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In this blog series, George and Matt from the Monitor Audio team explore their favourite movies from the last 20 years.
Our selection of films may not be critically acclaimed or box office hits, but have stood the test of time as our favourite movies.
Dir: Pete Docter | Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar brought us an ingenious film about an 11-year-old girl and her wide range of emotions in this heart-breaking and joyous animated film.
We are introduced to Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger, all emotions, carrying out extremely important jobs, for 11-year-old Riley. Orbs are stored in Riley’s long-term memory, as those who control her actions keep her experiences safe. Alongside floating islands, which represent character traits, there are five core memories, all of which power her personality. As the leader, Joy takes charge of Riley; desperate to limit the influence Sadness has on her day-to-day life.
Riley and her family move to San Francisco, but after a rocky start, Joy has her work cut out. When Sadness begins to touch previously happy memories, Riley breaks down in school, causing a sad core memory to develop. As Joy attempts to remove it, a struggle with Sadness ensues, causing all of her core memories to be sent to long-term storage, as Riley runs away from home. Joy and Sadness are sucked through the vacuum, as Riley’s personality islands deactivate, leaving Fear, Disgust, and Anger to manage. Riley's childhood imaginary friend Bing Bong helps Joy and Sadness to ride the "train of thought" back to Headquarters, but it derails when an island collapses, as Riley reaches rock bottom. Joy and Bing Bong find themselves in the Memory Dump, but Joy finally understands how important Sadness is in Riley’s development. Bing Bong sacrifices himself, as he jumps out of a wagon rocket to allow Joy to escape, as he fades away, forgotten by Riley forever.
As they arrive back at Headquarters, Joy gives control to Sadness, who prompts Riley to return home, as core memories are returned. As her parents comfort her, a new core memory is formed, along with new personality islands, as a happy Riley begins to adapt to her new life.
Inside Out is a groundbreaking film from Pixar. Without losing any of its wit, Pixar manages to combine all the usual elements of charm and humour, to bring us its most intelligent and thought-provoking film yet. Without doubt, Inside Out is a true masterpiece.
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson | StudioCanal
Based on the novel of the same name, director Lenny Abrahamson brings us a story of a women held in captivity with her son.
In a grimy shed, for which they call Room, 24-year-old Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are held there, against their will. Jack's biological father is a man called “Old Nick”, who abducted Joy seven years prior and routinely visits, bringing supplies.
The only natural light coming from a window skylight, they have a single bed, toilet, bath and television, but not knowing any different, Jack believes the rest of the world only exists on television. As Joy desperately tried to keep Jack from talking to Old Nick, whenever he visits, Jack is kept in the closet. One night, Jack ventures out, but when Joy hits Old Nick for attempting to interact with him, he storms out and cuts their heat and power as punishment. Despite not being able to comprehend, Joy tells Jack the truth about their situation. After attempting to trick Old Nick into thinking Jack has a fever, Joy plots with Jack to play dead, in the hope that Old Nick will remove him from Room. Wrapped up in a carpet roll, Jack is finally free, soon following Joy’s instructions and flagging a passer-by. As Joy is discovered and reunited with Jack, Old Nick is arrested. After seven years, a lot has changed, as she returns to her family home, reunited with her mother, who has a new partner called Leo. After her father refuses to accept Jack as his grandchild, he leaves. Despite her depression, Joy agrees to a television interview. Overwhelmed with guilt, for not allow Jack to have a normal life outside of Room, she attempts suicide, but survives.
Jack soon meets friends his own age and begins to adapt to his new life, as Joy returns home from hospital and thanks Jack for saving her life. After one last visit to Room, they finally say goodbye.
In such dark and desperate circumstances, Abrahamson offers sensitive direction in this special relationship between a mother and her child. Room is a traumatic drama, full of hope and determination.
Dir: Quentin Tarantino | Lantern Entertainment
This violent western, from director Quentin Tarantino, follows eight strangers, who find themselves in a stand off on a mountain pass.
Transporting three dead bodies to Red Rock, Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a bounty hunter, hitches a ride on a stagecoach. Already on board is fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), who has picked up fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for hanging. Whilst Warren and Ruth discuss a letter Warren received from Abraham Lincoln, Ruth allows militiaman Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the new sheriff, to jump on board.
A huge snowstorm forces them to take refuge in a local shop, called Minnie's Haberdashery. A Mexican, called Bob, greets them, stating that Minnie is away, which doesn’t sit right with Warren. They are introduced to Red Rock's new hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and former Confederate Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Ruth and Warren agree to an alliance, as they disarm everybody, but Ruth is upset with Warren when realising his letter is a fake. As Smithers and Warren have a confrontation, someone poisons the brewing coffee as Warren shoots Smithers. Daisy gets hold of Ruth’s gun, as he attacks her, believing she is responsible. As she shoots Ruth dead, Warren restrains her and holds everyone at gunpoint. Warren kills Bob, believing that he murdered Minnie. As he is about to kill Daisy, Gage admits he was responsible for the poison, before Warren is shot from someone in the cellar. Mannix returns fire from Mobray, wounded him. A flashback shows Daisy's brother Jody (Channing Tatum) arriving at the lodge just hours earlier, killing Minnie, alongside Bob, Mobray and Gage, before hiding in the cellar.
Warren executes Jody, with Mobray to follow, as Mannix helps him to take down Gage. Just as Daisy is about to escape, Mannix shoots her, and together with Warren, whilst lying mortally wounded, they slowly hang Daisy from the rafters.
This multi-layered Western from Tarantino starts off slow, but moves towards a brutal and shocking finale. Alongside a wonderful Morricone score and a brilliantly diverse cast, this gem is not for the faint-hearted.
Dir: Adam McKay | Paramount Pictures
This comedy drama from director Adam McKay follows three stories, leading up to the 2007 housing market crash.
Two years prior, hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) deduces that the US housing market is unstable, due to high-risk subprime loans. Using his fund in Scion Capital, he plans to use his liquidity to short the housing market, anticipating the market's collapse.
Burry’s bet, which exceeds $1 billion, is quickly accepted by commercial banks, believing he is making a mistake. As it requires paying substantial monthly premiums, as time goes on, his clients pressure him to sell, but he refuses. The executive in charge of trading at Deutsche Bank, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) uses his analysis to verify that Burry is correct. On a smaller scale, Vennett starts to sell swaps and comes across Mark Baum (Steve Carell), a FrontPoint Partners hedge fund manager. After Vennett explains his findings to Baum, the FrontPoint team discover that higher margins for the riskier mortgages are profiting mortgage brokers. This leads to them buying the swaps from Vennett. After discovering a marketing presentation by Vennett, young investors Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley take his advise. They are unable to buy the swaps without the help of retired trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), who is able to enter into similar trades like Baum and Burry. After investing, the duo attempt to tip off the press about the upcoming disaster, but nobody will listen, due to the backlash they may receive from Wall Street banks. In 2007, as the subprime loans begin to default, Baum is disgusted with with the American banks, and dishonesty amongst the credit rating agencies.
As Morgan Stanley begin to fail, Baum waits until the very last minute before agreeing to sell their swaps, making over $1 billion. Despite Lawrence Fields, Burry’s main client, initially suing him, the market collapses, as Burry predicted. Lawrence receives $489 million as Burry receives a profit of $2.69 billion. Jared Vennett makes $47 million as Geller and Shipley, with Rickert's assistance, make $80 million.
A real life tragedy, this biographical drama is both gripping and infuriating. The Big Short is a brilliantly entertaining film from McKay, cleverly constructed, explaining the financial concepts along the way.
Dir: Denis Villeneuve | Lionsgate
Director Denis Villeneuve brings us this thriller about a government task force and their battle to bring down the leader of a Mexican drug cartel.
FBI agents Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) discover decaying corpses when carrying out a raid on a suspected Sonora Cartel safe house. Kate meets with Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), a CIA officer, who is heading a Department of Justice and Defence task force. The target is Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz, who is deemed responsible for the bodies at the safe house.
The team consisting of various CIA and Special Forces operators, also includes Reggie and the secretive Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). They first travel to Mexico, aiming to bring back Guillermo Díaz, Manuel’s brother and accomplice, for questioning. On the way back home, cartel gunmen attempt to stop them at the border, but are soon killed. After Alejandro tortures Guillermo, he gives up information on a tunnel the cartel use to smuggle drugs. As Kate and Reggie raise concerns, Graver admits that they are attempting to entice Díaz’s boss Fausto Alarcón, the Sonora Cartel drug lord. Kate and Reggie are ordered to stand down, as they try to mount a legal case against Díaz, but Kate defies orders to question a bank manager, who is suspected of laundering money for Díaz. At a local bar, Kate meets Ted (Jon Bernthal), a local police officer. When they go back to her apartment, Kate realises that Ted is working for the cartel, but before Ted can kill her, Alejandro subdues him. She realises that she was used as bait to get to Ted, as Ted reveals to Alejandro and Matt who the other corrupt officers are.
As they raid the tunnel, Kate sees Alejandro kidnapping Silvio, one of Díaz's drug couriers; she finds out that Alejandro is a CIA assassin, who is planning to eliminate Alarcón. After Alarcón ordered both Alejandro's wife and daughter to be brutally murdered, Silvio brings Alejandro to Alarcón's estate, where he murders Alarcón and his family. Alejandro forces Kate to sign a document to confirm the operation was legal.
With break taking cinematography, Sicario is immaculate, with compelling performances, full of suspense and relentless action.
Dir: Tom McCarthy | Open Road Films
This biographical drama from director Tom McCarthy focuses on an investigation by Boston Globe's Spotlight team into child abuse.
After John Geoghan, a Catholic priest, is arrested in 1976, an Assistant District Attorney tells the police to ensure the press aren’t informed, as Geoghan is released. In 2001, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is hired as the new editor for The Boston Globe, meeting members of the newspaper's "Spotlight" team. The team consists of editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), journalist Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and reporter Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams).
Baron highlights an old column, written by the Globe. The article stated that Cardinal Bernard Law (the Archbishop of Boston) knew that John Geoghan abused children. He urges the Spotlight team to drop everything and concentrate on this case, as Rezendes tries to contact the source of that article, lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. After initially declining to speak to Rezendes, he agrees when he realises Rezendes is part of the Spotlight team. The team uncover a pattern of cover-ups by the Boston Archdiocese, as a number of Catholic priests had been moved around, in order to allow them to continue working. Members of the victims' rights group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), are interviewed by Pfeiffer. Other findings, from Richard Sipe, a former priest, determine that 50% of priests are not celibate. Sipe tells them that he worked at trying to rehabilitate paedophile priests and that approximately 6% of priests in Boston are effected. The team develop a list of 87 names and begin to track victims.
After the September 11 attacks, there is a hiatus, but when they pick it back up, they learn that documents that confirm Cardinal Law was made aware of the problem are publicly available. Instead of rushing to expose Cardinal Law, they plan to publish their findings in early 2002. Upon the articles release, the team finds itself inundated with phone calls from victims coming forward to tell their stories.
A truly unmissable film, Spotlight is a thoughtful story told with grace, capturing and portraying a complex investigation with utmost respect.
Dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu | 20th Century Studios
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu brought us a period drama, based on the novel of the same name, about Hugh Glass's experiences in 1823.
As frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) navigates through present-day Dakotas, he leads Captain Andrew Henry's (Domhnall Gleeson) trappers, who carry animal pelt. Whilst he is away hunting with his half-Pawnee son Hawk, the company’s camp is attacked. As they rush back, many of his company are killed by the Arikara war party, seeking their Chief's abducted daughter, Powaqa. After fleeing on a boat, they stash their pelts and travel to Fort Kiowa on foot.
When Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), argues that Glass should be left behind. Henry is unable to carry out a mercy-kill, so instead pays Fitzgerald to stay behind and bury him, once he succumbs to his injuries. Bridger (Will Poulter) and his son Hawk stay behind, wary of Fitzgerald. After Hawk witnesses Fitzgerald trying to smother Glass, Fitzgerald fatally stabs Hawk, as Glass watches on. Fitzgerald convinces Bridger that the Arikara are approaching, so he buries Glass, unaware that Hawk is dead. Bridger reluctantly leaves Glass, but is angry when Fitzgerald admits he lied about the Arikara, as he confirms to Henry that Glass has died. As he begins to tend to his wounds, he slowly makes his way through the wilderness, jumping into white water rapids to escape detection. When Glass encounters a Pawnee refugee named Hikuc, he helps Glass to recover from a fever. After waking to discover his wounds have started to heal, he then finds hunters have killed Hikuc. He tracks the hunters and rescues Powaqa, escaping on Hikuc's horse. Glass is driven away by the Arikara, surviving a cold night by disembowelling the horse and sheltering inside it.
After Henry realises Glass has survived, he finds him and they set out in pursuit of Fitzgerald. After Fitzgerald kills Henry; Glass chases him down to a riverbank, as they face off in a brutal fight. Finally Glass pushes Fitzgerald downstream into the hands of the Arikara, as they spare Glass, for having saved Powaqa.
In beautiful surroundings, Iñárritu brings us a powerful Western survival story, about a harrowing tale of endurance, under insurmountable odds.
Dir: Ryan Coogler | Warner Bros. Pictures
An intoxicating sports drama, from director Ryan Coogler, serves as the seventh instalment in the Rocky series and sequel to Rocky Balboa.
In a LA youth detention in 1998, Adonis Johnson, son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, is serving time, until Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), Creed's widow, takes him in.
Seventeen years later, Adonis is preparing to take place in an amateur bout in a bar in Tijuana. Despite his father Apollo being killed by Ivan Drago thirty years prior, he decides to quit his job at the Smith Boardley Financial Group to pursue a career in boxing. After being turned down at the elite Delphi Boxing Academy, he is then beaten in a sparring match by light heavyweight contender Danny "The Stuntman" Wheeler. Adonis then seeks out former heavyweight champion, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), his father's old friend and rival. At Rocky's Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, he asks if he will train him. Despite suffering from brain trauma during his career as a fighter, he agrees, telling Adonis that his father beat him in a secret third fight. As Adonis starts a relationship with up-and-coming singer and songwriter Bianca (Tessa Thompson), he begins to train at the Front Street Gym, with help from Rocky's long-time friends. After beating a local fighter, their camp leak the news that Adonis is Creed's illegitimate son. World light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew), who is due to start a prison term, challenges Adonis to be his last fight, which he accepts.
After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Rocky decides against chemotherapy, but Adonis requests that he seeks treatment. Finally, Conlan and Adonis face-off, as they fight in Conlan's hometown of Liverpool. As Conlan is knocked down for the first time in his career, they go the full twelve rounds, as Conlan wins on a split decision. The crown show Adonis respect, as does Conlan, telling him that he is the future of the light heavyweight division.
Whilst many others didn’t, Creed definitely captured the spirit of the early Rocky films, in this triumphant return to the much loved series.
Dir: Asif Kapadia | A24
Focused on the life and early death of mid-2000s singing sensation Amy Winehouse, Asif Kapadia delves into Amy’s relationship with her family, lovers and substance abuse.
Starting with a home video of Amy singing at the age of 14, the documentary follows the singer-songwriters rise to commercial success with her first studio album Frank in 2003 leading on to her worldwide breakthrough with 2006’s Back to Black.
From her first foray into the music scene, Winehouse experienced battles with substance abuse, self-harm and troubled relationships. The documentary details the controversial media attention leading to her spiral of drug and alcohol addiction that lead to her eventual death in 2011, with close attention on ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil who shared an abusive relationship with Winehouse.
Using interviews from over 100 contributors including Winehouse’s mother, father, friends and colleagues, ‘Amy’ paints an incredibly detailed portrait of the singer’s colourful life and tragic death.
Dir: Todd Haynes | StudioCanal
Directed by Todd Haynes, this drama follows the trials of a wealthy married woman who falls in love with a younger female department store clerk in 1950s New York.
In the run up to Christmas 1952, aspiring photographer Therese (Rooney Mara) meets glamourous older woman Carol (Cate Blanchett) whilst working in a Manhattan department store. Carol leaves her gloves on the counter before departing, realising this Therese posts her gloves to the address left on her sales receipt.
Carol, who is going through a difficult divorce with her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) receives the gloves and calls the department store to thank Therese and invite her to lunch. Carol invites Therese to her home, stopping on route to purchase a Christmas Tree as Therese takes candid photos of her. Harge unexpectedly arrives at the house to take their daughter Rindy away for the holidays, becoming suspicious of Carol and Therese after it’s revealed that he knew Carol had an affair previously with her friend Abby. Distressed, Carol takes Therese to the train station to go home.
After apologising, Carol gives Therese a new camera. Carol learns that Harge is petitioning the judge to give him full custody, threatening to expose her homosexuality. To escape the stress, Carol invites Therese to come on a road trip with her, but on the second night Therese meets a travelling salesman Tommy who is revealed to be a private investigator working for Carol’s husband. After Carol threatens Tommy at gunpoint, he reveals that Harge already has the evidence. Carol and Therese turn home and their relationship erodes as Carol distances herself for the sake of her custody. Therese creates a photographic portfolio and lands a job at the New York Times. Meanwhile, after a heated exchange with her lawyers, Carol admits everything. To avoid a scandal, she give Harge full custody of their daughter, insisting on regular visitation.
Writing to Therese, Carol lets her know that she’s moved to an apartment in Madison Avenue. Realising that she can’t connect with anyone else, Therese meets Carol for dinner. With intoxicating cinematography and stand out performances from Mara and Blanchett, ‘Carol’ is an electric drama and lasting classic.
Dir: Andrew Haigh | Artificial Eye
Dir: Ridley Scott | 20th Century Studios
Mad Max: Fury Road
Dir: George Miller | Warner Bros. Pictures
Dir: S. Craig Zahler | RLJ Entertainment
Dir: John Crowley | Lionsgate
Check back in two weeks time as we look at our favourite movies from 2016!
Check out more of our favourites