->'''Donnie:''' Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?\\
'''Frank:''' Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

A cult MindScrew film from 2001, written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Creator/JakeGyllenhaal as the title character. Also featured in the cast are Creator/JenaMalone, Creator/DrewBarrymore, Creator/MaryMcDonnell, Katharine Ross, Creator/PatrickSwayze, Creator/NoahWyle, and Creator/MaggieGyllenhaal.

In October 1988, schizophrenic teenager Donnie Darko sees a demonic rabbit figure named "Frank" while sleepwalking. Frank tells him that the world will end in 28 days, just before a jet engine crashes into Donnie's bedroom. Donnie credits Frank with saving his life by causing him to sleepwalk out of the house, and begins to do Frank's bidding, while gradually trying to uncover the strange events around him which [[MindScrew may or may not]] be related either to TimeTravel, an [[AnotherDimension Alternate Dimension]], or Donnie's worsening [[TheSchizophreniaConspiracy Schizophrenia.]]

A DirectorsCut version was constructed by Kelly several years after the original release. It greatly alters the pacing of the movie by the addition of deleted scenes, new digital effects and soundtrack alterations. The author considers this version not a director's cut but rather an "extended special edition". Fan opinions are somewhat divided as to which version is better.

Rumors of [[Film/SDarko a sequel]] have been [[FanonDiscontinuity vehemently denied by fans for years]].

!!This film includes examples of:

* TheEighties:
** Complete with a TV debate between George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis.
** WordOfGod says that it was set in TheEighties because that's when Richard Kelly grew up and he [[WriteWhatYouKnow wouldn't be able to write a coming of age story in the 2000's due to lack of frame of reference]].
* ActuallyPrettyFunny:
** Donnie's father, Eddie Darko, chokes out a chuckle at the "[[ExpospeakGag he told me to forcibly insert the lifeline exercise card into my anus]]" line.
** Earlier in the film, Donnie argues with his sister and she tells him to "Suck a fuck." He retorts by asking how that's even possible, before there's a pause, followed by both of them laughing.
** Donnie's father, Eddie, tries (unsuccessfully) not to laugh when Samantha innocently asks "what's a 'fuck-ass'?" after she hears it during the "suck a fuck" exchange between Donnie and Elizabeth during dinner.
* ActivistFundamentalistAntics: Mrs. Farmer's ''raison d'etre'', particularly in the first act.
* AgeInappropriateArt: Cunningham (who turns out to be a pedophile) hosts an event where local elementary school girls perform pop songs en masse in heavy makeup and skimpy clothes. [[BlackComedy The parents love it.]]
* AlliterativeName: Donnie Darko, Cherita Chen, Frankie Feedler, Daye Dennis, Joanie James, Sean Smith, Donnie Dickson.
* AllTherapistsAreMuggles: Dr. Thurman initially characterizes Donnie's visions as "daylight hallucinations" but eventually comes to believe that they're genuine.
* AllThereInTheManual: The book ''The Philosophy of Time Travel'', alluded to in the theatrical version and quoted briefly in the DirectorsCut explains the plot (or at least the [[WordOfGod Director's interpretation]] of it) and removes all the ambiguity with a lot of hand-holding.
* TheAntiNihilist: Donnie. His whole life seems to be one big, cruel cosmic joke. No matter what he does, he's apparently condemned to repeat the same loop over and over again... [[spoiler: unless he kills himself beforehand.]] Meanwhile, his school life is spent constantly at odds with crusading teachers and motivational speakers. Yet this doesn't stop him from enjoying things while they last, and in his final scene, [[spoiler: before getting crushed by the jet engine,]] Donnie just... laughs.
* ArcNumber: Frank the Bunny tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. Donnie then writes these numbers on his arm to remember them.
* AtomicFBomb: After Donnie's English teacher [[spoiler:loses her job]], she runs outside the school and screams "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK" at the top of her lungs.
* TheAtoner: Frank. His actions in helping Donnie seem to be his way of making up for [[spoiler:accidentally killing Gretchen -- and eventually preventing her death from occurring in the first place.]]
* AuthorAvatar: Richard Kelly describes the nameless kid who shows up at the end of the film as this.
* AwesomeMcCoolname: Discussed.
-->'''Gretchen:''' What kind of name is 'Donnie Darko', anyways? It sounds like a [[StevenUlyssesPerhero superhero name]].
%%* AxeCrazy: [[MeaningfulName Seth Devlin]] is one of the more perfect examples of this trope, actually.
* BigDamnKiss: Between Donnie and Gretchen in front of the school building half-way through the movie.
* BigShutUp: Poor old Cherita Chen yelling "[[VerbalTic CHUT UP]]" at Donnie after he tells her that [[spoiler:things will get better]].
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler:If you think about it, the whole movie is this. Donnie would have died outright had Frank not spoken to him and gotten him out of bed: thus the entire rest of the movie. The whole purpose of the film seems to be allowing Donnie to come to terms with his premature death, and to realize that sad as it is, it's way better than the alternative of the world ending. Furthermore, Donnie's survival results in the deaths of his girlfriend, mother, sister, and Frank, as well as his English teacher losing her job. Patrick Swayze's character, on the flipside, [[KarmaHoudini gets away]] with his nefarious activities, at least for awhile.]]
* BlackAndWhiteInsanity: Why Donnie is a fan of the Grey spectrum; attempting to divide things into two emotions only is a great way of ignoring well, human emotions in general, as well as the fact that there are almost always more than two choices to any given real-life interaction. The question he's given to assign on the Life Line is what provokes him into the rant is an instance of this not working, for the simple fact that neither fear nor love is involved directly at all-it's a question of raw greed.
* BlackAndWhiteMorality: The Life Line scene (see Crowning Moment of Awesome) has the teacher arguing this (Fear vs. Love), while Donnie asserts that the world revolves around GreyAndGrayMorality.
* BlueAndOrangeMorality: Another interpretation of the Life Line scenes are that the teacher is trying to assign all things a moral weight based on their positions between Fear and Love as opposed to a broader worldview which includes not only traditional moral concepts such as right and wrong as well as other emotional components such as greed, joy, anything, not simply things that are sourced in Fear or Love.
* BreakTheMotivationalSpeaker: Donnie undermines Cunningham's methods, attacks his very simplistic "fear vs. love" spectrum and eventually calls him "the fucking Antichrist". It turns out that [[spoiler:the guy is a kiddie porn enthusiast, so Donnie was sort of right]].
* BroodingBoyGentleGirl: Sums up the relationship between Donnie and Gretchen.
* TheBully: A cliche not absent from this movie are the two school bullies going after Donnie and Gretchen.
* ButterflyOfDoom: Take your pills one night, doom the universe.
** May not be the case. In the director's cut, Dr. Thurman tells Donnie that [[spoiler:the pills are not actually antipsychotics but placebos]].
%%* ByronicHero: Donnie Darko, himself.
* CaughtWithYourPantsDown: Donnie ''almost'' starts masturbating during a hypnotherapy session. He literally buttons up his jeans, looking very confused and embarrassed.
* ChekhovsGun: A literal pistol Donnie's hallucinations lead him to, which [[spoiler:he will later fire, causing Frank to die and Donnie himself to realize why he was seeing Frank at all.]]
* CheshireCatGrin: The expression on Frank's mask is a rather disturbing parody of a cutesy buck-toothed rabbit.
* CloudCuckooLander: Donnie. He could also be interpreted as a Deconstruction, as his behavior has him sent to counseling and diagnosed with schizophrenia, as well as the isolation leading him to violent behavior in his youth and adolescence. [[TheCuckoolanderWasRight However,]] [[TheSchizophreniaConspiracy there's a possibility that he's not even one of these at all...]]
* {{Corpsing}}: Beth Grant made Richard Kelly laugh so much when reading her line "he told me to forcibly insert these cards into my anus!" he had to leave the set.
* CrapsaccharineWorld: The seemingly idyllic StepfordSuburbia slowly unravels over the course of the film. One of the arguments for starting the film ''without'' "The Killing Moon" is that it allows things to seem much more normal at first and gradually get twisted as the month goes on.
* CulturePolice: Kitty Farmer wants to ban certain "offensive" books from school. Her engagement leads to Ms. Pomeroy [[FiredTeacher losing her job]].
* CurseCutShort: The scene cuts away before Donnie can tell Kitty Farmer to shove her learning material up her ass.
* DeathIsTheOnlyOption: By the end Donnie realizes that his own actions lead to Gretchen's death and that he must save the future from himself.
* {{Deconstruction}}: Of coming of age movies, time travel, and the concept of alternate universes. What happens when an alternate universe is abandoned? Does it keep going, cause a TimeCrash, or more? Most importantly, [[ExpendableAlternateUniverse what happens to the ''people living in said universe?]]''
** In the director's cut, it is revealed that alternate ("tangent") universes are inherently unstable and can only last, oh, about 28 days before collapsing, which can endanger the existence of the primary universe. Once the artifact (the jet engine) is returned to the primary universe, the tangent universe no longer contains the anomaly of having a duplicate object from the primary universe (the artifact) in it and unravels without forming a black hole. Presumably, the people in the tangent universe cease to exist in the tangent universe but go on living in the primary universe.
* DeusExMachina: {{Lampshaded}} when Donnie murmurs this as Frank arrives to solve (sort of) everything.
* DevilInPlainSight: [[spoiler:Jim Cunningham. Due to most of the ancillary characters' WeirdnessCensor, nobody seems to notice that Cunningham gropes the ass of the young boy he is hugging in one of his [[PleaseSubscribeToOurChannel "Attitudinal Beliefs"]] videos.]]
--> '''Frank:''' [voice-over] Pay close attention. You might miss it.
* DiabolusExMachina: The jet engine, at least in-universe. It's mentioned that nobody, not even the FAA, has any idea where it came from, as if it literally only exists to [[spoiler: kill Donnie, and in doing so [[MacGuffin drive the plot]]]].
* CardboardBoxOfUnemployment: Donnie's teacher Ms. Pomeroy is [[FiredTeacher fired from her job]] for discussing offensive literature. There is a shot of her leaving the classroom with a box full of books, a desk lamp and a U.S. flag.
* DyingAlone: An expressed fear by Donnie. [[spoiler:And indeed we see him die alone at the end of the movie.]]
* EinsteinHair: Roberta Sparrow has it.
* EpilogueLetter: We hear Donnie narrating his letter to Roberta Sparrow right before committing his SuicideForOthersHappiness in the final act.
* EvilLaugh: After Frank is killed, a shot of his mask on the ground pitching slightly back and forth in the wind conveys this trope very well.
* ExplodingCalendar: The calendar in Donnie's room counts down to the end of the world.
* EyeScream: When Frank [[spoiler:takes off his mask]], he displays a gruesome wound destroying his left eye. [[spoiler:Donnie will later shoot him in that exact spot, fulfilling the vision.]]
* FeedbackRule: Downplayed. There is a slight feedback when a student grabs a mic to ask Cunningham a question during the talk he gives at the school.
* FiredTeacher: Ms. Pomeroy is fired from her job for teaching "offensive" literature.
* FlashSideways: As suggested by the hand waving in the last scene, some characters retained vestigial memories of the parallel timeline.
* {{Foreshadowing}}:
** When Donnie tells Gretchen he once accidentally burned down a house, they are walking directly in front of Jim Cunningham's house.
** The Life Line Exercise Card that Donnie reads is about a girl finding a lost wallet. Later, Donnie finds Jim Cunningham's wallet on the sidewalk outside his mansion.
** Donnie's friend suggests that "someone oughta write that bitch [Grandma Death/Roberta Sparrow]." [[spoiler: Later in the film, Donnie does just that.]]
** After the initial accident with the fuselage, Donnie's father muses about fate and how Donnie could have been another tragic headline. [[spoiler:Over the course of the movie, Frank communicates to Donnie that his surviving the crash has destabilized the time stream, jeopardizing the universe, and Donnie accepts his fate, dying young for no reason to the average observer.]]
* FreezeFrameBonus: One scene opens with a shot of Chapter 6, page 1 of [[AllThereInTheManual 'The Philosophy of Time Travel']], entitled 'The Living Receiver.' The next page spells out more than a few details - [[spoiler:specifically, that Donnie is a Living Receiver]]. The text states: "The Living Receiver is often blessed with Fourth Dimensional Powers. These include increased strength [[spoiler:(Donnie sinking the axe into the Mongrel's head, even though it's solid bronze)]], telekenesis, mindcontrol (sic), and the ability to conjure fire [[spoiler:(Donnie burning down Jim Cunningham's house)]] and water [[spoiler:(Donnie flooding the school by destroying the water main)]]." The book also explains that "The Living Receiver is often tormented by ''terrifying dreams, visions, and auditory hallucinations'' during his time within the Tangent Universe" (emphasis added for effect).
* TheFundamentalist: Ms. Kitty Farmer, the school's crusadingly Puritan teacher.
** Jim Cunningham seems to be one at first, but then he's revealed to be a hypocrite [[spoiler: and pedophile.]]
* FunnyForeigner: Cherita Chen has a SpeechImpediment and is bullied. PlayedWith from a Doylist perpective, as she is the butt of several jokes initially, but becomes sympathetic to the audience.
* GainaxEnding: And beginning. And middle.
* GilliganCut: When Donnie suggests to throw a party while his parents are away, his sister agrees under the condition it would be a small party. Cut to the next scene revealing that half the school is attending the party.
* GoOutWithASmile: [[spoiler:Donnie]] dies at the end while laughing hysterically, presumably out of relief that he has fulfilled his role as the Living Receiver.
* GoshdangItToHeck: Mrs. Farmer doesn't swear, so when Donnie is sent to the principal's office after snapping at her, she claims that "he asked [her] to forcibly insert the lifeline exercise card into [her] anus!"
* HairRaisingHare: Frank. [[spoiler:He's not really a rabbit, but the choice as a Halloween costume makes it InUniverse as well.]]
* HeadphonesEqualIsolation: Cherita Chen wears earmuffs in an attempt to protect herself from the bullying she is constantly subjected to. In one scene we see Donnie wearing her earmuffs too and he seems to enjoy them.
* TheHeroDies: Donnie chooses SuicideForOthersHappiness.
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Donnie.]] No matter how you slice it, no matter how you interpret the plot, he's fated to either die young and meaninglessly, or live and cause chaos and pain all around him. Upon realizing this, he chooses to die, becoming an active player in his own life and making his death worth something.
%%* HeroicSuicide: see more specific trope SuicideForOthersHappiness.
* HollywoodDriving: Donnie's father almost runs over Roberta Sparrow because he too busy talking to Donnie in the co-driver seat.
* HormoneAddledTeenager: Most of the teens in the movie. Displayed best in one of the therapy sessions, in which HypnoFool!Donnie brings everything back to his fantasies about Creator/ChristinaApplegate.
* HumanAllAlong / GoodAllAlong: [[spoiler:Frank. With that nightmarish fucking mask,]] you could be forgiven for not thinking either.
* IconicOutfit: Donnie's skeleton outfit, and Frank's bunny rabbit costume.
* ImaginaryFriend: Frank is Donnie's imaginary guide in a man-sized rabbit costume. May also be a NotSoImaginaryFriend, depending upon how you interpret the movie. Or both.
* InnocentSwearing: "What's a fuckass?"
* IOweYouMyLife: Frank seemingly saves Donnie from a very bizarre death, which prompts the latter to carry out any task Frank orders on him.
-->'''Donnie:''' I have to obey him. He saved my life.
* JumpScare: When the school bully jumps out of the dark at Roberta Sparrow's cellar.
** Donnie SuddenlyShouting "I CAN SEE HIM RIGHT NOW!" during a therapy session functions as this, compounded by the sharp cut to [[NightmareFuelStationAttendant Frank]] standing smack in the middle of Dr. Thurman's very normal office, tilting his head as though thinking what to do with Donnie next.
* KarmaHoudini:
** [[spoiler:Jim Cunningham is a pedophile with a large stash of child pornography in his mansion which is discovered. In his final scene it sure looks like he's on the frayed end, however, due to the paradox causing it never to happen, nobody finds out that he is a pedophile]]. This is just invoking DeathOfTheAuthor, however, as...
** WordOfGod confirmed that he got caught on the day after Donnie would have [[spoiler:burnt down his house]]. It also says that [[spoiler:he commits suicide out of self-loathing]] not long after his vague dream-recollections of the Tangent Universe.
** It's because of Seth and Ricky's [[spoiler: bullying that Gretchen gets run over by Frank]], yet we don't see them get any comeuppance at all.
* LaughingMad: Hypnotized!Donnie giggles while talking about the apocalypse, his horrific visions, and how they pushed him to flood his school and burn down a building.
* MaybeMagicMaybeMundane: Another level to the MindScrew. If you don't live the TimeTravel explanation, it's possible to interpret the film as [[ThroughTheEyesOfMadness the bizarre delusions of a paranoid schizophrenic.]]
* MentalTimeTravel: Suggested in the epilogue.
* MindScrew: For your sanity, [[BellisariosMaxim we recommend that you do not try too hard to make sense of the plot.]]
* MindScrewdriver: Donnie receives a book on time travel from his science teacher, time traveling also being the central plot driving device of the movie. A director's cut released a few years after the original DVD release briefly cuts to pages from said book, where the mechanics of time travel in this movie are explained - which is vital to figuring out what the hell is going on. The book was later actually published and released. It explains most of the background and events present in the movie. Yet while it explains some of the time travel mechanics, the closest thing we have to an explanation of where Frank came from or who is manipulating Donnie is a couple lines [[WordOfGod in the commentary]] saying that [[ShrugOfGod maybe]] it's [[AWizardDidIt God.]] Or [[SufficientlyAdvancedAliens aliens]]. [[ShrugOfGod Whatever]].
* MontageOut: The movie ends with a montage of all major characters lying awake at night while Gary Jules' [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHtcliIvnHI "Mad World"]] is playing.
%%* MoralGuardians: Mrs. Farmer
* MusicVideoSyndrome: "Head Over Heels" during Donnie Darko's first scene in the school.
* OneEyedShot: Gyllenhaal's left eye is shown whenever he has nightmares.
* OneWomanWail: "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TNQdwL9o1E The Portal (For Whom The Bell Tolls)]]"
* OnlySaneMan: [[{{Deconstruction}} Deconstructed]] in [[TheFundamentalist Ms. Kitty Farmer]], who believes she is, but is shown instead to be suffering from BlackAndWhiteInsanity.
* PopculturalOsmosisFailure: When Donnie's mother asks Kitty if she has heard of Creator/GrahamGreene, she replies that she has, since she's seen ''Series/{{Bonanza}}'' (1959). However, Kitty is getting him confused with Creator/LorneGreene who appeared in the series.
* PortalToThePast:
** Frank is capable of opening these.
** [[spoiler:So is Donnie, by the end.]]
* PowerHair: Ms. Farmer. Only scene (not including the end) when she doesn't sport it, she's at the end of her rope.
* PrecisionCrash: The film's plot begins when an engine detaches itself from a plane flying far overhead, and crashes directly into Donnie's bedroom.
* PrecisionFStrike: "What's a fuck-ass?" and "...I think you're the fucking Antichrist."
* {{Psychopomp}}: Another interpretation of Frank, such as in the theory that the whole film is [[spoiler:a DyingDream of sorts meant to allow Donnie a chance to come to terms with his untimely death.]]
* PsychoticSmirk: When Frank gives him orders, Donnie's expression changes to one of these.
* ReCut: The Director's Cut greatly alters the pacing of the film, adding deleted scenes and new special effects, and switching the soundtrack of the movie around. Richard Kelly regards this version not as a director's cut (this title was the publisher's idea) as he considers the theatrical version just fine in its own right. Instead, to him the new version is a special edition of sorts.
* RubiksCubeInternationalGeniusSymbol: While Donnie is lying down in bed, thinking, he is playing with a Rubik's cube. Notably the Rubik's cube is a black and white one, quite possibly with M.C. Escher paintings on each side of the cube, instead of the regular white-blue-red-green-orange-yellow ones.
* TheSchizophreniaConspiracy: Donnie's psychiatrist suggests that his paranoia is caused by his schizophrenia. To be fair, she brings up the ''hallucination of a giant talking bunny rabbit'' first to justify her diagnosis. To be fair to Donnie, this part of the plot makes far more sense than the {{Black and White Insanity}} that he contends with at school.
* SeinfeldianConversation: While Donnie and his friends are drunk...
-->'''Sean:''' We gotta find ourselves a Smurfette.\\
'''Ronald:''' Smurfette?\\
'''Sean:''' Yeah, not some tight-ass Middlesex chick, right? Like this cute little blonde that will get down and dirty with the guys. Like Smurfette does.\\
'''Donnie:''' Smurfette doesn't fuck.\\
'''Sean:''' That's bullshit. Smurfette fucks all the other Smurfs. Why do you think Papa Smurf made her? Because all the other Smurfs were getting too horny.\\
'''Ronald:''' No, no, no, not Vanity. I heard he was a homosexual.\\
'''Sean:''' Okay, then, you know what? She fucks them and Vanity watches. Okay?\\
'''Ronald:''' What about Papa Smurf? I mean, he must get in on all the action.\\
'''Sean:''' Yeah, what he does, he films the gang-bang, and he beats off to the tape.\\
'''Donnie:''' [shouts] First of all, Papa Smurf didn't create Smurfette. Gargamel did. She was sent in as Gargamel's evil spy with the intention of destroying the Smurf village. But the overwhelming goodness of the Smurf way of life transformed her. And as for the whole gang-bang scenario, it just couldn't happen. Smurfs are asexual. They don't even have... reproductive organs under those little, white pants. It's just so illogical, you know, about being a Smurf. You know, what's the point of living... if you don't have a dick?\\
'''Ronald:''' [pause] Dammit, Donnie. Why you gotta get all smart on us?
* SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong: In a particularly dark version of this, Donnie has to [[spoiler:let himself be impaled by debris from the falling jet engine]], as by not [[spoiler:dying when the engine hit the house]], Donnie has doomed the universe.
* SexForSolace: [[DidTheyOrDidntThey Implied]] between Donnie and Gretchen.
* ShoutOut: Many. Many. Many. Some that aren't referenced directly are:
** The whole "Sparkle Motion" subplot was a huge reference to Graham Greene when he was sued by Creator/ShirleyTemple's lawyers for libel when mocking her middle-aged admirers. He's often cited as one of the first to criticize the sexualization of children.
** If you haven't seen ''Film/{{Harvey}}'' then much of the situational humor will fall flat. A [[InvisibleToNormals big white rabbit that no one can see]] as referenced by a hallucinating nice guy [[spoiler:and [[NotSoImaginaryFriend may or may not be real]] ]]
** Samantha Darko writes a short story for her class called ''Film/TheLastUnicorn''.
** Donnie has a crush on [[Creator/ChristinaApplegate Kelly Bundy]] from ''Series/MarriedWithChildren''.
** Donnie mentions the De Lorean from ''Film/BackToTheFuture'', and both movies have the number 88 as an important plot point.
** The scene where Donnie, Gretchen and Donnie's other two friends ride bikes after the Halloween party was Richard Kelly's tribute to one of his favourite films ''Film/ETTheExtraTerrestrial''.
** Donnie and Gretchen go to see ''Film/TheEvilDead1981'' as a date movie (in a double feature with ''Film/TheLastTemptationOfChrist'', oddly enough).
* SilentWhisper: Donnie walks up to Roberta Sparrow and she stands on tiptoe to whisper, [[spoiler:"Everything on this earth dies alone."]] Donnie's dad asks what she said and the scene cuts without revealing (until later). New viewers will almost always ask prior viewers what she said[[note]]unless one is watching with subtitles, which "helpfully" spell it out right away[[/note]].
* SmallReferencePools: Most of the music in the film is NothingButHits, and as soon as TimeTravel is brought up, Donnie references [[Film/BackToTheFuture the infamous De Lorean]].
* SophisticatedAsHell: When a political debate brings up Elizabeth's plans to not have kids until she's at least thirty,[[WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant Rose Darko]] calmly swirls her wine at dinner and asks her daughter if she believes Dukakis will protect the nation long enough for her to "squeeze one out".
* SomeKindOfForceField: Donnie encounters one in his bathroom. Except it's a hallucination. Well, maybe. He does the logical thing: Stab it repeatedly with a butcher knife while sporting a slightly deranged KubrickStare.
* StableTimeLoop: One exists entirely inside the alternate universe: [[spoiler:Frank saves Donnie from being killed so that Donnie can be there to send the engine back. Along the way Donnie shoots Frank in the eye and kills him. Frank's ghost, still in the bunny suit and still missing an eye, then travels back and saves Donnie, starting the loop over.]]
* AStormIsComing: Mentioned by Frank. And indeed, a supernatural vortex shows up during the movie's climax.
* TheStoryThatNeverWas: In the finale, Donnie goes back in time ([[MindScrew somehow]]) and allows himself to be hit by the falling airplane engine that had missed him in the beginning, in order to change the sequence of events that led to [[spoiler:his hallucinations driving him to commit arson, murder, and vandalism, his girlfriend to get hit by a car, and his mother and little sister to possibly die in a plane crash.]]
* StrangerBehindTheMask: Frank, the masked stranger, knows Donnie, but Donnie (and the audience) hasn't met him yet.
* StylisticSuck: Jim Cunningham's Cunning Visions tapes replicate the look and feel of [[TheEighties 1980s]] instructional videos, down to their cheesy editing and rock-bottom production values (at one point, the boom mic dips into the frame).
* SuicideForOthersHappiness: Donnie allows himself to be killed by the falling plane turbine to allow the various people in his life to live/be happy.
* SurrealSymbolicHeads: Frank; see the cover above. It's the reason he is [[spoiler:initially mistaken for an hallucination]].
* TeenGenius: His test scores were "intimidating".
* TemporalParadox: Donnie is caught in an unstable time loop that he must close. When he moves himself and the jet engine that should have killed him back into the past, he closes the loop by dying in the way that he should have from the beginning, negating everything in the time loop. This causes everything that was changed by his time travel to exist outside of the normal timeline without affecting it. The one exception is that the engine now went back in time for ''no reason whatsoever''.
* TheresNoBInMovie:
** The director's first choice was ''Film/{{CHUD}}'', but there was a problem with the rights. Nevertheless, Donnie still compares Mr. Cunningham to a chud in one scene.
** Actually, the reference to "Last Temptation of Christ" makes sense, if you've seen the movie. First off, Donnie is essentially [[spoiler: a Christ figure who saves the world by sacrificing himself]]. Secondly, in Scorsese's film, [[spoiler: Jesus has an extended dream of an alternate life he can't actually have while he is dying on the cross. Before the crucifixion, he must choose whether to live as a normal mortal man or to die to save everyone else--a lighter version of the same choice Donnie had to make (as Donnie himself is doomed regardless). The extended dream sequence is basically analogous to Donnie's time loop in that it gets reset at the end when Jesus chooses to die.]]
* ThisIsForEmphasisBitch: Donnie to his mother: "Then why don't you start taking the goddamn pills, (pause) bitch? "
* TimelineAlteringMacGuffin: The jet engine has caused a paradox by falling back in time which will destroy the universe unless it is dealt with.
* TwoDecadesBehind: Reportedly, the movie was set in TheEighties because that's when Richard Kelly grew up and he [[WriteWhatYouKnow wouldn't be able to write a coming of age story in the 2000's due to lack of frame of reference]].
* VillainWithGoodPublicity: Jim Cunningham, a motivational speaker who is adored by the school faculty. [[spoiler: He's also a closet pedophile.]]
* WhatIf: The main plot is essentially a few days of a "What If" scenario for a handful of people, eventually ending by returning where the tangential universe started in the first place and avoiding the "What If".
* WhatYouAreInTheDark: [[spoiler:Donnie sacrificed his life to save the world, and no one will ever know.]]
* WholePlotReference: To TheLastTemptationOfChrist - which is no doubt why it's in the movie. [[spoiler: Both films are about the protagonist seeing a happy life that they cannot achieve, as death is coming for them one way or the other.]]