28 Days Later

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28 Days Later
28 days later.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDanny Boyle
Written byAlex Garland
Produced byAndrew Macdonald
CinematographyAnthony Dod Mantle
Edited byChris Gill
Music byJohn Murphy
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • 1 November 2002 (2002-11-01) (United Kingdom & Ireland)
  • 27 June 2003 (2003-06-27) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$8 million[1]
Box office$85.7 million[2]

28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror drama film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns and Brendan Gleeson. The plot depicts the breakdown of society following a pandemic caused by the accidental release of a highly contagious, rage-inducing virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors (Murphy, Harris, Burns and Gleeson) to cope with the destruction of the life they once knew while evading those infected by the virus.

28 Days Later was released to critical acclaim. Many praised Boyle's direction, the performances, Garland's screenplay, atmosphere and soundtrack. Despite Boyle not considering it a zombie film, 28 Days Later is credited with reinvigorating the zombie genre of horror film, with its fast-running infected and character-driven drama.[3][4] It was also a financial success, grossing more than $82.7 million worldwide on its modest budget of $8 million and becoming one of the most profitable horror films of 2002.

It was followed by a 2007 sequel, 28 Weeks Later, a graphic novel titled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, which expands on the timeline of the outbreak, and a 2009 comic book series titled 28 Days Later. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 97th-best British film ever.[5]


A highly contagious, aggression-inducing virus called "Rage" is unleashed in Great Britain after an infected chimpanzee is freed by a group of animal liberation activists. It spreads quickly among the international populace, the following pandemic resulting in societal collapse. Twenty-eight days after the initial outbreak, bicycle courier Jim awakens from a coma in St Thomas' Hospital in London, which has been deserted with signs of catastrophe. Jim is attacked by infected humans, but rescued by survivors Selena and Mark. At Jim's request, the group travels to his parents' house in Deptford, where he learns they committed suicide. That night, Mark is bitten during an infected attack, prompting Selena to kill him before he turns.

Jim and Selena encounter cab driver Frank and his daughter Hannah at Balfron Tower, from whom they learn of a military broadcast offering protection at a blockade in Manchester. With supplies dwindling, Frank asks Jim and Selena to accompany him and Hannah to the blockade, which they accept. The group travels to Manchester in Frank's cab, but upon arriving, they find the blockade deserted. As the group struggles to plot their next move, Frank is infected when a drop of blood falls into his eye. The soldiers arrive shortly afterwards and kill Frank.

The remaining survivors are brought to a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West. However, the safety promised by the soldiers turns out to be false when West reveals to Jim that the broadcast was intended to lure female survivors into sexual slavery to repopulate the world. The soldiers attempt to kill Jim after he refuses to be complicit with their plan, but Jim escapes. After luring West away from the mansion, Jim releases Private Mailer, an infected soldier kept chained for observations, resulting in the deaths of West's men. Jim attacks Mitchell, brutally killing him bashing his head against the wall, and finally ending him by gouging his eyes out. Jim, Selena, and Hannah attempt to leave in Frank's cab, but West sneaks into the back seat and shoots Jim. Hannah retaliates by putting the cab in reverse, allowing Mailer to kill West by pulling him through the rear window, while the three survivors drive off.

Another 28 days later, Jim recovers at a remote cottage in Cumbria, where the infected are shown dying of starvation. Jim, Selena, and Hannah are startled by the sound of an aircraft, and they immediately go outside to unfurl a huge cloth banner spelling the word "HELLO." A Finnish pilot flies overhead, having spotted them, and they rejoice.

Alternate endings[edit]

The DVD extras include three alternative endings, all of which conclude with Jim dying. Two were filmed; the third, a more radical departure, was presented only in storyboards. The U.S. cinematic release included one of the alternative endings after the film's credits in response to intense online debates over whether or not it was a more appropriate conclusion than the official ending.[6] One of the alternate endings was also added in after the credits in airings from Sky Movies.[7]


Additionally, Alex Palmer, Bindu De Stoppani, and Jukka Hiltunen portray the animal liberation activists, while David Schneider portrays a scientist at the laboratory. Christopher Dunne and Emma Hitching appear as Jim's parents. Toby Sedgwick plays an infected priest encountered by Jim.

On the DVD commentary, Boyle explains that with the aim of preserving the suspension of disbelief, relatively unknown actors were cast in the film. Cillian Murphy had starred primarily in small independent films, while Naomie Harris had acted on British television as a child, and Megan Burns had only one previous film credit. However, Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson were well-known character actors.


After director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald filmed an adaptation of Alex Garland's novel The Beach, Garland approached Macdonald about his concept for 28 Days Later. In an interview with Creative Screenwriting, Garland explained, "I said to him that I had an idea for a movie about running zombies. I wrote it and sent it to him and the two of us went backwards and forwards with it for a few drafts... At the point I was working on 28 Days Later I had a lot of zombie movies as well as video games like Resident Evil turning round in my head."[8] Early influences on Garland included the George Romero films Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), which he loved as a child, but he said he had largely forgotten about the zombie genre until he played the video game Resident Evil (1996), which reminded him how much he loved zombies after "having not really encountered zombies for quite a while".[9]

28 Days Later features scenes set in normally bustling parts of London such as Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Horse Guards Parade and Oxford Street. To depict these locations as desolate, the film crew closed off sections of street for minutes at a time, usually in early morning before sunrise on Sundays and would have typically around 45 minutes after dawn, to shoot the locations devoid of traffic and members of the public—to minimise disruption. Portions of the film were shot on a Canon XL1 digital video camera.[10] DV cameras are much smaller and more manoeuvrable than traditional film cameras, which would have been impractical on such brief shoots. The scenes of the M1 motorway devoid of traffic were also filmed within very limited time periods. A mobile police roadblock slowed traffic sufficiently, to leave a long section of carriageway empty while the scene was filmed. The section depicted in the film was filmed at Milton Keynes, nowhere near Manchester.[11] For the London scene where Jim walks by the overturned double-decker bus, the film crew placed the bus on its side and removed it when the shot was finished, all within 20 minutes.[12] Much of the filming took place prior to the September 11th attacks and in the audio commentary, Boyle notes the parallel between the "missing persons" flyers seen at the beginning of the film and similar flyers posted in New York City in the wake of the attacks. Boyle adds that his crew probably would not have been granted permission to close off Whitehall for filming after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.[13] A clapperboard seen in one of the DVD extra features shows filming was still taking place on 8 October 2001.

The mansion used in the film was Trafalgar Park near Salisbury.[14][15] Many rooms in the house, including the Cipriani-painted music room and the main hall, were filmed with minimal set decoration. The scenes occurring upstairs were filmed downstairs, as the mansion's owner resided upstairs.[citation needed] The old ruins used as the setting for an idyllic interlude in their journey to Manchester, were those of Waverley Abbey, Surrey. The end scenes of the film where Jim, Selena and Hannah are living in a rural cottage were filmed around Ennerdale in Cumbria.[16] This reflects the motorway road signage in the film which indicates the trio heading north towards the Lake District National Park.

On the DVD commentary, Boyle and Garland frequently call it a post-apocalyptic and horror film, commenting on scenes that were quotation of George A. Romero's Dead trilogy. During the initial marketing of the film Boyle tried to distance the film from such labels. Boyle identified John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids as Garland's original inspiration for the story.[17]


28 Days Later was a considerable success at the box office and became highly profitable on a budget of about £5 million. In the UK, it took in £6.1 million, while in the US it became a surprise hit, taking over $45 million despite a limited release at fewer than 1,500 screens across the country.[1] The film garnered over $85.7 million worldwide.[2]

Critical views of the film were positive. Based on 231 reviews collected by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 87% of critics gave 28 Days Later a positive review, with an average rating of 7.38/10. The site's consensus reads: "Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory."[18] On Metacritic, the film received a rating of 73 (out of 100) based on 39 reviews.[19]

Bravo awarded it the 100th spot on their list of 'The 100 Scariest Movie Moments' in a 4 episode 2004 television series. The commentators explained that making the zombies move fast for the first time was a bright and effective idea.[20][21] In 2007, Stylus Magazine named it the second-best zombie movie of all time.[22] The film also ranked at number 456 in Empire's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[23] Bloody Disgusting ranked the film seventh in their list of the Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade, with the article saying "Zombie movie? Political allegory? Humanist drama? 28 Days Later is all of those things and more—a genuine work of art by a director at the top of his game. What's so amazing about the film is the way it so expertly balances scenes of white-knuckled, hell-for-leather horror with moments of intimate beauty."[4]


  • Best Horror Film (2003 U.S. Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films – Saturn Award)[24]
  • Best British Film (Empire Award)[25]
  • Danny Boyle (Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver)[26]
  • Best Director – Danny Boyle (International Fantasy Film Award)[27]
  • Best International Film – Danny Boyle (Narcisse Award)[26]
  • Best Breakthrough Performance – Naomie Harris (Black Reel)[26]
  • Best Cinematographer – Anthony Dod Mantle (European Film Award)[26]


The film's score was composed by John Murphy and was released in a score/song compilation in 2003. It also features notable tracks from Brian Eno, Grandaddy and Blue States.

A heavily edited version of the track "East Hastings" by the post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor appears in the film, but the track is excluded from the soundtrack, because Boyle could only obtain the rights to use it in the film.[28]

28 Days Later: The Soundtrack Album was released on 17 June 2003. A modified version of the soundtrack "In The House – In A Heartbeat" was used as the character Big Daddy's theme in the 2010 film Kick-Ass. The same song was played in the 2012 advertisement campaign of Louis Vuitton, L'Invitation au Voyage.[29] In 2019, the song was remixed to include the theme of The Terminator by Brad Fiedel for the second trailer of Terminator: Dark Fate.



A sequel, 28 Weeks Later, was released on 11 May 2007.[30] Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took producing roles alongside Andrew Macdonald. The plot revolves around the arrival of American troops about seven months after the incidents in the original film, attempting to restore order and revitalise a nearly desolate Britain. The cast for this sequel includes Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Imogen Poots, Harold Perrineau, Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton and Idris Elba.

In March 2007, Danny Boyle claimed to be interested in making a third film in the series, 28 Months Later.[31] In 2019, Boyle was quoted as saying "Alex Garland and I have a wonderful idea for the third part".[32]

Comic books[edit]

Fox Atomic Comics, in association with HarperCollins, released a graphic novel bridging the time gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, titled 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, written by Steve Niles.

28 Days Later, a comic sequel also linking Days and Weeks and produced by Fox Atomic (until its demise) and Boom! Studios, began production in 2009. The series focuses on Selena and answers questions about her in the film and her sequel whereabouts.[33]

Cultural impact[edit]

28 Days Later had an impact on horror films,[34] and was credited with starting a revival for the zombie genre,[9][34][35] along with the Resident Evil franchise.[9][34][36] The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, for example, was influenced by 28 Days Later.[9] 28 Days Later was followed by other zombie films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), Black Sheep (2006),[35] Planet Terror (2007), Dead Snow (2009) and Zombieland (2009), as well as books such as World War Z (2006), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and Warm Bodies (2010),[34] and zombie-themed graphic novels and television shows such as The Walking Dead.[35] The zombie revival trend lasted for more than a decade after 28 Days Later, before eventually declining in popularity by the late 2010s.[34]


  1. ^ a b c "28 Days Later". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b "28 Days Later..." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  3. ^ Newby, Richard (29 June 2018). "How '28 Days Later' Changed the Horror Genre". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  4. ^ a b "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade... Part 3". Bloody Disgusting. Archived from the original on 24 December 2009. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  5. ^ "The 100 best British films". Time Out. Retrieved 24 October 2017
  6. ^ "Plotting alternative film endings". BBC. 15 August 2003. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
  7. ^ christophernguyen726 (14 July 2019). "28 Days Later: Blu-ray Vs. Sky Movies TV Version". Bootleg Comparisons. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  8. ^ McKittrick, Christopher (6 January 2016). "Alex Garland on Screenwriting". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d Hasan, Zaki (10 April 2015). "INTERVIEW: Director Alex Garland on Ex Machina". HuffPost. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  10. ^ Bankston, Douglas (1 July 2003). "Anthony Dod Mantle, DFF injects the apocalyptic 28 Days Later with a strain of digital video". TheASC.com. Retrieved 1 May 2007.
  11. ^ Nigel, Freestone (2013). The Ultimate British Roads and Motorways Quiz Book: 200 Questions on Road and Motorway History. Andrews UK.
  12. ^ "28 Days Later : About The Shoot". cinema.com. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  13. ^ Trimble, Sarah (2010). "(White) Rage: Affect, Neoliberalism, and the Family in 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later". Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies. doi:10.1080/10714413.2010.495255.
  14. ^ "The History". Trafalgar Park. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  15. ^ "This glorious country house was gifted to Horatio Nelson's family after he died in battle. It's up for sale – take a look around". International Business Times UK. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  16. ^ "Cumbria live". BBC. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  17. ^ Kermode, Mark (6 May 2007). "A capital place for panic attacks". Guardian News and Media Limited. London. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 12 May 2007.
  18. ^ "28 Days Later (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  19. ^ "28 Days Later... Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  20. ^ "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments". BravoTV.com. Archived from the original on 30 October 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  21. ^ The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (TV Mini-Series 2004) – IMDb, retrieved 22 March 2021
  22. ^ "Stylus Magazine's Top 10 Zombie Films of All Time". StylusMagazine.com. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Times". Empire (film magazine). Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  24. ^ "Past Saturn Award Recipients".
  25. ^ "The Empire Awards 2003".
  26. ^ a b c d 28 Days Later..., retrieved 24 February 2018
  27. ^ "Fantasporto".
  28. ^ Kitty Empire (10 November 2002). "Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Adjusting to Fame After '28 Days Later'". Guardian News and Media Limited. London. Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2006.
  29. ^ Kilic, Uygar. "Louis Vuitton L'Invitation au Voyage Advertisement Campaign: Video and Collection". Cars & Life. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  30. ^ Gingold, Michael (14 July 2006). "July 14: Fox sets HILLS II and more release dates". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 31 August 2006. Retrieved 1 September 2006.
  31. ^ "28 Months Later?". Moviehole.net. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  32. ^ Stolworthy, Jacob. "28 Days Later: Danny Boyle reveals 'wonderful' idea for third film". Independent. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  33. ^ "BOOM!, Fox Announce "28 Days Later" Comic Book Series". ComicBookResources.com. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  34. ^ a b c d e "How '28 Days Later' Changed the Horror Genre". The Hollywood Reporter. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  35. ^ a b c "Is The Zombie Revival Dead?". HuffPost. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Vertigo is named 'greatest film of all time'". BBC News. 2 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.

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