The 10 Best Music Moments In Danny Boyle's Movies

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by The Playlist Staff
April 3, 2013 1:31 PM
16 Comments
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04. Muse "Hysteria" from "Millions"
Danny Boyle loves using British pop bands, this much is true. It’s a streak of nationalist pride that would reach its zenith with Boyle’s staging of last summer’s Olympics Opening Ceremonies. So it’s kind of shocking that it took him so long to utilize a song from Muse, the kind of arena-ready counterpart to the far artier and more critically accepted Radiohead. In his underrated holiday family film “Millions,” the band's "Hysteria" was tapped to score (of course) a heist sequence. It serves as a lively digression to the otherwise placid film and adds a much needed sense of time and place, since the movie takes place during a fictional monetary switchover from the pound to the Euro (which still hasn’t happened yet). Boyle might not be the best filmmaker to utilize the band (that distinction goes to French filmmaker Alexandre Aja and his impeccable placement of “Newborn” in “High Tension”), but it’s still damn good. When we recently asked Boyle why he hasn’t done a musical yet, he sighed and lamented the fact that “Millions” should have been a musical and suggested that should anyone want to mount a musical stage adaptation of one of his films, it should be “Millions.”


05. Leftfield “Snakeblood” and Underworld “Eight Ball” * "The Beach" (Plus How Moby’s “Porcelain” Got On The Soundtrack)
Danny Boyle never really worked with a composer properly to score any of his films until “28 Days Later” when his mainstay John Murphy (who also scored “Sunshine” with Underworld) entered the picture (although, it should be noted, Bond composer David Arnold did contribute some pieces to “A Life Less Ordinary”). Up until then, his movies were “scored” with just pop tunes and existing source music. But he did try with “The Beach.” During the 92Y conversation, the filmmaker revealed that he had hired a very famous composer, but it was not to be. “I worked with Angelo Badalamenti -- who is a fantastic composer -- on ‘The Beach,’ but I couldn’t really give him the film -- and I’ve apologized to him since,” he admitted. “There was a very important theme in the film where the travellers came across the beach itself. He wrote this very lovely theme for it and I didn’t use it in the end. I used ‘Porcelain’ by Moby and I realize, in retrospect, it was me not surrendering the film to someone else. You’ve got to trust the composer and I’ve learned that and I’ve learned a lot as a filmmaker by doing so.”

While the Moby track is lovely, there are a pair of electronic pieces that add much more punch. The first is a Leftfield song called “Snakeblood” that accompanies the film’s galvanizing first minutes wherein Leonardo DiCaprio becomes acquainted with the sights and sounds (and smells and tastes) of Bangkok. (Sadly it establishes an energy level and weirdness factor that the rest of the film has no hopes of following through on.) The other song is a more placid electronic number by noted Boyle collaborators Underworld, called “Eight Ball.” "It's my favorite, favorite Underworld track," Boyle said. "It's a beautiful, lovely, gentle really peaceful, musical song called 'Eight Ball' and we've kind of continued on like that through different movies."


06. M.I.A. "Paper Planes" from "Slumdog Millionaire"
There are actually two different versions of “Paper Planes” in “Slumdog Millionaire” -- the original version and a DFA remix (produced by LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy) -- and, in our mind, the original version, which scores a montage of the young boys’ youth in India (particularly a sequence where they travel across train cars), is the most effective. What’s interesting is that earlier that same year the song was popularized by another movie (David Gordon Green’s stoner action comedy “Pineapple Express”) that it wasn’t even in. It was just in the trailer. Boyle, of course, made it fly -- it’s the perfect, freewheeling song to capture the unpredictable, pin-balling experience of being a youth in third-world India and, given its early placement in the movie, makes you prepare for wilder, grander musical moments yet to come (like the closing musical dance sequence, which, at SXSW, New York Times reporter and “Trance” 92Y panel host David Carr said was the moment he realized the movie would win the Best Picture statue). The “Jai-Ho” musical number might be the most famous and the one most annoyingly repeated at gimmicky weddings, but it’s Boyle’s strong, subtle use of “Paper Planes” that gets the blood pumping more organically.

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16 Comments

  • Marceli Szpak | August 12, 2013 1:31 PMReply

    Sorry, but you forgot Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, and the "Sell Song" (on YouTube as "Best Ever Motivational Sales Tape") sung by Timothy Spall.

  • Dafydd | August 12, 2013 6:08 AMReply

    Yeah, I noticed that too, and then realised that life is much better when you don't spend your life ragequitting over semantics.

  • Mossie | August 12, 2013 5:11 AMReply

    As Neil points out, Trainspotting is set in Scotland. That's such a big mistake I stopped reading there. Piss-poor.

  • NeilFC | April 5, 2013 11:14 AMReply

    "The movie, up until this point, was a decidedly raucous account of the lives of a handful of English heroin addicts"

    WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! It's a movie about SCOTTISH heroin addicts. England and Scotland are different countries - look it up!

  • Brian D | April 5, 2013 7:29 AMReply

    Plastic Bertrand in 127 Hours, with the flashback to the kids partying in the snow. Perfect!

  • Kelsey | April 4, 2013 3:55 PMReply

    Sunshine and 28 Days Later soundtracks are so amazing. Also, Trainspotting.

  • SPIRO | April 4, 2013 10:19 AMReply

    Excellent article! A great retrospective of Danny Boyle's eclectical choice of music that turns into epic some scenes. My very personal choice should be Sunshine (shivering all over everytime I hear that melody), by John Murphy and of course, Sigur Rös, who I discover after watching 127 days.

  • Luny | April 4, 2013 12:38 AMReply

    Oh man, no Sunshine on the list! That was a brilliant soundtrack... and even the end credits track Avenue of Hope, is bewitching.

  • Edward D | April 4, 2013 9:41 AM

    Uhh, there's Sunshine on this list.

  • cirkusfolk | April 3, 2013 5:17 PMReply

    Also, even though the film Traffic used it better, it's worth mentioning the use of Brian Enos song, Ascent: An Ending, in 28 Days Later just because its such a great track.

  • Edward | April 4, 2013 9:42 AM

    It's mentioned. Look closer.

  • cirkusfolk | April 3, 2013 5:13 PMReply

    The All Saints song does not close out The Beach. It is used during the night time sex scene. The last song used (credits) is Lonely Soul by UNKLE and Richard Ashcroft. Speaking of that film, I think it has the best music moments. You failed to mention the Blur Song, On Our Own, used in the montage of Leo alone in the woods which even turns into a video game at one point and the Brian Eno song, Spinning Away, covered by none other than Sugar Ray. But believe me, it's good.

  • cirkusfolk | April 3, 2013 8:06 PM

    The last scene of the movie is Richard (Leo) reading an email and during that scene the song Voices by Dario G plays. FACT. You should feel embarrassed.

  • jacques demolay | April 3, 2013 5:23 PM

    I'm afraid you're misremembering that detail about All Saints. I don't remember what's playing during the sex scene, but All Saints is DEFINITELY used at the end (before the actual credits roll, but during the closing scenes of the film). I distinctly remember that because it was a damn good use of a mediocre pop song.

  • bohmer | April 3, 2013 3:01 PMReply

    The entire soundtrack 1 of Trainspotting should be the top 10. Also, in Sunshine, the later to be released Underworld's "To Heal" should be there.

  • simon | April 3, 2013 1:57 PMReply

    Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" in Trainspotting.. Hits me every smurfing time

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