The Very Best Of

Boyle’s best directing jobs besides Slumdog Millionaire

10 most successful Danny Boyle-directed movies besides Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle owns one Oscar for directing Slumdog Millionaire. While that prize took him 13 years to attain, and though a decade has passed since he won it, the majority of his other films have been decisive hits. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Monday marks 10 years since Slumdog Millionaire hit theaters. Besides launching Dev Patel into stardom, the decorated international independent film landed seasoned director Danny Boyle his first Oscar.

The British-born Boyle has yet to build on that particular trophy count, but has sustained a consistent formula for acclaim. An easy majority of the 13 theatrical films he has directed have hit the “fresh” range on Rotten Tomatoes. In three cases, the authoritative site singles him out in its critical consensus.

Four of those 13 movies have come after Slumdog, and another is targeting a September 2019 release. Per the Internet Movie Database, the finer details of the as-yet-unnamed collaboration with Richard Curtis are being “kept under wraps. Believed to be musically themed and be set around the 1960s or 1970s.” But notable names confirmed for the cast include Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran.

There is no sign of Ewan McGregor or Cillian Murphy, two repeat Boyle actors, though. Those two, among other A-listers, have routinely taken Boyle’s direction to individual and group success. Although his directorial track record more than verifies he can thrive independent of his common collaborators.

Based on the director’s own accolades, those awarded to the performers under his leadership and those bestowed on a project as a whole, these 10 films stack up as Boyle’s best among his non-Oscar winners.

10. A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes had few uplifting figures and statements in its summation of this fantasy crime comedy. It does, however, offer that “A Life Less Ordinary has an intriguing cast and stylish work from director Danny Boyle.”

In addition, an up-and-coming McGregor nabbed the title of best British actor from the 1998 Empire Awards.

9. Trance (2013)
This independent British project was all but buried beyond detection when it came to major nominations. But among specialized guilds, Rosario Dawson earned one nod while the movie collectively contended for a best-thriller title. Trance also logged considerably better marks among critics and audiences than A Life Less Ordinary.

8. Millions (2004)
At production time, lead actor Alex Etel was 11 going on 12, and making his movie debut. Under Boyle’s direction, his performance fetched the fantasy dramedy’s lone Saturn nomination.

At the 2005 British Independent Film Awards, Etel likewise gained consideration for most promising newcomer. Meanwhile, Frank Cottrell Boyce came away with the prize for best screenplay.

7. Sunshine (2007)
Local and genre-specific panels accounted for most of Sunshine’s nods. With that said, Boyle and his colleagues could take pride in the Empire Awards considering their work for best British film and best sci-fi or fantasy movie. Their product was also up in the sci-fi department at the 2008 Saturns.

As for RT’s critical consensus: “Danny Boyle continues his descent into mind-twisting sci-fi madness, taking us along for the ride. Sunshine fulfills the dual requisite necessary to become classic sci-fi: dazzling visuals with intelligent action.”

6. 28 Days Later (2002)
The Saturns — specialists in sci-fi, fantasy and horror — crowned this post-apocalyptic tale 2004’s horror film of the year. Boyle was up for best director in the same distribution for the same project.

Back in the homeland, Boyle achieved the same runner-up accolade at the British Independent Film Awards, which also considered the movie for best British film. The Empire Awards crowned it with that title altogether. In addition, supporting player Naomie Harris was adjudged to have given the best breakthrough performance by the Black Reels.

RT articulated its collective review as follows: “Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory.”

5. T2 Trainspotting (2017)
The Scottish subset of the BAFTAs took note of this sequel when other guilds did not. In the 2017 edition of those awards, Boyle himself claimed the title of best fiction director and shared in its triumph as best feature film. He also “coached” the leading man McGregor to a best film-actor victory.

Among other smaller achievements, T2 Trainspotting garnered a share of the Hawaii Film Critics Society’s honor for best overlooked film. It drew a knot with Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River in that category.

4. Steve Jobs (2015)
Two of Boyle’s onscreen colleagues — Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet — reached the Oscar ballot for their respective performances. As a supporting actress, Winslet was victorious at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes. She and Fassbender were also up for accolades from the Screen Actors Guild.

3. Shallow Grave (1994)
For his first theatrical directing job, Boyle would have turned enough heads with awards for newcomers alone. He earned that title from the London Critics Circle, but eclipsed that by shining in the stratosphere.

At the 1996 Empires, Shallow Grave went 3-for-3 with best British film, best director (Boyle) and best British actor (McGregor). More tellingly, for their first directorial-production collaboration, Boyle and Andrew Macdonald delivered the 1995 BAFTAs’ best British film.

2. Trainspotting (1996)
Together with writer John Hodge and producer Macdonald, Boyle keyed the original Trainspotting to best feature film at the 1997 Scottish BAFTAs. Among Boyle’s cast, McGregor would win best actor while Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald were each nominated.

Unlike the sequel, the original drew consideration from the Empires and the main BAFTAs. The former guild matched the Scottish BAFTAs’ praise for McGregor and also proclaimed Boyle the year’s best director. The latter cited Boyle and McDonald by name when nominating Trainspotting for best British film.

Five years after its release, Trainspotting cracked No. 10 among the British Film Institute’s 100 best movies of the century. Of the top 20, it was the only film released later than 1981.

As a bonus, this was Boyle’s first of only two directing jobs thus far to crack 90 percent on both RT’s critical and audience approval gauge.

1. 127 Hours (2010)
In Boyle’s repertoire, only the retelling of Aron Ralston’s struggle after a hiking accident rivals the radiance of Slumdog Millionaire. It amassed a 93 percent Tomatometer score that he has yet to surpass. (Even Slumdog fell a tad short of that at 91 percent.)

That score reflects the project’s quantity, quality and breadth of accolades. Boyle’s name was on two of 127 Hours’ six Oscar, one of three Golden-Globe and three of eight BAFTA nominations.

For every directing, screenplay and general film nomination Boyle garnered, James Franco achieved the same for leading acting. Because of his expressed interest in depicting Ralston’s story, Boyle’s hand in Franco’s capture of the tribulation is more manifest.

Al Daniel

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