All Danny Boyle Movies Ranked, From Worst to Best

It is challenging to put Danny Boyle in a box as a director. His eclectic filmography caters to many tastes and moods. If one were to plot his career on a Cartesian graph regarding genres and styles, it would probably be a parabola rather than a straight line. Boyle’s working-class status and upbringing hardly had an impact on his works. He has curated some of the most compelling films of the last decade. Every decent filmmaker has the potential to handle both indie and big-scale studio films. Boyle’s credits have a good share of both, which is no coincidence. His birthday was some days ago, and to bring you all of his works in one list, we have come up with this one. So here is a list of all Danny Boyle films ranked according to our preference.




13. A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Danny Boyle 13 A Life Less Ordinary

Almost every director has a soft romance flick in their filmography they aren’t proud of. Unless, of course, you are Paul Thomas Anderson. Or Lars von Trier. However, every film he makes is a love story unto himself. While it is not difficult to mess the attempt up, adding different genre elements to it can certainly help if you are too careful. Boyle wasn’t allowed too much, though, in one of his earliest works that showed his rawness. His ambitious premise was mismatched with an underwhelming story execution and underdeveloped characters. Instead of coming across as clever, Boyle’s vision loses gas once the central revelation is uncovered midway. It is not to say that A Life Less Ordinary isn’t an enjoyable time. Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, and Holly Hunter provide plenty of star power to propel you through a single watch.




12. T2: Trainspotting (2017)

Danny Boyle 02 T2 Trainspotting

The notion that sequels often fail to capture the original’s magic completely goes out of the window with T2. Boyle returns to the screen in electric fashion with a mildly tender but equally insane follow-up to Trainspotting. Fans of the characters are well served as the original cast returns in their character, while new ones also emerge from the rabbit hole. One thing that can be said quite assuredly about the sequel is that it does not tarnish Trainspotting’s legacy. The refreshingly unique ideas this time make you introspect a little more than you did previously. Like an epiphany, you would probably spend time with yourself thinking about your life decisions, which have led you to this moment.




11. Trance (2013)

Danny Boyle 03 Trance

As the name suggests, Trance is a wild psychedelic ride into the memory of a robber without actually attempting to reach into the depths of human nature when it comes to greed. There is a familiarity with how Trance unfolds with its twists and turns. We have seen things like this done before. But Boyle is up to the task of separating the final product with intelligent, creative choices. James McAvoy deliciously plays the robber. There is a refined lascivity in his portrayal and the mood of the film. The surrealist undertones perhaps do not do justice to the writing that is sort of repressed by Boyle’s style. Calling it overbearing would not be the right choice of words, but Boyle dangles with the line very narrowly. Trance rests on the delicate balance between not overexploiting or oversexualizing the experience of watching a bank robbery go down from the memory of the perp and the viewer’s decision to accept the fallacy of how that is done.




10. The Beach (2000)

Danny Boyle 04 The Beach

The earliest memories of watching ‘The Beach’ are a tense and wonderous Leonardo DiCaprio and an in-control Tilda Swinton. The former certainly had a tough time convincing us of a coming-of-age tangent that Boyle goes for. Instead, he establishes himself as crass and reckless, taking away the essence of the story. For that reason, it becomes peculiar for a viewer of a certain age. Beyond or below that phase in your life, you can’t, really, relate to Richard’s story and what he seeks in a mystical place. One thing that Boyle could be blamed for here is mollycoddling his protagonist. So much so that by the end, he becomes an antagonist in many ways. While the story’s structure is simple, The Beach lacks that enticing quality that attaches you to a film. Boyle is a master at creating that network effect with his works but falters here.

The Beach has a great soundtrack that fits in perfectly with the place’s vibes. To make it more endearing, Boyle uses the tunes to make his setting more atmospheric. The moments cherry-picked to resonate are very clever. There are some “out there” decisions too. Like the one where Richard imagines himself running in a video-game-like virtual world. But the problem is that it seems out of place and testifies to the case of misplaced priorities recurring in the film.




9. 28 Days Later (2002)

Danny Boyle 05 28 Days Later
Cillian Murphy in “28 Days Later” (Photo by Sundance/WireImage)

I remember watching 28 Days Later on a DVD several years ago, and it instantly became my favorite apocalypse-horror film. Of course, I had no idea what either of those words actually meant. But watching it did strike fear in what could possibly happen to our world some damned day. Boyle once again pairs up with Alex Garland to turn London into a raging battlefield between civilization and chaos. The deserted look of 28 Days Later has now become iconic, especially for the way it was shot. Boyle’s unique talents allow a simultaneous and ironic mix of claustrophobia and isolation for the viewer. Cillian Murphy is charming as ever and delivers a career highlight hard to best.




Beyond story and the representation of zombies that became fodder for new-gen filmmakers today, Boyle’s sharp socio-political commentary and allegory could not go amiss. Within the cinematic universe, he weaves an intricate, subtle, polarizing web for the philosophical core of 28 Days Later. It is an extremely rewarding choice, however, takes some sheen away from the first-rate entertainment on offer.




Related to This Danny Boyle Movie: 10 Best Cillian Murphy Movie Performances

8. Shallow Grave (1994)

Danny Boyle 06 Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave was a pretty bold experiment by Boyle in his debut. Given his raw instincts for the story and characters, there is a sense of snobbery that comes across watching the film. Not many filmmakers would have taken the dive to announce themselves with this type of setup. Boyle’s characteristic ear for dialogue and craft in marrying the dynamics of his vision and the writers’ is a bit missing, as a result. But that does not stop Shallow Grave from being a blockbuster watch. The edge-of-the-seat stuff is neatly put together and reminds one of the works of Guy Ritchie. Christopher Eccelston is the star of the show. His character becomes our guiding light and Boyle’s vessel to exploit the inherent naivety in the premise. Shallow Grave could have gone pretty much any way but not the right one without him.




7. Yesterday (2019)

Danny Boyle 07 Yesterday

For true Beatles fans, any movie featuring their songs and even remotely mentioning them is watchable. Cross my heart at that statement. The iconic British band had an unmatchable aura and an impact that has lasted decades. They are arguably one of the most recognizable music groups in pop culture. Many of those tunes are blared out in this interesting-looking yet flawed Danny Boyle film. The unthinkable happens when just one man in the world – as he thinks initially – remembers that the band ever existed. Everyone else’s memory is wiped so much that they don’t recognize the tunes when they hear them. It is a spotless slate, and Jack Malik makes it his mission to bring back to life Beatlemania in full flow. Boyle relies on the musical talents of Himesh Patel to inspire moments of sheer genius. The premise of his idea is not bad and both Lilly James and Patel share sparkling chemistry, something every romance needs.

In most of his brilliant works, Boyle has always found managing storytelling easy. But the lack of Boyle’s signature blend of macabre and narration pegs it a little behind. Yesterday is not cohesive and lacks directional flow. The progression happens in calculated, cascading phases that really feel like a substantial buildup. Yesterday perhaps, wasn’t made to fit those boxes. It has more of the structure of a homage to the real-life music band and everything that came with them to us. Either way, it is an enjoyable movie that won’t disappoint you but will not make your jaw drop.




6. Sunshine (2007)

Any director’s task increases manifold when he sets out to make films with actors from different cultures and languages. Tying up the story while ensuring you have functional and exciting characters for the viewer is a momentous challenge. Boyle faced something similar in managing the humungous diverse cast in Sunshine. It has loads of ambition when it comes to production, scale, and complex concepts. The scale and style are right up there with the Nolans and Spielbergs. Alex Garland, now considered a refined modern genre auteur, wrote the script. The film had all the essentials to make a blockbuster impact on the box office, only to be stuck as a story of two halves. Or the more appropriate would be a story of two acts and then the third, which spoiled all the good work.




While Boyle and Garland show the stoutness to experiment with the recreation of a metaphysical language for Sunshine, like Tarkovsky did with his Solaris, the commercial touch propelled by the studio pushes it back. In the tussle, Sunshine becomes an incomplete project that remains on the cusp of greatness. The last nudge it needed never came but it is still one of Boyle’s most memorable efforts in overseeing such an enormous project.




5. Millions (2004)

‘Millions’ is one of Boyle’s best works that features a mature lead performance by Alex Etel. The most endearing aspect of how the story speaks to you is the true-to-life depiction of grief and the working-class lifestyle that is so close to Boyle’s roots. He digs deep to carve out a compelling and sweet portrait not too far away from Ken Loach’s Kes. It is the small details of how Damian presents himself to the viewer – his acts of kindness and compassion – that Boyle chooses to highlight. ‘Millions’ does not have a twisty, taut tone like many other entrants on the list. Its straightforwardness perhaps coddles it to a fault even. Boyle warms you up to his narrative in the most open-hearted ways possible. There is no facade or deceit in how Damian becomes a vessel, almost for Boyle’s message to the world: live and let live.

Damian’s outlandish dreams and the use of effects to materialize some of them are a bit jarring to watch. Usually, that would indeed create an obstacle to raving the efforts objectively. But all that is forgiven when you witness the purity of heart and a makeover of a child into an adult making decisions that much older than him would hesitate to make.




Related to this Danny Boyle Movie: 15 Best Films About The Working Class

4. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

No Indian on planet earth wouldn’t have enjoyed this sumptuous love story cum story of a meteoric rise from the slums of Mumbai to becoming a millionaire and national sensation. Even though it is a film helmed by a Brit, Slumdog Millionaire rests in our hearts as a winning fable-like tale that we all want to see repeated in real-life desperately. It is genuinely global at heart, featuring unique talents from all across the globe. Dev Patel and Freida Pinto became cultural icons with their respective portrayals, and AR Rehman’s memorable Oscar win found every Indian smiling with pride. The film is told non-linearly and goes all over the place without losing focus or likeability. Every moving part of Slumdog reciprocates the observant description in Vikas Swarup’s compelling novel. It is a hybrid success that has the artistic touch of a non-commercial film while the grandiosity and scale of a blockbuster, as it turned out to be at the box office.




3. 127 Hours (2010)

127 Hours can also be called the OG survival thriller film in potent Gen Z lingo. The film is most of the viewers’ earliest memory of seeing a single-character film where the protagonist has a compelling race against time. We see him battle on his own against nature’s indifference. The thin line between life and death is Ralston’s determination and strength of character to endure. James Franco truly announced himself to the world with his central performance. 127 Hours is inspired by the real-life tale of Aaron Ralston, whose hand was caught between a rock and a wall in the depths of the grand canyon. He had to amputate the hand to get out alive. The chief task here for Boyle was to dramatize Ralston’s accounts with authenticity and a sense of realism. The whole exercise becomes fruitless if the viewers do not buy the struggle and stakes of losing.

Some sound technical work in creating the sets and soundscape ensure you feel the claustrophobia Ralston felt being stuck. Feelings like isolation, the dread of never returning, and hallucinations strongly underline the survival story. It is one of Danny Boyle’s most humane stories, triumphantly celebrating the real-life hero who never backed down.




2. Trainspotting (1996)

Who could imagine something as repulsive as a toilet seat could provide such a gnawing cinematic experience? Danny Boyle, probably. That is why he made Trainspotting, a cultural icon that defines generations. Out of all the films fueled and propelled by drug-induced hallucinations, Trainspotting ensures it does not dwell too much on it. The fantasy in Renton’s head presents a delightful hypothesis for observationalists and commenters to test their theories of human behavior. It is ultimately a story of betrayal and emotions taking the better of relationships. Boyle is mindful of approaching the thought-provoking novel by Irvine Welsh with predictability and moral high ground.




That certainly goes out the window the first time the friends “use” and, under the effects, clash with authorities. Boyle tackles the source material with a dash of humor and whimsical wisecracks, providing you with plentiful laughs. The serious-mindedness does not dull the mood, adding a certain dramatic depth and sensibility to the madness.




1. Steve Jobs (2015)

Steve Jobs is one of the most intricate and moving portraits of the titular real-life genius. Jobs has been a controversial figure. His representation in mass media has been known for its notoriety and for offering us a man whose drive and ambition perhaps outdid his humanity. Still, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs bucks the trend and inspires a winning combination of both. Jobs’ mad genius is shown in full swing as the most significant launch of his life nears. It combusts well with exploring his personal mess and hot-cold relationship with his family. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet play aspirational parts with the perfect tone and tenor.

The writer-director places you right in the line of fire, exploring and probing the common ground that Jobs and his team had to find to make things work after a lifetime of struggle. Mr. Sorkin’s remarkable ability to communicate his studious understanding of Job’s creative process differentiates this from the 2013 version. Michael Fassbender fits in rather well in the movie’s scheme and temperament. His typification is, in equal parts, of a morbid man who is difficult to work with, as an incredible marketing strategist with unparalleled skills to emulsify a product as an appendage.




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Danny Boyle Links: IMDb, Wikipedia
Arnav Srivastav

Self-effacing and self-absorbed. College at RGNUL. A Cùle forever. Driven, ambitious, and "I hate most people". Oh, and I love movies if that wasn't obvious.