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.

Minnie marki
October 9th 2017 | 20:06:55

Why was the Mom reading Steven king? Why mention what high test scores Donnie had and also that the sister got into Harvard? Why not any other university but the top one? Perhaps they have some memories from reliving so have used those to their advantages

October 9th 2017 | 9:00:54

How come he is alive in 2001 in the starting of the movie?

September 13th 2017 | 12:04:34


August 29th 2017 | 23:38:13

What about cherita? How does the fact that she's in love with Donnie impacts the plot? What was her role in the movie? Why did they show us her listening to the conversation between Donnie and his teacher, the conversation which he explained Donnie about time travel?

August 8th 2017 | 19:49:13

So, what happened if donnie didn't wake up in the TU and got killed by the engine?

July 24th 2017 | 12:52:38


July 18th 2017 | 1:04:25

It says within the last few minutes of the movie that subjects will most likely not remember the events that happened in the TU, and if they do they will feel great remorse and such for the events that occured. I believe this is why he stays in bed as if everything is normal. I don't think he was suicidal or just "accepting his fate", I think he forgot everything that happened during his time in the Tangent Universe and therefor there was nothing he could do to avoid death in the Primary Universe, it was just meant to be unfortunately.

July 3rd 2017 | 16:33:24

I believe Donnie stays in his bed, knowing he would die at the end of the film. He realized during his time in the TU that following his fate (the water-like spear coming from his chest as seen when Donnie finds his dad's gun or at the Halloween party) lead him to saving the entire universe including his family and one true love, Gretchen. He fully realizes that if it had not been for Frank waking him up, he would have died from the jet engine, thus that was originally his fate. Donnie is very happy to know he is continuing to follow the "righteous path" (God, fate, whatever you decide) and die like he was originally planned to.

Side note: he could also see his own death as a sort of atonement for murdering Frank (even though he had to from a plot perspective).

June 11th 2017 | 3:09:49

I think Donnie chose to die thinking that if he lives, the tragedies occurred in the Tangent Universe would happen in the Primary universe, which is actually not the case, because as what have been mentioned previously, the glitch has already been fixed when he woke up. In other words, Donnie made an "unnecessary sacrifice."

Arra Bay
June 8th 2017 | 11:22:23

So technically, Donnie knew all along about the powers he had and what his ultimate mission was? And if he did, why didn't he do it earlier, why do it only when Gretchen was dead?

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Eddie Darko - Manipulated Living
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