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‘Donnie Darko’ – 5 Essential Soundtrack Cuts

Donnie Darko Poster, Pandora Cinema/Newmarket Films
Pandora Cinema/Newmarket Films

Admit it: ‘Garden State’ wouldn’t have been half the movie it was without the soundtrack. The same holds true for Richard Kelly’s cult classic ‘Donnie Darko’ (2001), which may be one of those rare examples of a soundtrack eclipsing its movie in popularity. Top to bottom, it’s an iconic mixture of great music audiences immediately respond to. Just as ‘Garden’ gave the Shins their moment in the sun in ‘Garden,’ ‘Darko’ highlighted a who’s-who of goth and New Wave bands. These are our picks for the 5 Essential Soundtrack Cuts.


‘Under the Milky Way’

The Church



The Church are one of those ‘80s bands through which you can hear a lot of what became the Britpop and indie-rock sounds in the coming years. In other words, they were one of the era’s key bands, and their 1988 single ‘Under the Milky Way’ actually was a Top 40 hit in the U.S., psychedelic bagpipe solo and all.



‘Head Over Heels’

Tears for Fears



Tears for Fears are one of those quintessentially ‘80s bands that never seems to get old. Sure, their sound is a little bit dated, and their synths are a tad cloying, but how can you go wrong with ‘Head Over Heels?’ Or with a lead singer whose name is Roland Orzabal, dammit?!



‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

Joy Division



Listen to this song and picture a stark-naked British couple, blindfolded, ball-gags in their mouths, trying to find each other in a dark room with no corners. OK, you got it? This might be the most depressing love song of all time, and it’d have been a total shame had it not been on this soundtrack. Of course it was.



‘The Killing Moon’

Echo & the Bunnymen



Go listen to R.E.M.’s ‘Man on the Moon’ and then spin Echo & the Bunnymen’s classic spookfest ‘The Killing Moon’ immediately after. Yep, there’s no doubt the former band did a little bit of poaching. And that says a lot about the song — it’s so good, even the great R.E.M. tip their hats. You can’t get much better than that.



‘Mad World’

Gary Jules and Michael Andrews



Without a doubt, this cover of Tears for Fears’ ‘Mad World’ is one of the best cover songs ever recorded. In many ways superior to the original, it was a No. 1 hit in the U.K., though sadly, Jules wasn’t able to parlay the success into anything more. Here, his fragile melting-icicle vocals mix so well with Michael Andrews’ piano arrangement it’s as if they were meant to be together forever. On a side note, Andrews taught himself how to play the piano in order to compose the film’s score, hence the minimalist sound.


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