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There is now a sequel to Trainspotting set to be made, and Trance is about to hit stateside. It’s the perfect time to check out the films of director Danny Boyle. His movies have established him not only as a talented film maker, but also as one who is not afraid to take some serious risks. Here are the highlights of a varied, and brilliant career (so far).

Shallow Grave (1994)

Even if you hate his movies, you have to thank Boyle for helping the world discover the remarkable talents of Ewan McGregor. In this ice-cold thriller, McGregor and his two roommates are forced to deal with issues of jealously, betrayal and greed after discovering a murder.

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Trainspotting (1996)

Let’s face it: most sophomore efforts suck. But there are always exceptions to every rule, and this film is definitely one of them. A gritty, unapologetic look at the underground heroin culture of Edinburgh, this film mixes the poignant with the surreal in such a well-crafted way that it became an instant, if notorious, classic. Trainspotting was as controversial as a film could get, supposedly glorifying hardcore drug use and the lifestyle that goes with it. But anyone who has read Irving Welsh’s novel, or even has a minimal understanding of the miserable lives of junkies, would know that Boyle was doing the exact opposite.

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

When McGregor was cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi, he had a clause in his contract stating that, if Boyle ever needed him, he was to get time off to shoot that movie. That kind of loyalty is rare in Hollywood, and shows what kind of filmmaker Boyle is. A Life Less Ordinary is a black comedy about an almost-kidnapper and his spoiled, eccentric captive. It’s not bad, but it’s really more for fans of Boyle and/or McGregor than anyone else.

The Beach (2000)

Following a consistent theme in most of Boyle’s pictures, this movie follows Leonardo DiCaprio as a young American who goes in search of something different and gets more than he bargained for. He follows a treasure map with a French couple on a deserted island. Beautifully shot, Boyle demonstrates here that he can easily go from the ghetto to paradise, but the problems of human sin follow no matter where we go

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28 Days Later (2002)

Many people refer to this as a zombie movie (which isn’t technically true), but it’s also another harrowing look at people in their most base forms. After an experiment on virus-infected monkeys goes out of control, turning the citizens of England into psychotic maniacs, a group of survivors must band together to avoid being infected, and manage to stay alive. Stylistic and bleak, it is an interesting spin on a specific horror genre.

Sunshine (2007)

A homage to Ridley Scott’s contributions to the world of science fiction cinema. In the year 2057, the crew of the Icarus II must deliver a payload of nuclear bombs into our dying sun, and encounter dilemmas, both physical and social, along the way. Think of it as Alien without the alien. A good film (and candidate for a Radiohead video), beautifully directed.

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

And then there’s the big dog. An amazing, complex look at how even an orphan from Bombay can become rich (even if via a game show). An often painful, ultimately joyous film, Boyle takes the audience on a journey filled with characters that embody every emotion and personality trait, both good and bad. An Oscar winner for Best Picture and Best Director, and most deservedly so.

127 Hours (2010)

James Franco plays a mountain climber who becomes trapped under a boulder in Utah and must cut his own arm off with a pocketknife to survive. Based on a true story, Boyle takes what could have easily turned into a melodramatic vanity piece and injects heart and substance into an amazing tale of survival. As with his other films, it is bleak as hell, but there is also an uplifting message – you just have to be open to it.

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