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.

June 2nd 2011 | 20:56:21


Daniel Lemp
May 27th 2011 | 14:25:19

Thanks website! Now I can REALLY die happy!

April 26th 2011 | 16:51:24

Is it at all possible that the entire movie was donnie's life (future) flashing before his eyes just before he dies. It illustrates in the movie that he was able to see into the future

March 29th 2011 | 17:05:52

I really love this movie. My question is has anyone seen Harvey? could the frank from the visions not actually be frank but a pooka?

Sgt. Pickles
March 6th 2011 | 7:30:34

So sorry! Only one this time (yay)

Okay so my one question is... So at the end when Donnie is standing on the hill or whatever with corpse gretchen in the car, what happens after he sends that engine thru the portal. I mean I know thats the TU.... right? so does everything that happened during that particular time stream just cease. I mean I know the mom and girls on the dance team will never go home but I mean... Does anything continue on that stream of time or does it just cease completely? As in, Donnie is still on the run, whole flight reported missing, Dad comes home to only his oldest daughter... etc etc.

Lol this is just a comment. You said Donnie probably didn't know he was about to die while he was laying in his bed. The only reason MD (manipulated dead) Frank woke him was to do his purpose which he did so he died because he was supposed to in the first place. I guess I get that but I don't agree. You also said that he didn't have to die and I think that makes more sense to me. I think he knew he was going to die and thats why he was laughing. WAY before, in the therapists office they talked about how things want to be alone before they die and he said he felt alone. Something like "I just keep weighing the pros and cons but its ubsurd to think otherwise" I think Donnie felt alone and alienated. He was far smarter than his "friends" (Smuf conversation when they were drinking in a feild near Dead grandma's mailbox). he felt like the laughing stock of his family (he asked his mom how it felt to have a crazy son) He's like the delinquent while his older sister is going to Harvard and younger sister is invited to be on a show for her being in a dancing group in which she is the star. I think, even if he remembered meeting and falling for gretchen, he became at peace with death and chooses it. Just saying. But what do I know?

February 10th 2011 | 4:19:17


Mad World is primarily here to give this part of the film a sadder feel, especially considering Gary Jules's cover of the song is used, which is much slower and less upbeat than the Tears for Fears original. This scene is based on the "Dreams" chapter of The Philosophy of Time Travel, in which Spearow states that The Manipulated Living or Manipulated Dead may recall some of their Tangent Universe counterpart's actions as dreams. This explains why Jim Cunningham is crying. He's feeling guilty about his child porn ring, which may have never existed in the Primary Universe.

January 5th 2011 | 3:36:41


I was wondering if you could answer at the end of the movie, what song "mad world" has to do with it as they see the people waking up. Do the lyrics of the song have any connnection to the ending?


January 4th 2011 | 1:48:59

@ Lisa
You do have quite a few questions there. Most of them can be answered by reading the explanation i wrote on this site. I'll answer a few for you.

Manipulated Dead Frank (Ghost Frank) can only be seen by Donnie and is really only a messenger from the future. Real Frank is going about his business as usual. When they meet in the road real Frank doesn't know ho Donnie is.

If the Tangent Universe implodes it will also destroy the real Universe at the same time. This is why Donnie must complete his mission in removing the Artifact. For some reason if the TU reaches its end point with a duplicate object within it it will implode. One of these objects must be removed.

December 22nd 2010 | 5:19:51

Why does pulling the jet engine through time into his room at the end stop all what happened in the film from 'actually' happening.. why is it he has to do that?? I have so many questions that i cant even articulate!! I mean.. the tangible universe was created then so that he would realize that he needed to pull the jet engine through time to stop the end of the world.. but wasn't that end of the universe only going to happen in the tangible universe anyway??

December 22nd 2010 | 5:03:56

Just read something else then. So in the TU Frank exists both as real Frank.. in the bunny costume perhaps dressed like that for halloween (the bit at the end when they meet in the road) and the ghost Frank. How is this explained then? In the movie theatre he takes the bunny head off to reveal that he has been shot in the eye.. but when he meets Frank in the road after he has just ran after Gretchen this is real frank and not ghost frank and does not have a wounded eye?? How is this? In this scene of the film do they recognize each other?? Does Donnie know its the bunny ghost manipulating him and does Frank know that thats Donnie????

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Eddie Darko - Manipulated Living
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