Donnie Darko
Franks Eye

Unanswered Questions

Even though the main explanation is consistent and ties the whole movie together there are still a few parts of the movie that are not explained and have to rely on theory. Here are some of those questions with possible explanations and some common mistakes people make.

What Creates The Tangent Universe

Time PortalWhy exactly does a Tangent Universe (TU) occur? Are they a natural phenomenon or are they artificially created. There is one theory that scientists in the future build a machine that somehow causes a rip in time back in the past. Another theory is it could have been caused by Alien involvement.

Quite a common thought is Frank saving Donnie in the beginning is the cause of the TU. Donnie was meant to die and by surviving he altered things which caused the corruption. This is not true though, we are already within the TU when Frank wakes Donnie up. Frank's special powers only work within the TU so he would only be able to wake Donnie after the TU had started.

The same goes for the Artifact not being the cause of the corruption. The jet engine appears several minutes after the TU had started. The Philosophy of Time Travel states that the Artifact is the first sign of evidence that a TU has occurred.

The First Jet Engine

The ArtifactOne major question is where does the jet engine in the beginning of the movie come from originally? If it came from the future where exactly and what day did it come from?

A common answer to this question is it's the same engine Donnie sends through the portal from the plane his mother and sister were on. The engine travels through time and lands on Donnie's house. It's exactly the same event as the end of the film only the first time round Donnie survives.

This is extremely unlikely though as the portals are just a gateway between the two Universes. The first engine lands in the Tangent Universe (TU) so if it came through a portal it would have to come from the Primary Universe (PU). The engine Donnie rips of the plane at the end is from the TU and travels through a portal into the PU so there is no way it can be the same event repeating.

If it did come from a future point in the PU once the corruption is fixed by Donnie that future event won't happen now so we will never find out exactly how it occurred.

Another theory is the Tangent Universe is a copy of the Primary Universe but as it's being formed there is a glitch or copying error. This error produces a duplicate engine that is then dumped into Donnie's bedroom. This anomaly makes the TU even more unstable and it must be sent into the PU.

Roberta Sparrow: The Philosophy Of Time Travel

Roberta Sparrow (Grandma Death)Roberta Sparrow writes the book "The Philosophy Of Time Travel" which helps guide Donnie but how exactly did she know all this information? There are a few plausible explanations for this. It seems like she had a similar experience herself so either she was a Living Receiver or one of the Manipulated Dead in a previous Tangent Universe.

Both options would in theory give her all the information required. If she was a Living Receiver she would obviously have known what to do and the Manipulated Dead have a large understanding of what is happening within a Tangent Universe. It's possible she may have somehow retained some of the information from her experience once the Primary Universe started up again.

Does Donnie Have To Die

Donnie DarkoThis subject is one of the most debated parts of the movie. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking Donnie waking up and cheating death in the beginning is what caused the Tangent Universe (TU) to occur. The assumption is then once the Primary Universe is restored Donnie stays in bed otherwise he risks causing another TU to start and the whole cycle will repeat. This theory is not correct though, Donnie and Frank have nothing to do with the creation of the TU.

We hear about other Living Receivers in The Philosophy of Time Travel who were killed by the Artifact they returned. If we include Donnie then it seems the Living Receiver always dies once the Primary Universe is restored. The question is what would happen if Donnie got out of bed again and survived? The moment we see Donnie laughing in bed at the end the Primary Universe is already restored. If Donnie got out of bed and dodged the second engine after that then in theory nothing would change as the corruption is already fixed.

Another important point is whether Donnie chooses to die. The Donnie we see in bed at the end is not the same Donnie from the last 28 days. How much knowledge he has of what happened in the TU is very questionable and it’s quite unlikely he knows he is about to die.

The question of destiny plays quite a big part here, Donnie was meant to die but Frank saved him. It’s possible he was chosen as the Living Receiver because his life is now expendable; he is going to die anyway. Once back in the real world it's Donnie's destiny to die.

October 20th 2014 | 14:40:59

From a theological perspective, perhaps the TU was actually created (as the professor told Donnie, not "randomly", but as an act of God) specifically for the purpose of showing Donnie that everything is in God's hands and he doesn't have to die alone. It is meant to enlighten him.

When Gretchen and Donnie are talking about taking all the hours of darkness and replacing them with something beautiful, that is essentially what the TU does for Donnie. Obviously, Donnie was extremely troubled before any of this started, as evidenced by the conversation at the beginning in the PU about going off his meds and the fire he started.

So the TU was put in place by God to stop time in the PU and give Donnie a beautiful experience to replace his feelings of isolation and fear of dying alone. Regardless of how screwed up the whole end of the world scenario is, it enables Donnie to 1.) find love and cure his loneliness and 2.) to see how God really is the author of destiny. Psychologically, he is cured from his emotional problems. This is why he wakes up laughing in the PU at the end of the film.

Re: his conversation with the professor about choosing our destiny, this is the classic argument about the paradox of pre-destination vs. free will, and Donnie solves it, although the professor is too obtuse to see it. Donnie is right, just because you can SEE the future doesn't mean there is no free will. God has the same dilemma-He can SEE the future (as Donnie says, a form of time travel) because He exists OUTSIDE of time. God is infinite. Linear time is only a concept needed by humans. While we live ON or WITHIN the timeline, God exists OUTSIDE of it, and sees everything and how it is interconnected-past, present and future, as if it is happening simultaneously. This is how He is able to both see the future and not determine it at the same time. God has merely seen our choices (our "destinies" before we create them. God can also put people and circumstances into our lives to help guide us along the optimal path that will lead to the best outcome, but He never insists.

Donnie is given a glimpse of this with his ability to see the spears coming out of the solar plexus of himself and others which tells him what they are going to do. Yes, Donnie can see a few seconds into his future (the water blob coming from his chest), and yes, he can technically choose to act contrary to it, but by acting in accordance with it, he is CHOOSING to act within, as he put it, "God's channel". He is CHOOSING to fulfill his destiny, rather than just blindly acting like everyone else does.

Dying at the end IS Donnie's destiny, and I think he knows it. He has fulfilled his task, he has brought the universe back into balance and in doing so, recognized God's hand in every aspect of our lives. He has recognized how even the smallest details must converge in order for the universe to function without imploding in on itself. Anyone can choose to act outside of their "destiny", but doing so could mean disaster because the universe is so finely tuned. This is especially true in the highly unstable TU.

The key is to become aware of your destiny and COOPERATE with it, and with God, for the greater good. When we do this, all of our anxieties disappear, because we know there is divine authorship at work, that God is constantly facilitating our path and using the people around us to help guide us in the most beneficial direction. Yes, Donnie could have CHOSEN to do nothing, not to follow his destiny (the future that he saw in the spears, the path that God was giving him a glimpse of), but to what end? The destruction of the universe.

By choosing to act within God's channel, facilitated by people God has chosen to help him, Donnie realizes that he is FAR from alone. The whole universe is working with him, and he with it. And bonus, through his cooperation, he finds romantic love, an earthly glimpse of the divine.

At the end, whether he actually KNOWS for a fact that he is going to die or not isn't really important, because he has made the choice to fully cooperate with God in fulfilling his own destiny. So yes, it is his destiny to die. And he is ready for it now. The whole movie was like a crash course for Donnie in overcoming his fear of death and learning about love (human and divine). For most of us, this takes a lifetime, if we ever get to that point at all. If the TU had not been created to teach Donnie about God and Love, he probably would have committed suicide in despair at the very least, and at the worst, killed a bunch of people and taken himself out as well.

The creation of the TU was a direct intervention into Donnie's life by God to help him overcome his despair and fear. Ironically, this movie sort of does come down to Fear vs. Love, an idea that Donnie found so deplorable in its simplicity. Love is surrender, it pushes us outside of ourselves and into the world. It is sacrifice. It CREATES a new world and a new SELF by DESTROYING the old, fear-based paradigm. Yes, the inner workings are much more complex and nuanced, but on a macro-level, fear vs. love is Donnie's dilemma.

Perhaps Roberta Sparrow has a similar crisis of faith, only instead of learning her lesson and moving onto the next plane (Heaven) like Donnie did, she chose to go AGAINST her destiny (by living) causing her descent into madness. Seeing God's will and cooperating with it are the keys to enlightenment and peace.

October 17th 2014 | 15:14:11

Donnie's ego creates the idea that he has to die, as a result of the TU giving him supernatural powers, Donnie naturally assumes he is more important to the survival of the PU than he is. Donnie could live at the end, but thinks that he has to die to save the PU because of his increased importance in the TU. He may also assume a messiah figure, believing he still had his powers, and thinking of the harm they would cause in the hands of a schizophrenic, and thus he has to sacrifice himself to maintain stability in the PU. Again none of this is true based on the explanation in PoTT, but that is not important, what is important it what Donnie believes, and in the end, he believes he has to die.

October 10th 2014 | 14:47:19

Oh... My... God... Molly Marie. You have blown my mind. Everything that I have previously thought about Donnie Darko is just "POOF" lol

October 5th 2014 | 9:48:36

so is the time travel really possible ?

Isaac perez
September 30th 2014 | 4:26:10

What ever happened to the letter donnie wrote to grandma death?! Email me at

September 10th 2014 | 16:41:06

A jet engine falls in Donnie's bed in the real world while he travels to the tangent Uni
Then at the end of the 28 days in the tangent, Donnie sends a jet engine from the tangent back into the real world and he goes woth it and it lands on him in his sleep, does that not mean that there are 3 engines in the real world
1- that lands on Donnie's bed at the start from some other tangent
2- the one that Donnie sends at the end of the film from the tangent he has been in
3 - One that is attached to a plane that will never be removed because Donnie is dead

August 31st 2014 | 1:15:25

I think that if Donnie had stayed alive then he would have fallen for Gretchen all over again and somehow lead to her death. I think that's the reason he chose to die, in order to save her. just a thought...

Molly Marie
August 23rd 2014 | 16:26:40


Molly Marie
August 23rd 2014 | 16:25:56

I have just finished watching Donnie Darko for about the 10th time. And I would like to express the amazing connections and some insights I made throughout the movie (I know it is long but it is worth the read):

1. When the movie first starts, Donnie wakes up on a mountain and looks to where the portal at the end of the movie opens up (did he have a dream about the following events, or some idea of what is about to happen?), and then when Donnie is biking home a red Trans Am with loud exhaust passes Donnie which I believe is Frank’s car.

2. In the beginning of the film when Donnie’s mother walks into his room while he is reading and asks him why he stopped taking his meds, if you look to the left you can see a drawing of an eye. And that makes me wonder if that has any connection to what happens to Frank’s eye (Donnie shoots him in the eye). And it makes me wonder that if what is about to happen to Donnie has happened before.

3. When Drew Barrymore is first seen in the classroom in the movie, there is a quote on the chalkboard from the last paragraph of “The Destructors” and it reads “One moment the house had stood there with such quiet dignity between the bomb-sites like a man in a top-hat, and then BANG CRASH there wasn’t anything left, not anything.” That is important, because it makes me think about the artifact (the jet engine) crashing into Donnie’s bedroom, allowing the TU to take place. (I’m not saying the jet engine caused the TU, I am saying the jet engine and the TU play hand-in-hand).

4. When Drew Barrymore asks Donnie to elaborate on the book they were assigned to read, Donnie says “Destruction is a form of creation” and that it is ironic. They just want to see what happens when they tear the world apart, that they want to change things. It makes me think that Donnie lets himself be killed in the end of the movie because he wants to change things, he is destructing himself to create something new or even something better.

5. Another thing I discovered is when Donnie, his father, his friend, and his friend’s dad (the doctor) are watching a football game, and that vessel / spear that comes out of Donnie’s father… it shows me that every movement, every action, is predetermined because it is streaming out ahead of him, leading him to the fridge. And it also leads Donnie to the gun in his father’s closet. And that gun is used to shoot Frank. And when Donnie is talking to his science teacher about time travel and the spear/vessel, his teacher says that if we were able to see our path or channel, then you have a choice on how it ends. And that is what Donnie is able to do, Donnie has a choice… And he chooses to save the world (returning the duplicate jet engine to the portal) and he chooses to let himself die. Maybe thinking that there’s something better on the other side, therefore basically saying that he no longer doubts God. Because maybe he discovered that being able to choose his own destiny is proof to him that all of what happened to him was an act of God.

6. Something that I noticed which may or may not even be a connection, but when Jim Cunningham is speaking at the school he says that teenagers that are living in fear surrender to “ Drugs, Alcohol, and pre-marital Sex “ and that he knows someone whose life was destroyed by that and his name happens to be Frank. Now Donnie smokes that weed cigarette, drinks alcohol while shooting that gun with his two friends, and then has pre-marital sex with Gretchen. And after all that happens… Donnie ends Frank’s life. Either that is just irony or a connection. Either way, I found it interesting.

7. As Donnie is walking Gretchen home after he tells her the school is flooded, Donnie tells Gretchen he was in jail once for burning down an abandoned house as they are walking outside of Jim Cunningham’s house. Ironic & foreshadowing! Also, he tells Gretchen to check her bag because Seth Rogen and his friend likes to steal things, and later on Donnie’s father explains that kids used to break in to Roberta Sparrow’s house all the time to steal her Gems, which she collects, which explains why Seth Rogen and his friend are seen there at the end of the movie.

8. RANDOM FACT: The movie takes place in 1988. Frank tells Donnie the world will end in 28 days, 06 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. If you add these numbers, the sum is 88. According to the television reporter, the fire at Jim Cunningham's house was extinguished "sometime after 8:00 last night." And in the movie Back To The Future, the DeLorean had to reach a speed of 88mph to travel in time.

9. I find it ironic that Jim Cunningham’s initials are “ J.C “ (… Jesus Christ) but Donnie calls him the antichrist. I also find it ironic that the last line in the movie is “All units should be back on base frequency.”

10. While Donnie’s mother and father are laying in bed at the Holiday Inn Hotel after the jet engine crashes in Donnie’s room… if you block out what they are talking about (someone who died on the way to prom), you hear a news broadcaster talking about the jet engine belonging to a commercial 747 flight. But if you listen to what his mother and father are talking about… a kid dies on his way to prom and says that he is doomed… and the father admits that he also said that about Donnie.

time traveller
August 9th 2014 | 11:25:02

Donnie let himself die just to make himself immortal in the manipulated minds. If he were alive then people would have thought their dream to be a mere coincidence and Donnie would have continue to live his petty life, which of course he shouldn't have wanted after his experience in the TU. Although i have no explanations of Frank's double role in the TU.

Post Comment


Cherita Chan - Manipulated Living
You need to upgrade your Flash Player