DONNIE DARKO is a 2001 science fiction film written and directed by
Richard Kelly . It stars
Jake Gyllenhaal ,
Jena Malone , Drew
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
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
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
Mad World " by
Gary Jules and Michael Andrews . The cover reached
number one on the
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 ,
* 1 Plot
* 2 Cast
* 3 Production
* 3.1 Filming
* 3.2 Music
* 4 Release
* 4.1 Marketing
* 4.2 Home media
* 4.3 Director\'s cut
* 5 Reception
* 5.1 Box office
* 5.2 Critical reaction
* 5.3 Accolades
* 6 Sequels
* 7 Adaptations
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 External links
On October 2, 1988 Donnie Darko, a troubled teenager living in the
town of Middlesex,
Virginia , sleepwalks outside and is woken by a
figure in a monstrous rabbit costume, who introduces himself as
"Frank" and tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42
minutes, and 12 seconds. At dawn, Donnie returns home to find a jet
engine has crashed into his bedroom. His older sister, Elizabeth,
informs him that the FAA investigators do not know where it came from.
Donnie tells his psychotherapist , Dr. Thurman, about his continuing
visits from Frank. Walking under Frank's influence, he floods his
school by damaging a water main. He also begins dating a new student
named Gretchen Ross, who has recently moved into town with her mother
under a new identity to escape her violent stepfather. Gym teacher
Kitty Farmer blames the flooding on the influence of the short story
The Destructors ", assigned by dedicated English teacher Karen
Pomeroy, and begins teaching attitude lessons taken from motivational
speaker Jim Cunningham. Donnie rebels against these motivational
lessons, leading to friction between Kitty and Rose, Donnie's mother.
Donnie asks his science teacher, Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff, about time
travel after Frank brings up the topic, and is given the book The
Philosophy of Time Travel, written by Roberta Sparrow, a former
science teacher at the school who is now a seemingly senile old woman.
Dr. Thurman tells Donnie's parents that he is detached from reality,
and that his visions of Frank are "daylight hallucinations ",
symptomatic of paranoid schizophrenia . Donnie disrupts a speech being
given by Jim Cunningham by insulting him in front of the student body,
then burns down Cunningham's house on instructions from Frank. When
police find evidence of a child pornography operation in the house's
remains, Cunningham is arrested. During his hypnotherapy session,
Donnie confesses his crimes to Dr. Thurman and says that Frank will
soon kill someone.
Rose agrees to replace Kitty as chaperone for her daughter Samantha's
dance troupe in Los Angeles, so Kitty can testify in Cunningham's
defense; with her husband Eddie in New York on business, her older
children are home alone.
Donnie and Elizabeth take the opportunity to throw a
to celebrate her acceptance to Harvard . Gretchen arrives, distraught
because her mother disappeared. Realizing that only hours remain
before Frank's prophesied end of the world, Donnie takes Gretchen and
two friends to seek Roberta Sparrow at her house. They are attacked by
two school bullies, Seth and Ricky, who are attempting to rob
Sparrow's house, and the fight spills into the street. An oncoming
Pontiac Trans Am
Pontiac Trans Am car swerves to avoid Sparrow, who went for her daily
walk to check her mailbox, but runs over Gretchen instead, killing
her. The driver turns out to be Elizabeth's boyfriend Frank Anderson,
wearing the same rabbit costume as the Frank of Donnie's visions.
Donnie shoots him in his eye with his father's gun.
As a vortex forms in dark clouds above his house, Donnie drives into
the hills and watches the storm as an airplane descends from above.
The plane, carrying Rose and the dance troupe, is wrenched violently
as one of its engines detaches and falls into the vortex. Events of
the previous 28 days recapitulate in reverse order and action, until
Donnie finds himself in bed back in the early hours of October 2. As
he lies in his bed, waiting and laughing, the jet engine crashes
through his room, killing him. Others with whom Donnie had interacted
in the 28 days awaken, some looking disturbed. Gretchen rides by
Donnie's house and learns of his death from a neighborhood boy, David,
but says she did not know him. Gretchen and Rose exchange a glance and
wave as if they know one another, but cannot remember from 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. 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 that the costume could also have been an inspiration of a
dream that Kelly had.
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
California , with many of the school sequences shot at Loyola
High School . The "Carpathian Ridge" scenes were shot on the Angeles
Crest Highway .
Donnie Darko (soundtrack)
In 2003, the piano-driven cover of
Tears for Fears
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
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
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 "
Under the Milky Way
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
September 11 attacks
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 figure.
The film was originally released on
DVD in March 2002. Strong
DVD sales led
Newmarket Films to release a "Director\'s Cut " on DVD
in 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 million.
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
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
Blu-ray and 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
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 featured 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
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
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
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
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 85% rating, and the director's cut a
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
Donnie Darko creates an atmosphere of eerie calm and mounting
menace— stands as one of the most exceptional movies of 2001."
Writing for ABC Australia, Megan Spencer called the movie "menacing,
dreamy, exciting" and noted that "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"
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
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
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 Die .
* #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.
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 stated that he had no
involvement in the sequel, as he does not own the rights to the
original. Chase and producer
Adam Fields were the only creative links
between it and the original film. The sequel received extremely
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 that would be 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 . I don’t control the
underlying rights to . 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
Marcus Stern , associate director of the
American Repertory Theater
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 stated that 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
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Kevin Smith (2003).
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