The Philosophy of Donnie Darko

The Philosophy of Donnie Darko


Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko –from a plain perspective– is about a teenage boy, Donnie Darko, who has schizophrenia causing him to sleepwalk, imagining a creepy giant bunny rabbit named Frank talking to him. Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in about 28 days. When Donnie wakes up and walks back home he’s told that a jet engine of a plane –nowhere to be found– had crashed into his room. Leading to Donnie to search for the truth.

The Philosophy

Donnie Darko has an extreme amount of existentialist themes. For those who don’t know what existentialism means, it’s a philosophy which believes that everyone has free will and determines their own destiny through acts of authenticity. Its storytelling is a bit dry, but it’s definitely worth the watch.  I would highly recommend Donnie Darko if you wanted to understand existentialism better.

Richard Kelly’s use of philosophy within Donnie Darko can be seen mainly within Donnie himself and his therapy sessions with Dr. Thurman. Donnie has very existential thoughts coming from his mental troubles. Within the film Donnie talks about being alone, the belief of God, and time travel after meeting his friend Frank. Frank’s reveal to Donnie and his mention of the world ending in 28 days seeming to push Donnie’s beliefs. These beliefs would be mainly directed by Roberta Sparrow’s The Philosophy of Time Travel. These things would lead to Donnie’s later decisions and understanding of Frank’s warning of the world ending.

Self Sacrifice

Donnie in the end had chosen to sacrifice himself for what he believes to be the greater good. When Donnie got The Philosophy of Time Travel from his science teacher, Dr. Kenneth Monnitoff, he started to believe in time travel more and more. Throughout the film Donnie had caused his school to flood, leading to his English teacher’s termination because of the correlation between the book they were reading in class, Graham Greene’s The Destructors. Donnie had also burnt down Jim Cummingham’s house leading to the finding of child pornography in his house and his arrest. Last of all, Donnie had led his girlfriend, Gretchen Ross, to her death and shot Frank in the eye. All of these situations lead to Donnie’s overall choice to use time travel to reverse time and bring back everything he had lost.

Although, to complete this transaction, it all goes back to how it was before, but this time Donnie was doomed and died from the jet engine crash. With this, everything was back to what it was before. No one had died, nothing was damaged, and Donnie was gone. He had sacrificed himself to stop the pain and suffering of others, accepting his inevitable death alone.


The philosophy of Donnie Darko is incredible and describes the pain and turmoil plenty of individuals go through. Donnie symbolizes a person who believes that the world would do better without them. I highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to explore the beauty of philosophy. Although, I do warn everyone who wants to watch Donnie Darko to try to be in good health and understand that this film is a heavy movie to consume. I hope you like Donnie Darko as much as I did.

My Favorite Quotes and Songs in Donnie Darko


  1. “I promise that one day, everything’s going to be better for you.” – Donnie
  2. “She said that every living creature on earth dies. – Donnie

How did that make you feel? – Dr. Thurman

It reminded me of my dog Cali … She died when I was eight and she crawled  underneath the … The porch. – Donnie

To die. – Dr. Thurman

To be alone. – Donnie”

  1. “Do you feel alone right now? – Dr. Thurman

Oh … I mean, I’d like to believe I’m not, but I just… I’ve just never seen any proof, so I … I just don’t debate it anymore, you know? It’s like I could spend my whole life debating it over and again, weighing the pros and cons, and in the end I still wouldn’t have any proof, so I just … I just don’t debate it anymore. It’s absurd. – Donnie

The search for God is absurd? – Dr. Thurman

It is if everyone dies alone. – Donnie

Does that scare you? – Dr. Thurman

I don’t wanna be alone. – Donnie”


  1. The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen
  2. Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears

Rating: 9/10