If you loved Donnie Darko’s unprecedented themes of illusions, sci-fi, psychothriller and horror, look no further. This curated list of movies like Donnie Darko will offer you the best recommendations.
Directed by Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko has become a cult classic. Drawn from Kelly’s own experiences of anxieties as a teenager, the story places Donnie Darko (played by young Jake Gyllenhaal) a troubled adolescent with a history of Schizophrenia and violence as the protagonist. The movie opens with Donnie sleepwalking and encountering a Rabbit-headed figure called Frank, who informs him that the world will end in 28 days. Frank proceeds to encourage Donnie to commit crimes by convincing him that there will be no repercussions to his actions. As the story moves forward, Donnie meets a girl called Gretchen Ross who tells him that she too has been facing family troubles, they both end up dating.
Donnie Darko presents the viewer with the themes of adolescent isolation and internal-external struggles with the unknown, not often being the most relatable character, Donnie proves to be an iconic, fearless, badass martyr which is what makes this movie special. The distinctive fantasy and nightmare of the uncertain experiences in an apocalyptic world set this movie apart from its counterparts.
We have compiled this amazing list of movies similar to Donnie Darko that are a must-watch, especially for you.
List of Movies Like Donnie Darko
- Fight Club
- 12 Monkeys
- Final Destination
- The Butterfly Effect
- Shutter Island
- The Uninvited
- The Royal Tenenbaums
- The Prestige
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
1. Fight Club (1999)
IMDb Rating: 8.8/10
Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: David Fincher
A David Fincher cult classic, Fight Club is about a depressed lonely man (played by Edward Norton) who suffers from insomnia. Fed up with his boring capitalistic life, he starts going to various support groups that are unrelated to his issues, as a coping mechanism but soon encounters a support group-hopping competitor Marla. He later meets an odd soap salesman, Tyler (played by Brad Pitt). Tyler introduces Ed Norton ‘The Narrator’ to a secret fight club.
The dreamlike sequences of the Narrator’s fantasies and the subversion of the rules of the world are accompanied by thrilling action. The performances of the lead characters are worthy of high praise. If you have been looking for movies like Donnie Darko that place a character in the middle of a brilliant fantasy, you’re at the right place, this is a perfect choice for you.
2. 12 Monkeys (1995)
IMDb Rating: 8/10
Cast: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt
Director: Terry Gillian
Starring Bruce Willis movie, 12 Monkeys is a Sci-fi/Thriller directed by Terry Gillian. The movie follows the journey of James Cole (Bruce Willis), a prisoner in the 2030s, who is recruited as a time traveller to go back to the 1990s on a mission to get information about a plague that is about to wipe out the majority of life on earth.
When he arrives at the wrong moment in the past, Cole is arrested and incarcerated at a mental hospital where he meets Jeffery Goines (played by Brad Pitt), a mental patient. Determined to save the world from its fate, Cole finds himself travelling back and forth in time discovering unfathomable secrets. If you have not seen 12 Monkeys yet, it’s one the best movies like Donnie Darko that you can watch.
3. Final Destination (2000)
IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith
Director: James Wong
Final Destination is a film series first created in the year 2000, and developed by Jeffery Reddick. Reddick based this series on real-life events of a woman cheating death. The movie begins with Alex Browning boarding a flight to Paris. He insists everyone get off the plane after having a premonition of the plane crashing. 7 people including Alex get off the Plane, soon to discover that it caught fire and exploded. Escaping death briefly, all the survivors get on with their life but it is soon discovered that they cannot escape their fate for very long.
This supernatural series explores unconventional notions of life and death. If you were intrigued by the role destiny plays in a person’s chances of survival in a movie like Donnie Darko, Final Destination will create a story of unfathomable situations so close to reality that it is sure to make you question your own life. If you are already familiar with the series, you will be excited to know that the next, Final Destination 6 is in the works.
4. The Butterfly Effect (2004)
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart
Director: Eric Bress
Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, The Butterfly Effect movie is based on the idea that even the smallest changes have unusual effects on complex systems like life. The main character Ewan Trebon is played by Ashton Kutcher. A college student, Trebon experiences incredibly painful headaches all throughout his life which often lead to blackouts. Ewan discovers that while he is unconscious he can travel in time and change the reality for people close to him, who have gone through traumatic events.
However, it is discovered that changes he makes to past events drastically turn the present into chaos, leading him into experiencing terrifying alternate realities. The time-warping illusions of this sci-fi movie are executed well. If you want to watch movies similar to Donnie Darko, The Butterfly Effect is worth a watch.
Also Read: Movies like Arrival
5. Shutter Island (2010)
IMDb Rating: 8.2/10
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Emily Mortimer
Director: Martin Scorsese
A movie made by the iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island is an American neo-noir film. Leonardo Dicaprio as Teddy Daniels and Mark Ruffalo as Chuck Aule, two US Marshals that are sent to an asylum in a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Filled with twists and turns, the movie’s use of intense psychological elements creates a creepy eternal sensation in the viewer’s mind.
Based on the novel of the same name written by Dennis Lehane, the movie brilliantly visualises the words ‘It’s just one moment of sanity mixed in the midst of all the other delusions.’ If you love movies like Donie Darko and its mystical and haunting elements, you cannot go wrong with Shutter Island.
6. The Uninvited (2009)
IMDb Rating: 6.3/10
Cast: Emily Browning, Arielle Kebbel, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Charles Guard
The Uninvited, a horror-thriller directed by Thomas Guard and Charles Guard was adapted from a South Korean psychological drama film A Tale of Two Sisters. The movie follows the story of a girl called Anna after she is released from a mental asylum. Anna discovers that her recently widowed father decides to get engaged to her mother’s former nurse, Rachel. Anna does not like this and finds support from her sister Alex. Both of them together plot revenge after suspecting that Rachel had something to do with the death of their mother.
This may be one of the lesser-known films on this list but the story’s excellent character writing and terrifying horror elements leave a huge mark on the viewer’s mind. If you are interested in movies like Donnie Darko that surprise you endlessly, The Uninvited is the right pick for you.
7. Predestination (2014)
IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook
Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Created by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig, Predestination is a mind-bending Sci-fi movie. Ethan Hawke plays a time-travelling agent who is assigned his final assignment before retirement. His job is to go back and prevent a bomb attack in New York in 1975. Sarah Snook, who has now become popular for her role in Succession, plays the role of an unmarried mother in this movie.
The movie’s bizarre and intertwined nature of story-telling develops a unique experience for the viewers. For his final assignment, the temporal agent must catch the one criminal that has slipped his tail for years. Without going further into detail about the movie’s daring plot and great acting performances, it’s fair to say that Predestination will thrill the fans of experimental sci-fi movies like Donnie Darko.
8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
IMDb Rating: 7.6/10
Cast: Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Wes Anderson
A Wes Anderson film, The Royal Tenenbaums is about three gifted siblings who reunite after being distant from each other for years, only to meet their soon-to-die father. The father, Royal Tenenbaum is an eccentric man who left the family when the children were teenagers. Bringing a lighthearted and dramatised comedy, this movie centres on the theme of odd family structures and highlights the peculiarities of dysfunctional relationships.
Some exceptional performances were given by Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Surprisingly sweet and funny, this bizarre movie will be great to add to the movie list if you want to see films similar to Donnie Darko but one which has a more cheerful vibe.
9. The Prestige (2006)
IMDb Rating: 8.5/10
Cast: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall,
Director: Christopher Nolan
One of Christopher Nolan’s early masterpieces, The Prestige is a drama set in the 1800s in London, with actors like Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and Sarah Borden. This is a story where two stage magicians Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred ( Christian Bale) become enemies after Julia, who is Robert’s wife, dies in a magic show accident. Robert blames Alfred for her death. Robert turns against Alfred and engages in a ruthless competition to become the greatest magician by creating the ultimate magic trick.
Robert’s obsession with finding the answer to how Alfred achieves his mind-boggling trick leads him on a journey of unfathomable sacrifice. This brilliantly developed plot by Nolan is an absolute treat for the audience. If you want to watch films like Donnie Darko, or just want to watch an exceptional masterpiece, The Prestige is a great choice.
Also Read: Movies like Prometheus
10. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind (2004)
IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet,
Director: Michel Gondry
Winning the Academy award for the Best original screenplay, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind was created by Charlie Kaufman. Regarded as one of the most romantic films of all time, the movie can be explained almost like a fever dream of love but one that you remember well and with profound pleasure. Clementine (Kate Winslet) recently breaks up with her boyfriend Joel ( Jim Carrey). Unable to comprehend her feelings, she decides to have her memory of him erased, when Joel finds out about this, he too goes to do the same.
The exceptional performances by the lead actors add a heartwarming depth to the story. The poetic cinematography of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind will mesmerise you. If you want to see a movie like Donnie Darko that not only feels similar to Donnie’s sci-fi story but evokes the emotions within, this movie will not disappoint.
Here is a list of other great movies like Donnie Darko that didn’t make the cut but are worth a watch.
- Vanilla Sky