We Watch It For The Music | Donnie Darko

We Watch It For The Music | Donnie Darko

Sam Hartley, Writer/Volunteer

Donnie Darko is like if a superhero’s depressed son had schizophrenia symptoms and a giant bunny rabbit named Frank as a friend. Donnie Darko came out in 2001 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and was written and directed by Richard Kelly. It is a movie with time travel, convoluted plots and Donnie ranting to his friends about how Smurfs could not possibly have sex. It is a great time, and one of the best parts is how hard the soundtrack slaps.

The movie opens with Donnie riding down a mountain to “The Killing Moon” by Echo and the Bunnymen, and oh boy does it work. The song lyrics perfectly match Donnie and his nearly selfless outlook on life, while also being a great background song while we look around his neighborhood. The song also introduces us to Donnie’s parents and his sister.

The next day Donnie goes to school and as he opens the door to the bus “Head over Heels” by Tears for Fears starts playing and follows Donnie into the school in a slow-mo quick shot scene. We are introduced to all the characters. We see Gretchen at her locker, the school bully snorting cocaine with Seth Rogan, the new English teacher, and my personal favorite, the introduction of Patrick Swayze and Miss Farmer. It is a great scene and is one of the best stylistic ways to introduce the characters in a movie.

The next song that comes out is “Notorious” by Duran Duran, which is one of the most out of place songs in the movie. However, it is set with Donnie’s sister’s dance recital and is intercut with Donnie throwing gasoline all over the house of Patrick Swayze’s character Jim Cunningham. The song adds this upbeat and fun background music to Donnie committing this crime. It’s like when a movie plays a really happy song over a bunch of people being slaughtered. It just works, it shouldn’t but it does.

Elizabeth, Donnie’s sister, gets into Harvard, so they decide to throw a Halloween party. This introduces a bunch of songs and they all slap. One of the best songs played during this is “The Milky Way Tonight” by The Church. It plays while Donnie walks around the house and sees the rager that is playing out. Then the bagpipes kick in while some sci-fi nonsense starts happening and it is super cool.

The final scene is one of the more iconic scenes of Donnie Darko and that is when Mad World by Tears for Fears starts playing. The song starts and we look at all of the characters from the movie who have been affected by Donnie’s sacrifice. It is a very moving scene in what is not a terribly sad movie.

The movie’s song picks are exclusively ‘80s pop hits and they all work together very well. Even Notorious which doesn’t really fit does a good job in the movie. The songs are a weird somber pop that embodies the soul of the film and they make Donnie Darko one of the best science fiction flicks of the early 2000s. It has a great plot with teenage angst. It is a great movie and even if you aren’t the biggest movie fan you will love the soundtrack.