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  • Writer's pictureJustin McConnell

Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!

Joseph and Justin sat down to discuss one of their all-time favorite cult films, "Donnie Darko" on the Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast.

For the full audio review, search your podcast app for "Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast" and if you'd like access to exclusive NLN shows, early releases, and other goodies, just head over to our Patreon page and drop us $1 or more.

Released: 10/26/2001

Production Companies:

  • Pandora Cinema

  • Flower Films

  • Adam Fields Productions

  • Gaylord Films



  • Theatrical version 1:53

  • Director's Cut 2:13

Critical Response:

Rotten Tomatoes:

  • Tomato Meter: Theatrical: 87%, Director's Cut: 90%

  • Audience Score: Theatrical: 80%, Director's Cut: 89%

Meta Critic: 88/100

Cinema Score:

  • N/A – Because the trailer heavily featured a plane crash, it didn’t receive a wide release in US cinemas due to it being released about a month after the 9/11 attacks.

Critical Reviews:

  • "After nearly two hours of the titular troubled teen asking borderline supernatural questions that are never quite answered, all we get is a head-scratching ending that's more frustrating than intriguing."E! Online

  • "This set-up and development is fascinating, the payoff less so." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

  • "First-time director-writer Richard Kelly draws on a number of intriguing elements ... without including a single, crucial gem that pulls everything together."Melanie McFarland, Seattle Times

  • "Kelly is unable to give the movie the kind of pacing that would make us laugh and shock us simultaneously, because he's too infatuated with an aura of hand-me-down gloom."Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

  • "Just another self-absorbed teen chronicle, with the added twist of a little time travel and a surprise ending."Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


  • Budget: $4.5 Million

  • Box Office: $7.5 Million


  • Life is one long insane trip. Some people just have better directions.

  • You can never go too far.

  • What would you do if you knew the future?

  • Be Afraid of the Dark

  • Dark. Darker. Darko.

  • Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

  • The cult phenomenon returns summer 2004. (director's cut re-release)

Written & Directed by:

  • Richard Kelly


  • Richard Kelly hired Michael Andrews, a television and film composer to work on the soundtrack. Michael Andrews has said since the movie budget was so low that he had to get creative. He did most everything himself including playing all the instruments such as piano, xylophone, ukulele, organ and more. Andrews also brought in 2 female vocalists; Sam Shelton and Tori Haberman. Kelly gave Andrews one key instruction; no guitar or drums were to be used. In the 2004 director's cut, a number of musical choices are changed or used in different scenes.

Of course, you can't talk about this movie without discussing the brilliant Tears for Fears cover of Mad World by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews.

Check out the original version of the song and see which version you like best:

The Cast:

  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko

  • Holmes Osborne as Eddie Darko

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth Darko

  • Daveigh Chase as Samantha Darko

  • Mary McDonnell as Rose Darko

  • Patrick Swayze as Jim Cunningham

  • James Duval as Frank

  • Jena Malone as Gretchen Ross

  • Seth Rogen as Ricky Danforth

  • Noah Wyle as Kenneth Monnitoff

  • Drew Barrymore as Karen Pomeroy

Fans of this movie have picked it a part and dissected it since it came out. There are several sites out there dedicated to explaining the plot and questioning the meaning behind damn near everything in the movie, including the slightest details.

Here's a few examples for you "Darko Detectives":


If you like movies, or want to hear our theories on Donnie Darko or other films, be sure to check out the Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast where we discuss films we love that weren't critically or commercially successful.

Spread the word. Spread the Nerd.

Give us a like at or follow us on Twitter @NLNMovies.

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