4. Millions (2004)
Boyle once again demonstrates his versatility as a director by taking on a family film which hinges on the performance of a child protagonist. While the underrated Millions does cater to younger audiences with some cutesy-poo magical stuff, it's certainly accessible to anyone as its blunt commentary on capitalism is universally relevant. Boyle also adds his usual humanistic touches by celebrating morality and acts of kindness. From my perspective, this one is a more heartwarming crowd-pleaser than Slumdog, and probably Boyle's most emotionally affecting film to date.
3. Trainspotting (1996)
Boyle's stylish rendering of scottish heroin subculture makes for one of the most iconic films of the '90s and a powerful anti-drug use campaign. Trainspotting contains a certain authenticity with its raw scottish dialect, unsettling moments and filthy, decaying interiors. It does not shy away fom humor, though most of it is rather dark due to the nature of the film. Its pulsating rhythm is aided by Boyle's frequent use of techno music, giving the film a hyperactive tempo which totally suits it. Trainspotting plays out very much like a psychadelic high in which the user rides out and ultimately realizes its damaging effects. Choose life.
2. Sunshine (2007)
With Sunshine, Boyle borrows heavily from Ridley Scott's Alien and Kubrick's 2001 but ultimately creates a powerful sci-fi experience that is uniquely his own. On the surface, this film is simply about a mission to re-ignite a dying sun, but its rich subtext conjures up plenty of metaphorical thoughts on religion, science, human nature and artificial life. The third act takes a wild turn into supernatural, pseudo-spiritual horror and allows the film to function on a metaphysical level. Elevated by awesome imagery and an intensely powerful finale, Sunshine has all the makings of a sci-fi classic.
1. 28 Days Later (2002)
28 Days Later totally reinvents and revitalizes the modern-day zombie film. The idea itself is very socially relevant in its illustration of contemporary paranoia surrounding viral pandemics. And while biological outbreaks have been seen before in films, the idea of a pyschological virus that causes living humans to act as fast moving zombies is a fresh concept that pushes forward the zombie sub-genre.
The film shows us how destructive the virus is to those who become infected, but it also exposes equally destructive human behavior in those not affected. It's a social allegory that literally depicts humankind destroying itself, while also a cautionary political tale and an exploration of the struggles between humanist and survivalist ideals. And though the film lends itself to dark subject matter and ideas, Boyle doesn't completely abandon his usual optimistic outlook as there are some touches of hope and beauty to behold.
The film's first twenty minutes present some of the most powerful, iconic imagery in horror film history as the film's protagonist wakes from a coma and walks the desolate, lifeless streets of London. There's an overwhelming sense of isolation, and Boyle's wonderful choice of music here serves to gradually build the mounting dread and heighten the atmospheric surreality of London's post-apocalyptic landscape.
The film has a look and feel that is truly one of a kind. Shot in digital, the grainy, handheld look emits a unique aura of cinematic realism. This naturalistic, handheld approach has lended itself to many genre pictures since 2002 and has sparked a new wave of DIY-inspired filmmaking. I would be wrong to say that Danny Boyle had everything to do with this emergence, but he was certainly a major influence.
The soundtrack is a perfect fit as it lends itself to both beauty and dread. Boyle has a knack for creating memorable moments by infusing both powerful imagery and effectively complementing music, and he's definitely on top of his game here.
28 Days Later transcends the confines of post-apocalyptic horror and works also as a thought-provoking humanist drama. It's a highly effective piece of cinema and easily one of the most important horror films of the last decade. In fact, I consider it to be one of the better horror movies of all time, and easily my favorite film from Danny Boyle.