The Five Best Danny Boyle Movies

The five best Danny Boyle movies

While not quite as prolific as a Spielberg or an Eastwood, Danny Boyle is one of the greatest directors in Hollywood.  Not only can he make awards darlings and near-masterpieces across every genre, he masterfully branches out from movies to other mediums.  Recently, he directed a London production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch.  Also, he created the 2012 opening ceremonies for the London Summer Olympics.

Boyle is a cinematic auteur.  The man seems to direct a different genre of film every time he attempts a film.  He has done horror, sci-fi, drama, thriller, kid-friendly fantasy, and even biopics.  This versatility really says a lot about his prowess as a director. Here are the 5 best films of Danny Boyle’s career.

Trainspotting (1996)

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting was the film that catapulted Danny Boyle into the Hollywood mainstream.  Movies about drug addiction and lifestyle are usually a huge downer. Just look at Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream.  However, Danny Boyle was able to make a film that is equal parts funny AND devastating.  It is a very delicate balance that had the danger of slipping into an odd endorsement of the lifestyle.

Brilliantly, it doesn’t.  These addicts have a sort of camaraderie that allows their hijinks, their absurd, desperate lives, and their manipulations completely acceptable.  Heroin addicts don’t live the same life as we all do. They have a narrow, focused existence. That is why the story about a group of friendly addicts works so well.  Everything outrageous and wacky that is happening to them makes perfect sense in their world, so it is both fun and sad to watch live through it.

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127 Hours (2010)

Aron Rolston entered the desert to go hiking.  He slipped and caused his arm to become crushed and trapped between a boulder and the canyon wall.  Unfortunately, he hadn’t told anyone where he was going. Thus he eventually had to amputate his arm to free himself.  This is a story that actually happened back in 2003. Aron was all over the TV and definitely received his 15 minutes of fame.  However, it seems like his story was pretty simple and would be difficult to sustain for feature film length.

That is until Danny Boyle took the helm of 127 Hours.  A lot of things go through a 28-year-old’s mind when he faces his own mortality so clearly and hopelessly.  Boyle and James Franco (wonderfully portraying Rolston) make Aron’s predicament quite the roller coaster ride.  Also, the portrayal of that self-amputation is so visceral that your muscles will contract and you’ll wince harder than a movie has ever made you wince before.  

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28 Days Later… (2002)

When Danny Boyle released 28 Days Later…, for the first time in a long time, a zombie movie was high art.  Danny Boyle directed a masterful exhibition of a viral outbreak that turns the infected into sprinting, terrifying maniacs.  The fast “zombies” have never been done better, and they are infinitely scarier than the slow, shambling ones. When Cillian Murphy awakens in a hospital to an abandoned London, it is truly astonishing.  The film is very patient while Murphy’s character tries to find out what has happened to London.  However, when the infected start to show up, it is terrifying.

Though, 28 Days Later… is not just another zombie horror film.  It takes the time to flesh out the characters and focus on some heavy thematic elements.  Brendan Gleeson’s father/daughter subplot is both the most poignant and most devastating.  Then, when Murphy and Naomi Harris arrive in Christopher Eccleston’s stronghold, things go from bad to worse.  This is a solid, visceral thriller and possibly the best zombie film ever made.

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Sunshine (2007)

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is quite simply the best end-of-the-world science fiction epic ever made.  First, the cast is magnetic. It consists of Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Benedict Wong, and each actor is better than the next.  Second, the production design is amazing. You believe 100% that you are aboard a spaceship en route to deliver a nuclear payload into the Sun. Third, speaking of the sun, Boyle’s ability to exhibit the power of the sun is extraordinary.  It is so effective that upon leaving the theater, you will almost be afraid of the sunlight outside.

Not since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has space travel been so awe-inspiring.  The visual effects, the performances, and the music are so powerful that it is almost unbearable.  It is a shame that the climax slips a bit into a corny slasher film, but what Boyle was trying to do is understandable.  The power of the sun and the gravity of the mission can affect people in pretty extreme ways.  Sunshine is just one of the most exciting and gorgeous science fiction films in decades.  It is nearly impossible to come back from the film unchanged.

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

If there were an Academy Award given out to CHARACTERS, the 2008 winner would hands-down be Jamal Malik.  He is the centerpiece of Slumdog Millionaire, the completely enthralling movie that lives up to every morsel of hype it received.  Danny Boyle really brought a wonderful saturated style to this Bollywood-esque tear-jerker.  The adult leads, Dev Patel & Freida Pinto had incredible chemistry as well. The film has some detractors, but Boyle must have known what he was doing.  He took home the Best Picture and a Best Director Oscar for 2008.

Based on the fantastic novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup, the film is a bit similar to Forrest Gump.  In that film, Tom Hanks went through life not realizing how significant his presence was in the annals of history.  In Slumdog Millionaire, Jamal sits in the hot seat of the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”.   He never realized that his harsh, tumultuous life would provide him with the knowledge needed to get through to the jackpot.  The whole endeavor crescendos into an inevitable, completely preordained climax that makes you want to jump out of your seat to cheer, cry, and applaud.  When was the last time you felt like THAT at the movies?

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