Donnie Darko was released into theaters on January 30th, 2002. Filming locations include Angeles National Forest, Burbank, Long Beach, Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Ca. Richard Kelly wrote and directed the film. He only directed five films with Donnie Darko being his third, and his last, The Box was in 2009. The film has garnered serious cult status through the years. Jake Gyllenhaal played the lead of Donnie Darko. This was well before he became one of the most recognizable actors in the industry. His real life sister Maggie, played his older sister Elizabeth in the film. His younger sister Samantha, was played by Daveigh Chase, who would go on to play the creepy Samara one year later in The Ring. Seth Rogen makes is film debut as bully Ricky Danforth, with his first line in the movie being "I like your boobs.". The film also features an impressive list of other actors which include Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze and Noah Wyle. One location from the film that has eluded me over the years, that I'd love to find, is Roberta Sparrow's (Grandma Death) house.
The film was set in 1988, which meant it featured some great 80's pop-culture like the Smurfs, Hobie t-shirts and of course...80's music. The film has a fantastic soundtrack which includes songs like The Killing Moon by Echo & the Bunnymen, Under the Milky Way by The Church, Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears and Never Tear Us Apart by INXS. For the director's cut of the film, which was released on May 29th, 2004 some of the songs were rearranged and played in different parts of the movie than they were in the theatrical cut. For example, in the opening sequence, Under the Milky Way was replaced by Never Tear Us Apart. The films fabulous score was written and composed by Michael Andrews. The films first DVD release was on February 4th, 2003. The director's cut DVD was released on February 15th, 2005 and includes twenty minutes of extra footage and an altered soundtrack.
Opening - Forest Service Rd. 3N16 Falling Springs, Ca. 91789
It's located on a gated forest service road in the Angeles National Forest that's approximately two miles in length and leads up to the summit of Vetter Mountain which sits at a 5,911 foot elevation. The exact spot in the film is about a quarter of a mile up the service road from the parking lot. The area looks quite a bit different today than it did when the film was shot, due to multiple forest fires throughout the years, most notably the Station Fire in 2009. The Station Fire not only ravaged the landscape, but on August 31st, 2009 it also destroyed the historic Vetter Mountain lookout tower which had been there since 1937. For anyone that may wish to hike the full two mile trail to the Vetter summit, it has an astonishing view of Mt. Wilson to the south and Mt. Pacifico to the north and I highly recommend it. I'd seen other people post footage from places high up in the Angeles National Forest and claim it was the spot Donnie woke up at, but it just didn't look right to me. So I continued to search via Google Earth and eventually I found what I was pretty sure was the spot. Not long thereafter, I visited the area for myself and was able to confirm this as the correct location. As far as I know, I was the first person to share the correct location publicly. Also, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't lay down on the gated road and do my best re-enactment of Donnie waking up while I was there. The Charlton Flats area was also used for filming some of the scenes in Army of Darkness.
All "Now" pictures taken in 2017.
Darko house - 4225 Country Club Dr. Long Beach, Ca. 90807
The 5,671 square foot house was built in 1941. The house is in a popular area for filming locations. Not only is Jim Cunningham's house from the movie just across the street and four houses down to the left, but the golf course used in the film sits just behind the Darko house as well. Houses used in American Pie, American Pie 2, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Red Dragon are also within the neighborhood. Fans of The Girl Next Door may also recognize this house as the party house from the film.
All "Now" pictures taken in 2022.
Holiday Inn - 150 E. Angeleno Ave. Burbank, Ca. 91502
The hotel opened in 1981 and was refurbished in 2011. It's the largest Holiday Inn on the west coast.
Bus stop - Country Club Dr. and W. San Antonio Dr. Long Beach, Ca. 90807
This intersection can also be seen near the beginning of the film as Donnie rides his bike through it on his way home, after waking up on the ridge.
Middlesex High School - 1901 Venice Blvd. Los Angeles, Ca. 90006
(Loyola High School)
The school first opened in 1865 and is the oldest continuing educational institution in the region. It's been at it's current location since 1917. Freshman tuition and fees for one school year exceed $21,000. Notable alumni include NFL linebacker Anthony Barr and actors Clifton Collins Jr. and Chris Hardwick, who played Jerry in 2003's House of 1000 Corpses. Other notable productions at the school include Boy Meets World and Marked for Death.
Jim Cunningham's house - 4252 Country Club Dr. Long Beach, Ca. 90807
The 4,321 square foot house was built in 1927. The Darko house is located close by, just across the street and five houses down to the left. Fans of Not Another Teen Movie may also recognize this as Jake Wyler's house from the film.
All "Now" pictures taken in 2022.
Not Another Teen Movie
Aero Theatre - 1328 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, Ca. 90403
The single screen movie theater was designed by architect P. M. Woolpert and opened in 1940. It was built by Donald W. Douglas for $45,000. By the end of the 90's the theater had fallen on hard times and eventually closed down. In 2005, it was re-opened after renovations were made by the non-profit organization American Cinematheque, which also hosts screenings at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Scenes from 10 to Midnight, Get Shorty and Sleepwalkers were also filmed at the Aero Theatre.