Mind Blowing Movies: Groundhog Day (1993), by Ruben Bolling

Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. In my invitation letter, I wrote: "The movie can be a documentary or fiction. It can be short or feature length. It can be live-action or animation. It can be obscure or well-known. It doesn't have to be your favorite film. In fact, you could write about a movie that disturbed you. The only thing that matters is that the movie blew your mind." See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Groundhog Day (1993), by Ruben Bolling

[Video Link] When I think of "Mind Blowing Movies," I instantly think of the great science fiction films with twists and tricks that I've loved, like The Matrix, Starship Troopers, and Blade Runner.

But there's a movie that blew my mind with a very different kind of twist.

Groundhog Day is a high-concept movie that, although it's squarely a comedy, could also be considered science fiction or fantasy. In it, Time is playing a cruel and elaborate trick on TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), repeating the same day over and over as a metaphor for the angry rut he's in at the start of the movie.

Murray's performance, as always, is transcendent. And the screenplay is just about perfect, as it continually peels inventive comedic riffs off this premise. Yet these riffs also always work on the other, metaphorical, level for a man stuck in his life.

Phil reacts to his trap in turns with anger, boredom, recreational sex, felonies and desperation. But he keeps on waking up at 6:00 a.m. to the increasingly surreal sound of Sonny and Cher.

Eventually, he turns to the woman for whom he has actual romantic feelings, his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and tries to seduce her, using information he gains from constantly reliving this day. But no matter how he presses these advantages, he can't consummate the new relationship in a single day.

Finally, he levels with Rita, and spends His Day explaining what's happened to him, eventually convincing her it's true.

This is where, when I watched the movie on a chilly day in February of 1993 when it came out, I was sufficiently jaded in the conventions of mainstream movies, to be certain how the movie would end.

Phil would learn that being honest with this wonderful woman was the way out of the rut. He let her into his heart, not in a cynical attempt to bed her, but in order to make a real emotional connection with her. She would finally stay the night with him, and he would find himself out of his literal and metaphorical trap.

She does go to his hotel room, and they have a heart-to-heart while sweetly flipping cards. At this point in the movie, I felt that my contract with the film was more than fulfilled. I'd seen Bill Murray (stop right there: that's usually enough right there) in many funny scenes that fit in perfectly with a comedic premise that worked on multiple levels. Now it was time for the Hollywood ending and the moral that Love Conquers All, and I'd go home satisfied. I reached for my coat.

Phil reads poetry to Rita, then falls asleep, with a genuinely connected Rita right by his side... but then wakes up alone in bed the next (or: same) morning on February 2 again, Sonny and Cher still chirping out of his clock radio.

This couldn't have been a more shocking twist to me than if Phil woke up in a pod next to a naked, bald, slimy Keanu Reeves.

How will this movie end if not with the moral of Redemption Through Romantic Love?

Not necessarily trying to win Rita's love, but trying to become a better person who would deserve her love, he resolves to improve himself and help others. He learns piano and ice sculpture. He does good deeds, saving people he knows are about to suffer mishaps, or worse. He talks to townspeople not out of desperate, aloof boredom, but because he genuinely likes them.

And of course we get the side pleasure of watching Bill Murray in his best Meatballs/Stripes element: good-naturedly kidding around with everyone for the sheer fun of it.

FINALLY, now that he's become a kind, socially engaged person, with the attitude and skills that make him fun, interesting, entertaining and useful to those around him, he truly wins Rita's heart. They spend the night in his room, and they wake up together on February 3. He's broken free.

That a commercial movie like this could somehow flirt with and then explicitly reject the idea that romantic love alone is all you need -- instead using its metaphor to show that a connection to community and service are critical components to a fulfilling life -- was beyond a Twilight-Zone level shock for me.

Defying internal narrative expectations with a surprising plot twist is great fun. But defying meta-expectations of movie conventions with a plot that veers suddenly off to make a great metaphor even more resonant, truthful, and even spiritual -- that's mind blowing.


  1. I’m a big fan of Groundhog Day, and have had a few grins over its second life in the past few years as the mainstream media notices the depth that was always there. Now discussions are about it are frequent. The one thing that I find strange is the idea that it is science fiction. Could someone please describe to me which of the many definitions of science fiction encompasses this story? There is no science, no speculation on the future, etc. though I do recognize a kind of riff on the alternative history trope.

    1. …Because time travel is commonly understood as a Science Fiction trope, even if not explained using science.  In this case, it’s clearly Fantasy- by that I mean, not scientifically explained so implied as supernatural in occurrence.

      1. I disagree with the idea of time travel as a science fiction trope: it existed long before science fiction, and has been done in ways with zero science like A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. And for those who would prefer to change the name of the genre to speculative fiction, you will immediately have to the Bible to your syllabus.

        1. Splitting those hairs quite fine.  “Science” fills the same role in sci fi that “magic” fills in fantasy, and time travel is a common trope in both genres.  There is nothing wrong with calling a time travel movie “science fiction”.

          Insisting that the technology need to be made of metal and have a bunch of polysyllabic buzz-words attached to qualify as science fiction is just silly.  Read “Valley of the Blind” by HG Wells.  No technology, but sci fi nonetheless.

        2.  And yet A Connecticut Yankee is considered science fiction by many!  I mean, it’s a person from the future bringing back technological inventions and astronomical understanding to a relatively-primitive culture and using it to profit.  And don’t forget about the dark science-based humor involved when he sets up an electric fence that produces a long conga line of roasted, electrocuted knights in shining armor (as well as the fact he saves himself from execution by blackmailing them over the sun using a conveniently-placed solar eclipse).

          How is that not science fiction?

    2. I would say it falls into sci-fi two ways.
      1. the time travel aspect of the whole thing
      2. that it is more ‘speculative fiction’ that most sci-fi should be labeled as anyways.

      1. (Just better.) … Oh, you lost me there.

        I could write a very similar review of Inception, which also throws itself against the wall of “love conquers all” and concludes that no, it doesn’t. Inception has a very dark, horror fantasy element to it, and while it critically lacks Bill Murray’s presence, is overall better executed than GHD. Still, both number in my favorite movies of all time.

        1.  Hhhmmm, I thought Inception had a good premise and good acting but that the dialogue and characterization were ham-handed and ruined the movie.  The production was too slick and the special effects were over the top.  And the plot was threadbare.  The story was just a vehicle for the premise.

          “Way overrated” is the nicest thing I’m willing to say about the movie itself.

          “Better executed than GHD” is absurd from my perspective.  Maybe in the same sense that Kenny G records have “better” production values than Miles Davis records.

        2.  Aw – I really enjoyed Inception, but now you’ve taken the shine off it for me… I want to see Inception starring Bill Murray :(

        1. And now we’ve got your secret stuff and you are thinking the thoughts we want you to think…

      1.  I dunno, though.  If they added a sciencey bit to the film where it turns out evil machines trapped Phil in a time-loop to harvest his negative energy, would it then be sci-fi?

    3. Here’s a way it can be science fiction: It’s never explained what mechanism is creating the looping effect.

      Perhaps he’s in a Bolstrom Simulation. The user is going back and reloading from the save game until he clears the level and collects all the little bonus points and finds all the level secrets and easter eggs.

    4. Because “Groundhog Day” is not science fiction. It’s about as science fiction as it is a musical. Trying to re-frame it as science fiction is kind of lame.

      1. For me, it’s already framed as science fiction.  I think you trying to un-frame it as science fiction is lame.  Whose biases are more creditable?

      2. If not sci-fi then Rod Sterling Twilight Zone. 

        Rodman Edward “Rod” Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was an American screenwriter, novelist, television producer, and narrator.

        Sci-fi novelist is arguable. Although, he and Johnny Carson might have the same Denturist.

    5. Quoting from the Wikipedia article about the movie: “There was also a second draft script, which gave an explicit reason for the time loop—a voodoo spell cast by a woman who worked at the television station and was involved with Phil before he rejected her—that did not appear in the final film.”

      What’s wrong using the description “magic realism” instead of fantasy or science fiction?

        1. Yeah, me too.  Being John Malkovich had an early draft that explained the mechanism for the weirdness in that movie, too, and it was also written out.  For the better.

      1.  I always thought that the reason for the loop was obvious, the universe was finally sick of him being such an arsehole and decided to give him a few lessons. Of course when I first saw this I was a kid and in the middle of being raised in a conservative Protestant religion, so divine intervention was considered par for the course in daily life.

  2. I think it was on The Incomparable podcast that I first heard this described as being one of the best versions of A Christmas Carol ever committed to film, which I thought was a terrific summation of it.
    Another indication that it is a great film is that pretty much every ideology has tried to claim it as a vindication of their particular belief system…

    1. Are you sure you’re not thinking of Scrooged, which is an actual version of Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray?  (Also a good flick, though nowhere close to Groundhog Day)

  3. You know, I’ve always liked the concept of the movie.  Certainly the metaphor of life as a degradingly repetitive experience (and Groundhog Day as a sort of celebration of that condition) sticks in the brain. 

    But the movie itself?  Can’t really dig it.  I never really sympathized with Bill Murray’s plight, which is drawn out in sappy scenes like this clip.  Who cares that he can’t escape from this time-trap that doesn’t actually exist.

    1. When I first saw it in the theater, I remember very clearly rooting for the time loop. It just seemed awesome to me on so many levels, and I didn’t care if he got out of it, I just wanted to see how much he could do with it.

  4. How in the hell can someone put “Starship Troopers” in between “The Matrix” and “BladeRunner” on a list of great science fiction films?  Troopers can’t hold a candle to either of those movies.  It’s not even in the same universe of greatness as the other two.

    1. I agree, but in all fairness The Matrix isn’t that mind blowing either…well except for the special effects. 

      1. Neo was obviously supposed to discover in the third movie that he was still in the Matrix, but instead he became a Christ Figure. They tried to blow my mind, but blew blowing it.

        1. Personally in the third one I would have like it to end differently.  Once Neo made it to the Machine City and jacks in to stop Agent Smith, the machines should have just waited until he succeeded and pulled the plug on Neo…

          It would have been a great plot twist, no happy ending, no living in peace, the machines take all.

        2. …And that he was a program

          Matrix was mind blowing anyway because of the reality is a simulation question that was the focus of the first film. Effects gave us a system that could be real enough to fool our senses.

      2.  For me it was let down by a central premise that makes no sense (if the machines are using the humans as bio-mass generators, why allow them any kind of fantasy life), sequels that undermined the paranoia of the first film (in the first movie it is not made explicit that our entire world does not exist in the Matrix, while the sequels shrink the Matrix to a single city, a free way and a mountain), appalling cod-philosophy (to numerous to mention) and endless fight scenes in which the outcome had no consequence for the plot or characters.

        However, I did like the energy of style of the first film and the quote, “There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept”.

    2. I’d put Starship Troopers THE BOOK (not the movie) there … so many important parts were left outa the movie, it became just another ‘Us vs. Aliens’ movie ….

      1. Us vs. Aliens was the first layer of Starship Troopers. Keep peeling that onion and you discover that the movie is a sharp satire of Us vs Them movies. The trouble with the movie is that it does such a good job of pushing your buttons with it’s good looking (but empty headed) heroes, hideous aliens, perky tits and horrifying violence, that many people miss the point, which is that movies can push your buttons using those thing and make you root for the worst sort of fascist empty headed nonsense. Please note that the human ‘good guys’ give up a huge cheer for the aliens’ fear, and do notice the head to toe Nazi SS regalia NPH is sporting in the third act. It’s a complex film because the subtext runs exactly counter to the movie’s stated stance on just about everything. Unlike the novel, I can watch the movie without disdain for its politics — not its real politics.

    3. I think many people like that Starship Troopers is a satirical version of the book’s story.

    4. Imo it’s a brilliant movie and amazingly prescient, especially considering what happened with american society post 9-11.
      Verhoeven is a great master of galgenhumor, irony and what I call “enlightened ambiguity.” If you look at it as a gung-ho, pro-militarism film you’re wrong. If you’re looking at it as an anti-war, anti-totaliarism film, you’re wrong… And yet right on both accounts.
      It would have been understood better in the US if it were released post 9-11. I watched it soon after my country went through quite a nasty war, both on home turf and then when we were “getting back at them” and I can tell you, Starship Troopers DID blow my mind.
      Only later I read the novel and while it is a fine piece, Heinlein can’t hold a candle to Verhoeven’s understanding of human nature and society.

      1.  Read some Heinlein (Specifically “Starship Troopers” and tell me that he “can’t hold a candle” to Verhoeven.

        1. Heinlein can’t hold a candle to Verhoeven.  He’s a juvenile author with a limited set of characters, tropes and plots, prone to preaching and severely overestimating he cleverness. 

    5. The inclusion of Starship Troopers is what made me click on the “Read the Rest”. It’s tone is just so weird and perfect. It’s what makes me think Verhoeven’s Showgirls must be like that on purpose and, therefore,  great on purpose.

      1. Not to mention, “Goddamn bugs whacked us, Johnny.”  ST is one of my favorite films.

        1. What I wanted .. what I really really wanted – was to see the powered armor (from the book) in this movie – the fact that it was left out saddened me.

  5. It is a great movie on so many levels. Every time I happen across it on tv I’m forced to stop and watch.

  6. When I think of “Mind Blowing Movies,” I instantly think of the great science fiction films with twists and tricks that I’ve loved, like The Matrix, Starship Troopers, and Blade Runner.

    Starship Troopers…  Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and even defend it as a good movie, but really?  Of those three I would only consider Blade Runner as “mind blowing”.

    To me that title is better reserved for movies like Moon, Pandorum, Solaris, Pi, or The Fountain.

    1. You rank “Pandorum” above “Starship Troopers.” Is this because you don’t really like satire, or because you’re still pissed off somebody sexed-up the wrong Heinlein novel?

      1. Well out of the bunch I listed, Pandorum is probably at the bottom of what I would consider mind blowing…but I never expected the ending at all.  Maybe that was just me, but in that sense it was different.  The acting and story were alright, it’s just the ending that gave it a little something else.

        Don’t get me wrong I like Starship Troopers, but there wasn’t anything in the movie that I wasn’t expecting.

        1.  I liked Pandorum, and I was surprised, but not blown away, at the ending. It was another turn on the old “inhabitants of a generational starship forgot/don’t know they’re on a generation starship.”

          Maybe repeat viewings of Pandorum would reveal more to me, but it didn’t feel like a movie that would reward repeat viewings in the way that “Startship Troopers” does [I’m not talking about blowing up bugs or the shower scenes, but the political context, the media environment, etc].

          Speaking of Heinlein and generation starship cliches, my first experience of both was Orhpans of the Sky. Bonus: also contains functional mutants!

      2.  somebody sexed-up the wrong Heinlein novel

        The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, ftw. Not because it’s mind-blowing in the Philip K. Dick sense, but because it’s a great story – much better than Starship Troopers in my opinion – with a lot of action that would translate well to film.

        1. I always thought that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was one of the greatest names for a book ever.

        2. Friday was cyberpunk well done. The story is still fresh and I would love to see it made into a movie.

          And while we are on the subject, how about Stranger? It fits with ST as a kind of counterpoint.

      3.  Starship troopers really suffered from the cheese satire combo, and the sequels got religious, weird, and bad.

        How about Minority report
        Inception, 2001, Altered State, Brazil…

        1. Imo the cheesines is what makes it so powerul. Trust me, real war is incredibly, obscenely cheesy. Dubya landing on a carrier with “mission accomplished” banner in the background?
          ST screams “FAKE” in every frame, look at the beautiful people taking a shower and then someone gets ripped to bits just like that.  The bad guy bully turns out to be a human after all and the dawn of communication with the alien, the moment of recognition begins with “It is afraid.” It’s “fakeness” is exactly what makes it so true.
          No wonder it got misunderstood in pre 9-11 america. It would have done much better five years later, or better yet, just after Vietnam.

        2. I’m not going to argue 2001 or Brazil, have only read Altered States, and I think Inception needs a few years to percolate (I’ll have no truck with “instant classic — just add box office!”) although I loved it both times I saw it. Minority Report, eh, I’ll have to watch it again. I liked it, but felt it hit all the notes of “This is a PK Dick movie! Made by Hollywood! With 10% of the original material read in passing by some of the screenwriters! and a brand-new ending not available in any book!”

          The ST sequels are not part of this argument, just as Jeter’s novel-sequels to BladeRunner are not part of a BladeRunner argument.

          Penultimately, none of these films are part of the Pandorum vs Starship Troopers argument — becase that arguments is limited to Pandorum and Starship Troopers (for certain limited definitions of the terms “Pandorum” and “Starship Troopers”, said limitation being “ONLY THESE TWO F*****NG FILMS).

          And ultimately, to jack my thread-jack back to the thread, Jack — Groundhog Day is awesome. I’d watch it over and over. It’s a great date movie, too. I’m sure there are some dates that Starship Troopers would be the movie for, but none of mine have been [there were a couple that hit “The Wall” and “Apocalypse Now” right on the money].

          That’s it. I’m done. Unless I get stuck in a time-loop, I’m not going to comment in this thread anymore. Or my caffeine wears off.

          1. Pandorum is a 2009 movie and inception is a 2010 movie so I guess you are arguing that an unsuccessful movie can become an instant classic but a successful one can’t?

            But on your two movie high jack, I have to say that ST struck me as a bad movie until someone explained the messages in the book. It strikes me as a bad adaptation of a good book. The only people that said it was good where people that already read the book. Also, what’s her name is a terrible actress.

            Minority report is a good movie with the exception of a few out of place Spielberg moments, (jet pack cooks hamburgers).

          2. @boingboing-515e54370d38b4af21bf08cff544d25e:disqus > The only people that said it was good where people that already read the book.

            I’d be the last person to say so, but I think you’re poisoning the well with that straw-man.

            I never read ST until after I had seen the movie.

            As usual, they were two separate beasts that shared some DNA, much like humans and earthworms. This is an interesting fact, but one that has no bearing on the “meaning” of either. They are separate, and are treated as such, above.

          3. ST the book didn’t really have a plot or ongoing characters except for the protagonist. You can make a movie about a series of vignettes, but it’s not likely to attractive a wide audience.

          4. > I’d be the last person to say so, but I think you’re poisoning the well with that straw-man.

            Meh, I have been known to use a logical fallacy from time to time.

            But so as not to use anymore…
            I guess it was just my take that Star ship troopers, was entertaining and perhaps played with some interesting ideas around war totalitarianism and propaganda, but in my view it never really developed any great point or twist.   So IF you were asking me if it could “blow your mind”  I would have to say, not mine, not without a rewrite and acting that isn’t a constant distraction.

            It doesn’t help that every video game before and after, and most  Sci Fi movies use the cliche, “Maybe the good guys are the bad guys and they are lying to you.”

            And really ‘Alien’  and ‘Avatar’ did that one a hell of a lot better. 

            Pandorum was sort of Fight Club in space, with horror, which  I enjoyed, but was not so thought provoking as to make me want to watch it again any time soon.  That was in part because the supporting cast wasn’t as interesting as Quaid so you were left with the b team when he went back to the dark side.

            On the other hand, the acting and writing of Groundhog day leaves you with just countless memorable moments and some intense questions at the end.

    2.  Total Recall is way underrated.  It’s like the only PK Dick movie that gets the ending right besides Blade Runner.  (OK, I didn’t see Screamers.)

      1. I never understand why TR gets trashed so much. Maybe it’s just anti-Arnold sentiment.

        1. Get your ass to mars! I think it’s a good film but not a great one. It’s cheesy in inappropriate ways given the context of the story, and a lot of the acting is quite bad. They pulled that off on purpose in films like Robocop and Starship Troopers to great effect, but in Total Recall I don’t think it was done purposefully.

          Considering that Blade Runner came out before Total Recall (and most people today will watch Blade Runner first) it’s hard not to make a negative comparison in terms of production value, quality of acting, quality of costume and set design, etc. 

          Although I think a lot of the set design was actually quite good (brutalism), it all looked exceedingly cheaply put together.

          Actually I only watched it quite recently, a few months ago. I was surprised by how much I liked it because it gets trashed so much on the internet. It’s legitimately good and worth watching for anyone into this sort of movie, but it also does have glaring issues.

          1. Yeah, but TR is entertaining, which BR is emphatically not. They really don’t belong in the same genre. Adam Sandler films and Molière plays are both comedies, but you can’t compare them with any hope of sounding sane.

          2. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus I agree, I’d put TR rather high on a list of films that really succeed as pure entertainment.

          1. Too many people here are defending terrible adaptations because they like the book or the author.

            I really look forward to the new total recall, because the first one sucked. 

            And who knows, maybe we will get 4 boobs!

  7. Did Adam Sandler pay Bill Murray when he ripped off the premise to make “Fifty First Dates?”

    1. The “time loop” plot isn’t original to Groundhog Day; it goes back at least as far as Malcolm Jameson’s 1941 short story “Doubled and Redoubled”. 

      1. Close enough that Bill could have sued Sandler.

        I used to be able to name 3 films where Sandler ripped off Murray, but it’s just not worth it. I’ve moved on.

    2. Did Adam Sandler pay audiences to watch his films? In both cases, the answer should be yes (although I fear it isn’t).

      1. Some years back, there were reports  that the studio had seriously inflated  the opening weekend  numbers  from  one of his movies that bombed, which would have been fraud. 

        Anyway, i don’t want to be accused of injecting gratuitous Sandler hatred into this thread, because hating him is never gratuitous.

        1.  It is when you’re talking about “Punch-Drunk Love.”

          But I think that may have been using some sort of one-off Sandler-bot. Either that, or Sandler briefly escaped from his underground prison to make that movie, and after it was once-again replaced by the Sandler-bot.

    1. Fantastic!  So Ned is the force behind the time loop – he is actually God (the ultimate life insurer).

    2.  Wow, so the time loop was actually Ned’s persistence to make the sale… And it eventually worked, now that’s endurance!

  8. It’s one of my favourites too.  (If you like the premise, also check out the decent-but-slightly-cheesy 12:01.)

    In the DVD commentary they mention how they originally imagined Phil being trapped for thousands of years.  That’s a really chilling idea when you think about it.

    1. Thousands was a high and chilling number to consider. I read an article later on where the director re-thought that idea and came up with a more grasp-able 40 years. He basically added up all the things Phil had to learn and master and determined it would take 40 years to accomplish those skills. Still a serious amount of time to be able to dedicate to correcting yourself, yet still daunting enough to be considered epic.

      1. Ramis has since said “30 to 40 years” (source) which is about 10,000 days, so maybe he misspoke on the DVD commentary.

    2.  It’s not even clear in the final version that he wasn’t, and I love that ambiguity. (I prefer to think that it was a century or so, but YMMV.) One of the scenes they didn’t include shows him improvising a calendar by reading one page of the first book on the hotel library shelf each day. Before the end he finishes the bookcase and has to start again.

      1. 10,ooo was one number Ramis mentioned them tossing around, noting that 10,000 reincarnations is a significant point in Buddhism.

  9. “Groundhog Day” was always a favorite of mine, from my first viewing.  But because of Bill Murray’s easy-going, shambling performance, and my assumptions about the director, I assumed that it would be a film that faded into blandness on repeated viewing.  I knew there were layers, but initially felt as this was just an extended exercise of putting Murray through a series of scenarios to produce comic reactions.  And all of that may be true, in part.  But it really has surprised me with how well it’s aged. 

    Part of it’s enduring appeal, is something someone complained about upthread — Murray’s plight and character are not immediately compelling.  His whining and snarky Phil Connor’s is hardly sympathetic, more pathetic in his misanthropy, than awe-inspiring.  But that becomes part of its wily charm — the way we see Phil’s Progress it’s a regression to the mean before it can become true progress, and there’s such a journey just to get that far.  At the end of that very long day Phil has arrived at true decency, which is no small feat, and no small amount of food for thought.      

  10. Philosophy Now, the publication, had an article on this film years ago.  Surprisingly, I STILL haven’t seen the film.  It’s in my Netflix Instant queue. No, really.

    Too bad the whole article is behind a paywall.  Oooo!  They have a podcast!

    From this article I learned that Bill Murray was working on his Bachelor of Philosphy at the time of the filming.  The whole film is an exploration of stages of existentialism, of self-actualization, echoing some of Rolo May’s list.  Interesting guy.

  11. I spend more time daydreaming and contemplating GD than any other movie. 

    Coincidentally, I showed GD today to a classroom full of Arabic speaking ESL students and they were hanging on every single subtitle.

  12. The screenwriter has a lengthy site at http://www.dannyrubin.com/blogusgroundhogus/ .  See also http://themagicofgroundhogday.com/ .

    You may also enjoy the films “Run Lola Run”, “Source Code”, and “Dark City”, which I found to be all quite satisfying in different ways.  And Ken Grimwood’s novel, “Replay”, which has a very different take on things (and is ultimately ruined by having entirely too much sex).

    And please try Rematch, which does the whole thing in game form. Quite possibly one of my top ten gaming experiences of all time.
    (TADS interpreters at http://www.tads.org/tads3.htm .)

    1.  I liked pretty much all of Source Code, up until the ending. They should have stopped it when the colours started to smear, leaving it open.

    2.  Yeh! Dark City! One of my favourites too. It may be a philosophical light weight, but it does feature Rufus Sewell, Ian Richardson and Richard O’Brien and some nice set design.

  13. It’s very worth it to listen to the director’s commentary on this one. Harold Ramis is a delight, definitely a thoughtful and kind filmmaker at the top of his game. Also check out his commentary on The Ice Harvest.

    Though it certainly isn’t the classic that Groundhog’s Day is, another good-natured, Buddhist-themed movie from that time period is Joe versus the Volcano, the depth of which is pretty universally unappreciated.

    1. Joe vs. The Volcano is quite good.  I made my wife watch it and after it was all said and done, she thought it was a very good movie.

  14. One of my all-time favorite films!

    I liked the ambiguity about how long he was trapped, and also was amazed when I saw that original author’s statement about thousands of years… certainly enough to drive even the egotistical central character through the suicide phase.

    The director and co-writer, Harold Ramis, also talks about the film’s lasting popularity, saying it resonates with people on many different levels. He said in an interview that he has a friend who is a Zen Buddhist priest, and that it was a particularly big hit with the Buddhists. He jokes at being welcome at any golf course anywhere due to making “Caddyshack”, and then also having this one going for him… which is nice.

  15. I am so gratified by this post.  I feel like you’ve been listening to me talk about this movie!  Most people don’t notice how special it is.  I also love Babe [yes, the one with the talking pig] in the same way.

  16. “Nancy -she works in the dress shop and makes noises like a chipmunk when she gets real excited.” 

  17. I bought the 2 DVD special edition…. The second DVD was exactly the same as the first.


  18. I enjoyed this movie a lot – and I never could understand how I overlooked it until I took upper division political philosophy in college before I graduated. Having covered a segment on Nietzsche, the professor had us all sit down and watch Groundhog Day, and relating it to the eternal recurrence. 

    It was disturbing how well it paralleled the concept, down to the stages of progress. Very interesting and certainly “mind blowing” in my opinion.

    1.  I think it was in the Amazon comments that I first read about how it paralleled  the five stages of grieving according to Kübler-Ross.  That was also mind-blowing.

  19. Thanks for highlighting this film, my personal favorite film ever. Yup. I saw this film when I was a philosophy undergraduate and told my friends as we exited the theater that it was a brilliant attempt to give solution to the problems posed by the Existentialists. They laughed at me, but I stand by the analysis: meaning is not discovered, but created, and it is created by pursuing a purpose that rewards you and binds you with positive emotion to the world (and [with apologies to Sartre] the people) around you. Amen.

  20. Stephen Tobolowsky played Ned in Groundhog Day.  His free podcast titled “The Classic” tells how he got the role and his experience during the filming of Groundhog Day.  (Free on iTunes – The Tobolowsky Files Episode 29 – The Classic)  After I heard the podcast for the first time, I had to rewatch the movie.  The first part of the podcast is a bit slow, but you’ll be well rewarded for your time by the end.  Enjoy!

  21. I had thought about how someone might do a movie like this for a long time when it came out… and then I thought “Bing!” Ramis and Murray *got* it.  It could be done a hundred more times and never done better.  For me, the number of repetitions and variations was just right, taking me on a journey that parallels Bill Murray’s character’s, creating a kinship from the other side of the screen.

    BTW,  there’s a fun lesbian take on “Lola Rennt/Run Lola Run” called “And Then Came Lola”, set in San Francisco, came out in 2009.   Worth a look — love and photography replaces bank robbery and violence.

  22. This is why I read Boingboing… very few people are receptive to even discussing Groundhog Day as a great movie…
    and then in a place like this you see there are other that know it is one of the most layer and textured movies of all time.
    I don’t buy the love does not conquer all surprise… I like to think that he is not really in a time loop.

  23. This is awesome! For years, when someone asks me my favorite sci-fi movie, Groundhog Day has been my answer!

  24. “See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. — Mark”

    Hmmm,  I guess there’s only one movie in the series at the moment?

  25. My only question regarding Groundhog Day is this: what omnipresent force was keeping Murray’s character trapped in this 24-hour loop, hopelessly cursed to repeat the same events forever until he triggered a release? Was it an extra-terrestrial council, or a moral deity? Perhaps it was Murray’s character himself, somehow subconciuosly controlling the physical factors of his version of consciousness?

  26. I love Groundhog day and saw it many times in the 90’s while serving on a deployed aircraft carrier.  It was one of the small handful of movies the ship played for us.  We worked 12 hour days while turning circles in the middle of a featureless ocean doing mind-numbingly repetitive work for months on end.  It was an appropriate movie to watch daily. 
    wake up
    put on the same clothes
    launch the same jets
    wash/fix/gas up/check over the same jets
    watch groundhog day

  27. Love that film. The Matrix and Blade Runner are of similar caliber – but Starship Troopers? Eh… it was fun but hardly mind blowing or of the same caliber. 

    It’s sad that the other two Matrix films failed so badly when the first one was solid with innovative filming techniques.

  28. The space bugs movie Starship Troopers was ‘mind blowing’ ? 

    Why? Cause it had mixed showers? 

    Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, Brazil, Once Where Warriors, Kiss Me Deadly…all mind blowing. StarShip Troopers? Get off it. 

    Groundhog Day is Bill’s last good comedy. I cycle past the old SCTV Firehall weekly, on the Gilda Radner Way in Toronto. SCTV was the best in the day. God bless them all.

  29. Well, dammit, it’s in my top ten list too.  The real paradox is that the movie is so good you could wake up watching it every day.  When the holo-deck becomes reality our children’s children will play the GD sequence to see how many “days” repetition they can take. 

    As for ST…I’ve read and re-read most of RAH and I just can’t grok ST. Eye candy – yes.  It just can’t beat the movie playing in my head while I was reading the book. – What movie can?  Oh yea… it’s Groundhog Day!!!

    1. Sure, I remember that one.  The Star Trek  TNG and Stargate SG-1 Groundhog Day episodes were also quite nice.

      Watch out, someone’s about to link to TV Tropes.

    2.  Isn’t that the one where Xena and Gabrielle keep on getting in to the bath together… or is that just my home made copy?

  30. I watched this movie at least a couple of times when I was a kid (… I was 7 or 8 when it came out), and I remember that I liked it, but I never really gave it any further thought. I see now that I definitely need to watch it again. Thanks for choosing this, Ruben, as to me this wasn’t an obvious example of a “mind blowing movie”.

    I think I can safely assume that none of the featured films in this essay series will be particularly obvious choices (e.g. Inception which I loved but which is only mind-blowing if you never watch or read anything very interesting and/or if you can’t follow the plot the first time you watch). So I’m looking forward to see what’s coming up.

  31.  I think Total Recall is similar in a lot of ways to Starship Troopers — I think it is very critical about violent escapist fantasy, while simultaneously being some of the crackingist violent escapist fantasy there is. The key line in the movie, I think it where Arnold kills his wife and quips ‘Consider that a DIVORCE!’ I mean, if you can find a more concise, cutting and brutal critique of form, I’d like to see it. Its like the single worst one-liner in the history of cinema.

  32. Starship Troopers – brilliant. You all went out and saw perky boobs, bugs, great destroyers…I saw…


    Modern fascism, wrapped up in propaganda. Remember the part where the talking heads are discussing that possibly they have provoked the bugs…nahhh.

    The director envisioned life today, now, in ‘merica.

  33. The film is science fiction in that it posits that a man could use “science” to predict future weather events, instead of the tried-and-true method of consulting a prophetic rodent.

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