The Donnie Darko Soundtrack is at times thoughtful, haunting, weird, and alarming, but that is as it should be, and it suits the film. The first Donnie Darko Soundtrack didn’t initially include all the music from the movie. Instead, it featured a lot of the background compositions and was missing many of the well-known songs from the film. However, it was re-released in 2004 with the famous missing songs, including those from the director’s cut and theatrical editions of the movie. We’re ranking all the songs from the Donnie Darko Soundtrack.
13. Ave Maria by Vladimir Vavilov and Paul Pritchard
Ave Maria is a classic song that is too frequently used in film and television. This song is known for its hauntingly beautiful vocals. However, were still putting it last on the list because it’s so commonly used.
12. Show Me (Part 1) by Quito Colayco and Tony Hertz
Show Me (Part 1) by Quito Colayco and Tony Hertz is a song about longing and seeking a deeper understanding. The song has questions but no real answers in keeping with this profoundly philosophical film. It asks why the sky is blue and why it rains but never answers the questions, presenting them as part of an overall aural landscape of the singer’s mind and desires.
11. Under The Milky Way by The Church
Although Donnie Darko came out in late October of 2001, Under the Milky Way was released by Australian band Church more than a decade before, on February 15th, 1988. This song was number thirty-three on Triple M’s “Ozzest 100,” for the most Australian songs. It did well at home peaking around number twenty-two on the Australian charts and was number twenty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100. Plus, Under The Milky Way won the Single of the Year at 1989’s ARIA Music Awards.
10. Lucid Assembly by Gerard Bauer and Mike Bauer
Lucid Assembly is a purely instrumental piece by Gerard and Mike Bauer. This song is a bit of a mystery as there’s almost no information available about its meaning and no lyrics to interpret. Lucid Assembly is a vibe on its own.
9. Lucid Memory by Sam Bauer and Gerard Bauer
Like Lucid Assembly, Lucid Memory is a song unto itself. There are no words of explanation, just the sound of the music and how it makes the viewer feel as it plays. The mellow electronic sound has a great pace and a sense of forward motion, as brief as it is.
8. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Steve Baker and Carmen Daye
Like so much of the music from this awesome movie, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Steve Baker and Carmen Daye is a lovely, haunting operatic piece. The chanting perfectly suits the main singer’s gorgeous voice, offering a backdrop that elevates the whole song in a way no other instrument could reasonably achieve. This song beautifully speaks to Donnie’s depression and inner darkness with a mournful sound that easily feels like it belongs in the background of a sad dream or a scene set in a cemetery.
7. Stay by Oingo Boingo
Stay is the title track to Oingo Boing’s 1990 compilation album, and it was used in the party scene for the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. However, it was first released on the 1985 album Dead Man’s Party. According to Second Hand Songs, the writer was none other than Danny Elfman, a brilliant songwriter known for numerous movie soundtracks like Beetlejuice, The Corpse Bride, and Spider-Man.
6. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division lives up to its name. The excellent song is all about what happens when love falters, and a relationship begins to fall apart. This song is a perfect example of the musical minimalism that made Joy Division one of the pioneers of the post-punk movement.
5. Never Tear Us Apart by INXS
Never Tear Us Apart by INXS is almost the polar opposite of Love Will Tear Us Apart. It speaks to new and blossoming love connections rather than a sense of desolation and love lost. As Songfacts puts it, “INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence wrote the lyrics, which describe an instant connection between two people who form a bond that will last forever.”
4. Notorious by Duran Duran
When we think of Duran Duran, the song Hungry Like The Wolf often comes to mind. However, it was the perfectly titled Notorious that landed a spot on this notorious, deeply philosophical, cult classic film. Notorious was originally the title track from the band’s 1986 album, which went platinum.
3. Killing Moon & Killing Moon (Long Version) by Echo and the Bunnymen
Most songs have a definite reason and purpose, but some are just for fun and serve no function other than to set a mood or make you dance. Killing Moon is a rarity because it wasn’t meant to be either of those things. This song was created to express everything from birth to death and in between. If we had to narrow it down, then fate is as close to a definite topic as there is for this bizarrely delightful tune. As an enigma, it is fascinating, and as pure music, it is a unique and enlightening journey through one singer’s description of an all-encompassing life and fate.
2. Head Over Heels by Tears For Fears
Most of the time, when a song is used in a movie, one of two things typically happens. Either the music is chosen because it’s a good fit for the mood of a scene, or sometimes the music is composed to fit the action. However, in the case of Donnie Darko and Head Over Heels, director Richard Kelly choreographed the whole scene to suit the music instead of the other way around.
1. Mad World & Mad World Alternate Mix covered by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules
Choosing a number one song for this list wasn’t a choice at all. Mad World is so utterly memorable and iconic that no other possible selection even came close. The absolute sorrow captured within this lovely piece is everything Donnie Darko was expressed in song form. Originally Mad World was also a Tears For Fears song from 1982, but the film version was covered brilliantly by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules.
With all the outstanding music on this list, it’s hard to know where to start. We recommend listening to the songs in the original order because it tells a story, albeit an extraordinary one. Check out other works by Michal Andrews, Tears For Fears, and the many other exceptional artists on this soundtrack when you’re done.