Richard Kelly’s 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko is returning to theaters this weekend in 4K, in honor of the film’s 15th anniversary. If you weren’t already aware of that fact, I’m so pleased to be able to bring you a pleasant Monday afternoon surprise.
As one of the top 10 Donnie Darko fans anywhere (but not in a scary way), I’ve been preparing for the event by trawling Reddit for photos of super hideous Donnie Darko tattoos, reading articles I don’t totally understand about its one-of-a-kind cinematography, and listening to rap songs that reference Donnie Darko either obliquely or outright. There are, I am thrilled to tell you, literally dozens of these (there’s also a rapper named Donnie Darko, but he doesn’t rap about the movie), and I’m going to rank 10 of them for you right here, right now. You’re welcome, and how do I put this on a CD?
10. “Donnie Darko” by G. Wiz
“Donnie Darko” by G. Wiz starts with the phrase “it was all a dream,” which is not at all a correct interpretation of the sci-fi film Donnie Darko — a rough start.
This song also has a rough middle and ending, musically, but I enjoy many of the visuals (including the subtle reference of wearing a white long-sleeve T-shirt while biking). One of the comments on “Donnie Darko” by G. Wiz is “completely and in all ways unrelated to the movie,” which I don’t think is totally fair because G. Wiz does say “the world looks like it’s ending soon.” Donnie Darko is, in most interpretations, about narrowly avoiding the end of the world. Also, someone dressed up exactly like Frank the Bunny from Donnie Darko for this music video and many scenes take place in front of a bathroom mirror. So, in some ways it’s related, for sure. Nice.
9. “bamfomania next” by bamfomania
The video for “bamfomania next” is also about the world ending, and about a bunny (presumably Frank, though the costuming is too vague to say for sure) looming over the protagonist’s shoulder. At one part one of the guys said “I had a beard at birth,” which isn’t true about Jake Gyllenhaal, but he does have one now.
It’s not great, but the effort is there, which is why it is ranked 9th. I am a huge fan of effort and Donnie Darko, though not a huge fan of this song.
8. “Mad World (Remix)” by Lowkey and Doc Brown
This is a remix of Gary Jules’ “Mad World,” a song made famous by the final scene of Donnie Darko. It’s performed by British rapper Doc Brown, who also has a starring role on Law & Order: UK. There is a lyric in “Mad World (Remix)” about being “trapped in the system of capitalism,” which I assume is a reference to the anti-Reagan politics of the film Donnie Darko and its fairly cynical portrayal of American suburbs in the late 1980s.
This song is also called “Donnie’s Lament,” which is nice. Donnie lamented a lot of things in the film Donnie Darko, because he was a teenager living in a... mad world. There is a lyric about “suffering from sleep deprivation,” which is sort of related to one of Donnie’s main problems: sleepwalking to Patrick Swayze’s house.
7. “Donnie Darko” by Richard Weirdo
The song “Donnie Darko” by Richard Weirdo contains a very literal Donnie Darko reference, which I’ll repeat here verbatim: “Feeling like I’m Donnie Darko / trapped in a room with all my sorrows / everywhere these voices follow / don’t know if I see tomorrow.” At the end, someone asks, “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?” This is one of the film Donnie Darko’s most famous lines.
Texas rapper Richard Weirdo is part of a crew called RichBrokeDudez, and they all went to high school together. That’s nice, though friendship is not thematically relevant to the film Donnie Darko, which is about emotional isolation.
6. “Bunny Boy, Can I Be Frank?” by Fresh Out The Shower
I love the idea of rapping immediately after getting out of the shower, both because the shower is a notorious “best creative thinking” zone and because being fresh out of the shower is just a pleasant frame of mind to be in, generally. Also, this teenage girl using maybe the most famous teenage boy movie of the last 50 years for her own adolescent angst is inspiring to me.
There are few obvious Donnie Darko references in this song (mostly the word “bunny” and the word “mask” a few times each). However, the whole tune is about not feeling that bad RE: being a high school misfit. Donnie Darko, too, does not feel that bad about being a misfit — he has no shame and openly talks about time travel with anyone who will listen. Perfect.
5. “darko” by ISLAND LOOT
ISLAND LOOT is not a producer I’ve heard of before, but their SoundCloud profile image is of James Franco’s character in Spring Breakers. That’s kind of alarming. So is this song, which is mostly just an ominous beat with bits of Jake Gyllenhaal laughing or saying “I made a new friend. He talks to me about time travel” layered on top.
One of the comments on the song is “R.I.P. donnie,” to which ISLAND LOOT responded “in memoriam” — confirming that this song is in tribute to Donnie Darko of Donnie Darko. It’s not really a rap song, but it’s short and I genuinely like it, and I think it would be easy to slip into a SoundCloud playlist without majorly inconveniencing yourself. Then you would get to listen to Jake Gyllenhaal laugh once in a while. That might be nice?
4. “Mount Sinai” by $UICIDEBOY$
New Orleans duo $UICIDEBOY$ are known for surreal, scary “horrorcore” rap, which makes it very close to too-on-the-nose for them to rap about Donnie Darko. They did so in the song “Mount Sinai” anyway, saying “I'm Donnie Darko when I spark up and I'm creeping like Frank.” Frank is pretty creepy, and Donnie Darko does smoke one cigarette in Donnie Darko. While he’s smoking it, one of his friends makes a comment like “that’s some good shit, huh?” and then Donnie says “... it’s a cigarette.”
He, like $UICIDEBOY$, would probably say that he’d “rather be left alone.” This song ranks higher than it might otherwise because one of the $UICIDEBOY$ uses “Yung Heath Ledger” as one of his many aliases, and Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were dear friends.
3. “The Last Temptation” by Ja Rule ft. Charli Baltimore
This Ja Rule song (and the album it appears on), is possibly named after Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ — a notorious culture war flashpoint that serves as a pivotal plot point in Donnie Darko and provides the backbone for one of the most popular fan theories about the film.
I can’t prove that Ja Rule intended this song to be a reference to Donnie Darko, but it was released in the fall of 2002, almost exactly one year after Donnie Darko premiered in theaters and flopped abysmally. The song is about partying and car rides and living it up before you die, several things that happen in the film Donnie Darko just after Donnie goes to see the film The Last Temptation of Christ and just before the film ends violently.
3. “Donnie Darko” by BLEEZIEDUB7
This rapper, who also goes by Blazé, has a pretty good Twitter account and writes great Donnie Darko-inspired lyrics!
I am very into the line “I’m human / I’m gruesome / no doubt about it / I’m Donnie Darko’s little buddy.” The song “Donnie Darko” is about struggling to articulate a creeping feeling of malaise and dread, as well as a few quibbles with religion and some questions about whether laws of physics are real. The film Donnie Darko is also about all of those things, which makes this both the most literally relevant and most thematically relevant Donnie Darko rap track I have been able to find.
1. “Donnie Darko” by Mackned ft. SneakGuapo
The best Jake Gyllenhaal reference in “Donnie Darko” goes “the world move slow so I stay inside a bubble.”
The best Donnie Darko reference in “Donnie Darko” is the title, and otherwise it’s not clear if anyone singing has seen the movie Donnie Darko. However the song is interspersed with snippets of dialogue from one of my favorite scenes in Donnie Darko, a dinner table argument about curse words and Michael Dukakis. This is a very chill, hypnotic rap song about falling asleep after drinking “kombucha and lean,” in tandem with “vicodin and syrup” and it ends with Jake Gyllenhaal saying “How exactly does one suck a fuck?” backed by a twinkly angel choir.
Bonus: “Mad World (rap remix)” by Gary Jules ft. The Game
This mash-up of “Mad World” and The Game’s “It’s Ok (One Blood)” is probably illegal, but that can’t stop you from listening to it for now. I don’t know at all what the lyrics of this The Game song have to do with Donnie Darko, as they’re mostly about blood and rappers who The Game doesn’t like very much, but it all sounds okay. The underlying beat is fine, so you could jog to it — all the way to your local theater for a showing of Donnie Darko.
See you at the movies!