For some of us, it’s a yearly tradition to re-watch Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day. But this year could be the chance to get out of that loop. Not just because it’s also Super Bowl Sunday but because it might be time to check out any number of movies that have tried to repeat the magic of that 1993 Bill Murray comedy. Most failed miserably and aren’t really worth viewing except in order to see what some of these descendants look like. Groundhog Day has a decent legacy for the most part, including the importance put on its preservation by the Library of Congress and the National Film Registry. It also regularly places high on lists of the best comedies ever made. Its affect on other movies, though, has been pretty hit or miss.
Some of the titles below are exact remakes, while others were likely not influenced at all by it and merely have similar ideas or situations. Groundhog Day, which was written by Danny Rubin with later script contribution from director Harold Ramis, isn’t based on anything directly, either, but there are likeminded stories and films that came before it, including a certain Oscar-nominated short from 1990, which was based on a sci-fi story from a magazine, from which the makers of Groundhog Day were accused of stealing. And maybe that’s where we should kick things off:
Premiering only a few months after the release of Groundhog Day, this TV movie is a feature-length version of the much darker Oscar nominee, which was titled 12:01 PM (watch it on YouTube). Both are based on a 1973 short story by Richard A. Lupoff but the extended take features a major change in the plot so that it’s a full day on loop rather than an hour. Starring Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater and Martin Landau, this movie actually gives the cause of the loop as an illegal science experiment, though at first it seems as if it’s all so the hero can set right what once got wrong by saving the woman he has a crush on.
Available on DVD
Run Lola Run
Far from mimicking Groundhog Day specifically, this breakthrough German film for director Tom Tykwer and actress Franke Potente has other cinematic cousins, more so those following the alternate timeline/multiple possibilities concept (a la Blind Chance, Sliding Doors, etc.). But it is reminiscent of the Bill Murray comedy in that it gives its protagonist (unconsciously) the chance to get things right by starting the same time period over again two additional times. Because Lola does different things in each run, there’s far less repetition than there is Groundhog Day, one of the reasons it’s a much more kinetic film. Another reason would be the music. George Fenton’s Rota-inspired score for Groundhog Day is fine, even during the early ’90s smooth jazz bits, as is the constant cue of Sonny and Cher, but it’s nothing compared to Run Lola Run‘s techno soundtrack, which Tykwer himself composed with Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas
One of the animated shorts in this direct-to-video anthology is Stuck on Christmas, which I don’t think is credited as such but is definitely inspired by William Dean Howells’s 1892 short story Christmas Every Day. The story has also been adapted as TV movies in 1996 and 2006, the latter retitled as Christmas Do-Over. It’s a funny thing to tie to Groundhog Day (Rubin has actually noted it was the only precursor that truly inspired his script) given that it’s very much akin to the concept behind Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and of course Bill Murray was in Scrooged. Anyway, in this version it’s Huey, Dewey and Louie who are the spoiled brats who wish for it to be Christmas every day, a loop that eventually helps them realize the true meaning of the holiday.
Watch the first 10 minutes below.
50 First Dates
Adam Sandler tends to be tolerable when paired with Drew Barrymore, and this is actually a pretty sweet rom-com that’s sort of Groundhog Day meets Truman Show (and maybe a little Good Bye Lenin!), as the loop is partly manufactured to accommodate the amnesiac character Barrymore plays. Her family maintains a ruse that it’s October 13th, the day she got in an accident causing her condition. Similar to most of these loop movies, it takes falling in love to break the repetition.
If you think only Americans remake foreign films with almost all the quality drained out, see this Italian redo of Groundhog Day. The original title is È già ieri, which literally translates as “It’s Already Yesterday,” and it might as well be “It’s Already Been Done Perfectly Yesterday.” The plot has been changed only slightly in that the looped day isn’t February 2nd; it’s August 13th. And Antonio Albanese plays Filippo, a TV personality doing a story on a stork in the Canary Islands rather than on the groundhog in Punxsutawney.
Available on DVD
Liebe in der Warteschleife
I don’t know much about this except that it’s sort of a German remake of Groundhog Day with a good amount of difference in the details.
The Last Day of Summer
An unofficial remake of Groundhog Day for kids, this Nickelodeon production for TV stars Jansen Panettiere (Hayden’s little brother) as a kid who fears the start of middle school and wishes that summer will never end. He then repeats that day eight times, finally realizing that everything at his new school is going to be okay after finding great payoffs in a few displays of courage, particularly with a girl he likes.
This twisted and twisty thriller throws the single-day loop scenario for a loop. It starts out like a straight horror film, with a handful of young hotties (including Liam Hemsworth) on a sailing trip. After a storm, they wind up on a cruise ship where they start to be killed off one by one. And that’s about as far as I’ll go, because if you’ve never seen this it’s best to go in knowing nothing. Actually, featuring it on this list has already spoiled way too much. Okay, here’s one thing: the fate of the character played by Rachael Carpani might be my favorite thing I’ve ever seen in a horror movie ever.
This one is Groundhog Day as rehab, and it has three characters knowingly stuck in a loop. What’s interesting about this one, also, is that it goes further with the idea of the people living in repeat abandoning all morals because of the lack of consequences. There’s theft, rape and murder, darker territory that Rubin and Ramis have said they didn’t want to enter with Groundhog Day. But every fantasy film subgenre has to have that dark side exploration, kind of like the bad boy superheroes of Jumper, Chronicle and, to some extent, Hancock. It also goes in an interesting direction at the end that can presumably only work with the multiple repeaters concept.
Duncan Jones’s follow up to Moon is probably the most well-known mainstream movie to be almost compulsorily compared to Groundhog Day by anyone discussing it. It’s more along the lines of the 12:01 TV movie, though, in that there seems to be a life-saving mission involved. Jake Gyllenhaal (previously of Donnie Darko, which dealt with its own timeline complications) stars as a man continually reliving eight minutes of a commuter train ride that blows up at the end of each session. Even as derivative as it feels (shades of 12 Monkeys are also all over the plot, and a perfect cameo confirms other influence), it’s a breezy thriller, not as smart as Moon but pretty good for a hot new filmmaker’s first foray into studio productions.
Bonus: Edge of Tomorrow
You won’t be able to watch this one today, as it won’t be released until June. All I know is that it’s the next movie to repeat the loop of Groundhog Day type movies. Tom Cruise plays a soldier in the future who keeps reliving the same day of combat, dying every time. More than most, this Japanese novel adaptation (original title: All You Need is Kill) sounds like it’s aping the video game model of having to repeat the same level after being killed. Except for the beginning of Wreck-It Ralph, that is.
More movies in development with a similar premise include adaptations of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Ken Grimwood’s Replay.