Given its popularity, you’ve probably seen Groundhog Day, or are at least familiar with its premise. The classic 1993 movie stars Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a surly weatherman sent to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities in the tiny town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil (who openly despises his co-workers, the festival, the town, and everyone in it) sees his situation move from mildly inconvenient to existentially horrifying once he starts waking up back at the start of the same day, every day, apparently forever, with the time loop affecting no one but him.
Groundhog Day was a huge critical success and has earned itself a revered status as a ground-breaking cultural milestone. As such, it’s no surprise that many other films over the years have borrowed the basic concept of a character (or characters) experiencing a repetitive time loop, and used that to explore various themes and ideas. And for any fans of time loop fiction out there, that’s just as well. There are only so many times you can re-watch Groundhog Day before you start feeling a bit like you’re stuck there yourself – thankfully, there are more than a few must-see movies where the day repeats itself.
Updated on April 5, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
With more and more approaches and takes on the trope (that aren’t always successful) like Netflix’s Re/Member, it’s obvious that there’s enduring interest in movies about time loops.
10 ‘The Incredible Shrinking Wknd’ (2019)
A time loop story with a vital twist; every time the loop repeats, it gets shorter by an hour. What happens when the loop reaches its last hour, then? That’s what Alba (Iria del Río) is worried about. Having set off to a holiday cottage with a group of friends to celebrate her 30th birthday, it soon becomes clear that Alba – who is unemployed, drinks heavily, and still lives with her father – is experiencing something of an arrested development compared to her peers. The time loop might be her opportunity for salvation, but it could also be precisely the opposite.
Unlike most time loop movies, this entry doesn’t involve many – indeed, hardly any – actions within the loop that act as signposts or checkpoints for the looping protagonist(s) to adapt and react to. Instead, the substance of The incredible shrinking wknd is far more psychological and introspective, deriving from Alba’s different approaches to interacting with her friends and boyfriend. All of them are progressing with their lives in various ways, whilst Alba is robbed of the opportunity to grow at all – she is stuck in a rut, in the most literal way possible. This movie is both tense and thought-provoking thanks to the realism with which it approaches the subject matter.
9 ‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ (2021)
Mark (Kyle Allen) is a 17-year-old boy who has been living in a time loop for quite a while and has taken advantage of his foreknowledge to choreograph his day to achieve Ferris Bueller levels of cool. Everything changes when he meets a girl named Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who is also experiencing the time loop. Together, they create a catalog of “tiny perfect things” – beautiful moments from everyday life that are usually fleeting, but they can return to infinitely.
What makes this movie interesting is that it rejects the basic premise upon which every other time loop movie rests; why would you want to leave the loop? If the future is riddled with death, uncertainty, and global warming, wouldn’t you want to stay where you know the good times are? The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a movie that blends sci-fi and romance and tackles these questions and more with a playful and endearing tone that makes it a charming take on the classic time loop story.
Watch on Prime Video
8 ‘Happy Death Day’ (2017)
Waking up to find yourself trapped in the same day over and over is already pretty bad, but for that day to be one where you’ve got a hangover is just terrible. When you throw a mysterious masked killer who’s ruthlessly intent on murdering you into the mix, then you’ve got the makings of a rather bad personal situation – but a pretty fantastic time loop movie.
Happy Death Day uses time loop conventions to tell what is basically a whodunnit with the victim doubling as their own detective. And this particular victim has her work cut out for her; Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a spoiled, bratty sorority girl, and though all she has to do to end her loop is figure out her killer’s identity, narrowing down the list of people with a motive is not going to be an easy task. The movie follows Tree’s attempts to dodge her vicious attacker, and maybe even right some past wrongs, as a conveyor belt of traumatic black-comedy murders are inflicted on her again, and again, and again.
Watch on FuboTV
7 ‘Two Distant Strangers’ (2020)
Two Distant Strangers is a satirical short movie that discusses the deaths of Black individuals at the hands of the police. Carter (Joey Badass), a young Black man, is just trying to return home to his dog after a one-night stand. However, his journey is repeatedly frustrated by an aggressive White police officer (Andrew Howard), who finds endless reasons to kill Carter and start the cycle all over again.
Whether Carter remains in the apartment or leaves, whether he is polite to the officer or avoids him entirely, the end result is always the same. Two Distant Strangers uses the time loop device to harrowing effect as a means of exploring the anxieties felt by many Black indivisuals; that regardless of one’s own actions, racial injustice is inevitable. The film carries a consistently defiant tone, making it an inspiring, hopeful piece that approaches its dark content with optimism.
Watch on Netflix
6 ‘Triangle’ (2009)
A criminally-underrated movie from the 2010s and one of the most unique time loop films fans will ever see, Triangle is a fantastic psychological horror movie starring Melissa George as Jess. Jess leaves her son to go on a boating trip with her friends, which soon turns disastrous when a storm wrecks their vessel. The horrors only truly start when they board a creepy ship that seems to appear out of nowhere.
It’s impossible to discuss the time loop aspect of the film without spoiling it completely. It’s a horror flick that’s best seen knowing as little as possible about the messed-up twists Jess and her friends experience as they explore the ship. Viewers can expect a wild breathtaking ride and a truly shocking revelation by the end of it.
Watch on Peacock
5 ‘Looper’ (2012)
An overlooked sci-fi drama that deserved more, director Rian Johnson‘s Looper is set in a version of the present where a mob from the future sends victims back to the past so they can be executed by contract killers. These killers, known as “loopers,” also eventually have to terminate future versions of themselves to signal the end of the contract and to tie up any loose ends. When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) comes face to face with his latest victim and it turns out to be his future self (played by Bruce Willis), he reluctantly hears out what he has to say.
Focusing more on the paradoxes and consequences of a time loop, the film veers away from the typical repetition-of-the-same-day trope often seen in the niche. Instead, it highlights the way the characters’ decisions as “loopers” can create and break cycles in the future and affect several people’s fates.
Watch on Prime Video
4 ‘Palm Springs’ (2020)
Palm Springs brings viewers a time loop set throughout a wedding (taking place, funnily enough, in Palm Springs, California), where hedonistic guest Nyles (Andy Samberg) is living his life to the fullest. God knows how long Nyles has been stuck in his loop – probably years, possibly decades, and certainly long enough to forget what his job is. But the good news is that, so long as he has a drink in his hand, he doesn’t really care, either. That is until the sister of the bride Sarah (Cristin Milioti) falls into the time loop, and Nyles must explain the perils and pitfalls of time loop life to someone with a rather different philosophical outlook to his own.
Not only does Palm Springs build on the legacy of Groundhog Day (“it’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about,” Nyles explains to Sarah), but it smartly subverts some of the original’s premises to keep things interesting. This loop doesn’t reset at a specific time – only when Nyles or Sarah lose consciousness, which could be days after waking if you have enough caffeine. It also straight-up mocks Groundhog Day’s emphasis on altruism as a tool for escaping the loop, instead zeroing in on the idea that absolutely nothing you do there matters, and forcing our protagonists to deal with those philosophical implications. It’s a fantastic movie that explores the weighty topics of both human connection and the General Theory of Relativity without once letting up on the laughter.
Watch on Hulu
3 ‘Source Code’ (2011)
U.S. Army Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakens on a train with no understanding of how he got there, being spoken to by a woman he doesn’t know (Michelle Monaghan), and, upon looking in the mirror, seeing a face he doesn’t recognize. And then his train explodes. He awakens in a small capsule where he is informed via a video screen that he is taking part in a delicate military operation; his consciousness is to be repeatedly placed within the memory of the final 8 minutes of another man’s life until he collects enough clues to uncover the identity of the terrorist responsible for the train’s detonation. Talk about a rough first day.
So long as you can get past the almost comically generic excuse for quite how the time loop functions (with plenty of techno babble about quantum physics), you’ll find Source Code has plenty to offer. Starring Gyllenhaal at his best, it confounds audience expectations by allowing the protagonist to step outside their loop and assess their situation – and with the distinct impression that all is not as it seems both within the loop and without, this movie is a unique and riveting entry into the time loop genre.
Watch on Showtime
2 ’12:01pm’ (1990)
Most people stuck in a time loop at least get the privilege of an entire day to experience. Poor old Myron Castleman (Kurtwood Smith), though, only gets 59 minutes. Beginning every loop standing in the middle of the road on his lunch break, Myron seems to have no option but to wander depressed and isolated around the city. Luckily, he spots a news report from a scientist who predicted the very ‘time bounce’ he is suffering and decides to try and track him down.
12:01pm is a short movie, but it manages to pack an awful lot of both humor and despair into half an hour, with a well-crafted universe full of small details fastidiously pieced together. As the same inane conversations and observations rattle past Myron endlessly, the audience feels a keen sense of the dreadful horrors of being trapped within just one hour for eternity.
1 ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (2014)
When the Earth is invaded by a race of aliens known as the Mimics, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) develops the ability to re-awaken at the start of his day whenever he is killed. With the alien threat seemingly impossible to defeat, Cage teams up with cynical soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) in the hopes of using his new power to win the war.
Edge of Tomorrow‘s story consciously evokes a video game; the protagonists get somewhere, get killed, learn from their mistakes, and get a little bit further before getting killed again. This set-up makes plenty of room for both action and comedy, imbuing the time loop plot with a potent sense of high-octane fun and adventure.
Watch on HBO Max
NEXT: The Best Time Travel Movies Ever Made, Ranked