A plot in which the character is caught in a time loop, doomed to repeat a period of time (often exactly one day) over and over, until something is corrected. Usually, only one character or group of characters realizes what's going on — everyone and everything else undergoes a complete Snap Back, and if not interfered with will do the exact same things every time, right down to dialogue.
Once the character realizes this, two things happen, usually in this order:
The character starts experimenting, then playing around with the people around them, confessing or acting on their feelings for another character, telling off their boss, getting themselves killed in interesting ways, and other things, in a form of Save Scumming.
The character finally gets down to the business of what's causing the loop, and finds out how to stop it, often using the information learned in all the previous iterations to make sure this one last loop goes perfectly.
A Groundhog Day Loop episode can often be identified by the presence of several odd little events that are given full camera focus, yet don't have any apparent significance or relation to anything else. These are, of course, the events that will later be replayed in exactly the same order to emphasize that the day is, in fact, repeating in every particular. (Almost invariably, the looping character will at some point demonstrate his or her "prescience" by offhandedly predicting these events one after another.)
Since this plot requires constantly revisiting handful of sets for the entire length of the episode(s), re-using some of the same footage over and over and generally no outside characters will act on the plot, this can be considered a form of Bottle Episode.
Though not the first example, this trope is named after the film Groundhog Day. Compare New Game Plus and End Game Plus for Video Games.
Groundhog Peggy Sue, a subtrope where the looping encompasses a substantial fraction of the character's life and the character may be able to skip over some of the intervening bits.
In Cardcaptor Sakura, the Time card keeps the same day repeating indefinitely, until it is defeated by Syaoran.
In D. Gray-Man, a town repeats October 28th over and over, until the main characters (not previously caught in the loop, which was a localized phenomenon caused by Innocence) find a way to fix it.
Note that only the people of that town are in the loop—time is passing as usual for the outside world, and people on the outside are wondering why the heck they keep getting the same phone call every day ordering the same things for the same business. Which is what initially drew the attention of the Black Order.
In the manga Tsubasa, the main characters find themselves trapped in the exact same day in the newest arc.
In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure part 4, the villain Yoshikage Kira gains an ability similar to this called "Another One Bites The Dust". Part 7 also has minor antagonist Ringo Roadagain, whose Stand creates six-second loops.
The Nue arc (episodes 8 & 9) of Mononoke has an interesting example.
Kimagure Orange Road had Kyosuke repeat Christmas three times, trying to get to the party with the "right" girl (without pissing off Madoka or crushing Hikaru's happiness). No-one else was aware of the repeats (though series Butt Monkey Yusaku gets wiped out in increasingly violent accidents each time). This came out in 1987, considerably predating most of the other examples.
In "Endless Eight", a short story from The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya, the SOS Brigade ends up repeating the same two weeks of August about 15,500 times, causing all but Haruhi to suffer bouts of déjà vu. Only Yuki retains conscious memory of the preceding cycles — 594 years of mind-numbing sameness (since no-one learns anything from the previous loops). This was only broken when Kyon asked Haruhi to help out with his long-postponed summer homework. The anime adaptation stretches this out across eight episodes. Now the viewer, too, can feel Yuki's pain.
In an early chapter of Nightmare Inspector, a woman seems to be suffering from a somewhat self-inflicted version of this: in her dreams, she writes "tomorrow will be exactly the same" on a piece of paper, and it is. She tries to stop the cycle and write something different in her dream, but the "something different" is "tomorrow I will stab someone to death". Freaking out, she goes to Hiruko... and it turns out he's been the one writing "every day is exactly the same" for her every time, and it's all part of the loop. The customer, as far as we see, never gets out.
At the beginning of the eleventh Pokémon movie, Dialga, the temporal Pokémon, traps Giratina in this so it can escape the Reverse World it was dragged into by Giratina. The time loop keeps Giratina from leaving the Reverse World because every time it tries using its own power, it gets warped back a short distance from the portal it created. The time loop is broken when Shaymin creates a portal Giratina can escape through.
The Tatami Galaxy is all about this kind of plot, but the episodes vary on how it plays out. In the first half of the series, each episode is the protagonist choosing to join a club, things going wrong, and it resetting at the end, and in each episode, it's a different club. Later, the protagonist chooses to reset the span of an evening, as he tries to choose the right romantic interest. Then, it gets weirder. Despite the various resets, there is ultimately continuity between the episodes, so it works as a Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.
Star Driver uses this to keep the maidens from leaving the island. Poor Mizuno finds out the hard way after 4 fruitless attempts to leave the island.
Naruto introduced a genjutsu used by the Uchiha clan: Izanami, an ability meant to punish others for misuse of Izanagi. The victim is caught in an endless loop of time they cannot escape until they finally learn to accept reality and to not try to escape it with Izanagi.
Midway through the final episode of Persona 4 The Animation Yu realizes that he's become trapped in one of these by the Big Bad. Actually, he remembers that he put himself in it on purpose as the result of a massiveHeroic BSOD brought on by the apparent death of his friends at the hands of the Big Bad.
It only had one loop, but this was episode 11 of Wedding Peach. Hinagiku's Saint Pendule (her magic wristwatch) sends her back in time one day in order to stop the Monster Of The Day, who was "stealing people's time". About 12 time-traveling Ass Pulls later, the monster is purified.
In the story "Death and Venice" in The Sandman: Endless Nights, a nobleman has intentionally created a loop which includes an entire island and all its inhabitants (including the nobleman himself), and has lasted for hundreds of years. This is ultimately broken by Death.
In the Donald Duck story "Again and Again..." (Donald Duck 336, 2006), Donald is forced to relive the same day over and over until he discovers what he did "wrong" on that day. The story spoofs elements of both Groundhog Day and The Hudsucker Proxy—with mouse-eared "Daddy Time" (i. e. Moses) being wise to the time loop, and a Phil-like character reliving a similar time loop in a movie on Donald's TV.
Time traveling hero Hourman was once trapped in one of these by one of his enemies. The loop was known as the Timepoint and was specifically designed as the ultimate prison. It forced Hourman and his friends to relive the same five minutes on the day John F. Kennedy was shot. Though they were aware of the time loop, no matter what they did, at the end of five minutes they would always end up standing on the same street corner.
The Best Night Ever revolves around Prince Blueblood being trapped on the day of the disastrous Grand Galloping Gala until he ensures that the bearers of the Elements of Harmony actually enjoy themselves at the event. At one point, he thinks he's pulled it off... but he has everything so rigidly planned and nailed down that nobody, not even him, has any real fun. When the loop starts again after that one, he goes out to the garden and considers freeing Discord.
Also happens in The Sweetie Chronicles: Fragments, when Sweetie Belle lands in the aforementioned setting and gets caught up in the loops. Rather heartwarming, as Blueblood is happy to have some companionship who doesn't forget everything each morning, and he puts his plans on hold just to help her. And rather heartbreaking when she eventually moves on, and he realizes that the original Sweetie Belle remembrs nothing.
Hard Reset involves Twilight attempting to thwart a changeling invasion, only to get warped back to the same point in time whenever she dies. Which she does. Repeatedly. She eventually succeeds after having experienced hundreds of loops over the course of a month or so, and having become a battle-hardened warrior and a changeling's worst nightmare.
In the Pony POV Series, the final confrontation with Dark World!Discord strongly suggests that he's somehow stuck in one that repeatedly ends with the Elements of Harmony defeating him.
The trope-naming Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day is the most commonly known version of this trope. One thing not noticed by most people is just how long the time loop goes on for — Phil (Murray) has time to memorize every book in town, learn the complete backstory of every person in town, learn to speak French, become an accomplished pianist and sculptor, and go from being a self-centered ass to universally beloved... all this with only 24-hour increments to work with before everything resets to square one again. An early version of the script suggested that the loop runs for something on the order of several millennia, but in a DVD special feature the director states it's closer to ten years.
The Italian sci-fi movie Nirvana revolves around Solo, the character of a video game which goes through the same events again and again each time he dies. His creator Jimi eventually puts him out of his misery by hacking and deleting the whole game.
The movie Boris & Natasha, a live-action Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, has a device which prevents accidents by reversing time by a few seconds any time it is destroyed. This allows sequences in the movie to be repeated until things change. The film ends with several hundred being activated at once. As Natasha notes, "Boris, ve haf been blown back to beginink of movie!"
12:01 is a made-for-cable movie on the subject from 1993. It is based on a 1990 short film, "12:01pm" and a 1973 science fiction short story by Richard A. Lupoff. The hero is given an electric shock at exactly 12:01, just as a nuclear device comes on line that causes time to loop. He's the only one who realizes this, and when he's not being killed each day, he tries to figure a way to prevent the nuclear device from going on-line. The short film is much darker, and ends with the hero realizing that nothing can stop the loop, and even death is no escape.
The film A Chinese Odyssey has a sequence where a bandit discovers the magic words of the Monkey King which allow him to travel a short distance backwards in time. He uses them to go back and try to avert the multiple tragedies that have befallen himself and his friends. He winds up having to make multiple trips and run around like mad to keep everyone alive.
Lola rennt (a.k.a. Run Lola Run): the eponymous Lola runs through a madcap twenty minutes, attempting to get 100,000 marks to her boyfriend before the mob kills him. Depending on whether her start is fractionally delayed or fractionally faster the results vary wildly; she gets it right on the third try.
An American independent film, And Then Came Lola, takes the Groundhog Day Loop concept and toys with the For Want of a Nail aspect. In this one, Lola has to rush a folder of photos to her girlfriend, Casey, to secure Casey's promotion; unfortunately, the photos are being developed by Lola's ex, and Casey is wining and dining with an old flame in the meantime.
The Nickelodeon film The Last Day of Summer has a plot like this. The main character, scared of his first year of middle school, wishes it could be summer forever. He then ends up repeating the last day of summer over and over again. Each reset is actually set off by him getting hit in the head and losing consciousness. Memorizing the day doesn't do him any good, as something else hits him, culminating in him avoiding everything possible, only to be struck by a meteor.
It's implied at the end of Hellraiser Inferno that this happens to Joseph, forced to relive the same sequence of events forever.
This is often done with Christmas stories:
The Family Channel's Christmas Every Day (in fact, one of the characters even mentions how his situation is similar to Groundhog Day).
12 Days of Christmas Eve, starring Steven Weber and Molly Shannon.
Christmas Do-Over, also on ABC Family.
ABC Family loves this - 12 Dates of Christmas combines the idea with both a Christmas movie and a Chick Flick.
Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas (in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas) featured Huey, Dewey, and Louie stuck in a wished-for time loop.
The brit underdog Triangle features a variation with overlapping loops-within-loops, complete with disturbing reminders to the protagonist that she has been doing — and causing — this way more times than she is aware of.
Open Graves is a film about a group of friends who obtain a cursed board game in which that if you lose in the game, you die in the fashion determined by the card you drew, whilst the victors are entitled to one wish. The game's sole victor at the end wishes that he could go back in time a week before this all happened, and he is sent back — but the irony is that he has no memory of what happened, so he and his friends are forever doomed to be stuck in that passage of time.
In the movie version of 1408, the evil room tortures its victims for an hour. If at the end of that hour they still haven't killed themselves, it begins all over again. "You can choose to repeat this hour over and over again, or you can take advantage of our express checkout system".
In Camp Daze, modern day protagonists find themselves stuck in a summer camp straight from 80's which itself is stuck repeating the same day when a mysterious killer murdered everyone over and over again.
Repeaters is about three recovering addicts whose Groundhog Day Loop happens to occur on the day that they're given a day pass out of rehab to do the "make amends" step.
In High Spirits, a comedy by NeilJordan, two ghosts, Mary Plunkett and Martin Brogan (played by Daryl Hannah and Liam Neeson), suffer through this: Martin repeatedly killing his wife, Mary, because he believes her to have cheated on him because she doesn't love him and thus, doesn't show any affection towards her. Making it even worse is the fact that she didn't cheat on him when she was alive.
Source Code has an eight-minute-long loop. Actually, it's simulations of the last eight minutes of a dead person's life, repeated as necessary until the person experiencing them manages to complete his mission to find certain information. Actually, that's what the creators of the system believe, but it's really an Alternate Universe.
In Ken Grimwood's novel Replay, the protagonist lives large chunks of his life repeatedly (as do a couple of other characters), waking after dying to find himself back in his college days. However, with each subsequent cycle of death and reawakening, the cycle gets shorter as he wakes up at a later points in his original lifetime.
In The Dark Tower, the entire plot of all seven novels (excepting a few Flash Back's) is revealed at the very end to be a cycle. How long the cycle has been repeating, and how long it will continue, is left to the reader's imagination.
It's implied that he has to keep repeating until he gets it right. In order to get to the Tower he killed and sacrificed a lot of people that didn't need to be killed/sacrificed, he let a lot of his friends die because he had a choice between saving them and getting that much closer to the Tower, given the choice he evidently always chose the latter but in the reset at the end, he has a horn that was lost along with his best friend back when he was a kid, suggesting that he did something right that time.
Two books in the Help! I'm Trapped in _____'s Body! series had the character repeating either the first day of school or of summer camp, until he stopped acting like a jerk.
Well, the first one did. The 2nd is more or less a Deconstruction of this trope, and it turns out that the reason he was going through this was...because he didn't brush his teeth.
There was even a Sweet Valley Twins book on this (weird as it sounds) where the more selfish of the two twins is forced to relive Christmas Eve day until she figures out it's, well... because she's selfish. Aesop ahoy!
The book All You Need Is Kill is a military-themed version of this. A man is stuck endlessly repeating his first day in combat, going from a green rookie to a seasoned fighter in half a year of constant repetition. Inspired directly by the concept of Save Scumming in real life.
The world of The Wheel of Time is in a Groundhog eternity loop. There are seven Ages, with the first always following the seventh. By the time an Age comes again, even the faintest legend of its previous existence has been forgotten. One of the ages is ours.
Chapter Nine of The Hole in the Zero by M.K. Joseph (a book which plays with and deconstructs SF and fantasy tropes throughout).
Richard A. Lupoff's story "12:01 PM" is an early (possibly the earliest?) use of this trope. A man experiences time endlessly resetting from 1:00 PM to 12:01, while everyone else is oblivious. At the end of the story he frantically rushes to meet a scientist with whom he can discuss the phenomenon before 1:00 arrives, but suffers a heart attack and dies. And then it's 12:01 and he's alive again.
The makers of a short film adaptation attempted to sue the makers of Groundhog Day but were forced to drop the case.
Lauren Oliver's first novel Before I Fall is about a teenage girl who repeats February 12th - The day of her death.
In one of Stainless Steel Rat series of books, the time traveling villain called He initially attacks the secret agency that forced stainless steel rat to work for them by wiping it out of existence. Stainless steel rat manages to foil He (the villain) at 3 different eras. At the last fight, he (Rat) randomizes time settings on the time machine as He (the villain) was about to start time travel. The loop starts again as he went to wrong era, and spent long time building again. He (the villain) was only vaguely remembering the secret agency as a threat when ready...
The Doctor WhoPast Doctor Adventures novel Festival of Death features a race with this as their hat; after they die, they loop around back to the start and remember exactly how they screwed up. Because everybody has it, they're not limited to fixing the errors of a single day, or a single lifetime: they can adjust the course of their entire history. (If fixing a screw-up requires action more than one lifetime ago, a message can be passed back by a newborn child telling an adult, who waits to be reborn then passes the message on in the same way.) Fortunately for everyone else they're not interested in using their abilities to conquer other planets, or anything petty like that; the messages that have been passed back from the end of their history have given them something far more important to worry about.
In Sakyo Komatsu short story a businessman who is going bankrupt tomorrow make a Deal with the Devil and asks the Devil "to do something with tomorrow". Guess what happened to businessman.
In Tears of a Dragon, the final book of Bryan Davis’ Dragons In Our Midst series, the protagonists visit an alternate dimension where all the former dragons are trapped in a time loop of a single day with no memories outside their present experience of that single day. They eat the same food, go to the same town meeting, go on the same dates—by the time of the story, they have been doing this for years on end without realizing it. Since they are the only ones who realize what is happening, it is the main characters’ goal to rescue the inhabitants of the somewhat misnamed “Dragons’ Rest".
In the Time Machine gamebook series, there exist "rules of time travel"; supposedly, if you break them you're in danger of being caught in a time loop. You get the opportunity to break such a rule in one of the books, and all it does is to send you back to page one. Also note that since bad choices make you re-read pages you've read already, the protagonist technically falls into a few short loops (with two or three iterations, tops) on his every adventure. (Since some of them involve arduous weeks- or even months-long trips, it's probably not pleasant...)
In Alex Scarrow's Time Riders, the station from which the heroes monitor time is a railway arch under the Williamsburg Bridge, New York, on a GDL of the 10th and 11th of September, 2001. This was done intentionally; In the wake of 9-11, no-one would pay them any mind, or at least, would forget about them completely. Thus, the heroes' presence would never contaminate the future in any significant way. Until they decide to go rogue in City of Shadows.
Live Action TV
This is the premise for the series Tru Calling: recently-deceased people being processed by Tru (a coroner's assistant) suddenly animate and ask for her help. Tru's day immediately resets to the point where she awoke that morning and she relives the day so she can fix something for the dead person (usually, but not always, preventing their death.) In a few episodes it was shown that if Tru fixes things "wrong" she will continue to relive the day until she gets it right.
There is also an inversion of the normal Groundhog Day Loop in Tru's nemesis Jack, who's "calling" is to relive the same days that Tru does, but ensure that things play out as fated — the same way they did the first time.
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect", in which the ship keeps exploding but also sends the crew back in time a few hours until they figure out how to prevent it. This happened a couple of years before the Groundhog Day movie was created.
It's worth noting that this is different from the typical in that the loop was only internal. In other words, the universe around the Enterprise and the Bozeman kept moving while they looped (The D was stuck for 17 and a half days, the Bozeman dated from when they had those funky uniform jackets...).
Also, none of the characters retained full memory from loop to loop. It was only over time that various members of the crew started to feel like the day was a little too familiar. One wonders why the Bozeman didn't notice this first since they were stuck for a lot longer.
The Expanded Universe says that the Bozeman crew's loop was actually shorter, since for them it only reset to the moment they popped out of the time rift (having skipped directly over several decades). They experienced the same number of loops, but each loop was a few minutes long, not nearly a day.
It's entirely possible the Bozeman did notice - like the Enterprise crew, they'd have forgotten at the beginning of each loop, but unlike the Enterprise crew, they didn't have an android on board to actually do something about it.
Also, "Time Squared". "There is the theory of the Moebius, a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop..."
The X-Files episode "Monday" came years after this and echoes the plot structure completely, right down to the characters' déjà vu and the explosion before every commercial break. Mulder and Scully keep trying to foil a bank robbery, but the robber has explosives strapped to his body and always ends up killing them all. The only person who can see the loop is the robber's girlfriend, whose repeated efforts to stop events always fail. Eventually she gets killed as well, and it turns out her death is what breaks the cycle.
The X-Files partly subverted the standard format of this trope by having the characters act slightly differently in each repetition. This was said to be due to quantum uncertainty.
The Charmed episode "Déjà Vu All Over Again" where a demon repeats the plan of attack every day until it is perfected so he can finally kill the sisters. One of the sisters has the power of premonition which somehow allows her to have some recollection of what happened/will happen which gets stronger with each additional loop. Unfortunately, they fail to stop Andy Trudeau's death.
The same premise but without time travel occurs in "I Only Have Eyes For You". The ghosts of two lovers who died in a Murder Suicide force others to reenact the same fatal events; the loop is broken when one inhabits Angel, who can't be killed by the gunshot and so survives to grant forgiveness and enable the ghosts to move on.
Angel episode "Time Bomb" stuck Illyria in a chaotic version (time is repeating but not in a fixed sequence). Each time it ends with her exploding. Unusually, Illyria is not the perspective character, and we see only a few bits and pieces of loop.
Lindsey and later Gunn are held in a prison dimension in the form of a Stepford Suburbia; every day they get tortured and have their heart cut out by a demon in the Creepy Basement — the injuries repair themselves, their memories of the torture disappear and the next day it all begins again.
Only O'Neill and Teal'c remember the events of previous loops — every 10 hours — and have to learn Latin in order to figure out how to stop the loops. In a slight variation it turns out the device causing this affects 14 worlds at once. Due to time running normally everywhere else the rest of the galaxy was out of sync for the duration of the time loops. When a character wonders how long they had been stuck in the loops it is mentioned that one of Earth's off-world allies had been trying to contact the SGC for "three months" — they don't try to communicate all that often so who knows how long the loop was going on before they called the first time.
Also, when Daniel casually points out that O'Neill and Teal'c can pretty much do anything they want without fear of consequences, Hilarity Ensues. Especially since they're trying to stave off going crazy from going through the loops. For years, this was voted SG-1's best episode. Ever.
[Scene: O'Neill is standing in the Gate Room hitting golfballs through the Stargate, presumably with the intention of breaking the world's longest shot record. Suddenly;] Hammond: Colonel O'Neill, what the hell are you doing?! O'Neill:[pauses, turns around] Right in the middle of my backswing?!
When the episode was originally mooted, apparently one of the writers worried that they would be seen as ripping off "Cause and Effect" (see above), to which another retorted "we're not, we're ripping off Groundhog Day."
Also used (although much less humorously) in the episode "Gamekeeper", where Daniel and Jack (the others were immune because they had naquada in their blood and the writers couldn't think up an appropriately angsty backstory for them... yet) had to repeat a specific day/moment of their lives over and over. For Jack it was a particular battle gone wrong, for Daniel it was his parents' deaths. When it's revealed that they are basically being used as entertainment for a bunch of bored aliens, Daniel and Jack independently choose not to participate as they realize they can't actually change things.
Farscape episode "Back and Back and Back to the Future".
The episode ''Thank God It's Friday...Again" features a variation in which the characters aren't actually repeating the same day, but they are drugged into constantly believing that the current day is the end of the workweek and they get a day off tomorrow...except that day off never comes.
Xena: Warrior Princess - Season 3 Episode 2, called "Been There, Done That", where the male half of two Star-Crossed Lovers— classic Romeo and Juliet complete with rival houses — makes a deal with Cupid to have the day repeat itself until he finds a way to keep his lover from killing herself and their families from killing each other; until a 'Hero would come along to save [the girl], make peace between the houses and end the loop.'
Xena —resident hero — is the only other person who realizes they are repeating the day and it nearly drives her crazy before she figures out how to end it. Largely a Comedy episode with MAJOR Angst thrown in.
Gabrielle: We've repeated the day that many times. Xena:(visibly frustrated) Yes. Gabrielle: Then I d— Xena:(looking from Gabrielle to Joxer and back) No, no, yes, no, I tried that, yes both ways, no, I don't know, no again. Are there any more questions? Good.
Punch line? Eventually ends with Xena sorting out all of the local problems —with the use of her trusty chakram— just in nick of time, having spent several loops calculating the exact way to do so.
Give My Head Peace also has such an episode. Uncle Andy has a drunken 11th Night and wakes up on the 12th only to find that a precious Orange Banner depicting the Battle of the Boyne has been destroyed, presumably by the thuggish Scottish bandsmen who drunkenly slept the night off in his house.
Taye Diggs starred in a very short-lived ABC series in 2006 called Day Break centered around this trope — he's repeatedly framed for the murder of a lawyer, and of course his girlfriend gets caught up in it. His injuries carry over from one repeat to the next.
Also, "psychological breakthroughs" were also apparently carried across. I.e., if someone had made an exceptional hard choice or had an epiphany, they would actually alter their behavior the next loop, and all subsequent loops, with no outside interference. This mostly keeps the protagonist from having to solve everyone's problems every day, but sometimes ends up making things worse for him when someone doesn't do something he expects.
The fourth episode featured an 8-hour time loop caused by Dr. Ballard messing with the device somehow. Frank went back over the events several times, finally calling Dr. Ballard just before the reset point and telling him NOT to do the fix they had discussed, because Olga had just been killed and he wanted to do it again and save her.
The episode Déjà Vu All Over Again mixed this with Cuckoo Nest, as Frank was repeatedly sent back to the same series of events by another version of himself until he could save one of his friends without innocents dying in the process. Once again, the episode is a blatant Run Lola Run reference (if not rip-off), and a minor character of a psychologist is revealed in the credits to have the name: Dr. Lola Manson.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman features a somewhat darker version, in which Mr. Mxyzptlk creates a time loop in which things get a bit worse each time, to eventually result in The End of the World as We Know It. World War III is looming by the time Lois and Clark fix things. And this is the Christmas episode, no less...
Strange Days At Blake Holsey High, aka Black Hole High, used this one with the twist that time will actively oppose any attempts to change the loop: if you decide to avoid bumping into someone by taking a different route, the other person will change their route to counteract this.
In the Supernatural episode "Mystery Spot", Sam replays the Tuesday Dean dies over and over… and the Snap Back trigger is Dean's death. When Sam tries to explain, Dean responds, "like Groundhog Day." Every. Single. Time. It's entirely likely the loop repeated roughly several thousand times: when asked, Sam says that he lost count after "about a hundred and fifteen". And, as we see in the Death Montage, Dean's deaths become exponentially more comical. Sam's efforts to save Dean reach a sheer paranoia and desperation that causes him to accidentally kill Dean himself… at least once. And kill Dean indirectly many more times.
The kicker? The Trickster is "preparing" Sam for Dean's untimely death by season finale so he doesn't go off the rails. The Trickster's goal - to teach Sam that "You Winchester boys are so eager to die for each other — and the thing is, the bad guys know it too." - was thoroughly ignored and sidestepped by Sam, who instead learned just how much his life without Dean would suck.
The second – or non-death – montage shows him becoming a death-seeking recluse, hunting anything in his path, slipping where morals are concerned, and generally appearing to have crossed a horizon. And as far as the real goal of the fiasco, Sam is more angsty and desperate to find a loophole. And when Dean finally returns from Hell one of the first things Sam says is that he tried to save Dean, even to make deals with demons, but no one would deal.
The Control Voice's opening and closing narration for this episode were identical.
An episode of EUReKA featured the main character Carter repeating the wedding day of Allison to Jerkass Stark. The day is eventually saved after a Heroic Sacrifice from Stark himself)
Unusually, time was very much not on Jack's side in this episode. The time loop was unstable and every time it happened Jack arrived in the past with worse and worse physical injuries caused by the backlash. It's a good thing he got down to business right away, because it only even went on for five loops or so but by the last he was arriving in the past with broken ribs and the scientists who had some idea what was going on predicted the universe would probably end if it looped one more time.
Not surprisingly, Doctor Who has played with this as well. In an early 1980s serial, The Doctor and Romana are caught in a time loop (called a chronic hysteresis) that repeats after only a couple of minutes. Being Time Lords, they fix the loop within 10 minutes and then get on with the rest of that adventure.
The Doctor has used a Groundhog Day Loop to his benefit, too. In order to prevent a war monger from launching his atomic bombs against an enemy planet, the Doctor uses the Key to Time to create a temporary time loop, buying him enough time to solve the crisis at hand.
The episode "Carnival of Monsters" featured a version of this. A ship bound for India was taken, shrunk down, and put in a minature People Zoo. The memories of the passengers and crew are then altered to reset after ten minutes so they don't realize that they are never reaching their destination. Unfortunately the Doctor and Jo Grant are not part of the original loop, leading to them being "discovered" and arrested repeatedly as stowaways.
Often employed in the series as a weapon (to trap people, ships and sometimes entire planets) as opposed to the effect being a naturally occurring phenomenon that characters stumble into.
Another instance of a loop is in "The Big Bang". River is stuck in a loop to prevent her from dying in the exploding TARDIS. It's a relatively short loop, around 10 seconds long if that.
An episode of the Weird Science TV show combined this with the "remote control that controls the world" trope later made famous by the movie Click.
In the Power Rangers Zeo episode "A Brief Mystery of Time", Prince Gasket traps the people of Earth in one of these so as to set up an attack to seize the world in one swift stroke that the Power Rangers would be unable to counter. Unfortunately for Gasket, his earlier tampering with Tommy's brain allowed Tommy to notice the loop and Zordon was able to track down the device causing it once made aware.
Used in Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue episode "Yesterday Again", in which Carter accidentally loops to prevent the other four Rangers from dying when Olympius nabs their BFG.
Although in this case he actually traveled back in time; how he did so is never revealed.
In Torchwood, it mentions that Jack Harkness and John Hart were stuck in a two week time loop together for 5 years.
An episode of The Suite Life On Deck had Cody trying to impress Bailey at the school dance yet failing, and suddenly getting stuck in a time loop because of lightning striking the ship as it crossed the International Dateline. The loop is solved when Cody manages to slow down the ship's speed.
One episode of The Twilight Zone is about a man who has the same dream every night, about being convicted for a heinous murder and being executed for it. The difference here is that it's told from the perspective of the other characters. They eventually grow to realize that if the man is put to death, he'll wake up and they will cease to exist. They do it anyway.
So it's decided then. We should try and explain the trope as it applies to this show before some smart ass turns this example into a circular joke.
Also used in one of the tie-in books, a themed diary. Kryten suggested quite early on that Lister write himself an explanatory note not to touch the equipment causing the loop again, but failed to remember that Lister's handwriting was so bad that he had to go up and touch it just to see what it said.
"So, what is it?"
"We've never seen anything like it, no one has. It's a white hole."
LOST has Desmond, whose consciousness has been sent back and forward through time. He essentially relives parts of his entire life, implying that he can predict what will happen. The tragedy is that any drastic changes he tries to make, such as saving Charlie's life, are smoothed out or "course-corrected" by time.
In the Fringe episode "White Tulip", the Fringe team has to start a case over three times as the mad scientist trying to save his wife goes back in time multiple times. None of them realize it, but it does make for quite the Tear Jerker at the end of the episode.
In the frankly slightly odd British show Hounded, as soon as the hero stops the evil Dr. Mu's (short for Muhahahaha) plan Mu (literally) hits a reset button, resetting things back to the start of the day. As it turns out this is a trend which will happen every episode.
Being Erica Season 3 has this where Erica has to relive the same day over and over after Kai comes back from the future to tell her that he tried to find her in 9 years time and couldn't. Also that there will be a terrible disaster in a few years time in that area. Erica then spends her day panicking that she only has a few years left to live. Dr Tom decides to make her relive this day over and over to teach her to value the here and now.
The Dead Zone TV series, by way of Self-Defeating Prophecy. Smith keeps seeing visions of future disasters until his plan to make them go properly is destined to succeed. He sometimes experiences this as "if this ends badly, it's a vision. If it doesn't, it's real." In particular, the episode Deja Voodoo is structured entirely as a Groundhog Day Loop.
In the Haven episode "Audrey Parker's Day off", Audrey has to relive the same day over and over. She could notice the loop because she is immune to the Troubles. Significantly, her injuries transfer between loops so by day 5 she is injured and extremely tired. She also apparently does not get much sleep between loops. Fortunately since this is Haven, Nathan believes her when she says she's reliving the day, and they learn a little more with each loop.
Nathan: You're stuck in my second favorite Bill Murray movie.
They eventually realize the first time around, the daughter of a man with OCD was killed in a hit-and-run. His OCD combined with his "Trouble" made the day restart, with a new person always dying. The man was unaware of the loop until Audrey convinced him. Eventually they save the daughter and he sacrifices himself to end it.
The Ross Kemp vehicle A Christmas Carol, a Setting Update of the book, added a Groundhog Day Loop; after each visitation Eddie Scrooge would wake up and it was still Christmas morning. After the first spirit, he was extra nasty just to prove it hadn't had any effect; after the second one he wanted to look like he'd changed, so gave people extravagant presents without finding out what they needed; and after the third one he finally got it right.
Kamen Rider Double has a unique twist with the Yesterday Dopant, which can make people do whatever they did exactly 24 hours ago regardless of other factors. We first see it being used to make a man jump off a building, since yesterday he dived into a swimming pool.
On the 100th episode of Smallville, Clark finally reveals his secret to Lana Lang...which indirectly gets her killed by the end of the day. In his grief, Clark begs the AI version of his natural father Jor-El to undo this day. Jor-El complies, but warns this can only be done once. Clark relives the day, only this time chooses not to tell Lana. Otherwise, the day continues much as it did before (Clark even gets to do the whole "predicting what's going to happen next" thing with Chloe), but at the end of the day, it's Clark's adoptive father, Jonathan who dies instead. This deathsticks.
In the Pixelface episode "Reset", Claireparker causes this by using a literal Reset Button in an attempt to create 'the perfect day'.
The entire first season of The Aquabats Super Showis designed like this. At the end of Episode 13, "Showtime!", Space Monster M flings the Battletram with the Aquabats inside it to space, on a course to the moon. The first cartoon segment of the show also began with the Aquabats helplessly drifting through space. It comes full circle when the Bat Commander watches the cartoon segment of "Showtime!" in which the Aquabats are sent back to the events of the very first episode. Here's to hoping season two fixes this loop.
One for the Vine by Genesis has a Moebius-strip structure: it starts with a primitive mountain tribe preparing for battle under a charismatic leader. One of the many who don't believe in this leader deserts, loses his way, and ends up amongst a similar tribe, who hail him as their new warlord... The song (but not the story) ends with him seeing a deserter in the distance suddenly vanish.
The music video for Craig David's "Seven Days" uses a standard version until the final loop-After finally getting the day right, he spills a drink on his date. Rather than go through another loop, he breaks the fourth wall and rewinds the video about 30 seconds and just picks up from there.
The vocaloid song "Heat Haze Days" uses this trope as the story. It seems that the two children really are left to repeat the loop forever, implied by the girl's last line, "I've failed again." According to the Kagerou Project, the loop is eventually broken - but the girl dies.
Myth & Legend
According to some esoteric teachings (refer to A New Model of the Universe by Peter Ouspensky), this is what the Reincarnation and the Eternal Recurrence are actually all about: when you die, you are not reborn in some other body, you are reborn in your own at the moment of your own birth, destined to relive your own life in an endless cycle. This is also the purported explanation of the deja vu.
The BBC radio play Time After Time features a man with amnesia who keeps reliving the same moments in a strange hotel and tries to escape. The reliving always begins with him hearing the eponymous Frank Sinatra song on a radio. It is revealed at the end that he is in fact dying and it was all his mind processing his final moments.
One episode of Adventures in Odyssey featured Liz wishing as she was going to bed that it could be her birthday every day. When she wakes up the next morning, she finds that her wish has come true. She spends the next half of a week living out a nearly-identical version of the same day over and over, with perfect memories of each reoccurring day, growing more and more frustrated with each repetition. It turns out in the end that she was in the Room of Consequences all along, and the time loop was a setup designed by Eugene to warn her to Be Careful What You Wish For—especially hard-hitting because Liz was one of the show’s more mouthy characters.
Any video game that has a save feature can be considered a manually-activated Groundhog Day Loop from the character's point of view, as they must repeat the same actions over and over until successful. This is also true when the game provides more than one "life" or "continues": when the character dies, they simply return to an earlier point in time, and must do things right to move on out of the loop. See also Save Scumming for aggressive application of this trope.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask involves repeating the same 3 days over and over, solving puzzles by use of the daily schedules of the NPCs. Strangely, once you actually beat the game, everything you've done seems to have happened (everyone's problems are permanently fixed) despite it usually not being the case — there's not enough time to do everything in the game in a single pass, and there's no duplicate Links running around, so one would assume events from the last cycle would be the only ones to persist. The opposite of No Ontological Inertia is at work.
Other than keeping the lady at the bomb shop from being mugged - due to contradicting with one other, more important sidequest - it is possible to help everyone in one cycle. It essentially requires using the Inverted Song of Time and having already beaten all of the dungeons, though.
Agreed. Clock Town: start Anju's major sidequest. First temple: Rescue Koume (or Kotake, whichever it was), clear the skulltula house, clear the temple and return the princess. Second temple: just clear the temple; literally everything is a result of the magic winter. The ranch: age the cuccos, fight off the ghosts (probably still too early for that even), and escort the milk shipment (definitely too early). Third temple region: get the eggs and hatch them, clear the skulltula house, clear temple. Yeah, you'd miss Mikau playing with them, but... it's... not really Mikau anyway. Taking a dead guy's place is just weird. Fourth temple region: Do some graveyard stuff, remove the curse on the little girl's father and chase off the monsters, clear the temple. Finish up the marriage sidequest, playing the mock-up concert at the bar and getting the dungeon fairies in between the timed events. Go outside Clock Town at some point and send the dancer's spirit off to his final rest. Once you're done that, any problem that the Termini had, that was ACTUALLY a problem, is solved. (Other than the mugging, of course.) Now go punch out the moon and be a hero.
There's actually a Self-Imposed Challenge called the "3 day challenge" floating around the Internet that states "You can only play the Song Of Time once", thus kinda/sorta negating the whole Groundhog Day thing. Doing all 4 temples in one loop is very tough and forces you to skip almost all the sidequests.
One quest in Dragon Quest VII sends the heroes to a town that is stuck in an infinite time loop. The heroes themselves are not affected, and have to find the source of the curse. This is also a surprisingly effective justification for Broken Bridge — the bridge will be fixed tomorrow, but tomorrow won't happen until you fix this.
The main story of Grim Grimoire is also based on this trope. The same five days are repeated several times throughout the story, but only Cute Witch Lillet Blan seems to notice (and also seems to be the only one powerful enough to stop it.) And then you find out that the loop has been going on much longer than you think...
The main story of Ephemeral Fantasia. The hero is initially the only one known to be unaffected, but he gradually frees others (who become playable) from the cycle by changing the way events play out.
Rematch, a TADS text adventure, is based around this idea — the aim of the game is to find the one single command that will prevent you from being killed and break the time loop. (Just be warned, it's a multipart command and some of it is randomized, so you will have to die many times before you can win.)
There are many IF games like this: Moebius and All Things Devours are two more. In some cases, they go on about "top secret devices" so the fact that you're facing a time loop puzzle is not immediately obvious.
It's implied that Siren takes place in one of these, and the gameplay also bears this out — you can only fully complete a stage in at least two playthroughs, and a sequence of stages from the start, to one of the endpoints is referred to as a "loop" by the game. In the true ending, the loop is seemingly broken and events resolved.
Shadow Of Destiny. The whole premise is that the main character is trying to change history so that he doesn't die; being killed results in living through the events prior to his death again until he gets it right and survives. Amusingly, in one part of the game it's possible to go through the same conversation for a third time, which results in the main character pre-empting what he knows the NPC he's talking with is about to say.
Though not an exact example, in Episode III of Xenosaga, Wilhelm's plan is revealed to involve preventing the impending collapse of the universe by enacting Eternal Recurrence, which would reset everything in the Lower Domain all the way back to the beginning of time, then repeating the process over and over. It's implied that not everything plays out in exactly the same way each time, since the post-game Database updates say that Wilhelm has successfully enacted Eternal Recurrence before, whereas in the game proper, Shion and co. reject his plan and stop him, electing to find a better way.
The Game Boy Advance game Astro Boy: Omega Factor invokes this when, during your first completion of the main story, you fail to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, and wind up dead. However, the time-transcending creature known as Phoenix (no, not that Phoenix) saves you, putting you back to the beginning of the game, and giving you the ability to jump freely through time to the various stages (once you've beaten them a second time, mind.) Not everything is exactly the same, however, because the Big Bad is also time-traveling and attempting to sabotage your efforts. Your purpose is to reshape events so that the final doom does not occur. Of course, your foreknowledge leads to a number of amusing incidents when you recognize characters who haven't met you yet, or simply preempt what they're about to say.
In Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the war has been going on for a long time now. Every time the war reaches its end, Shinryu, who represents the other Gods who are spectators to the whole cycle,resets everything to the way it use to be, setting the stage for the war to begin again. The game is a bit vague on the specifics of how the loop actually works, but in general that's how it goes. Most of the villains have figured out the loop and are banking on trying to end it with their victory this time around. The heroes have no clue and just fight on hoping that if they beat Chaos the war will end and they can go home. Eventually the loop is broken and the heroes get to return home with the knowledge they broke the cycle. Or do they?
Word Of God says that the next cycle will be the last. No, really, there's a conversation between Cid and Shinryu that says after the next war, Shinryu will end the cycle.
On that note, the time loop in Final Fantasy I might be this, maybe. Garland certainly seems to anticipate killing the Light Warriors over, and over, and over again, so maybe it's just a conscious loop for him and the LW.
As best as anyone can figure: The 4 Fiends start to destroy the world, causing the light warriors to start adventuring. The light warriors kill Garland as an early part of their adventure. The 4 Fiends send the near-death Garland back in time. Garland, back in the Temple of Chaos (past), becomes Chaos. The light warriors go back in time after defeating the 4 fiends, and die to Chaos. Chaos sends the 4 Fiends forward in time to destroy the world. The 4 Fiends start to destroy the world, causing the light warriors to start adventuring. Loop repeats. During one of the cycles, the light warriors become strong enough to defeat Chaos, bringing an end to the cycle. If Garland kills them in the present or the Light Warriors kill Chaos in the past, the loop breaks. Only Garland appears to know this is the case. When the loop is broken, it erases itself, and no one remembers it.
In Suikoden Tierkreis, the Order of the One True Way can not only predict the future, but promises eternal universal happiness in the One True Way. What is this One True Way? Each individual's favorite day repeated eternally.
A mission in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion has a bunch of ghost who failed to defend their castle due to various personal flaws or issues be condemned by Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, to re-live the battle that destroyed the castle, 24/7, until they could get it right and successfully repel the invaders. However, the twist is that they are unable to make the necessary changes, thus they have to "act" their parts, knowing all too well how it'll end, while being aware of the constant loop. The player has to go around the castle and do whatever he can to break the cycle by finding the cause of each character's failure (usually an item the character needs or that should be destroyed). The mage ran out of mana, so you have to make sure he gets a dagger that will let him replenish it, or a Varla Stone. One knight was too worried about his lover (actually a doll), so you have to either plant the doll on one of the invaders or destroy it to inspire him to fight out of valor or revenge (simply giving him the doll causes him to retreat to put it somewhere safe.) . The archer ran out of arrows because the Quartermaster is a greedy bastard who was stringy on equipments, so you need to get arrows from him and give them to the archer. You then have to take the place of the Castle's count, who was too cowardly to join the battle himself, so that the last invader can be slain and the cycle can be broken.
The Gregory Horror Show is set within a hotel in a kind of Limbo. Although it is not the SAME day repeating the crux of the game revolves around learning and plotting out the inhabitants daily routines, after such an extended time they all do the same things at the same time every day and as you piss each of them off over time it becomes essential to know that if you leave a room you won't walk into psychos like nurse Catherine.
Flower, Sun and Rain involves one of these... however, the way the day plays out each time is so different that the main character initially doesn't realize it, and writes off the one repeating element as a bad dream. Though it ultimately turns out this isn't what's happening. It's something entirely different that superficially looks like this.
World of Warcraft has one of these for the last boss of End Time. Nozdormu gives you an hourglass to help you defeat Murozond, the final boss. This can be used up to 5 times; each use ultimately resetting the encounter, including use of skill cooldowns and player deaths.
In BlazBlue, it's revealed that all of the multiple endings are canon due to a time loop, with each "ending" being one iteration of the loop. The cycle is eventually broken in the game's True End.
Similarly, in Eternal Poison, all five character storylines are revealed to be canon upon unlocking Duphaston's tale, the order in which the several iterations took place somewhat tangible with a bit of thinking. The time loop is also broken in Duphaston's story with the completed Librum Aurora, the death of Lenarshe, and the revival of Izel. The true ending culminates in a final battle between the five main leads and Izel.
Marathon: Infinity has the potential for getting stuck in a loop. The game is non-linear: Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, Time Travel, and monsters are involved, and thanks to their influence, the protagonist finds himself frequently being shipped off to different points in the story (and, sometimes, different realities) based on how he completes any given level. Cycles are one possible outcome: you can find yourself running through the same series of levels over and over again, trying to figure out what you have to do differently to get out. (Note that this is only the one most reasonable and most commonly accepted theory out of the many, many possible interpretations of just what the hell is going on in that game.)
In Cross Channel, the game starts with a week where you briefly meet all the cast and the radio is completed, ending with a plea to any other survivors. Then the 'first' week starts, then the second. The third time, Taichi figures out what's going on and plays with the situation a little and manages to reconcile with Kiri instead of having her go crazy and Youko kill everyone. Then the fourth week starts and it turns out that during one week, Miki discovered the 'safe spot' where the journals are kept and has been avoiding the reset ever since. She's the truest example of ripple effect proof memory in the game. Oh, and Nanaka clearly knows what's going on. The resolution is rather bittersweet.
Singularity has fun with this; the plot uses Stable Time Loop as a Red Herring very successfully, because one of those is going on too, it's just not as important, but the Groundhog Day Loop is the larger issue. It's implied to have been going on for quite a while, because you find messages scribbled on walls, written by some person (probably yourself) who has apparently been stuck it the loop for many cycles, each time trying to escape it. It seems that you do escape the loop in the end, but only by killing yourself, and not even that changes the timeline back.
Warthogs, an adventure game where a Harry Potter expy has to roll back time repeatedly in order to pass his magic exams.
The indie horror game the white chamber uses this as the plot, although it is not explained to the player until the very end. It turns out that the main character is something of a bitch and went around slaughtering all of the other crew on the ship, one by one. She is forced to walk the horror and abomination filled wreckage of the ship until she shows enough remorse and compassion to warrant her "redemption". If you do not get enough good points, the game ends with her starting over, again and again and again and again....
In Remember11, the player is caught in a Groundhog Day Loop by the characters. To elaborate: every time "Self" reaches the end of the seventh day (Satoru's epilogue), it's transported to 7 days (and 1 year) ago, to the beginning of the game.
In Secret Files 3 the heroine had a dream which involved following an Arab merchant to the home of his buyer in Florence so that she could find out what was in the amphora he was selling. Unfortunately, she kept losing his trail, which resulted in time automatically being rewound six or seven times so that she could perform the necessary actions to enable her to track him just one screen further.
In keeping with the major role time travel plays in Achron, in the epilogue we learn that the 13000 year time jump that occurred halfway through the campaign is just part of a large time loop, one which has been going on 76013 times by the end of the game, ending each time with Lachesis becoming the Coremind after having killed it in the future. Only Jormun/Echo knows about the loop, but he seems dead-set on keeping Lachesis stuck in it. It's also hinted that the Vecgir are only a product of that loop, and that they would otherwise not exist as a species.
Higurashi: When They Cry is based on a rather dark version of this. Piecing together hints from the various repetitions to figure out what is really going on is an important aspect of the series. The nature of the loop — and who is involved — is not immediately apparent, and the underlying causes aren't fully stated until halfway through the second season (and the 8th installment in the games). Technically, though, it isn't that time is looping; memories are just being copied/overwritten between alternate worlds.
Subverted in Umineko's case. In the final Episode, it's revealed that the Groundhog Day Loop is a case of Recursive Canon, and that each iteration is just a different book with different interpretations on the same setting.
Steins Gate invokes this in a dark tone. At a long-awaited, crucial point in the progress of the time machine, Mayuri dies at the hands of a secret organization, and no matter how many times Kyouma travels back, Mayuri loses her life one way or another. It's an unavoidable fate literally dependent on the arms of the clock that Kyouma is hellbent on stopping.
In Little Busters!, if the player starts each route from the beginning as opposed to cleverly manipulating saves at critical points, they will quickly notice that Riki (the protagonist) and Rin (one of the heroines) comes with improved starting stats after each playthrough. The reason for that is because everything is in an artificial world created by Kyousuke, Masato and Kengo, as a result of a bus crash in real life in which the two are the sole survivors, and the artificial world would constantly rewind itself in an attempt to make Riki and Rin strong enough to handle the accident. The improved stats would, in a way, signify their growth in between each loop.
The Tsukihime sequel game Kagetsu Tohya seems to take this form. It has the added trippiness of the fact that, though Shiki repeats the same day over and over, just what sort of day it is can change. Is it a school day? A holiday? The day of the culture festival? A day where, for whatever reason, Shiki wakes up as a cat?
Type-Moon must like this trope, because they did the same thing in the Fate/stay night sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia. This time it's the Holy Grail War that keeps repeating, allowing even characters who died in all three routes to reappear.
In Shira Oka Second Chances the main character, a friendless twentysomething loser in a dead-end job, is given the chance by the angel Satsuko to become a high school student again and turn his life around. And every time he fails - or even when he succeeds - she keeps sending him back to do it again...
In the machinima series Red vs. Blue, the antagonistic mercenary Wyoming has the ability to rewind little segments of time, essentially making him impossible to defeat: whenever something doesn't go to plan, he simply backtracks a few moments into the past and takes steps to avoid being beaten down by the protagonists. He's only foiled when one character's Deus ex Machina allows him to keep his memory during rewinds and kills him before he has a chance to activate his power.
Different from most other examples as he leaves behind a copy each time.
Web comic Wapsi Square features a plotline where an ancient Mayan calendar is in reality a broken Time Machine. In 2012, this machine will reset all of time back to when the machine was first activated. Only one immortal character, Jin, retains memories of this event. She has lived about 81,200 years (56 iterations of the loop), living through the same looping time period, trying to fix the machine and end the loop. All the other characters in the comic are known to her, and she has been friends, enemies, maybe even lovers with each of them during the endless cycles of time she has lived through.
Legostar Galactica parodies this when the USS Muffinenters a time loop, with first officer Marty pointing out that to preserve it they ought to go back, while the Captain just wants to get out, getting sufficiently annoyed by the third repetition to smack Marty in the mouth when he suggests going back in.
The Ends is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a massive nuclear explosion has apparently distorted time, forcing the survivors into an endless cycle of death and rebirth.
Used in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja to defeat the villain Sparklelord, who is sent back in time and doomed to repeat the sequence of events leading him to be sent back, ad infinitum. Distinct from typical versions of this trope in that his memory also undergoes a Snap Back, making it impossible for him to escape. Might also be a Stable Time Loop, given that the removal of his memory is what prompts the repeat of events.
City of Reality features a device smuggled in from Magic World that acts as a Reset Button for the story, rewinding time but preserving the memory of the person who activates it, and only that person. In its first appearance, it's used by a villain to defeat all of the heroes who oppose him, since all he has to do is rewind time to know exactly how they will attack him, and counter those attacks. He's tricked into losing it by a character who figures out a way to Batman Gambit him. Later, the device nearly causes a catastrophe in Reality by its mere existence, and the heroes figure out that the only way to stop it is to run its battery out, which is accomplished by dropping it on the floor button-down. (Note: Flash required to view the linked page.)
The Maze of Many in Goblins. The caracters from several alternate realities race for the MacGuffin. Each time they die, they are reset to the beginning of the dungeon. The maze is also reset when one team reaches the treasure, only without the winning team (who get to go home). They don't remember their previous attempts though, only a counter is shown how many times they failed.
Mother Of Learning is a fantasy story following Zorian, a mage-in-training, who is entrapped in a month-long loop that covers the beginning of his third year at the academy. Interestingly, he's not the central character — he was brought into his classmate's loop by accident.
In Code Lyoko episode "A Great Day", XANA takes control of the time reset device the kids use to fix things after each attack and continues to turn back time to the start of the same day until the heroes can regain control.
The series also features evidence that Franz Hopper intentionally relived the same day over two thousand times to give him the time he needed to program Lyoko and XANA before the The Men in Black came for him and his daughter. He might have also lost his marbles during this scenario.
Most episodes have a Groundhog Day reset; this is a show where the heroes have control over the reset. Ulrich even has the "tired of doing this all over again" feelings when XANA makes an attack every day for a week.
One episode of Disney's Aladdin has the main characters getting stuck, one by one, in a constantly repeating showdown between a band of adventurers and a gang of rogues, until they managed to prevent the crystal the adventurers were carrying from breaking and thus acting as a Reset Button.
In Stickin' Around, Stacy and Bradley keep getting sent back 15 minutes whenever gym class ends, until Bradley takes full blame for something he did instead of letting everyone share the punishment. Then again...
Disney's animated "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas" has Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in three mini-stories centered around X-mas themes. The feature "Donald Duck: Stuck on Christmas" has the triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louie wish upon a star that is was "Christmas every day"; guess what they get.
The Fairly Oddparents has a Christmas special where Timmy wished it was Christmas every day like Huey, Dewey, and Louie above. It culminated in physical representations of all the other holidays heading to the North Pole to take out Santa, ending Christmas once and for all. What made it different is that while it was Christmas every day, it wasn't a time loop. Everyone in the world is baffled that's always December 25th, people run out of money to buy toys because they have the day off for Christmas every day, and the economy runs dry.
The Batman has Francis Grey in the episode "Seconds", who can "rewind" time by a few seconds whenever he wants, without anyone else aware of it. He still can't be in two places at once, of course, which is how he's defeated... and the end result is that, when it really counts, he finally manages to rewind time all the way back to when he first became a criminal, but he chooses differently.
The Animated Adaptation of The Mask has Stanley Ipkiss trapped in a loop of a few hours by time-manipulating villainess Amelia Chronos. After the first few loops, he starts running to his apartment and getting the Mask on in order to hunt for her. Eventually, he discovers it's because of a watch-like device on his arm. The villainess is using the loops to put herself in a different spot each time, forming a geomantric array that will let her control time. During their final battle, the Mask gets the device off of himself, resets it, and slaps it on her. Then he drops a grandfather clock on her face. The loop was changed to a few seconds, so it happens over and over and over... When the villainess reappears later, she reveals that subjectively, it took a thousand years for her to get out.
Totally Spies! has "Déjà Cruise" (which probably means that this trope is somebody's fetish). In the episode, the girls take a vacation on the WOOHP cruise ship, which gets hijacked by bad guys and eventually ends up sinking somehow, after which the girls wake up in their room and start the loop over. They break the loop by learning to co-operate with their fellow agents on board instead of telling everyone to stand back while they handled it. The whole thing was, of course, a training exercise set up by Jerry, and the entire ship was in on it.
A similar situation to that of the Supernatural episode above happened in the Jumanji animated series: Alan is suddenly killed near the beginning of the episode, but the boys manage to rescue him thanks to the "Slickomatic Chrono Repeater", a device obtained from Trader Slick capable of sending them back in time to the moment they last entered Jumanji. Unfortunately, this seems to be a rather unlucky day for Alan, seeing as he keeps dying in several ways, only for Judy and Peter to keep rescuing him until the device breaks, though they manage to survive the final crisis of the day. Though this may seem like a Set Right What Once Went Wrong plot, it has several Groundhog Day elements, such as the repeated lines and footage, as well as the characters growing frustration with all the repetition (the most visible example being the beginning of the "loop", where they are suddenly confronted with a swarm of giant ants heading towards them: though they were pretty scared at first, they start dealing with the problem with increased apathy as the "loop" repeats, culminating in the last repetition where, when faced with the ants, they simply sidestep out of the way with the most deadpan expression on their faces).
Ruby Gloom has an episode where Ruby is in charge of the Gloomsville World's Fair. The day doesn't stop repeating until the World's Fair goes right. Played with when Ruby forgets something she was going to say and leaves to take a short nap in order to remember. No one remembers her leaving.
An episode of Johnny Test features a self-inflicted loop. After wasting a whole Saturday being forced to watch ballet on TV with Sissy and Missy, Johnny and Dukey get a device from Mary and Susan that will allow them to repeat the day as many times as they wish. They try to avoid watching the ballet with Sissy by force, but when that repeatedly fails to work, they decide to be nice to Sissy and Missy to see if that will work. This results in them all having the best Saturday ever. In most instances, this would mean the end of the loop, but instead the trope is subverted when Johnny's dad points out that Johnny is falling in love with Sissy. Wanting to have nothing to do with that, Johnny presses the reset button again and proceeds to be mean to Sissy the next time around.
Rolie Polie Olie had Olie trying to clean up the garage. Unfortunately, while he did attempt to do so, it always fell apart, falling on a device that his father was working on that resets time, sticking hin in a time loop.
In the Rollbots episode Crontab Trouble, a renegade Tensai named Reboot teams up with Vertex and attempts to put the City into stasis using the Crontab, a device that distorts time. Spin intervenes, of course, and Reboot uses the Crontab to reset the whole thing by about five minutes. Spin starts to catch on to the time loop, and explains it to the others as he gradually figures it out (Daso also seems to know what's going on). Noone else remembers the events, not even Captain Pounder, who sees concrete proof of Vertex's true identity.
Possibly Truth in Television on a universal scale. It is theorized that if the Big Bang started everything, and a Big Crunch is the end of the Universe, and all matter and energy is contained in between the existances of these Universes, then the universe is cyclic, and everything could very well hold identical from one to the next. This theory was depicted in an episode of Futurama.
Improv Everywhere's "The Moebius" A group of improv agents acted out a moebius loop in a Starbucks. Every five minutes they repeated their actions, for an hour. A couple argues, a guy spills coffee, another guy dances through with his own boombox. To the patrons of the Starbucks, it at first looked like a really clumsy guy and a couple fighting and making back up, but by the third loop they began to realize all was not what it seemed.
Partially subverted, as the performers would react to outside dialogue directed at them; their responses were then added to later reptitions of the loop, regardless of whether the source of interference was present.
This is a common theory about the similarities-yet-differences of Rebuild of Evangelion; after the events of End, Shinji basically reset the world to before Second Impact, causing things to repeat in the general outline from before. This has arguably been made canon as of 3.0.
A rather localized variation crops up in one issue of Lucifer, where Erishad gains a kind of immortality by her body reliving one day over and over. Unfortunately, that happens to be the day she miscarried.
Hourman was once trapped in a place called "the timepoint" in which he and his friends were stuck reliving a five-minute slice of time on the day JFK was assassinated. Different in that the timepoint is a physical place which mimics this point in time, and not actually the time itself (though the effect is basically the same for those trapped inside).
Johnny Alpha in Strontium Dog occasionally punishes a criminal by using a time drode to send them two seconds back in time, at which point the drode reactivates... for all eternity.
The Mighty Thor discovered that his father Odin and the fire demon Surtur go through this in the afterlife. The only way to break the loop is if Surtur manages to escape back to the living world. Odin now eternally guards the exit, stalling until he either beats Surtur or the loop repeats.
A very recent (as of December 2010) issue of Archie has Jingles allowing Christmas Eve to repeat for a day so Archie can have more time to prepare, but the computer he used to turn back time gets frozen into a loop.
There's a bit of horror when you realize that like Yuki Nagato during the infamous endless eight, they too keep their memories of each and every loop. Though this later gets averted when they become God Mode Sues with all the experiences they've had and are also not limited by the same events happening over and over again. Unless they enter the horror that isEiken
Tends to be a very popular plot device in short and/or oneshot fanfics.
50 First Dates employs a man-made Groundhog Day. Lucy (Drew Barrymore's character) was in a car crash years ago and since then suffered from short-term memory loss. Every day she would wake up believing it to be the same day over and over again. To avoid causing her emotional trauma, her family decided to allow her to live that day over and over again. They and everyone else in town acts the exact same way around her each day to keep up the charade. They even make sure everything appears the same, going as far as setting out the same newspaper each morning and celebrating her father's birthday each night. Henry (Adam Sandler's character) breaks her out of it, using video recordings to fill her in on what's happened since they met.
This trope is also subverted when the day after Henry meets Lucy he tries the exact same tactic to get her to fall for him, thinking her reaction will be the same as the previous day. Since no day is ever truly identical to the one before it, Lucy's moods are subtly different from one day to the next, and the tactic fails the second time around. Likewise, she is explicitly stated to have good days and bad.
In The Tunnel Under the World, by Frederik Pohl, Guy Burckhardt lives in a town where June 15th is repeated every day, but the inhabitants don't realize. It is later revealed that everyone in the town is a miniature robot who was imprinted with the mind-pattern of a citizen of the real town, which was destroyed on June 14th. Advertising executives then used them to test various advertising techniques. It makes much more sense than it seems.
A short story depicted a kid who was really not looking forward to playing in a football game the next day, so he went to bed wishing it was already Sunday. He woke up on Sunday but his mother was so angry with him that he went to bed wondering what had happened on Saturday. After living through Saturday he knew what happened, but luckily, everything was resolved by Monday morning.
"If This Is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy" by F. M. Busby featured a man who lived his life out of sequence. Most of his childhood was intact, with only a few future-self bits, but after adolescence his existence became totally nonlinear; whenever he went to sleep, he risked waking in another part of his life, so long as he hadn't yet lived it. Eventually he discovered that his first wife, who died young, had the same condition, and was able to change history so that she lived, erasing all the parts of his life after her death and letting them live them over together.
In The Time Traveler's Wife, Henry's involuntary time travel often sends him to the day his mother was killed. Since he lives in a Stable Time Loop universe, there are about fifty of him wandering around the scene, watching the car crash happen over and over.
Kurt Vonnegut's Timequake involved a time loop, although it wasn't repetitive like Groundhog Day. However, it involved a span of years, and everyone was aware it was happening but were powerless to change their actions or do anything under their own volition. Horrifying indeed. Once the loop reached its end, a large number of people had complete mental breakdowns.
The Defence of Duffer's Drift uses the dream variant as a framing device—not dreams within dreams, but a sequence of dreams all depicting the same scenario where the protagonist must command his platoon of fifty men to defend a strategic riverbed crossing in The Boer War. To prevent him from "cheating", the protagonist cannot remember the exact circumstances from dream to dream (enemy force composition and direction, et cetera), but he can and does learn general tactical lessons.
Absent Thee From Felicity Awhile by Somtow Sucharitkul has aliens grant humanity the gift of immortality — at a price; everyone must relive the day before the aliens came — for a million years.
Live Action TV
Star Trek: Enterprise has Captain Archer be infected with strange alternate dimension parasites in his brain that made it so he could not create any new long-term memories, so he would wake up the next day believing it was immediately following the event where he was infected. He would frequently present a new idea he just had only for those around him to mention that he presented the same idea weeks ago. The nature of the parasites gave them a handy Reset Button for the episode as well.
Stargate SG-1 also has an episode in which Teal'c is stuck in what basically amounts to a video game. Each time he fails, it resets, forcing him to start from the beginning. It adapts to his tactics and adds new threats each time, becoming worse with each go-around. It's based off Teal'c's own perceptions and feelings. At this point in the series, even though he's firmly and truly faithful to SG1, he also truly believes that the Gou'auldcannotbe beaten in the long term so that any time it looks like they'll win, some new thing suddenly comes around and kicks their ass.
That's not why it was repeating. That theory is suggested by the others, by never by Teal'c. As it turns out, he just needed to so something specific to win: kill the three Super Soldiers (with a new weapon), kill The Mole, and stop a bomb.
My Name Is Earl has an interesting version where most people hadn't seen a guy in years because a head injury caused him to forget the day he'd just had whenever he went to sleep. Earl uses the intelligence-gaining effect of a Groundhog Day Loop to try to atone for what he'd done to the guy, but ends up deciding that it'd be better for the guy to just let things go since he ended up causing the guy to attempt suicide.
Frasier once had three dates on three consecutive nights, which all went through exactly the same patterns.
Similar to the 50 First Dates example, Liz Lemon's brother Mitch on 30 Rock injured himself on a ski trip and wakes up every day thinking its the day before the accident in 1985. Jack's mother snaps him out of it (causing him to have a BSOD) to prove that the Lemons aren't as happy as they look.
In Misfits, a variation happens where one character relives the same hour or so several times. Curtis's Mental Time Travel ability note the ability is an uncontrollable reflex. It activates if he does something that he regrets. has him go back in time to the day that he and his girlfriend Sam got arrested for possession of drugs. He flushes the drugs and manages to escape the cop, but loses the money he was going to pay the dealer with. The dealer fights Curtis, and Sam gets stabbed and killed. He goes back again, and manages to avoid getting caught entirely, but because he didn't get caught, he never got sent to do community service, and the three of the other four main characters died without him note In the first episode, their probation worker gained Unstoppable Rage as a superpower, and tried to kill them all. Curtis's power allowed him to warn them about what was going to happen. So he goes back to make it so that he gets caught and Sam does not. Problem is, he had apparently still hooked up with Alisha without breaking up with Sam. And when he tries to break up with Sam, his power activates because he regrets making her feel bad, resulting in him having to relive that minute about 20 times.
There's one episode of Wicked Science where Elizabeth transports Toby to an Alternate Universe where they are a couple and his friends hate him. In order to make him accept the new reality she makes him go through this trope with the help of a Reset Button.
Myths & Legends
According to Greek myth, Prometheus was punished by the other gods by being chained to a rock and having his liver pecked out by an eagle. As if that wasn't bad enough, his wound would always heal, only for the bird to come again the next day and repeat the process (he was eventually freed by Hercules).
Kevin O'Donnell Jr's short story "Gift of Prometheus" uses a time-travel variation on this. The protagonist is shot while dematerialising and is frozen outside of time in endless pain.
Sisyphus' punishment also reflected this trope. He had to continually push a rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down and have to start over.
The Norse legend of the Everlasting Battle ends with two kings, Hedin and Högni, and their armies fighting each other on an island*
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead can be interpreted this way: the two are forced to perform the same actions over and over during every performance of Hamlet, possessing just enough instinct to know their lines, but being completely in the dark about who they are and what their purpose is during the scenes they're not in. It's... complicated.
In most MMORPG's, the NPC characters will always react like it's the first time you've met them, unless you've just completed a quest from them. Then the possibility of repeating the quest is presented, thus resulting in the Groundhog Day Loop.
Mabinogi takes this one step further and requires getting the NPC's to be friendly to you to get certain jobs, items, etc. However frequently their conversation will start off with "Nice to meet you, who are you?", even with any of the titles acquired from finishing the mainstream storylines, or even just talked to them a few seconds ago. Rebirthing the character or not talking to the NPC for a few real world hours will result in the NPC forgetting who you are again. Mabinogi's mainstream quests that require additional players (and have cutscenes) often results in players refusing to join unless the cutscenes are skipped, having seen them many times already.
In the Generation 3 mainstream quests, this is actually referenced in a book given to you that was written to explain all the oddities such as the difference between real time and Errin time, why your character can respawn, and of course, why NPC's forget who you are.
One fan-made series of missions on City of Heroes had an artifact that continually rewound time whenever it was recovered/destroyed, in order to evolve into some sort of strange biomechanical thing. The loop was broken when its power failed and it was destroyed.
In the game Date Warpthe characters other than the player character are stuck in a time loop, with no knowledge of this, and the player character has to figure this out without seeing the loop repeat multiple times. (Except that since it's a game, you do replay it until you figure it out. Ooo, meta.)
A variation of this is used in some web-based games to keep them interesting to the players by offering different bonuses by recycling back to the beginning and changing a beginning characteristic. Said alteration will also change how you play the game, as the differences change how fast you can proceed, what abilities you can get, and also will offer different rewards for completing portions of the game. Also, frequently the "looper" will retain certain items from previous plays for in-game status or bonuses.
A twist on the common Interactive Fiction time loop puzzle is seen in Slouching Towards Bedlam. There is an in-game explanation for why your character has the unique ability to save, reset, and go through the day over and over. The game won't end until you stop playing it or take drastic action.
The final thing that Takeru Shirogane learns in Muv-Luv Alternativebefore he ceases to exist is that Sumika subconsciously kept him looping back to October 22nd of the Unlimited world upon his death (similar to the case of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni) each time he falls in love with some other heroine and thus never reaches her, wiping Takeru's memories in the process. She lost that power when she and Takeru finally became one late into Alternative.
There is a glitch in Portal where the game autosaves you while falling. If you put your portal in just the wrong place, it will save you right before you fall in toxic slime - and reload you to right before you fall in said slime, making a Groundhog Day Loop. Hope you have a previous save!
In the browser-based game No One Has To Die, Troy is stuck in this loop. He has to watch while everyone around him dies so that he can live. The kicker? The player will only find this out if you choose to let everyone else die so that Troy can live.
Thankfully he eventually enters a Merged Reality instead of another reiteration of the loop.
One episode of The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius has Jimmy hypnotizing his parents into having his birthday party early. Unfortunately, he told them that his birthday was "tomorrow", meaning another birthday party the day after that, and then the day after that, and so on. Unlike the other examples, everyone but Jimmy's folks is aware of the repetition. They later reveal that the hypnosis broke sooner than it appeared to, but they kept going through the motions to teach Jimmy a lesson.
Mighty Max seems to end on this trope. In the last episode Armageddon enveloped the world, a giant spider kills Max's guardian Norman, Skullmaster kills Virgil and takes the portal-making hat, which turns into a crown. At the very last second Max grabs Skullmaster and takes control... and ends up at the very moment he opened the package with the hat in it, and an additional note on the statue saying "This time, don't take quite so long ", meaning not only does he know that he's starting over again, but so does Virgil.
Actually, the loop only ended because P.A. decided to stop pretending to be sick and finally take the test she'd been trying to avoid. She thinks this will end the loop, but the next morning, when circumstances make it look like the loop is still happening, P.A. snaps and spends the whole day telling everyone off. It isn't until the next morning she realizes that the loop was indeed over, and that everyone does remember her insults and demand compensation.
Featured (and parodied) in Sealab 2021, "Lost in Time", where Quinn and Stormy are repeatedly blown back 15 minutes in time by an explosion that destroys Sealab, and keep getting mistaken for doppelgangers and thrown in the brig when they try to warn Captain Murphy.
Making it even funnier, the time repeat keeps duplicating them, so by the end there are dozens of Dr. Quinns and Stormys, all in the brig together.
Making that even funnier is that all of the Stormys are too stupid to figure out what's going on. So while the Quinns pool their brainpower to find a solution, the Stormys just build a dodgeball cannon and start blasting everybody.
One more layer of funny: It's Stormy's Two-Way Watch (which he had all the time) that saves the day.
One episode of the Silver Surfer animated series has Adam Warlock as a supersoldier created to fight the Kree. Fearing his power, his creators trapped him in a Groundhog Day Loop time anomaly in space in which he fights the same battle over and over again the same way (his own memory getting reset each time). New objects can be drawn in so how he fights exactly the same way against a growing number of ships from different eras is a mystery. The Silver Surfer is not affected by the anomaly and manages to pull Warlock out. By the end Warlock not being able to cope with events that transpired in the real world, flies back in the anomaly and goes back to fighting obliviously in the loop, presumably forever.
Not an exact use of this trope, but in The Simpsons, on a trip to Itchy and Scratchy Land, Homer and Marge go to a restaurant where New Year's is celebrated every fifteen minutes or so. Marge actually remarks to one of the servers that it must be fun to celebrate New Years Day all the time, to which the despondent man replies, "Kill me." This was probably based on one club at Walt Disney World's Pleasure Island that celebrated New Year's every night.
It was also created during the period between John Travolta's first round of fame (Saturday Night Fever and Welcome Back Kotter) and his second round. Marge notices that the bartender looks just like John Travolta and the bartender says (in Travolta's style) "Yeah, looks like."