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Ranking The Best Danny Boyle Films To Date

As I wrote a few years back, there aren’t many filmmakers who like to mix things up as much as Danny Boyle does. As a director, he has a style that’s easy to notice, but he often applies it to fairly unique projects. Boyle is an Academy Award winner, the helmer of a Best Picture winner, and considered one of the more interesting directors in the business. This week, he’s got a real potential crowd pleaser about to hit theaters in Yesterday, while he was initially pegged to direct the next James Bond film, before pulling out. In honor of Yesterday (review to come tomorrow or the day after), I did want to again give a rundown of the best films of Boyle’s career so far. He’s made about a dozen flicks in his career, but below you’ll see his top five to date. I’m leaving out my take on Yesterday, so it can get a full write up in the next day or so. Enjoy, and as always, remember that this is just my take on Boyle’s work…

Here now are what I believe to be the five best films of Boyle’s directing career so far, not including Yesterday:

5. 127 Hours – This was initially a film of his I wasn’t really wild about. However, the years have been kind to Boyle’s visceral look at survival against all odds. It didn’t hurt that James Franco is outstanding in the only real role of note in the movie, but Boyle does utilize his sometimes frantic sense of direction to keep from boredom setting in. Boyle and Simon Beaufoy’s script is truly elevated by Boyle’s direction and Franco’s acting here, no question about it.

4. Trainspotting – If you know Danny Boyle’s early work, you know him from this. The flick that really helped him break out, this hard to pin down film is more or less a cultural touchstone at this point. Armed with a soon to be star in Ewen McGregor and the early days of Miramax and Harvey Weinstein behind it, this was something that would be placed alongside titles like Pulp Fiction in attempting to change cinema. The movie is perhaps a bit overrated, but it’s still one of his best. With a long rumored sequel finally getting ready to go, fans of this one will be able to hang out with these junkies one more time in the next year or so.

3. 28 Days Later – In many ways, Boyle is essentially the grandfather of the modern day zombie, courtesy of this movie. He and writer Alex Garland sped up the undead, looked at them as infected humans, and really did change the game. Without Boyle, this might not have hit in the same way as it did, so if you’re a fan of zombies in the 21st century, be it on television or in the cinema, not to mention the sequel to this flick 28 Weeks Later, you know who to thank…

2. Steve Jobs – I went on and on back in 2015 about how great this particular biopic was, but looking again at where it stands in his filmography should give you an idea of the quality here. Michael Fassbender is amazing in the title role, with Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Kate Winslet all doing their part to make one of Aaron Sorkin’s best screenplays just sing. It’s a near masterclass in the relationship between writing and directing, as Boyle and Sorkin elevate each other. It’s really very nearly a perfect film and a reinvention of the way biopics are done. Once again, Boyle is changing the game. That it wasn’t given the Oscar respect it deserved just proves how underrated it actually is.

1. Sunshine – The same top choice as last time. Again, in some ways, this is Boyle’s masterpiece. I’ve actually toyed with switching Sunshine with Steve Jobs, and it’s kind of a 1A and 1B situation, but for now, the sheer ambition of this project with Garland just impresses me to no end. A serious science fiction drama that becomes an almost existential action movie by the end, it’s unlike anything else, either from Boyle or really in general. I love it. For now, at least…it’s the best that Boyle has done so far.

Honorable Mentions: Shallow Grave, Slumdog Millionaire, and T2 Trainspotting

Stay tuned for my take on Yesterday before the week is out!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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