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Donnie Darko (2001) is a film, now celebrating its 15th anniversary, that has gained a strong cult following. From its iconic use of the Gary Jules cover of the Tears for Fears classic, “Mad World” to its witty, satirical dialogue and enigmatic ending, Donnie Darko has enjoyed an enormous and passionate cult following of young cinema fans. Here’s a few reasons why Donnie Darko has cemented itself as a cult classic:

It’s a Satire of Suburban Life

Much of the charm of Donnie Darko comes from the ironic wit of director/writer Richard Kelly’s script. The film satirizes suburban life. It’s opening, where Donnie rides his bike through his quaint neighborhood is somewhat reminiscent of David Lynch’s classic Blue Velvet. Donnie’s parents, in many ways, have all the stereotypical markings of a conservative suburban family. Like any good 80s conservative family, they support Bush. Donnie, to irritate them, voices his support for Dukakis. This provokes a comical and quirky banter. Scenes like this were highly relatable to the adolescent and teenage youth who first flocked to this film after its home media release; it gave them the opportunity to connect with the quirky and bizarre environment in which they were raised and also gave them a point of emotional relevancy in Darko’s outburst.

It’s Enigmatic

One of the most memorable things about Donnie Darko is the film’s themes which deal with time-travel, reality distortion, and psychological distress. Richard Kelly creates a mysterious and mystifying world within his film and the shocking ending surely left many fans talking and debating about the meaning of the movie. Probably the best aspect of the film is what is left unexplained. There is a lack of closure and a sense of mystery that still enchants modern audiences.

It’s Become a Rediscovered Classic

Like many cult favorites, Donnie Darko suffered a poor release. The studio behind the film nearly sent it directly to Starz instead releasing it in cinemas. But Kelly and filmmaker Christopher Nolan were able to convince the studio to give the movie a proper theatrical release. Still, thanks to a lack of advertising, the film did poorly. Luckily, however, it did manage to find new life on DVD. When audiences and film fans rediscover unappreciated classics, it often intensifies and heightens their passion for film as they become aware that they are watching something that is unusual or unique. This is also the case with Donnie Darko and is largely also a part of what led to the enormous and intense cult-following it currently has.

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