12 Movies Like Donnie Darko (2001) On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Donnie Darko ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Donnie Darko is a cult film by director Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It's about the troubled teenager Donnie who lives in a suburb and suddenly faces a person in a giant rabbit costume who tells him that the world is going to end in 28 days. If that didn't make sense to you, don't worry - it's not about making sense. The film is a gorgeous exploration of a bizarre chain of events, a deep rabbit-hole of meaning and expression, fate and acceptance that practically begs for a second, third, or fourth watching.

Ex Machina is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from About Time), an IT developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment—administering a Turing test to a humanoid robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Meeting the robot with feelings of superiority at first, questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist's personal views. While this dazzling film does not rely on them, the visual effects and the overall look-feel of Ex Machina are absolutely stunning and were rightly picked for an Academy Award. They make Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as the equally stylish Her and, like Joaquin Phoenix, Gleeson aka Caleb must confront the feelings he develops towards a machine, despite his full awareness that 'she' is just that. This is possibly as close to Kubrick as anyone got in the 21st century. Ex Machina is clever, thrilling, and packed with engaging ideas.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alex Garland, Alicia Vikander, Chelsea Li, Claire Selby, Corey Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Elina Alminas, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, Symara A. Templeman, Symara Templeman, Tiffany Pisani

Director: Alex Garland

Rating: R

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ellen Page, Elliot Page, G.J. Echternkamp, Odessa Rae, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Director: David Slade

Rating: R

Adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) that never quite bonds with her child, but not by her choice. The son grows up to do a heinous act that begs the question: nature or nurture? This film is an uncompromising view on the development of an unloved child. Silent pain gets voice. Feelings are shown by actions not emotions in an authentic, comprehensible and aesthetic manner. Great work.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Blakely, Alex Manette, Andy Gershenzon, Annie O'Sullivan, Ashley Gerasimovich, Blake DeLong, Caitlin Kinnunen, Daniel Farcher, Erin Darke, Ezra Miller, Francesca Murdoch, Georgia X. Lifsher, J. Mallory McCree, J.J. Kandel, James Chen, Jasper Newell, Jeffrey Mowery, Jennifer Kim, John C. Reilly, Jose Joaquin Perez, Joseph Basile, Joseph Melendez, Kenneth Franklin, Kimberley Drummond, Lauren Fox, Leland Alexander Wheeler, Leslie Lyles, Louie Rinaldi, Mark Elliot Wilson, Maryann Urbano, Paul Diomede, Polly Adams, Rebecca Dealy, Rock Duer, Rocky Duer, Simon MacLean, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Suzette Gunn, Tilda Swinton, Ursula Parker

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Rating: R

Man on Wire is a true technical masterpiece. You can almost feel the director telling the cameraman what angle to choose, or thinking about the questions that will generate the most resounding answers. However, this does not diminish the story this documentary tells one bit. It’s one that is glorious, riveting, and fun. It’s one where you feel like an insider to a world lived on and below wires, with high-stake risks. Hopefully the edge of your seat is comfortable, because this is where the movie will keep you till the very end.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Annie Allix, David Forman, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Mark Lewis, Philippe Petit

Director: James Marsh

Rating: PG-13

A young Steve Buscemi leads this wry farce about a calamitous film set where nothing goes right. The sardonic script skewers the ins and outs of low budget film production and the various personalities on set from belligerent directors, pretentious cinematographers, and egotistic actors. 

A playful three-act structure and trips into dream sequences keep things light, while a strong supporting cast, including a cheeky appearance by Peter Dinklage and the fantastic Catherine Keener, gives the film the backbone it needs. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Catherine Keener, Danielle von Zerneck, Dermot Mulroney, Hilary Gilford, James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Lori Tan Chinn, Norman Fields, Peter Dinklage, Rica Martens, Robert Wightman, Steve Buscemi

Director: Tom DiCillo

Rating: R

In this romantic drama, James Ivory adapts E.M. Forster's novel Maurice. Set in the early 20th century, Maurice Hall befriends Clive Durham while studying at Cambridge. Clive is rich, handsome, endlessly charming—and in love with Maurice. The two’s relationship blossoms quietly as they steal intimate moments in lush pastures and empty hallways. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will recognize some of the most tender and tense scenes, wherein Clive and Maurice lie together in the grass, surrounded only by weeds and flowers, as if they were the only two lovers left in the world. 

But their love story is stunted and complicated by notions of class and etiquette in an oppressive, conservative England. This is a coming-of-age story in which Maurice must ask himself not only who he is, but also who he wants to become, and how to live an earnest, honest life in the light.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alan Foss, Arthur Whybrow, Barry Foster, Ben Kingsley, Billie Whitelaw, Breffni McKenna, Catherine Rabett, Christopher Hunter, Denholm Elliott, Harriet Thorpe, Helena Bonham Carter, Helena Michell, Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Jean-Marc Barr, John Elmes, Judy Parfitt, Julian Wadham, Kitty Aldridge, Maria Britneva, Mark Payton, Mark Tandy, Matthew Sim, Michael Jenn, Miles Richardson, Olwen Griffiths, Orlando Wells, Patrick Godfrey, Peter Eyre, Philip Fox, Phillada Sewell, Phoebe Nicholls, Richard Warner, Rupert Graves, Serena Gordon, Simon Callow

Director: James Ivory

Rating: R

C.R.A.Z.Y. is crazy good, so to speak. A portrait of a French-Canadian family in 70's Quebec that will knock your socks right off, it's the story of a boy struggling with his identity and his relationship with his father. Featuring a killer soundtrack (including but not limited to Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones), it received Best Canadian Film in 2005 at Toronto International Film Festival. There are many things I would like to say about C.R.A.Z.Y. but I fear it's one of those films you enjoy best when you go into them not knowing much.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alex Gravel, Danielle Proulx, Denis Trudel, Élizabeth Adam, Francis Ducharme, Isabelle Pagé, Jean-Alexandre Létourneau, Jean-Louis Roux, Jean-Marc Vallée, Joël LeMay, Marc-André Grondin, Marie-Michelle Duchesne, Marie-Yong Godbout-Turgeon, Mariloup Wolfe, Michel Côté, Michel Laperrière, Mohamed Majd, Natasha Thompson, Pierre-Luc Brillant

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Rating: Not Rated

Coherence is a film that captivates you to the point of questioning the reality that surrounds you. It's a Quantum physics based sci-fi thriller that keeps your eyes sealed to the screen - not with unrealistically beautiful actors or special effects, but with an original screenplay and unexpected twists. Very refreshing.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alex Manugian, Alexis Boozer Sterling, Aqueela Zoll, Elizabeth Gracen, Emily Baldoni, Hugo Armstrong, Kelly Donovan, Lauren Maher, Lorene Scafaria, Mark Ballou, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon

Director: James Ward Byrkit

Rating: Not Rated

Xavier Dolan’s emotionally charged directorial debut centers on the complex relationship between 16-year-old Hubert and his mother, brought to life by Dolan himself and Anne Dorval, respectively. The film paints an authentic and all-too-familiar picture of two people who love each other yet clash in similarly self-centered and stubborn ways.

The mother-and-son duo vacillate between love and hate in a screenplay full of drama. The cinematography, relying much on negative space, perfectly evokes a sense of disconnect and animosity. However, there is little subtlety to be found here, much like Hubert’s sexuality being embodied by a poster of River Phoenix displayed in his bedroom. The rawness and heightened telling of events indicate that this story is as fresh and unpolished as then 19-year-old Dolan’s own feelings about family dysfunction, particularly mommy issues. The heavy-handedness and moments of exaggeration in his quasi-autobiography are obvious, a fault of execution that one can attribute to lack of experience.

Still, the powerful visuals and dialogue hint at a vision of what more to expect in Dolan’s now-celebrated career. I Killed My Mother, by all accounts, fulfills its role as his promising directorial debut.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Dorval, Benoît Gouin, Émile Mailhiot, Francis Ducharme, François Arnaud, Hugolin Chevrette, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Laurent-Christophe De Ruelle, Manuel Tadros, Marianne Verville, Monique Spaziani, Niels Schneider, Patricia Tulasne, Pierre Chagnon, Suzanne Clément, Xavier Dolan

Director: Xavier Dolan

An indigenous language is dying, and the last two people who speak it have not spoken to each other in 50 years. In this calm drama from Mexico, linguists are sent to try to get them to talk so they can document the language. 

The story goes that two men have stopped talking because they fell in love with the same woman, so there is a romance wrapped neatly within the linguistic story. What truly steals the show, however, is the breathtaking nature in which it's all set - the stunning region of Chiapas.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Eligio Meléndez, Fátima Molina, Gabriela Cartol, Héctor Jiménez, Hoze Meléndez, José Manuel Poncelis, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Mónica Miguel, Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio, Norma Angélica

Director: Ernesto Contreras

Rating: Unrated

In this raw, psychedelic drama, an American drug dealer living in Tokyo with his sister is killed at a night club. His spirit continues to float above the city and past, present, and future are woven together to complete the tale of his life. Taking a page from the Tibetan book of the dead, the film aims to explore one answer to life's most epic question: What happens when we die? Definitely not for the faint of heart, there is drug use, gore, and challenging themes throughout the movie. Its unique cinematography also captures Tokyo quite well.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Cyril Roy, Ed Spear, Emiko Takeuchi, Emily Alyn Lind, Janice Béliveau-Sicotte, Jesse Kuhn, Masato Tanno, Nathaniel Brown, Nobu Imai, Olly Alexander, Paz de la Huerta, Sakiko Fukuhara, Sara Stockbridge

Director: Gaspar Noé

Rating: Not Rated

This quirky 1988 adventure drama is newly available on Amazon Prime. It’s the classic that never was, the story of a rundown gas station motel in the Southern US where a lonely West German lady called Jasmin Munchgstettner ends up by accident.

The owner of the operation, a short-tempered woman by the name of Brenda, doesn’t really take to Jasmin. However, the longer the West German guest stays at the motel, the more a friendship forms between the two.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan S. Craig, Apesanahkwat, CCH Pounder, Christine Kaufmann, Darron Flagg, G. Smokey Campbell, Gary Lee Davis, George Aguilar, Hans Stadlbauer, Jack Palance, Marianne Sägebrecht, Mark Daneri, Monica Calhoun, Ray Young, Ronald Lee Jarvis

Director: Percy Adlon

Rating: PG