Donnie Darko is a 2001 science fiction film written and directed by
Richard Kelly. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore,
Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, and Maggie
Gyllenhaal. The film follows the adventures of the troubled title
character as he seeks the meaning behind his doomsday-related visions.
Filmed over the course of 28 days (coincidentally mirroring the time
transpired in the movie), the film was almost released
Donnie Darko was screened at the Sundance Film
Festival on January 19, 2001, before receiving a limited theatrical
release on October 26, 2001 by Flower Films. Due to the film's
advertising featuring a crashing plane and the September 11 attacks
that transpired a month before, the film was scarcely advertised. In
Donnie Darko grossed just over $7.5 million worldwide on a
budget of $4.5 million.
Despite its lackluster box office performance,
Donnie Darko received
critical acclaim. Critics lauded the film's story, acting, and tone.
The film was listed #2 in Empire's "50 Greatest Independent Films of
All Time" list, as well as #63 in Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of
All Time. It was released on
DVD in March 2002. The film
became a surprising success on the home video market, reportedly
grossing over $10 million in home video sales. It has been released on
Blu-ray three times: on February 10, 2009, July 19, 2010, and December
12, 2016. The film has also developed a cult following.
The film's soundtrack is also famous for its cover of Tears for
Fears's "Mad World" by
Gary Jules and Michael Andrews. The cover
reached number one on the
UK Singles Chart
UK Singles Chart and stayed there for three
consecutive weeks. The song also achieved lukewarm success in the
United States, reaching number 30 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks
A director's cut was released in 2004, on a two-disc special edition
DVD. A stage adaptation appeared in 2007, and a sequel, S. Darko,
4.2 Home media
4.3 Director's cut
5.1 Box office
5.2 Critical reaction
8 See also
10 External links
On October 2, 1988, troubled teenager Donald "Donnie" Darko is woken
up and beckoned outside by a mysterious voice. Once outside, he meets
a figure in a monstrous rabbit costume who introduces himself as
"Frank" and tells Donnie the precise time the world will end: in 28
days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Donnie wakes up the next
morning on the green of a local golf course and returns home to
discover a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. His older sister
Elizabeth tells him the FAA investigators do not know its origin.
Over the next several days, Donnie continues to have visions of Frank,
and his parents Eddie and Rose send him to psychotherapist Dr.
Thurman. Dr. Thurman believes Donnie is detached from reality, and
that his visions of Frank are "daylight hallucinations," symptomatic
of paranoid schizophrenia. When Frank asks Donnie if he believes in
time travel, Donnie asks his science teacher Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff
about it. Dr. Monnitoff gives Donnie The Philosophy of Time Travel, a
book written by Roberta Sparrow, a former science teacher at the
school who is now a seemingly senile old woman living outside of town.
Donnie also starts seeing Gretchen Ross, who has recently moved into
town with her mother under a new identity to escape her violent
Frank begins to influence Donnie's actions, including causing him to
flood his high school by breaking a water main. Gym teacher Kitty
Farmer attributes the act of vandalism to the influence of the short
story "The Destructors", assigned by dedicated English teacher Karen
Pomeroy. Kitty begins teaching “attitude lessons” taken from local
motivational speaker Jim Cunningham, but Donnie rebels against these,
leading to friction between Kitty and Rose. Kitty arranges for
Cunningham to speak at a school assembly, where Donnie insults him.
Donnie later finds Cunningham's wallet and address, and Frank suggests
setting his house on fire. Firefighters discover a hoard of child
pornography there, Cunningham is arrested, and Kitty, who wishes to
testify in his defense, asks Rose to chaperone their daughters’
dance troupe on its trip to Los Angeles.
With Rose in
Los Angeles and Eddie away for business, Donnie and
Elizabeth hold a
Halloween costume party to celebrate Elizabeth's
acceptance to Harvard. At the party, Gretchen arrives distraught as
her mother has gone missing, and she and Donnie make love for the
first time. When Donnie realizes that Frank's prophesied end of the
world is only hours away, he takes Gretchen and two other friends to
see Sparrow. Instead of Sparrow, they find two high school bullies,
Seth and Ricky, who were trying to rob Sparrow's home. Donnie, Seth,
and Ricky get into a fight in the road in front of her house, just as
Sparrow was returning home. An oncoming car swerves to avoid Sparrow
and runs over Gretchen, killing her. The driver turns out to be
Elizabeth's boyfriend, Frank Anderson, wearing the same rabbit costume
from Donnie's visions. Donnie shoots Frank in the eye with his
father's gun, and walks home carrying Gretchen’s body.
Donnie returns home as a vortex forms over his house. He borrows one
of his parent’s cars, load’s Gretchen’s body into it, and drives
to a nearby ridge that overlooks town. There, he watches as the plane
carrying Rose and the dance troupe home from
Los Angeles gets caught
in the vortex’s wake, which violently rips off one of its engines,
and sends it back in time. Events of the previous 28 days unwind.
Donnie wakes up in his bedroom, recognizes the date is October 2, and
laughs as the jet engine falls into his bedroom, crushing him. Around
town, those whose lives Donnie would have touched wake up from
troubled dreams. Gretchen rides by the Darko home the next morning,
and learns of Donnie's death. Gretchen and Rose exchange glances and
wave as if they know each other, but cannot remember where.
Jake Gyllenhaal as Donald "Donnie" Darko
Jena Malone as Gretchen Ross
Mary McDonnell as Rose Darko
Holmes Osborne as Eddie Darko
Katharine Ross as Dr. Lilian Thurman
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth Darko
Daveigh Chase as Samantha Darko
James Duval as Frank Anderson
Drew Barrymore as Karen Pomeroy
Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham
Noah Wyle as Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff
Beth Grant as Kitty Farmer
Stuart Stone as Ronald Fisher
Gary Lundy as Sean Smith
Alex Greenwald as Seth Devlin
Seth Rogen as Ricky Danforth
Patience Cleveland as Roberta Sparrow / "Grandma Death"
Jolene Purdy as Cherita Chen
Ashley Tisdale as Kim
Jerry Trainor as Lanky kid
David St. James as Bob Garland
Scotty Leavenworth as David
Fran Kranz as Passenger
Jack Salvatore Jr. as Larry Riesman
Arthur Taxier as Dr. Fisher
Although the film was always meant to be set in 1988, Kelly admitted
he felt pressured to make the setting more contemporary; but, he
couldn't figure out how to make the story work in such a setting and
retained the original setting. In an interview with BBC, Kelly
said he "set out to write something ambitious, personal, and nostalgic
about the late 80s." Frank, the giant rabbit, was inspired by the
novel Watership Down, with the novel's censorship being a plot point
before being abandoned in the final version. Newer information has
shown the costume could also have been an inspiration from a dream
Donnie Darko was filmed in 28 days which, by coincidence, virtually
matches the time that transpires in the film from October 2, 1988, to
the Friday or Saturday weekend party before
Halloween on Monday,
October 31, 1988. The budget for the film was $4.5 million.
It almost went straight to home video, but was theatrically released
by Drew Barrymore's production company, Flower Films.
Some scenes were shot in Bixby Knolls Virginia Country Club, in Long
Beach, California, with many of the school sequences shot at Loyola
High School. The "Carpathian Ridge" scenes were shot on the Angeles
Donnie Darko (soundtrack)
In 2003, the piano-driven cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World"
featured in the film, as part of the end sequence, was a hit for
composer Michael Andrews and singer Gary Jules, topping the charts in
the United Kingdom and Portugal.
One continuous sequence involving an introduction of Donnie's high
school prominently features the song "Head over Heels", by Tears for
Fears, Samantha's dance group, "Sparkle Motion", performs with the
song "Notorious", by Duran Duran, and "Under the Milky Way", by The
Church, is played after Donnie and Gretchen emerge from his room
during the party. "Love Will Tear Us Apart", by Joy Division, also
appears in the film diegetically during the party and shots of Donnie
and Gretchen upstairs. The version included was released in 1995,
although the film is set in 1988. The opening sequence is set to "The
Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen. In the theatrical cut,
the song playing during the
Halloween party is "Proud to be Loud" by
Pantera, a track released on their 1988 album, which would coincide
with the time setting of the film. However, the band is credited as
"The Dead Green Mummies".
In the re-released
Director's cut version of the film, the music in
the opening sequence is replaced by "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS;
"Under the Milky Way" is moved to the scene of Donnie and Eddie
driving home from Donnie's meeting with his therapist; and "The
Killing Moon" is played as Gretchen and Donnie return to the party
from Donnie's parents' room.
The film had a limited release, opening October 26, the month
following the September 11 attacks. It was subsequently held back for
almost a year for international release. Kelly said it took almost six
months to sell the movie. "It almost went directly to the Starz
network. We had to beg them to put it in theaters. Filmmaker
Christopher Nolan stepped in and convinced Newmarket to put it in
Donnie Darko Book, written by Richard Kelly, is a 2003 book about
the film. It includes an introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal, the
screenplay of the Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut, an in-depth
interview with Kelly, facsimile pages from the Philosophy of Time
Travel, photos and drawings from the film, and artwork it inspired.
NECA released first a six-inch (15 cm) figure of Frank the Bunny
and later a foot-tall (30 cm) "talking version" of the same
The film was originally released on
DVD in March 2002. Strong
DVD sales led
Newmarket Films to release a "Director's Cut" on
2004. Bob Berney, President of Newmarket Films, has described the film
as "a runaway hit on DVD," citing United States sales of more than $10
The film was released in the U.S. on
Blu-ray on February 10, 2009,
containing both versions. The movie was then re-released on July 26,
2011 as a four-disc, 10th anniversary edition, once again containing
both versions in HD, and the theatrical version on DVD.
The film was released as a 2-disc
Blu-ray special edition in the UK on
July 19, 2010, by Metrodome Distribution, and featuring both Original
and Director's Cut. It also included commentaries from director Kelly
and actor Gyllenhaal, Kelly and Kevin Smith, and cast and crew,
including Drew Barrymore.
In December 2016,
Arrow Films released a limited edition 4K resolution
Blu-ray of the film in the UK, supervised and approved by director
Kelly. This release includes both the Director's and Theatrical cuts
and was accompanied by a
DVD release. In
the US, it was released in April 2017.
Main article: Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut was released on May 29, 2004, in
Seattle, Washington, at the Seattle International Film Festival, and
New York City
New York City and Los Angeles, on July 23, 2004. The tickets
sold out within the day for the Seattle International Film Festival
premiere, grossing nearly $33,000 over a five-day period. This cut
includes twenty minutes of extra footage and an altered soundtrack.
The director's cut
DVD was released on February 15, 2005 in single-
and double-disc versions, the latter being available in a standard DVD
case or in a limited edition that also features a lenticular slipcase,
whose central image alternates between Donnie and Frank depending on
the viewing angle. Most additional features are exclusive to the
DVD set: the director's commentary assisted by Kevin Smith,
excerpts from the storyboard, a 52-minute production diary, "#1 fan
video", a "cult following" video interviewing English fans, and the
new director's cut trailer. The single-
DVD edition was also released
as a giveaway with copies of the British Sunday Times newspaper on
February 19, 2006.
DVD of the Director's Cut includes text of the in-universe
fictional book, The Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta
Sparrow, which Donnie is given and reads in the film. The text
expands on the philosophical and scientific concepts much of the
film's plot revolves around, and has been seen as a way to understand
the film better than from its theatrical release. As
outlined by Salon's Dan Kois from the book's text, much of the film
takes place in an unstable Tangent Universe that is connected to the
Primary Universe and a duplicate of it, except for an extra metal
vessel known as an Artifact — the plane engine. If the Artifact
is not sent to the Primary Universe by the chosen Living Receiver
(Donnie) within 28 days, the Primary Universe will be destroyed upon
collapse of the Tangent. To aid in this task, the Living Receiver is
given super-human abilities such as foresight, physical strength and
elemental powers, but at the cost of troubling visions and paranoia,
while the Manipulated Living (all who live around the Receiver)
support him in unnatural ways, setting up a domino-like chain of
events encouraging him to return the Artifact. The Manipulated Dead
(those who die within the Tangent Universe, like Frank and Gretchen)
are more aware than the Living, having the power to travel through
time, and will set an Ensurance Trap, a scenario which leaves the
Receiver no choice but to save the Primary Universe.
Donnie Darko had its first screening at the Sundance Film Festival,
on January 19, 2001, and debuted in United States theaters on October
26, 2001, to a tepid response. During its opening weekend, it was
shown on only 58 screens nationwide, grossing $110,494. This may
have been the result of the movie being released shortly after the
September 11 attacks. By the time the film's run closed in United
States theaters, on April 11, 2002, it had earned just
$517,375. It ultimately grossed $7.6 million worldwide, just
enough to recoup its budget.
Despite its poor box office showing, the film began to attract a
devoted fan base. It was originally released on
DVD in March
2002. During this time, the Pioneer Theatre in New York City's East
Village began midnight screenings of
Donnie Darko that continued for
28 consecutive months. In the United Kingdom,
Donnie Darko sold
300,000 tickets within the first six weeks of its release, based
mostly on word-of-mouth marketing.
The film received critical acclaim, with praise towards the acting,
atmosphere and unconventional writing.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the
theatrical version of the film an 86% rating, and the director's cut a
91% rating. The site's critical consensus reads, "Richard Kelly's
Donnie Darko is a daring, original vision, packed with
jarring ideas and intelligence and featuring a remarkable performance
Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled title character." Metacritic
gives the theatrical version of the film a score of 71 out of 100,
based on 21 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews",
whereas the director's cut received a much higher score of 88 out of
100, based on 15 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".
Andrew Johnson cited the film in Us Weekly, as one of the outstanding
films at Sundance in 2001, describing it as "a heady blend of science
fiction, spirituality, and teen angst." Jean Oppenheimer of New
Times (LA) praised the film, saying, "Like gathering storm clouds,
Donnie Darko creates an atmosphere of eerie calm and mounting
menace—[and] stands as one of the most exceptional movies of
2001." Writing for ABC Australia, Megan Spencer called the movie
"menacing, dreamy, [and] exciting" and noted "it could take you to a
deeply emotional place lying dormant in your soul." Roger Ebert
gave the theatrical version of the film two and a half stars out of
four, but later gave the director's cut three stars out of four.
2001: Richard Kelly's
Donnie Darko script won "Best Screenplay" at the
San Diego Film Critics Society.
Donnie Darko also won the "Audience
Award" for Best Feature at the
Sweden Fantastic Film Festival. The
film was nominated for "Best Film" at the Sitges Film Festival and for
the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was
nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards including Best First
Feature, Best First Screenplay and Best Male Lead for Gyllenhaal.
Donnie Darko won the "
Special Award" at the Academy of Science
Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films's 28th Saturn Awards. The movie also
won the "Silver Scream Award" at the
Amsterdam Fantastic Film
Festival. Kelly was nominated for "Best First Feature" and "Best First
Screenplay" with Donnie Darko, and Gyllenhaal was nominated for "Best
Male Lead," at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film was also
nominated for the "Best Breakthrough Film" at the Online Film Critics
Donnie Darko ranked in the top five on My Favourite Film, an
Australian poll conducted by the ABC.
Donnie Darko ranks #9 in FilmFour's 50 Films to See Before You
#14 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School
#2 in Empire's "50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time" list.
#53 in Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time 2008 poll.
Main article: S. Darko
A 2009 sequel, S. Darko, centers on Sam, Donnie's younger sister. Sam
begins to have strange dreams that hint at a major catastrophe. Donnie
Darko creator Richard Kelly has said he had no involvement in the
sequel, as he does not own the rights to the original. Chase and
Adam Fields were the only creative links between it and the
original film. The sequel received extremely negative reviews.
In an interview published on January 24, 2017, Kelly revealed there's
a movie set in the world of
Donnie Darko he wants to make, that would
be much bigger and more ambitious than the original. Because of the
large budget required, Kelly said he will look into securing the
necessary resources, once he finishes with his next film.
In an interview with
PopMatters magazine journalist J.C. Maçek III
director Richard Kelly said regarding the sequel S. Darko, "I hate it
when people ask me about that sequel because" he laughs, morosely, "I
had nothing to do with it. And I hate it when people try and blame me
or hold me responsible for it because I had no [involvement]. I
don’t control the underlying rights to [the
Donnie Darko franchise].
I had to relinquish them when I was 24-years old. I hate when people
ask me about that because I’ve never seen it and I never will, so…
don’t ask me about the sequel." He adds with a cynical laugh, "Those
people are making lots of money. They’re certainly making lots of
money." When asked if he would ever do an official sequel, Kelly
responded, "I’m open to doing something much bigger and longer and
more ambitious that could be a new story." He added, "We’ll see what
happens. I have a lot of stuff that I’m working on and it’s
ambitious and it’s expensive and we’ll see what happens."
Marcus Stern, associate director of the American Repertory Theater,
directed a stage adaptation of
Donnie Darko at the Zero Arrow Theatre,
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall of 2007. It ran from October
27 until November 18, 2007, with opening night scheduled near
An article written by the production drama team says the director and
production team planned to "embrace the challenge to make the
fantastical elements come alive on stage." In 2004, Stern adapted
and directed Kelly's screenplay for a graduate student production at
the American Repertory Theatre's Institute for Advanced Theater
Donnie Darko (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 13,
2001. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
^ a b c
Richard Kelly (director)
Richard Kelly (director) (2004). Donnie Darko: The Director's
^ a b c d "Donnie Darko". The Numbers. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
^ a b Snider, Mike (2005-02-14). "'Darko' takes a long, strange trip".
USA Today. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
^ a b "50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time". Retrieved
^ a b "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Retrieved
^ Scott Tobias (2008-02-21). "The New Cult Canon: Donnie Darko". The
A.V. Club. The Onion.
^ "IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD!". NME. 4 January 2004.
^ a b c
Donnie Darko at Rotten Tomatoes
^ Cranswick, Ami. "Exclusive Interview with Donnie Darko
writer/director Richard Kelly". Flickering Myth. Retrieved February
^ Korsner, Jason (October 25, 2002). "
Donnie Darko Interview". BBC.
Retrieved January 19, 2018.
^ Susman, Gary. "25 Things You May Not Know About 'Donnie Darko'".
Moviefone. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
^ Coggan, Devan (7 April 2017). "THE BUNNY SUIT". Entertainment
Weekly. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Poster, Steven (Cinematographer) (2004).
Donnie Darko Production
Diary (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
^ a b Brunett, Adam (2004-07-22). "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut:
The Strange Afterlife of an Indie Cult Film". Indie Wire. Retrieved
^ a b Day, Matt (10 August 2004). "Donnie Darko: Director's Cut". The
^ Schilling, Dave (November 14, 2016). "
Donnie Darko director Richard
Kelly: 'Sometimes films need time to marinate'". Retrieved January 26,
2017 – via The Guardian.
^ The Dual Format
DVD release arrived on December 12th
^ Valby, Karen; Flynn, Gillian (18 June 2004). "AFTER DARK".
Entertainment Weekly. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Commentary with
Kevin Smith (2003).
Donnie Darko Directors Cut.
Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22124-6.
^ Text of The Philosophy of Time Travel
^ a b Kois, Dan (2004-07-23). "Everything you were afraid to ask about
"Donnie Darko"". Salon. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
^ "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut - CINEMABLEND". cinemablend.com.
May 27, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
^ Drucker, Mike (January 24, 2005). "Donnie Darko: The Director's
Cut". ign.com. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
^ a b "
Donnie Darko (2001)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved
^ James Davies. "
Blu-ray Review: 'Donnie Darko: 2 Disc Ultimate
Edition' (rerelease)". cine-vue.com. Archived from the original on
February 20, 2011.
^ Leigh, Danny (29 July 2004). "The Rabbit Rides Again." The Guardian.
^ "Donnie Darko". Metacritic.
^ Us Weekly, 2/21/2001, p. 36.
^ Andy Bailey (2001-01-21). "PARK CITY 2001 REVIEW:
Donnie Darko Plays
with the Time of Our Lives". Indie Wire. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
^ Megan Spencer (2002-10-15). "Donnie Darko: triple j film reviews".
Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
^ Roger Ebert. "Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut". Chicago Sun-Times.
^ "My Favourite Film". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved
^ Joanne Oatts (2006-07-03). "C4 relaunches Film4 with '50 films to
see before you die' countdown". Brand Republic. Retrieved
^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. September 15,
2006. Archived from the original on August 15, 2012.
^ Chris Tilly (2008-05-13). "Arcade Fire Open Box: Richard Kelly on
film score and Darko sequel". IGN. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
^ Josh Modell (2009-05-13). "S. Darko". The A.V. Club. Retrieved
^ "Richard Kelly talks reissuing
Donnie Darko and his plans for a
"much bigger and more ambitious" sequel". hmv.com. Retrieved January
^ a b Maçek III, J.C. (3 April 2017). "Mainstream Darko: Director
Richard Kelly on Building His Own Sandbox". PopMatters.
^ Sarah Wallace (2007-11-01). "Bringing the End of the World to Life".
American Repertory Theatre.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko on IMDb
Donnie Darko at Rotten Tomatoes
Donnie Darko at Metacritic
Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut at Rotten Tomatoes
Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut at Metacritic
Donnie Darko at AllMovie
Donnie Darko at Box Office Mojo
Dan Kois (2004-07-23). "Everything you were afraid to ask about
"Donnie Darko"". Salon.com.
Films directed by Richard Kelly
Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut (2004)
Southland Tales (2006)
The Box (2009)