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I never understood the movie Donnie Darko. In order not to keep the question vague, what happens in the end?

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Welcome to club, me too never understood the ending. – Panther Jul 7 '15 at 5:40

Basically what happens is

Donnie ends up sending the jet engine back, and in the new timeline (yay time travel!) he stays in bed, gets killed, and prevents most of the events from happening near the end of the movie.

Wiki link

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How is he sending the jet engine back? – Mistu4u Jul 20 '13 at 7:05
From what I remember, he sends it back indirectly by making the choice to get out of bed. The whole movie's plot is essentially a loop of two intertwined parallel timelines. In the main plot, Frank appears and Donnie leaves his bed, avoiding being crushed by the falling engine. This means his mother makes her trip as planned, onto the plane whose engine falls off, ultimately killing her. In the second timeline, Donnie stays in bed, and is killed by the engine, resulting in his mother cancelling her trip, altering the timeline so that the plane never crashes. It's a bizarre paradox. – Polynomial Jun 16 '14 at 15:13

I think it is a mistake to take the events of Donnie Darko literally, including the ending.

The main character Donnie is developing schizophrenia. The schizophrenia causes Donnie to believe he is at the center of a time-travel adventure that just might save the universe.

The movie shows how this hallucinated fantasy would unfold if it were reality. So the ending isn't intended to bring the movie to a realistic conclusion or even to make sense.

In an extra scene on the DVD, Donnie is having a conversation with his father and says, "Dad, I'm crazy."

Personally, I think part of the genius of Donnie Darko is that -- just like many real-life schizophrenics' hallucinations -- Donnie's fantasy almost starts to make sense if you strain to understand. But ultimately it only really makes sense to Donnie.

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Never thought of it that way. So essentially the entirety of the events into a schizo fantasy kinda like a 'it was a dream the whole time' type of scenario? – TylerShads Feb 4 '12 at 17:46
Exactly. This movie is a spot-on portrait of the onset of schizophrenia. On the DVD, there's a deleted scene when Donnie is talking to his dad and he says "Dad, I'm crazy." – Shiz Z. Feb 4 '12 at 17:54
That isn't a very satisfactory explanation especially since we know from early in the movie that he is nuts. – matt_black Dec 24 '12 at 21:19
Matt, I don't understand how knowing he is "nuts" would make my answer less valid... if anything, more valid, right? – Shiz Z. Dec 25 '12 at 16:14
I think his mental state is relevant but it isn't the answer. Using it as an answer is more like explaining away the question not answering it. I also want plot logic based on what happens. – matt_black Dec 25 '12 at 19:47

The movie shows an alternate timeline that diverts from the real timeline. Donnie Darko should have died in the beginning, but he avoided it, because he was lured out by Frank. The movie is about Donnie Darko learning about the theorie of alternative timelines.

At the end the diverted timeline starts to collapse and the world is destroyed, as Frank said. Then we get back at the splitting point into the real timeline, where Donnie dies. Ah yes, and Donnie Darko sends the mysterious jet engine (nobody know where it's from) from the diverted timeline to the splitting point. :-)

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The key element that some of the other answers miss is that Donnie makes a choice when he discovers how the whole alternative universe and weird timeline stuff actually works.

In the timeline that takes up most of the movie, his actions and choices result in the death of someone he loves (not strictly his fault, but wouldn't have happened if he had made other choices). But the book from Roberta Sparrow taught him that he could change this timeline, so he chooses an alternative where he dies but his girlfriend survives.

So the key to interpreting what happens is that it is, somehow, a redemptive self-sacrifice. That is, at least, what it feels like.

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What it "feels like" to who? to you? – Shiz Z. Dec 25 '12 at 16:15
@ShaneFinneran yes. This was my reaction. I don't expect everyone to share it but once it is pointed out it is easy to see its validity. Let's see what others think. – matt_black Dec 25 '12 at 19:50

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