Five Reasons Why Donnie Darko Is One Of The Best Films Ever Made

Donnie Darko is one of my all-time favorite films. I saw it for the first time in 2001 on VHS (the only copy available in Easley, South Carolina) after I had followed the film on the internet months before the street date. Since then, I’ve seen the film over fifty times. I keep coming back to it. And why wouldn’t I? donnie2

Director Richard Kelly’s film debut follows Donnie Darko, a young man with schizophrenia. One night, Donnie sleepwalks out of the door of his house and on to his front lawn, where he is visited by Frank – a six-foot tall man in a rabbit suit – who tells Donnie that the world is going to end in twenty-eight days. Shortly after this revelation, a jet engine crashes through the roof of his house. No one knows where the jet engine came from. From this point on, Donnie begins having dark visions and may even develop telekinetic powers, as Frank guides him on this journey, occasionally asking him to carry out certain tasks – some of which are destructive in nature. With the help of his girlfriend, Gretchen, as well as his psychiatrist, and a mysterious elderly woman named Roberta Sparrow (affectionately nicknamed Grandma Death) it is up to Donnie to save the ones that he loves as the end of the world draws nigh.

There are five reasons why this film still resonates with me, as well as many other devoted fans:

  1. The Setting Donnie Darko takes place in the fictional town of Middlesex, VA in October. The year is 1988. From the supporting characters to the leads themselves, the people of Middlesex are mostly likable  creating a sense of community. You will enjoy getting to know these characters – some more than others. Like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Middlesex is enshrouded in mystery. It is a place where anything can happen.
  2. The Mood  From the opening credits to the unforgettable climax, director Richard Kelly creates an ethereal atmosphere, using slow, meticulously choreographed tracking shots, as well as other unusual filmmaking techniques that draw us further into the world that he has created. This is one of the many reasons that Donnie Darko remains an altogether addictive experience.
  3. The Music If you are already a fan of Donnie Darko, you know that composer Michael Andrews’ beautiful synth score is the heart of the film, as well as Gary Jules’ iconic cover of “Mad World”. Who could forget the opening sequence set to Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” or the tracking shot set to Tears for Fears “Head over Heels”? These moments are memorable largely because the music brings them to life.
  4. The Mystery Richard Kelly refuses to spoon-feed his audience, which is why Donnie Darko is an ambiguous experience that leaves us with many questions rather than answers. True fans of the film wouldn’t have it any other way, which is why many of us balked at the Director’s Cut, which attempted to explain away the mystery. The loose ends allow for multiple interpretations. We always have a reason to return to Middlesex, VA.
  5. Frank Yes, Frank. The six-foot tall man in a rabbit suit. He is the guardian that guides Donnie through the portal, leads him down the rabbit hole, and teaches him about the joys of time travel. Without Frank, there is no Donnie Darko. Frank is one of the most memorable imaginary friends in the whole of cinema, right next to Jimmy Stewart’s Harvey. Frank is awesome.

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I have given you five reasons why Donnie Darko is one of the best films ever created, and now you have to see it for yourself. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Beth Grant, Noah Wylie, Holmes Osborne, Mary McDonnell, James Duval, and the late, great Patrick Swayze, it is a film that you will never forget. It’s also the perfect film to watch on or around Halloween.

It is available on DVD and Blu-ray (and also VHS, if you want the retro experience). I highly recommend this film. Rent it. Buy it. It just may change your life.

 

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  • nhumphries

    Great post, and you’re right, this is one of the best films of all time. This movie is one of the best blends of mysterious and interesting I’ve ever seen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.renkovish Steven Adam Renkovish

      Thanks, Nathan! It’s a film that I revisit often. I love it.

  • http://culturemass.com/tech-science Nate Humphries

    Great post, and you’re right, this is one of the best films of all time. This movie is one of the best blends of mysterious and interesting I’ve ever seen.

    • Steven Adam Renkovish

      Thanks, Nathan! It’s a film that I revisit often. I love it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hugh.finnegan Hugh Finnegan

    Excellent post on one of the best movies ever made. I love everything about this movie from the haunting score to the eerie atmosphere. I’ve never seen the Directors Cut but if it attempts to explain the story then I don’t want to know! It’s best the leave it to your own interpretation rather than be spoon-fed the plot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.renkovish Steven Adam Renkovish

      I feel the same way. I’ve never been a huge fan of the director’s cut. The mystery of Donnie Darko is one of the many reasons that fans of the film keep coming back for more!

  • Hugh Finnegan

    Excellent post on one of the best movies ever made. I love everything about this movie from the haunting score to the eerie atmosphere. I’ve never seen the Directors Cut but if it attempts to explain the story then I don’t want to know! It’s best the leave it to your own interpretation rather than be spoon-fed the plot.

    • Steven Adam Renkovish

      I feel the same way. I’ve never been a huge fan of the director’s cut. The mystery of Donnie Darko is one of the many reasons that fans of the film keep coming back for more!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.boiani Daniel Boiani

    Meh

  • TheRoosh

    Meh

  • http://twitter.com/AlanCumbess Alan Cumbess

    I love this article, and I love this Movie. I too have seen it numerous times, and yes, stay FAR away from the directors cut, and approach the sequel at your own risk, It is merely OK

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.renkovish Steven Adam Renkovish

      Thanks, Alan!

  • Alan Michael

    I love this article, and I love this Movie. I too have seen it numerous times, and yes, stay FAR away from the directors cut, and approach the sequel at your own risk, It is merely OK

    • Steven Adam Renkovish

      Thanks, Alan!

  • http://twitter.com/Boerst312 David boerst

    the second one was a huge let down

    • http://www.facebook.com/steven.renkovish Steven Adam Renkovish

      I like to pretend that the second one doesn’t exist.

  • http://twitter.com/Boerst312 David boerst

    the second one was a huge let down

    • Steven Adam Renkovish

      I like to pretend that the second one doesn’t exist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.lenassi Robert Lenassi

    Great post, everything in that filmed worked well together. Middlesex VA is a real town btw, its right next to my county last time I checked:P

  • Robert Lenassi

    Great post, everything in that filmed worked well together. Middlesex VA is a real town btw, its right next to my county last time I checked:P

  • César Alexandre

    I haven’t seen the theatrical cut and I didn’t know it changes that much!!! The problem is I only have the Director’s cut, which I love, and can’t find the theatrical… It changes a lot???

  • Bryan Ulises

    Don’t forget when Under the Milky Way by The Church sounds OH WOW! What a good damn scene. Shit! I love that song. I’ve never seen DD before heard this song, and when I’ve heard that guitar my skin turns to chill. What an awesome movie.

  • Bryan Ulises

    Don’t forget when Under the Milky Way by The Church sounds OH WOW! What a good damn scene. Shit! I love that song. I’ve never seen DD before heard this song, and when I’ve heard that guitar my skin turns to chill. What an awesome movie.

  • R. G.

    I agree, this is one of the most well done films I’ve seen in a very long time. I have to correct you on ONE small thing though. Middlesex, VA is a real place. It is an unincorporated community in Accomac County along the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We don’t have quite the freaky things happening here as they do in the movie, but then again Tokyo has never had a large lizard destroy half the place either. :D
    Great article on why this film works on many different levels.

  • http://Geekshizzle.com/ TheFran

    I agree 100%. Pity the sequel sucked donkey balls.

  • http://Geekshizzle.com/ TheFran

    I agree 100%. Pity the sequel sucked donkey balls.