Donnie Darko: Limited Edition (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review with a 4K Blu-ray Update Review

A cult classic gets a new lease on life with a brand new 4K restoration as well as the "Limited Edtion" treatment
Released byArrow Video
Release Date: October 26th, 2001 (Theatrical)
                        June 2nd, 2004 (Director's Cut) (Limited Theatrical)
                        April 18th, 2017 (Blu-ray)
                        April 27th, 2021 (4K blu-ray)
Region Code: REGION FREE (both releases)
Run Time: 1h 53m (Theatrical)
                    2h 13m (Director's Cut)
Video: 1080p (2.35:1 Aspect Ratio) (Both Versions)
            2160p (2.35:1 aspect ratio) (both versions)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English) (Both Versions)
Subtitles: English SDH (both releases)
Slipcover: No, but there is a nice hardcover box (both releases)
Digital Copy: No
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Beth Grant, and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Written by Richard Kelly
Directed by Richard Kelly
Rating: R (language, some drug use and violence) (theatrical)
             R (language, some underage drug and alcohol use, and violence) (director's cut)

NOTE: The majority of this review is from the 2017 blu-ray release from Arrow Video. Just about everything about this 4K release is the same as the 2017 release except for the picture quality and the packaging. The screenshots are taken from the 2017 blu-ray which was the basis for the 4K blu-ray so they are the closest thing to having 4K screenshots without actually having them.


donnie darko title card

Disc #1: Theatrical Cut (1h 53m)

Deus Ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (1h 25m, HD, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)

This is the only new special feature in this set (besides a still gallery, but I don’t count those) and it is a doozy. The title of the piece is a bit misleading as this is a making of and not a look at the meanings of the film. Richard Kelly is joined by actor James Duval, producer Sean McKittrick, cinematographer Steven Poster, and others as they take on the journey of Donnie Darko, from the scripting and financing to the scoring and release of the film. Nothing is off limits here and all kinds of stories are told here.

I really liked this doc. I wasn’t expecting a new making-of because of the title, and I was very pleasantly surprised with what we have here. I learned a whole bunch of new info as well as heard some old stories from a different perspective. This is a definite watch.

The Goodbye Place (8m 43s, HD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

This is a short that Richard Kelly made in 1996 about a child who is taken away from his abusive 
mother by a “spirit” (I guess). The short is ok and does have some Donnie Darko-esque themes in it.

Deleted and Extended Scenes (31m 54s, SD)

There is a “PLAY ALL” option along with an option to watch the scenes with commentary from Richard Kelly.

-Married with Children                  -Poetry Night                                  -Fatherly Advice
-A Telephone Conversation           -A Night on the Town                     -Watership Down
-Conversation with Frank               -Losing Faith                                   -Airport Van
-Holiday Inn                                   -Book Exchange                              -Cellar Door
-The Bus Stop                                 -Pumpkin Carving                           -Placebos
-School’s Cancelled                        -Return to Carpathian Ridge           -Impalement
-Wizard’s Arcade                            -Sexual Fantasies

There are some nice moments found here, but most of these scenes can be found in the Director’s Cut on disc two.

Trailer (2m 28s, HD)

Commentary by Writer/Director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal

This is the lessor of the commentary tracks found on this set.  Both Kelly and Gyllenhaal talk a lot, but nothing much is said by either. I have a feeling that Kelly was saving himself for the second commentary track while Gyllenhaal didn’t really care that much. That is what I took away from this track at least.

Commentary by Writer/Director Richard Kelly, Producer/Actress Drew Barrymore, Producers Sean McKittrick and Nancy Juvonen, and Actors Mary McDonnell, Beth Grant, Holmes Osbourne, Katherine Ross, and James Duval.

This is one crowded yet entertaining commentary track. There is a lot of good information and times to be had here. Barrymore and Kelly lead the track, but everyone gets their time to shine. The track does become a little bit too talkative, with people talking over one another, but that is par for the course when you have this many people in one room.

Disc #2: Director’s Cut (2h 13m)

The Donnie Darko Production Diaries (52m 54s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

This was the main making of from the Director’s Cut dvd from way back when. This is a fly on the wall type of doc that takes us all over the place as we watch the film being made. This is still a good doc even if it is overshadowed by the newer, Arrow produced doc.

Archive Interviews (14m 19s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

Here we are given about a minute a piece for all fourteen people interviewed.

-Jake Gyllenhaal               -James Duval             -Richard Kelly            -Casey LaScala
-Mary McDonnell             -Jena Malone             -Sean McKittrick        -Steven Poster
-Holmes Osbourne            -Drew Barrymore      -Nancy Juvnone
-Maggie Gyllenhaal          -Noah Wyle                -Hunt Lowry

They Made Me Do It (4m 48s, SD, 1.90:1 Aspect Ratio)

In 2004, in the U.K., there was an art exhibit with graffiti artwork inspired by the film. This is a look at that exhibit.

They Made Me Do It II (30m 17s, SD)

Another look at the exhibit from the first version of this doc, only this time we get to here from film critics and fans from the U.K. how the film was received there.

#1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13m 18s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio) held a contest, in 2004, to find the biggest Donnie Darko fan. The fans sent in videos of them telling the site how they were the number one fan and the one chosen would get their film included as a special feature on the Director’s Cut dvd. This is that film.

The less said about this feature the better. This is thirteen minutes of a guy showing off his Donnie Darko dvd collection (he has about 20 of them and they are all the same dvd) and sings along to a terrible song about the film. This is one of the worst special features I have ever seen and would rather watch an Adam Sandler movie (eh) than watch this again.

Storyboard Comparisons (7m 58s, HD)

Five Scenes are played here, with the storyboards at the top of the screen and the film at the bottom.

B-Roll Footage (4m 37s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

More fly on the wall footage of a few scenes being filmed.

Cunning Visions Infomercials (5m 42s, SD, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio)

These are the full versions of the infomercials from the film. There is an option to listen to a commentary track, but I would avoid it as it is two people pretending to be from Cunning Visions. Just awful.

Music Video (3m 21s, SD, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio)

Of course, it is for Mad World. Good song, ok video.

Image Gallery (49 Images)

Director’s Cut Trailer (55s, HD)

TV Spots

                -Sacrifice (32s, SD)
                -Darker (32s, SD)
                -Era (32s, SD)
                -Cast (17s, SD)
                -Dark (17s, SD)

Commentary by Writer/Director Richard Kelly and Filmmaker Kevin Smith

This is a pretty good track as Smith is a talker and asks Kelly a lot of questions. There are, however, many instances of silence, which is weird because Kevin Smith always talks on other commentary tracks. I don’t why there are these gaps of silence, but they can be annoying because both filmmakers will just stop talking. Very odd.


I was sent a screener of Donnie Darko and I can not talk about the packaging. I do know that this is a “limited edition” so you know that Arrow did something really nice with it.

UPDATE (11/23/2017): I bought Donnie Darko because I loved the film and the amazing set that Arrow Video put together:

As you can see this is an incredibly thorough set. The first thing that you notice is the gorgeous artwork, done by Candice Tripp , who has provided original artwork for Arrow Video, starting with this release and following with Phenomena, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and she will be providing the artwork for Arrow's upcoming Cat O' Nine Tales release in early 2018. She is an amazing artist, so go check out her work.

There are four discs in this collection, 2 Blu-rays, and 2 DVDs, which get their own digicase. There are also postcards that feature Ms. Tripp's artwork on one side and can be collected together to form the cover art. I think that I will be framing each of these postcards and hanging them in my tv room.

There is also a book with writings from Nathan Rabin, Kevin Conroy Scott, Jamie Graham, and Anton Bitel, with an introduction from star Jake Gyllenhaal. The book is 90 pages long.

Last, but not least is the poster. One side features the Candice Tripp artwork and the other side features the film's original theatrical poster. I love that Arrow includes posters in some of their Limited Editions, but this one is a bit annoying as it is a bit small than the other Arrow Video posters. I have The Hills Have Eyes, The Thing, Blood Bath, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and they all measure the same, but the Donnie Darko one is a bit smaller so now I have to find something to put around the poster when I frame it. Just a minor quibble, but one that needs to be out there.


parents listen to principal about their child

Arrow did a 4K restoration of both cuts of the film and boy did they do amazing job. The film has never looked good on blu-ray, with a soft picture and muddied detail.

This new 4K restoration corrects all of the problems with the older blu-ray and makes the film look new again. The picture is sharp and detail is eye opening. The colors are bright and correct and the blacks are deep. There is also a nice layer of grain that was cloudy on the older blu-ray. Here is clean and clear. This is how a restoration is supposed to be done.

The new 4K blu-ray is even more amazing than the previous blu-ray. Clarity is more pronounced than it was on the previous release and detail is great. Everything about the previous blu-ray is amplified here. This is definitely a worthy upgrade even if you own the previous blu-ray.


halloween parties are the best parties

Both cuts of the film get a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio 5.1 track and it sounds really good. Dialogue is clean and clear and the songs, which help make the film it is today, come through nice and clear. The tracks are very effective and involving.

THE FILM ⭐⭐⭐1/2

If ever there were a film that defined the term “cult classic” it would be Donnie Darko. Here is a film that was hated upon release and yet found a home on dvd, where everyone saw it. I remember working at a video store when this film came out and every day someone was looking for a copy of it. We sold more copies of the film than we did bigger box office hits.

I did not see the film when it hit dvd the first time. I had no interest in it. It wasn’t until the Director’s Cut hit dvd that I finally saw it. I found the film to be entertaining, but confusing, even with all of the pages from the time travel book. It wasn’t until I started to talk to people that I started to realize what the film was.

The film is a coming of age story, much like a darker version of a John Hughes film, mixed with some elements that feel right at home with David Lynch. The story is about a high schooler who is a paranoid schizophrenic who has a giant bunny named Frank as a friend. Frank tells Donnie that the world is going to end in 28 days and some change. Frank also talks Donnie into doing some vandalism for the greater good. The plot moves around a lot and if you aren’t paying attention, you will get very lost.

The theatrical version of the film, which I watched for the first time for this review, is the better version of the film. The film is confusing, but the theatrical version doesn’t pound you over the head with information the way that the Director’s Cut does. Even though the Director’s Cut spells the film out for you, it does so in a manner that I found to be visual overload. Much like a Michael Bay film hammers so much into you, the Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko throws everything at you and expects it to stick. Even though the theatrical cut is vaguer in terms of story and what is going on, the Director’s Cut loses the flow of the theatrical version as well as adding scenes that were cut for a reason.

I like Donnie Darko, but not as much as others do. I think that it is a good film, but it is not one that I can watch over and over to decipher its meaning. The performances and the visuals are the drawing power, but the film doesn’t really stand up to too much scrutiny.


Arrow has given us the Donnie Darko blu-ray that we all deserve. Their new 4K restoration is beautiful and the extras they give us (which I think is everything from all releases) are outstanding. If you are a fan of the film then this is the version to get.     

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