A quarter-century ago, on July 19, 1996, Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” was released in theaters, marking a significant moment in time: For many young cinephiles there is “Before ‘Trainspotting’” and “After ‘Trainspotting,’” because if you imprinted on this film at a young age, there’s no denying it rewired your brain in a fundamental way.
The second feature film from English director Danny Boyle, “Trainspotting” is an adaptation of Scottish author Irvine Welsh’s novel, which depicts a grimy, nihilist world of heroin addiction, crime, sex and death in mid-1980s Edinburgh. Boyle’s gritty, surrealist and utterly stylish depiction of this world is at once vibrant and decaying; full of life and all of its attendant humiliations, ecstasies and woes. Writer John Hodge was nominated for an Oscar, and the young Scottish cast was almost immediately launched into stardom, especially Ewan McGregor, who went on to play a little character named Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequels (streaming on Disney+).
“Trainspotting” is now streaming on Paramount+ and available for rental on other digital rental platforms, and it’s somehow just as daring, original and bold as it felt 25 years ago. A rewatch may inspire a “Trainspotting”-related streaming rabbit hole, so here is your guide to all things “Trainspotting” for your own movie marathon at home.
Of course, there’s the 2017 sequel, “T2 Trainspotting,” which reunited Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and the entire cast, to pick up where things left off 20 years later as productive adults grappling with what it meant to “choose life.” It’s the rare delayed sequel that feels like an authentic continuation of the characters, and Boyle brings his signature kinetic style, all grown up. Rent it on all digital platforms.
Boyle’s 1994 feature film debut, the body disposal thriller “Shallow Grave,” was his first collaboration with writer Hodge and actor McGregor, and the trio followed up “Trainspotting” with the 1997 crime comedy caper “A Life Less Ordinary,” co-starring Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo. These two films are available for rent on all digital platforms. Boyle eventually won the best director Oscar for his best picture-winning 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire” (streaming on Hulu and the Roku Channel), which launched Dev Patel to stardom.
The “Trainspotting” supporting cast would go on to continued success as well. Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy) was the toast of the 1990s, having starred in the 1995 cyber cult classic “Hackers” (streaming on Cinemax/Max Go and for rent on other digital platforms), where he met his future ex-wife, Angelina Jolie. He’s recently been on Netflix’s “The Crown” and is in the upcoming sci-fi Western “Settlers.” Robert Carlyle (Begbie) followed up “Trainspotting” with the unlikely massive hit “The Full Monty,” a cheeky comedy about a group of amateur male strippers, which managed to be nominated for best picture (it’s streaming on Paramount+, Epix, Showtime and for rent on other digital platforms).
Ewen Bremner (Spud) has enjoyed a career as a character actor, recently with a memorable supporting role in 2017’s “Wonder Woman” (streaming on HBO Max). Kevin McKidd (Tommy) played the lead in HBO’s underrated two-season wonder “Rome,” which ran from 2005 to 2007 (streaming on HBO Max). Kelly Macdonald, who made her film debut in “Trainspotting,” has gone on to be nominated for an Emmy for her performance on “Boardwalk Empire” (streaming on HBO Max) and had a memorable role as Josh Brolin’s wife in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2007 crime thriller “No Country for Old Men” (for rent on all digital platforms).
Then there’s of course McGregor (Renton). Yeah, you may have seen him in a few things, including the aforementioned “Star Wars” movies, “Moulin Rouge!” (rentable on all digital platforms), and many, many other films. The guy never stops working. But it’s worth checking him out in Season 3 of “Fargo” (2017), streaming on Hulu, in which he plays twin brothers, and in this year’s Netflix miniseries “Halston,” in which he inhabits the legendary and tragic 1970s fashion designer. Plus, he’ll be donning Obi-Wan’s robes again soon for an upcoming miniseries.