fu Panda (2008)

You wouldn’t expect a cute cuddly panda to be a kung fu master. But Po (Jack Black) is announced as the next Dragon Warrior, destined to defeat the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) and restore peace. Full of fun gags and exciting fight scenes, Kung Fu Panda is sure to leave you satisfied.

13. Avatar (2009)

The highest-grossing film of all time, Avatar is set in 2154 on the distant planet of Pandora, a beautiful and untampered world inhabited by the Na’vi: three meter tall, blue-skinned humanoids. Because Pandora is home to a rare mineral, the planet is the target of human scientists who wish to mine it, threatening the existence of the Na’vi. As a solution, protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) operates an avatar, a Na’vi body genetically modified to include the mind of a human. Avatar features stunning graphics and a meaningful message hidden in a simple plot.

14. The King’s Speech (2010)

An unexpected box office hit, The King’s Speech received much deserved acclaim for its portrayal of the story of King George VI, who suffered from a severe stammer. In the face of war, when his people needed a leader who could speak to and for them, George VI seeks out speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help him overcome his fear of public speaking. A heart-warming tale of trust and friendship, The King’s Speech is definitely worthy of the Oscars it won. 

15. Midnight In Paris (2011)

In this splendidly shot film, director Woody Allen gracefully captures the beauty of Paris in the 1920a. While protagonist Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is out for a stroll at midnight, he boards a carriage that takes him back in time, where he meets famous writers Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. His late-night visits to the past makes him long for the time he gets transported to, and the film is basically about "golden age mentality", whereby we all long for the past, but Gil discovers that maybe the present is where it's at.

16. Life of Pi (2012)

This is the story of Pi, whose zookeeper father announces the whole family must leave India, board a ship, and move to Canada. Mid-journey, Pi finds himself shipwrecked, orpahned, and stuck on a small life boat with a Bengal tiger. This film, adapted from a book of the same name, is about defiance, survival, and friendship. Beautiful animation coupled with humorous storytelling will have you returning to Life of Pi again and again.  

17. Frozen (2013)

Although it’s a Disney film made for kids, there’s no denying Frozen has something for people of all ages. With a strong female protagonist and a welcome deviation from the princess in distress cliche, this is a treat for the whole family.

18. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A movie set in the ever expanding Marvel cinematic universe, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the tale of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), also known as Star Lord, a space adventurer. After losing a powerful artefact, Quill forms a reluctant group of heroes to get it back before it can be used for evil.  

19. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The Force Awakens is the first film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Weaving between the stories of the new trio Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku; Finn (John Boyega), and fleeing stormtrooper Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who is a Resistance pilot, it is once again a fight of good against evil. The film is very long and ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving us eagerly awaiting The Last Jedi, coming this December.

20. La La Land (2016)

La La Land tells the love story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist. This Oscar-winning film proves Hollywood needs more musicals. With catchy numbers, soft ballads and intricate choreography, as well as the fabulous cinematography which cuts seamlessly from sene to scene, making the movie seem like it was all shot in one take, makes it super special. The only downside is the slow plot, but that leaves room for Stone and Gosling to make their characters truly shine.