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77 thoughts we had while watching Donnie Darko

Contributed by
Jun 23, 2018

Donnie Darko is a much-beloved hit from the very early aughts. The movie follows its title character, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, after he sidesteps death. It’s two hours of conversations about his mental health, time travel, philosophy, sparkle motion, and a murder bunny. 

I haven’t seen this movie in over a decade, but I have a very strong memory of watching it in my freshman year dorm room, finishing it, rewinding it, and immediately watching it again. I imagine I thought it was very deep. Let’s see how it holds up with a Deja View!

1. We open with thunder rumbling. And… a dead …. Horse? Person? Person. Right. A person and their bike. Not dead. Oh. It’s Jake Gyllenhaal. …Oh my god, I’m going to have to remember how to spell Gyllenhaal for this whole thing.

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2. HE’S SUCH A BABY HERE. What came first, this or Bubble Boy? It was Bubble Boy! That brings me a lot of joy.

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3. That TITLE FONT THOUGH. It says, “I read like I was made in the ‘90s, but it’s definitely after Y2K.”

4. And this music. "Killing Moon," which is not sung by Tears for Fears, is a great intro song.

5. OH RIGHT, IT’S QUEEN KATHERINE OF ARAGON AS HIS MOM. Oh, no it's not. But now I’m learning that Maria Doyle Kennedy and Mary McDonnell are actually different people.

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6. “Where is Donnie?” *Owen Wilson Voice* Wooooow, what a shot!

7. “I’m voting for Dukakis.”
“Maybe when you have children of your own and one of them needs braces but you can’t afford them because half of your husband’s paycheck goes to the federal government, you’ll regret that.”
Me, from the future in 2017: *sobs uncontrollably*

8. “You’re such a f*ck-ass.”
“Go suck a f*ck.”
Why did I think these insults were so good in 2001? 

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9. #Mood 

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10. Why is that clock so mad? 

11. Donnie’s parents know their son goes somewhere at night but they’re not… watching him? Or, you know, setting up some sort of alarm system in case the door opens? I think that existed in the late '80s.

12. I don’t know why, but in my head the murder bunny in this movie is played by Lou Diamond Phillips. I know it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong? Maybe it’s right.

13. 28 days 16 hours 42 minutes 12 seconds. Why does that sound familiar? Oh. Wait. 4 8 15 16 28 42. Did Damon Lindelof see this movie? Now I’m looking at Lostpedia, so thanks a lot, Donnie Darko.

14. I FORGOT PATRICK SWAYZE WAS IN THIS.

15. They dropped an airplane engine in a person’s house and the best hotel they can give them is the Holiday Inn????? This is America, where’s the lawsuit?!

16. Samantha here asking the real questions: What happened to the plane?

17. Why does Donnie’s garbage friend sound like he's from the movie Newsies? Does he work for Spot Conlon? 

18. “You’ll put Ariel in the garbage disposal.” I’m team Samantha.

19. Oh yay, casually aggressive racism from teenage boys. That’s definitely not something that’s bringing back painful memories.


20. THERE’S THAT TEARS FOR FEARS SCENE, I LOVE SO MUCH. THERE IT IS.

21. Oh right, Jena Malone was in this during her weird phase.

22. Uh, that anthropomorphic bulldog statue is the worst thing I’ve seen in a long time.

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23. AND NOAH WYLE AND DREW BARRYMORE???

24. I do not remember this movie at all, apparently.

25. Whoever wrote this movie heard “Head Over Heels” and was like, we should make a movie that’s based entirely on the line “funny how time flies.”

26. “Why did the children break into Old Misery’s house?” Because children are trash.

27. Drew Barrymore does not make a great English teacher. “You look like you belong here,” she says to Jena Malone, who has just entered the classroom for the first time as a transfer student. I am unclear as to what she means? Young? Pretty? White? Who knows. Then Drew continues, “Sit next to the boy who you think is the cutest.” What the frick kind of English class is this. Drew Barrymore playing goth Regina George mind games trash in this is real messed up. Then she makes another student move so that Jena can sit next to Jake?! (Sidenote: A man wrote this.)

28. Drew definitely goes home and writes wildly inappropriate fanfic about her students, if this scene is any indication.

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29. What kind of mousse does this old lady use? Dang, look at that elegantly disheveled coif.

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30. What is your doctor wearing, Donnie?! Nothing says "professional therapist" like a T-shirt made with wallpaper from the local Cracker Barrel. 

31. Oh my god, SETH ROGEN. Sorry, I’m going to keep doing this.

32. That aggro 10-year-old is the best thing in this movie so far: “I’M NOT AFRAID ANYMORE.” Unsaid, but implied: “I AM A MAN WHO DOES NOT PEE HIS PANTS I WILL MESS FEAR UP.”

33. No wait. I already have a new favorite.
“And they found feces everywhere.”
“What are feces?”
“Baby mice.”
“Aw! :)”

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34. Seth Rogen’s chin beard is the true monster of this movie.

35. “I accidentally burned down a house.”
“My dad stabbed my mom.”
Maybe this movie informed how I discuss bad things. In a monotone with no emotional reaction whatsoever. 

36. "We’ve had a four-minute conversation, maybe we should date." - teens

37. On a scale of 1 to being-hypnotized-and-shoving-your-hand-down-your-pants-about-to-masturbate-in-front-of-your-therapist, how awkward is your most awkward moment?

38. Donnie talking about smurfs is me trying to talk about Star Wars with people who don’t watch Star Wars.

39. “The private school has asked for public donations.” LOL.

40. The mental health implications in this movie are not great.

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41. We all need a supportive evil murder bunny friend to boost up our self-confidence, don’t we?

42. BOOK BANNING IS AN OUTDATED AND GARBAGE PRACTICE. DON’T DO IT.

43. Am I to understand this woman is pushing her pyramid scheme into the school? Sure. Okay.

44. I’m starting to realize that I combined scenes from Saved and scenes from Donnie Darko into some combo/brand new movie in my head. I was 100 percent positive that Eva Amurri was in this.

45. Mrs. Farmer is the truest of true villains. Faux moral outrage at everything around her, but then goes off to support a child porn smuggler? 

46. There is so much happening in this movie.
- The murder bunny best friend
- Bullying
- Racism
- Overzealous puritanical values and how they negatively impact kids
- Bad teachers
- Cults
- Politics
- Time travel
- Mental health and medication
- Misogyny
- Death

47. There are interesting moments in this movie, fine.

48. And then there’s the physical representation of a streamline of time (a clear, gelatinous liquid?) popping out of someone’s chest.

49. I am not falling into a conversation about metaphysics and philosophy BECAUSE OF DONNIE DARKO. I will not do it.

50. But okay, so that thing comes out of Donnie’s chest and leads him to the closet, but he wasn’t already going to go to the closet, so who chose for him to go that way?

51. The subplot of the romance between Gretchen (Jena Malone) and Donnie is interesting, because it gives us a view of him that is incongruous with the therapy sessions and every other interaction he has with people in his life and family. Or maybe it’s just because he’s a teen boy and he’s doing what he can to get laid.

52. I cannot believe this movie is forcing me to take it so seriously.

53. “Learn to truly love yourself.”
“OK.”
WOULD THAT IT WERE THAT EASY, AGGRO 10-YEAR-OLD.

54. Teachers not stopping Donnie from taking over this Q&A session is the least believable part of this whole movie.

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55. Oh, but that Jake Gyllenhaal smile as he is taken out of the auditorium, be still my beating heart.

56. SEE I WAS ONTO SOMETHING. Doctor Noah Wyle agrees with me. Thank you, Doctor Noah Wyle.

57. This movie is messing me up and making me wonder why I had such a crush on Jake/Donnie when I was 18.

58. Ah when movies cost $5.75 to go to, I guess it was OK to fall asleep in the theater, GRETCHEN.

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59. Remember in the movie North where Bruce Willis plays a dude who dresses as a bunny to help guide Elijah Wood? Maybe North and Donnie Darko are related.

60. The murder bunny is not played by Lou Diamond Phillips.

61. Why is Drew Barrymore in this movie? She hasn’t really contributed anything since her first scene where she was the mean girl of the school. But am I supposed to be on her team because of the book banning thing?

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62. Oh, here’s a great Sparkle Motion gif I made two years ago.

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63. POOR CHERITA. I SEE YOU, GIRL.

64. Oh, Jim Cunningham/Patrick Swayze, we hardly knew ye, except as a clearly evil dude so there was no real surprise when they discovered child porn in your home.

65. “What exactly about my methods do you find inappropriate?” Maybe when you told the new girl to sit next to the cutest boy, DREW. Maybe that was it. 

66. I feel like this is a bad therapist. A kid comes out of hypnotism, hugging his adult therapist with no recollection as to how he got there? Sure, that sounds kosher.

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67. The heck is that terrifying rabbit pumpkin?! 

68. Why did that therapist wait until Halloween to call his parents? WORST THERAPIST. People in this movie are very bad at their jobs.

69. SERIOUSLY, WHY IS THAT CLOCK SO MAD?

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70. HEY IT’S SNAP CHAT BEFORE SNAP CHAT

71. I FORGOT THAT THEY FRIGGIN’ RAN OVER JENA MALONE, WHAT THE HECK. THE HORROR IS JUST A DRUNK TEENAGER.

72. The whole reason he goes back in time is because if he lives Jena Malone dies? That’s the whole reason? I just sat through a teen love story disguising itself as a horror/philosophy movie? This movie is stupid with bouts of interesting conversations.

73. A plane can’t go faster than the speed of light. Even a plane engine falling from hundreds of thousands of feet high wouldn’t go faster than the speed of light. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's true? I am not a scientist. 

74. Poor Cherita. You deserved better.

75. GARY JULES, SOUNDTRACK TO MY EMO YOUTH, HOW ARE YOU?

76. You saved Jena Malone/Gretchen by allowing yourself to die, Donnie. But remember how you lead to Jim Cunningham being busted for his child porn smuggling ring? So he is still exploiting children since you’re not alive to stop him. The life of one versus the life of many doesn't apply here, I guess.

77. This ending is bad.