He is known for his work on films including Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and its sequel T2 Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Steve Jobs and Yesterday. His debut film Shallow Grave won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. The British Film Institute ranked Trainspotting the 10th greatest British film of the 20th century.
Boyle's 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, the most successful British film of the decade, was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won eight, including the Academy Award for Best Director. He also won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Director. Boyle was presented with the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award at the 2008 Austin Film Festival, where he also introduced that year's AFF Audience Award Winner Slumdog Millionaire.
In 2012, Boyle was the artistic director for Isles of Wonder, the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. He was subsequently offered a knighthood as part of the New Year Honours but declined. In 2014, it was announced that Boyle would become a patron of HOME in Manchester.