There’s only one movie that deals directly with Groundhog Day and the name of the film is, uh, Groundhog Day and since there’s no major release coming to theaters this week I figured why not use the holiday as a jumping off point to talk about Groundhog Day and some other films with plot lines that deal with time loops.
Starting with the obvious, Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray as Phil, a bitter, self-centered TV Weatherman. He’s given an assignment that he loathes, covering the Groundhog Day ceremony in Punxsutawney, PA. Phil is anxious to leave but as he, his producer (Andie MacDowell), and his cameraman (Chris Elliot) are getting ready to leave town, a freak snowstorm hits and they are stranded. He wakes up the next morning with a strange sense of déjà vu as he seems to be living the day over again. The next morning it happens again, and again, and then again. It turns out that no matter what Phil does, he relives the same day over and over. He starts off on a hilarious path of self-destruction trying to break the loop until he begins to take advantage of it, learning foreign languages, the stories of the townspeople, and even mastering the piano. The more he relives the day, the more he learns to care about the people around him.
Groundhog Day is my favorite Bill Murray movie, okay, besides Ghostbusters, St. Vincent, What About Bob? The Life Aquatic, …alright so Bill Murray’s entire catalog is a treasure but this is one of his best.
Next up, is the movie of many names. Officially the name is Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow but it’s home video release name was Live Die Repeat, the theatrical run was Edge of Tomorrow, and the original title was All You Need is Kill.
Live Die Repeat stars Tom Cruise in one of his least Tom Cruise-iest movies in a near future in which an alien race is attacking the Earth in an unrelenting assault and is seemingly invincible to any military force. Cruise plays an Army officer who has never seen a day of combat when is dropped into a unit on the front lines. Killed within minutes, he finds himself in a time loop that forces him to live out the same battle over and over, fighting and dying again and again. With the help of an elite warrior (Emily Blunt), the two of them learn to fight back, learning more about the enemy and getting closer to defeating them with each encounter.
Live Die Repeat is Tom Cruise’s comeback film. It put him right back in leading man blockbuster scale roles. If you want an action-packed, science fiction spin on Groundhog Day, this is it.
Staying in the Science Fiction genre, Source Code is the story of a decorated soldier (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up in the body of another man, he discovers that he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a commuter train. Part of a government experiment called the Source Code, he’s able to cross into another man’s identity for the last 8 minutes of his life. As with these other films, he re-lives the incident over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery and prevent a larger attack.
Source Code was good enough to earn back its production budget but was largely ignored by audiences. It’s a tense, well-paced film that showcases Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting abilities despite its simple story and script.
Moving into the horror genre, Happy Death Day is the story of a college student who relives the day of her murder until she discovers her killer’s identity. It’s pretty much the exact horror version of Groundhog Day and there’s even a line in which one character tells another that her situation reminds him of Groundhog Day but she claims to have never heard of it or Bill Murray.
So much for a shared universe of characters and days repeating themselves.
I decided to go a little bit fun on this one. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure isn’t a “time loop” story but the most excellent adventure through time of Bill S. Preston Esquire, and Ted Theodore Logan requires that they remind their future selves to set up distractions, leave keys, and go back and fix some of their mistakes, which creates a bit of a time loop. If you haven’t seen this movie, it stars a very young Keanu Reeves as Ted and Alex Winter as Bill, a pair of air-headed wannabe rock stars who are given a time-travelling phone both to help them complete their final history report so they can graduate together and create music that will put an end to war, famine, and nearly everything heinous.
What if you had only one day to change absolutely everything? In Before I Fall, which seems to combine the horror of Happy Death Day and Groundhog Day but changes everything to high school and teenagers, Samantha Kingston has everything: the perfect friends, the perfect guy, and a seemingly perfect future. Then, everything changes. After one fateful night, Sam wakes up with no future at all. Trapped reliving the same day over and over, she begins to question just how perfect her life really was. As she begins to untangle the mystery of a life suddenly derailed, she must also unwind the secrets of the people closest to her, and discover the power of a single day to make a difference, not just in her own life, but in the lives of those around her--before she runs out of time for good.
I guess I should point out that Before I Fall is based on a book that was released in 2010.
In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented - but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" - a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good... until the day the mob decides to "close the loop," sending back Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.
Looper is from Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and you see his knack for Science Fiction storytelling shines. It drags a bit but sticks with it and it pays off well.
Twelve Monkeys stars Bruce Willis as James Cole, a prisoner in the future who can earn parole if he agrees to travel back in time and thwart a devastating plague that has wiped out most of Earth’s population leaving the rest living underground. In his journey he believes that an animal rights group call the Army of the Twelve Monkeys led by the son of a virologist may be to blame, as he uncovers more and more, he learns that his part is deeper than he could ever believe.
Memento is not a time loop or time travel movie but it makes you feel that way. Told from the end of the movie and putting the piece together backward, it’s an early film from Christopher Nolan about Leonard, a man determined to find his wife’s killer. The problem is that he doesn’t have the ability to retain new information or memories. His investigation relies on copious note-taking, Polaroid photographs, and tattoos containing critical information. As the mystery deepens the list of people he can trust shortens.
Doctor Strange is on this list because of the sequence at the end with the big bad guy. It’s funny and witty. Like the time loop created by the Sorcerer Supreme, I could watch it over and over.
You can’t mention anything film list involving time without mentioning the Back to the Future trilogy so consider this the obligatory listing of one of the best film trilogies ever made.