That anticipation for Trainspotting 2 reached the sort of levels only Walking Dead viewers and fans of Leicester City can relate to is testament to just how pivotal Danny Boyle’s 1996 original really was. From its unflinching portrayal of heroin culture to its seminal Britpop soundtrack it defined and rejuvenated British film-making in the 90s – before Trainspotting it was all dusty costume dramas, toffs on tour and Richard Curtis; afterwards it was all wayward yoofs snorting, injecting and nicking everything that wasn’t nailed down. So let’s celebrate the film’s influence and with a list of movies that, without it, would probably never have existed.
‘Twin Town’ (1997)
Two drug-addled low-lifes rampage around the rough edges of a gritty town stealing cars and getting into tangles with low-level gangsters until tragedy strikes. Sound familiar? Kevin Allen’s black comedy caper, which shot Rhys Ifans into the limelight, only needed a bog-diving scene to have qualified as an early attempt at Trainspotting 2.
’24 Hour Party People’ (2002)
Michael Winterbottom’s biopic of Factory Records head honcho Tony Wilson, starring Steve Coogan, involved plenty of Trainspotting touchstones – wanton hedonism, heroin hells, dodgy dealings and heady nightclub scenes.
‘The Acid House’ (1998)
Without the cult success of Trainspotting it’s tough to imagine this haphazard compilation of three short films based on Irvine Welsh stories would ever have been made, with its gross and gritty tales of bullying neighbours, losers transformed into flies and a very sweary – and unrealistic – baby.
‘Human Traffic’ (1999)
Trainspotting sent an unequivocal message to the film industry, and that message was ‘people really want to watch young people taking drugs, at length’. Cue Human Traffic, basically a 100-minute Idiot’s Guide To Whoofing Up Narcotics and the big screen debut of that East End Olivier, Monsieur Daniel ‘Pwopa Nawty’ Dyer.
‘Once Upon A Time In The Midlands’ (2002)
Essentially Begbie Does Nottingham. A loose ensemble of actors associated with grimy, provincial drug culture black comedies – Robert Carlisle, Rhys Ifans, Shirley Henderson – convened on this twisted love triangle involving gangland misadventures and clown robberies.
‘The Football Factory’ (2004)
More Danny ‘Doin’ Me Naht In’ Dyer action in this 2004 footie hooligan flick, with Dyer playing a coke-snorting, booze-guzzling, womanizing ‘ard nut who frequents, shall we say, the fistier end of the Premier League but dreams of getting out. Swap heroin for punching people in the face and this is basically the London Trainspotting.
Add the heroin back in and you’ve got Awaydays, Pat Holden’s hard-nosed hooligan movie awash with Trainspotty musical cues – the soundtrack was dominated by new wave acts like The Jam, Magazine, Joy Division, Wire and Elvis Costello. Nicky Bell’s lead character becomes embroiled in the drugs, sex and violence of football firm The Pack, presumably to the sound of behind-the-scenes chants of “you aint Danny Dyer! You aint Danny Dyer! Na-na-na-na…”
‘The Full Monty’ (1997)
Of all the characters in Trainspotting, moustachio’d psycho Begbie seemed the least likely to instantly propel an actor into the realm of romantic lead. Yet the film made Robert Carlisle’s name and paved the way for his hugely celebrated star turn in stripping steelworker smash The Full Monty the following year. Tacklespotting, anyone?
‘The Beach’ (2000)
Trainspotting also made director Danny Boyle a very big deal; without it you couldn’t picture him luring Leonardo De Caprio to Thailand to star in his adaptation of Alex Garland’s cult novel The Beach, or getting away with a sequence where Leo hallucinates that he’s living inside an arcade machine.
‘Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’ (1998)
While Guy Ritchie’s big screen debut wasn’t a direct descendant of Trainspotting and can claim to have inspired its own thread of British gangster films, this twisting, tangled web of comic deceit, heists, gunplay and slapstick violence was certainly one of the great success stories that emerged from the renewed interest in films revolving around the British underclass.