The Good, the Bad & the Badass: Danny Boyle

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Last time on The Good, The Bad & The Badass, we took a look at the career of actor Matt Damon, whose latest – THE MARTIAN – is dominating the box office this week. This time, we go behind the camera to examine the career of top-notch director with expertise in every genre…

Danny Boyle


What makes Danny Boyle one of the great directors of our current time is that he never allows himself to be pigeonholed. His first film, SHALLOW GRAVE, would have been enough to firmly establish him as a prime thriller director in the Brian de Palma mode, but his follow-up, TRAINSPOTTING, with its anarchic, zeitgeist-catching bent, was another beast entirely. In fact, it was following this enormously successful film that Boyle came the closest to being compartmentalized, with him briefly being a kind of “cool-Britania” Generation-X super-star, despite the fact that he was already in his forties when he hit his stride. A LIFE LESS ORDINARY was probably the biggest misstep he made, with it trying to bring the irreverency of TRAINSPOTTING to a more commercial, rom-com package – with the result landing with a resounding thud (although it's nowhere near as bad as its reputation suggests). THE BEACH didn't do him any favors either, with him riding the TITANIC wave by casting Leonardo DiCaprio (then a few years away from really getting to the top of his game as an actor) in a role that was earmarked for Ewan McGregor (causing a brief but now-resolved rift between them).

All things considered, THE BEACH could have ended his career, but he bounced back in a major way with the new wave zombie flick 28 DAYS LATER, which was intriguing in that it teamed him with Alex Garland, the writer of the book THE BEACH was based on – and a man who was apparently no fan of the film version. A stunning success, 28 DAYS LATER put him back on-top (and made Cillian Murphy a star) but again, he resisted being categorized as a horror guy. Instead, he made an epic sci-fi adventure, SUNSHINE, and a fun kids movie, MILLIONS, before winning an Oscar for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which made him the A-lister he is today.

His Best Work


For me, Danny Boyle will never quite top TRAINSPOTTING, as it's one of those generation-defining movies that only comes along once in a while. It probably shouldn't have worked, with Irvine Welsh's near-incomprehensible novel (a tough book to read if you're not down with Scottish slang) about young Scottish heroine addicts not being the most commercial of properties. Boyle's irreverent vibe, mixed with the incredible soundtrack (Underworld's 'Born Slippy' is still a favorite of mine) and hot cast made this a classic. I'd be worried about Boyle tackling a TRAINSPOTTING-sequel as he's been promising lately, were it not for the fact that I have tremendous faith in his abilities.

His Most Underrated Film

While I have a soft-spot for A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (Ewan McGregor is downright excellent in it) without a doubt Boyle's most under-seen film is SUNSHINE. It's criminal how little regard people had for this sci-fi thriller when it came out, with the VFX being some of the best I'd ever seen at the time (and done on a fraction of the budget that goes to a typical Hollywood tentpole space movie) and the musical score by John Murphy and Underworld being one of the best soundtracks of the decade. Boasting another great Cillian Murphy performance, SUNSHINE is marred only but the third act, where the film succumbs to a thriller-plot twist it didn't really need. Nonetheless, it's a near-masterpiece and one of the great science-fiction films of our era.

His Most Overrated Film

127 HOURS is a good movie, but maybe not quite the masterpiece some were hailing it as back when it played TIFF in 2010. While James Franco is excellent, and Boyle's direction is similarly good, to me it always felt like a minor Boyle-effort, and I chalk up the multiple Oscar nominations it received to the goodwill left-over in the Academy to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Again, I'm not saying it's bad – it's just not (in my opinion) the great movie some people were saying it was.

His Best Scene

Boyle's done so many bravura sequences in his career that it's tough to just pick one. However, for me the moment in TRAINSPOTTING where Ewan McGregor chases a suppository-full of smack he just shat out into a grimy public toilet is a masterfully directed piece of surreal artistry.

His Five Best Films


Up Next

 Boyle's latest, STEVE JOBS, opens in limited release this week, with our own Eric Walkuski giving it an excellent review from the New York Film Festival. Next up for Boyle is the long-awaited TRAINSPOTTING sequel, PORNO. Hopefully it'll live up to its predecessor.  


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.