Donnie Darko 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

It’s time for another edition of Donnie Darko for home media consumption.  There has been a previous couple DVD releases, followed by a Blu-ray release back in 2009.  Now we have the four-disc set, dubbed the “10th Anniversary Edition”, which features the same Blu-ray set, but also includes the original DVD, as well as a digital copy of the film.  Regardless, I now get to write a bit about the film again (although I managed to use some old notes I had).  Donnie Darko is an 80’s teenage angst movie, with a few twists. It involves a bright kid with an eccentric side, a creepy bunny, time travel, and a trippy plot that keeps you wondering as well as entertained. The film bounced in and out of theaters fairly quickly, but has since become a cult classic (and praised to death by hipsters and Goths).  I remember picking it up out of the blue and enjoying it thoroughly and I continue to do so, as it served as an eerie and exciting debut from writer/director Richard Kelly and aided by the solid central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.  And did I mention the creepy bunny and time travel?


Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, a strange boy who has a tendency to sleepwalk.  Lately, having gone off his meds, Donnie has begun to have visions of a large, creepy bunny rabbit alerting him that the world will end soon. Things become stranger following the sudden impact of a jet engine from out of the sky onto Donnie’s bedroom.  Luckily Donnie wasn’t home, but the engine becomes a bigger mystery, as no one knows where it came from.

The story is set in 1987 in the suburban town of Middlesex, VA.  Donnie attends high school, functioning as an awkward teen. After the jet engine incident, Donnie begins to explore the visions he is having, leading him to question the function of time and life, and other things to make the audience wonder where this is all going.  Donnie literally starts to see the motion of time, while continuing to interact with the various members of the cast, which includes Maggie Gyllenhaal as his sister, Jena Malone as a new girl that takes a liking to Donnie, Drew Barrymore and Noah Wyle as some of Donnie’s teachers, Patrick Swayze (used terrifically) as a send up of self help gurus, and Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne, who I particularly liked, as Donnie’s parents.  Uneasiness sets in as Donnie both struggles to be an average teenager and possibly the savior of the world, as he searches to find out the truth behind his eerie visions.

As subjective as this film is, I am always entertained by how well made this movie is.  It features a number of actors in good performances, a neat concept that mixes science fiction and teen dramedy, some good effects for a low budget film, and a solid soundtrack.  It maintains an interesting level of atmosphere that is almost satirical when dealing with Donnie’s plight as a high schooler, but then ultimately creepy as it delves into the creepy bunny/time travel scenario.  While the film presents some convoluted ideas that are not easily explained in terms of why they are happening, writer/director Richard Kelly does create an original and intriguing journey that at least allows me to follow what is happening.  That being said, the 2004 director’s cut of the film (both cuts are on this disc) inserts many new scenes that serve to spell out a lot of the elements that were previously left a bit more ambiguous.

I also just flat out enjoy all of the background action that is present in this film.  The 1980s setting provides for a different sort of era that emphasizes some of the ridiculous school practices, political climate, and other pre-internet-related elements that created different sorts of identities for a lot of these people who would have come out differently in a time like today.  The film is very enjoyable in that regard and also very quotable just because Kelly wrote a fairly funny script, once you take out all the foreboding elements.

Kelly really threw a lot into this film, as it also have many comic book-like elements to help define these characters and their relationships between each other, how the story is assembled and comes together, and the way the various themes of the film collide.  Plus, this film has a lot of fun with the time travel logic.  I love how time travel always has different sets of rules in different films and Donnie Darko is no different, using a fictional guide created by Kelly, “The Philosophy of Time Travel”, as a way of combining science fiction, fate, and “god’s will” together in order to come up with possible answers for what is going on.

I didn’t really think I would have much more to say about Donnie Darko, but now, 10 years later, I still find plenty to enjoy about the film.  I honestly don’t even spend that much time scratching my head over the why of everything in this film; I just generally enjoy all that went into its creation.  The cast is solid, the film looks great, and the atmosphere is suitably fun, creepy, and gripping.  I haven’t even mentioned the über popular cover song that is “Mad World” by Gary Jules, which was incredibly placed in this film before bordering on parody in its usage today.  Really, I find Donnie Darko to be a great cult film that presents an original story and lots of other cool stuff throughout.  [I should also note that I enjoy both versions of the film, although beginning with the theatrical cut would be the best way to watch for the first time]


As this is the exact same Blu-ray disc as the last Blu-ray release of Donnie Darko, nothing has been done to improve upon the initial transfer, which had some problems.  If I had to guess, I would probably say that the reason this film’s video quality is not as it could be is due to the fact that both cuts of the film are presented on the same disc.  Instead of splitting the cuts into two different discs (which would almost be expected, given that this is a four-disc set), you have two films crammed onto one disc, which has made the video transfer quality not as ideal as one would like.  The film does look good on Blu-ray, which should almost go without saying with a 1080p transfer, especially for a low budget film that doesn’t exactly rely on bright imagery.  There are a number of effects shots and some atmospheric scenes that are worth seeing with the proper amount of brightness and black levels, and fortunately this is a suitable enough transfer.  Given that the DVD is included on this set, it is easy to see how the Blu-ray is an upgrade in video quality.  If the film manages to receive another anniversary release, we’ll see if the video quality gets an upgrade.


Donnie Darko does feature a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which easily benefits the film greatly.  Between the uses of soundtrack choices, some of the eerie atmospheric sounds, and the dialogue, which is featured most heavily, I was happy with how clearly everything seemed to come through.  It is a pretty great mix that managed to effectively make use of the surround sound design.  Again, given the relatively low budget of the film, I am happy with how well it continues to hold up and the way it has been made at least lends itself to a clean audio mix.

Special Features:

This is almost a tricky rating to apply, as nothing new has been added in terms of extra features for this Blu-ray set that has not already been released in previous editions.  That being said, it is loaded with extra features.  There are three commentary tracks, a lengthy behind the scenes documentary, fan-related documentaries, and many other features.  While a lot of this stuff is quite informative, aside from the commentaries, all of the extra features are on the non-Blu-ray discs, meaning that all of these features are presented in SD quality.  Here’s a layout of all the discs and their extra features:

Disc 1 – Blu-ray

  • Theatrical and Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Richard Kelly and Director Kevin Smith (Director’s Cut) – The most entertaining and informative of all the commentaries; both because it involves Smith and because Smith manages to get Kelly to open up about what is going on in the film.  A very good listen for fans of the film.
  • Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew (Theatrical Version) – A fun conversation, just not as much substance.
  • Audio Commentary with Richard Kelly and Jake Gyllenhaal (Theatrical Version) – There is some worthwhile discussion in this commentary, as it tackles some of the themes of the film.

Disc 2 – DVD

  • Production Diary with Optional Commentary by Director of Photography Steven Poster – A lengthy behind the scenes look at the making of the film.
  • They Made Me Do It Too – The Cult of Donnie Darko Featurette – Various fans, critics, and artists in the United Kingdom discuss the film’s impact.
  • #1 Fan: A Darkomentary – The #1 winning entry in a Donnie Darko fan competition
  • Storyboard-to-Screen Featurette
  • Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer

Disc 3 – Original DVD

  • Donnie Darko in Standard Definition
  • Director and Actors Commentary – same as above tracks, minus the Director’s Cut commentary
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary – some good stuff, but most of it was put back into the Director’s Cut of the film
  • “Cunning Visions” Infomercials
  • The Philosophy of Time Travel Book
  • Website Gallery
  • “Mad World” Music Video
  • Art Gallery & Production Stills
  • Cast & Crew Info
  • Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots

Disc 4 – Digital Copy of the Film

Final Thoughts:

At least for the time being, this is the definitive Donnie Darko collection.  All of the features that have previously been available for this film are now all combined into one big set, with every viewing option of the film possible.  If only the video quality was given an upgrade, this would be the best possible set to own.  As it stands, fans of the film that already have the Blu-ray do not necessarily need to upgrade, but anyone else seeking to own the film should go for this set.  Of course, as far as the film goes, I continue to enjoy it as a clever and original sci-fi/time travel film set in the realm of a character driven teenage drama.  It continues to be an engrossing thriller of sorts that is convoluted, yet fun, eerie, and exciting.  If you’re not interested by this film, then I have to say I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

Order your copy here:





Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

5 Responses to “Donnie Darko 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    Great guy, but I have hated everything Richard Kelly has done 🙁

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    There’s an understandable divide in audiences for his films. I like them all.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    I’m going to give Southland Tales another shot. It’s got a cool cast…

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    It took me a couple times to really dig Southland Tales. It’s flawed for sure, but there isn’t really much else like it.

  5. Aaron Neuwirth

    Trust me, that’s definitely understandable. Me and my roommate at the time hated it the first time we watched. He still does.