Phil Connors (Murray), an arrogant and smarmy weatherman for a local TV news station in Pittsburgh, his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) go to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to film the annual Groundhog Day festival. Phil loathes the annual celebration and is surly throughout the proceedings, wanting nothing more than to pack up and go home. That proves impossible when a sudden blizzard arrives and closes the roads, forcing Phil and the crew to stay the night.
He wakes up the next morning to find its Groundhog Day again. Everyone goes on exactly as they did the previous day, with only him aware of it. Though surprised, Phil goes through the motions, still gets stuck in Punxsutawney, and wakes up the next morning to find its still Groundhog Day again. And again. And so on, with no end to the loop in sight.
The movie proceeds to follow Phil as he tries to both adjust to and escape from his bizarre dilemma, with the comedy and drama drawn from the various ways he reacts to it. From irresponsible, self-centered hedonism (after all, if tomorrow never comes, there are no consequences) to suicidal despair (if tomorrow never comes, its no use going on) to an insane number of time-eating hobbies (if tomorrow never comes, you might as well try everything) no matter what he does, Phil's efforts seem doomed to leave him forever trapped in his own personal Groundhog Day but with help from the kind-hearted Rita and his own unexpected potential for self-growth and redemption, the possibility arises that tomorrow will come for Phil after all.
In 2016 the film was adapted into a musical, written by the screenplay's original author Danny Rubin and Tim Minchin, which played a limited run in London before opening on Broadway in 2017. In 2019, Sony confirmed a sequel called Groundhog Day Like Father Like Son for the PlayStation VR, starring Phil's son as he experiences his own time loop.
Groundhog Day contains examples of the following tropes:
- All Therapists Are Muggles: The psychiatrist Phil visits disbelieves his story and then offers to schedule another appointment for tomorrow. Cue Phil covering his face with a cushion and punching it.
- Anti-Hero: Phil really has no heroic or really any redeeming qualities before the character development.
- The Anti-Nihilist: At some point in the movie, Phil realizes that he may actually never get out of the loop or get Rita to be his girlfriend. But instead of endlessly despairing over it, he decides to accepts his situation and make the most out of it, helping people in need using his knowledge, never asking for payback or recognition, fully knowing that there will be no lasting consequences whatsoever.
- Apocalypse Anarchy: While it doesnt happen for the world, Phil discusses with a couple of local guys what they would do if there was no tomorrow. Their enthusiastic answer is that they could do whatever they wanted, now with no consequences. Inspired by this, Phil decides to live his "Groundhog Day" Loop in the most outlandish way possible.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Theres an entire montage of hard slaps when Phil tries to refine his technique on Rita only to get shot down every time. As usual with Bill Murray, every slap is real.
- Artist Disillusionment: In-Universe, Phil doesnt like his fanbase, but normally keeps it off camera. However, within the loop, at times, he doesnt bother hiding it, though the loop keeps people from remembering.
- Artistic License Cars: When Phil drives the truck off the cliff to kill him and the groundhog, it doesnt have a driveline. Then it explodes.
- Artistic License Geography: Western Pennsylvania does not experience sunrise on February 2 until around 7:00 AM. In the film, its already broad daylight by 6:00 AM. This is an understandable trope to invoke because it saves the crew from repeatedly having to catch and film through twilight, which is a tall order because its so brief and wanders in time due to cloudy conditions.
- Artistic License Music: At the end of the film, shots of the swing band show an upright plucked bass, but the soundtrack has an electric bass.
- As Himself: Scooter, as The Groundhog.
- Ascended Extra: A rare in-universe example. Many of the characters seen in the Punxsutawney crowd scene and the diner become major characters in Phils life as hes forced to become intimately familiar with the town, especially Nancy, Gus, Ralph, and even his piano teacher.
- Bachelor Auction: One occurs at the groundhog party. Larry gets bought by a couple of old ladies for 25 cents while Rita empties her bank account for Phil.
- Bedmate Reveal: Phil waking up next to Rita demonstrates that the time loop is finally over.
- Big Eater:
- Phils discovered the greatest diet plan ever.
- And he doesnt think twice about smoking in the diner, either. Of course, Rita worries about his potential to get "cholesterol, lung cancer, love handles", but he can afford to disregard her advice.Rita: I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It's inspiring, in a way.
Phil: My years are not advancing as fast as you might think.
- Black Comedy: The entire montage of Phil committing suicide over and over again, full stop. Its easy to feel sorry for him, but the movie still plays up the comedy of the suicides.
- Blah Blah Blah: Phil invokes this during one of his cycles.Phil: Once again, the eyes of the nation have turned here to this... [silly voice] tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, bl-blah, bl-blah!
- Bored with Insanity: The endless repetition of February 2nd causes Phil to go through a breakdown period where he repeatedly tries to kill himself and, when that doesn't work, declares his Godhood to Rita. He eventually settles down and becomes rather zen about the whole thing. So at ease with the whole thing does he get that he finally gets his one perfect day with Rita and snaps out of the loop, a much better and saner person for it.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Phil tries in vain to call Pittsburgh for assistance when he gets stuck in the blizzard.Phil: Dont you have some kind of a line that you keep open for emergencies, or celebrities? Im both! Im a celebrity in an emergency!
- Break the Haughty: At the beginning of the movie, Phil could really do with being taken down a peg or two. The time loop obliges, and then some — but it also allows him to eventually put himself back together as a better person.
- Brick Joke: A subtle one. On his very first repeated day Phil suspects that the radio just plays yesterday's tape. Then he grows to hate Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", playing on the radio every repeated Groundhog Day morning. Finally, Phil progresses to February 3rd... only to be awakened by the same song (albeit a different segment, to indicate that the change has happened) at the same time again. Looks like they did use yesterday's tape after all.
- This is even lampshaded by the subsequent conversation between the radio hosts:Host 1: Please, not again!
Host 2: That is a great song!
Host 1: It's not!
- This is even lampshaded by the subsequent conversation between the radio hosts:
- Broken Record:
- Ive Got You Babe. The same (and worse) could be said for the Pennsylvania Polka.
- If you think about it, the time loop itself is a temporal version of this.
- Buffy Speak: Phil indulges in this during his initial newscast.Phil: Big blizzard thing.
- Bungled Suicide: Several of these, all committed by Phil after he decides theres Nothing Left to Do but Die. Even though each one does result in his death, they all count as bungled by virtue of the fact that none of them kills him for good and Phil always wakes up at 6:00 AM of Groundhog Day all over again the next morning.Phil: [waking up after his first suicide] Aw, nuts!
- Phil is this while he is being made to eat humble pie.
- Larry the cameraman is the butt of many jokes and is ultimately bought at a bachelor auction by a pair of old ladies for 25 cents.
- Casanova Wannabe: Larry the cameraman does a pretty bad job picking up women.
- Character Development: Phil goes from a grade-A Jerkass to a genuine Nice Guy over the course of the movies running time and its believable. Of course, "running time" definitely doesnt equal "real time" in this case.
- Chekhov's Gag: To the question "Will you be checking out today, Mr. Connors?"Phil: [day one] Chance of departure today: one hundred percent.
Phil: [day two] Chance of departure today... eighty percent. seventy-five to eighty?
Phil: [day ???] Will you hold my room? Im gonna stay another day.
- Clock King: Phil initially uses this power for evil, namely by stealing money from an armored car. He later uses it for more benevolent purposes by becoming a sort of guardian angel to everybody.
- Closed Circle: The very premise is an extreme time-based example of this trope, but there is also the blizzard blocking the road to Pittsburgh (and hence forcing Phil to stay in Punxsutawney), which acts as a more conventional spatial one.
- Comedic Sociopathy:
- Phil eventually realizes that the time loop hes in allows him to live without consequences or guilt. He uses his situation to steal money from an armored car and weasel his way into sex with an attractive local woman. He also tries to weasel his way into sex with Rita, but his failure there spurs his Character Development.
- The worst Phil ever does is deck Ned and kill Punxsutawney Phil in his first suicide attempt.
- Convenient Slow Dance: Although by that point, Phil is savvy enough to have deliberately arranged it.
- And the best part of this? He wasnt even really arranging it, and certainly not in an attempt to take advantage of Rita. The dance and all that follows is his reward for being able to earn genuine admiration and love from Rita and the citizens of Punxsutawney alike under no selfish pretenses.
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Phil attempts CPR in an alley as a last-ditch effort to save a homeless old man, but it doesnt work. Nothing does, really. The man dies every time, regardless of what Phil does to save him.
- Creator Cameo: Harold Ramis plays a doctor. He makes a very good doctor, since most people associate him with Dr. Egon Spengler.
- Cursed with Awesome: Phil grows to feel that his condition is this after a long time.
- Darker and Edgier: According to the director, they averted this trope by not having Phil go down the really dark path where he would be utterly cruel to people and even kill them without consequence.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- Phil, par excellence.Phil: Well, what if there is no tomorrow? [Beat] There wasnt one today!
- Larry gets his shots in, too.Larry: I dont know, Phil. Perhaps its that giant blizzard were not supposed to get.
- Rita shows this off on occasion, especially her way of getting rid of Ned.
- Phil, par excellence.
- Death as Comedy: The suicide montage is initially somewhat absurd but it is more bittersweet than this trope usually due to Phils anguish.
- Death Montage: A montage of Phil's numerous attempted suicides.
- Despair Event Horizon: Phil is eventually driven to the depths of suicidal despair by the endless repetition of February 2. Then, hes driven into even further depths of suicidal despair by the fact that suicide doesn't work. Interestingly, its when hes at his lowest that he eventually decides simply to tell Rita the truth of whats happening to him...and things begin to improve from that point on.Phil: [to Rita, darkly] You want a prediction about the weather? You're asking the wrong Phil. I'm going to give you a prediction about this winter: it's going to be cold, it's going to be dark and it's going to last you for the rest of your lives.
- Double Standard: This happens in the same scene as the Convenient Slow Dance entry. After Debbie and Fred Kleiser get the Wrestlemania tickets from Phil, she kisses him on the lips. Fred then kisses Rita on the cheek, provoking an angry glare from Debbie.
- Justified, though, since Phil helped them get married and got them tickets, while Rita didnt do anything for them.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: A montage of Rita slapping Phil across the face is, of course, Played for Laughs.
- Driven to Suicide: Several times. It doesnt take.Phil: [sadly] Ive killed myself so many times, I dont even exist anymore.
- Dumbass DJ:
- Earn Your Happy Ending: When Phil turns completely into a nice guy, he is finally able to wake up to a brand new day.
- Electrified Bathtub: One of Phils suicide attempts involves him filling a tub with water, putting toast in a toaster, and then dropping the activated toaster in the tub.
- Endless Winter: Its always February 2, in a Northern Hemisphere setting.Phil: There is no way this winter is EVER going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I don't see any other way out. He's got to be stopped.
- Epiphanic Prison: The time loop can be thought of as this.
- Establishing Character Moment: Rita is first seen playing around with the weather blue screen, establishing her easy-going, playful personality.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Parodied. When Phils stolen truck (with him in it) falls off a cliff, Larry suggests unconvincingly that he could still be alive. The truck then immediately explodes.
- Everything but the Girl: Closer to "Everything Before the Girl", but it counts.
- Exact Words: On the next to last "day", Rita joins Phil to see how he deals with eternity. She's told everything resets on February 3. However, when it's midnight, she's surprised, and asks him why there's no reset. He replies he never said it was at midnight.
- Extremely Short Time Span: Played With. Technically, the film begins on February 1 in the afternoon and ends in the early morning of February 3. But the time loop made Phil spend at least ten years within this time span. The same could be said about a lot of the films capitalizing on "Groundhog Day" Loop, a trope named after and codified by this film.
- Eye Take: Used to full effect by Bill Murray.
- Face Palm: Of the covering my face with a pillow and punching it variety.Phil: So, what do I do?
Psychiatrist: I think we should meet again. How's tomorrow for you?
[Phil slowly covers head with a pillow]
Psychiatrist: Is that not good?
[Phil starts punching the pillow]
- Failure Is the Only Option: Phil will never be able to save the old homeless man. His realizing this is a key part of his decision to use the time loop for good.
- Failure Montage: Several. Theres one for Phils failed attempts at wooing Rita (with repeated slaps in the face), another for his attempts to save the old hobos life, and a particularly morbid one of him repeatedly committing suicide.
- Fate Worse than Death:
- Zig-zagged. At first, Phil indulges in his ability to relive the same day over and over again, by overeating, sleeping with women, stealing money, and committing felonies. But later, his inability to form a bond with Rita slowly wears him down. He becomes depressed and tries to kill himself, but later, he decides to use his time loop for good.
- A cop tells Phil he can either return to Punxsutawney or freeze to death.Phil: I'm thinking.
- Five Stages of Grief: Phil is going through precisely these stages as he learns how to deal with the eponymous day. First he can't believe it (denial), then he does all sorts of anti-social things like over-eating, robbing the armored car, sleeping with all of the attractive women in town, etc. (anger), then he tries to figure out what he can do (bargaining), then he just gives up and falls back into bed and/or tries to kill himself (despair), until finally he accepts the situation and becomes a better person.
- Flipping the Bird: Phil has an unusual way of doing a countdown with fingers.
- Foil: Ned Ryerson, provoking the same reactions from Phil that Phil causes in others.
- Foreign Remake: Italian director Giulio Manfredonia remade the film in 2004 using Italian and Spanish actors. The plot is extremely similar with the two major differences being that it happens in the Canary Islands and that the protagonist has to film storks and has many scenes that follow the original exactly, but there are some notable differences, some of which make the Italian version less empathetic.
- The very first words out of Phil's mouth is where he'd want to be most of all. He's pointing on a weather map, but since we're looking at him live, he's pointing to blue screen: nothingness and nowhere.
- A very clever one. Before Phil even enters the time loop, he complains about having to do the Groundhog Day Festival every year. During the first ceremony, Phil describes everything thats going to happen before it does.Phil: They do the same old shtick every year. Guy comes out with a big stick and raps on the door. They pull the little rat out. They talk to him. The rat talks back. And then they tell us whats going to happen.
- Sound familiar? He begins doing that later in the film, especially with the armored-car heist.
- At the beginning of the movie, Phils co-anchor mentions a story about sex and violence in movies. Both appear later on.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing:
- A perceptive viewers first clue that Phil escaped the "Groundhog Day" Loop is that the radio is playing a different part of I Got You Babe when it turns on the final time.
- Rita saying that her ideal man plays an instrument. Unlike other instances of Rita mentioning things she likes, this is true foreshadowing: by the time he takes up the piano, Phil is no longer doing things to impress her but rather to better himself.
- One instance becomes this. When Phil catches a boy falling out of a tree and the boy runs away without thanking him, he says, "You little brat! You have never thanked me! See you tomorrow! Maybe!" The "maybe" from Phil's perspective means "Maybe I'll just let you fall and break your arm tomorrow," but from the viewer's perspective, it also means "Maybe this is Phil's last day in the loop, and he won't need to save the boy tomorrow." Which, in fact, it is.
- French Maid Outfit: One of the women whom Phil seduces is dressed thus because she thinks shes going to a costume party.
- Gluttonous Pig: One of Phils stages includes feasting on pastries at the diner. Done gloriously by Bill Murray.
- A God Am I:
- Phil considers this as a possible reason for his situation.Rita: Youre God?
Phil: Im a god. Im not the God. I don't think.
- Earlier in the film, though, Phil has such an ego, he denies theres a blizzard because he makes the weather.
- Phil considers this as a possible reason for his situation.
- Golden Ending: A very rare non-videogame, non-interactive-media example. After being trapped in the loop for God knows how long and getting God knows how many endings, Phil manages to help everyone in the town with all of their problems, woo Rita, and bring about a perfect day. Only then does the loop break. Unfortunately, even on a perfect day someone just has to die.
- Good Samaritan: Phil eventually becomes one once he becomes resigned to the loop. He starts doing good deeds, over and over, and adding new ones as he finds new opportunities each day. He saves a boy from falling, saves the mayor from choking in a restaurant, he buys enough insurance from Ned to help Ned meet his quota (which becomes even more amazing when you realize that this is February 2), et cetera. Eventually, the whole town loves him, but even this alone cant break the cycle. Only when he becomes such a nice guy that Rita truly falls in love with him does tomorrow come.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: This is one of Ned's annoying speaking mannerisms.Ned: Dont you tell me you dont remember me, because I sure as heck-fire remember you!
- "Groundhog Day" Loop: This film is the Trope Namer by virtue of its basic premise of the film as Phil keeps looping back to February 2. This film also indirectly named the trope Groundhog Peggy Sue.
- The Hedonist: Phil becomes this in some of the early cycles when he realizes that no tomorrow means no consequence. He takes the opportunity to indulge in unhealthy food, wild behavior, and bedding various women through what amounts to Save Scumming. The BFI Modern Classics analysis of Groundhog Day notes no one could do absolute hedonism like Bill Murray, such as shoving an entire pastry into his maw before even chewing.
- Happily Failed Suicide: Phil's many suicides become this retroactively.
- HeelFace Turn: Even if it did take thirty to forty years from his perspective.
- Held Gaze: Several happen between Phil and Rita over the course of the film, mainly when theyre playing in the snow together.
- Heroic BSoD:
- While on camera:Phil: This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. [raises his voice] What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. [turns to the crowd] Youre hypocrites, all of you!
- A few loops later...Phil: Once again the eyes of the nation have turned here to this.. [silly voice] tiny village in Western Pennsylvania, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... [seriously] There is no way that this winter... is ever going to end, as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I dont see any other way out. Hes gotta be stopped. [beat] And I have to stop him.
- Then he drives off a cliff, and the loop repeats.Phil: Ah, nuts!
- While on camera:
- High Concept: Man is forced to relive one day over and over. A simple concept that allows for many scenarios.
- Hope Spot:
- Invoked by Larry after the results of Phils initial Heroic BSoD.Larry: He might be OK.
[Phils truck promptly explodes]
Larry: ...Well, no, probably not now.
- The day in which Phil tells Rita about the time loop and convinces her its real makes you think itll be the final loop. When he wakes up afterward, the audience is more disappointed than Phil that the Reset Button has hit again.
- Invoked by Larry after the results of Phils initial Heroic BSoD.
- Humans Are Morons: This is one of opening-act Phil's traits.Phil: People like blood sausage: people are morons.
- I Am the Trope: Phil declares this in desperation while standing under-dressed in a blizzard while trying to negotiate his way past a cop.Phil: I am the weather!
- Ignored Confession: During the loop where Phil demonstrates his intimate knowledge of Punxsutawneys residents to Rita and she stays in his room with him, he confesses his love for her and kisses her on the cheek, but she doesnt hear any of it due to drifting off towards sleep. His awakening the next day marks his decision to use the loop to better himself.
- I'm Thinking It Over!: Phil really hates the idea of going back to Punxsutawney.Cop: Now you can either go back to Punxsutawney, or you can go ahead and freeze to death. Its your choice. So whats it gonna be?
Phil: Im thinking...
- Incessant Music Madness: Phil's clock radio becomes this after not too long.Sonny and Cher: THEN PUT YOUR LIL HAND IN MINE... ♫
- Inherently Funny Word: Well, Phrase: Gobblers Knob, site of the groundhog ceremony. Its a real place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, too. It just doesnt look like it does in the movie because it wasnt filmed in the real Punxsutawney. Punxsutawney: thats a funny word, too!Rita: [on the perfect man] Hell change poopy diapers.
Phil: Does he have to use the word "poopy"?
- Instant Expert: Not to the audience, since Phil puts plenty of hours in, but he certainly appears this way to other characters.Piano Teacher: And youve never played before?
Phil: Not before today.
- Ironic Echo: The DJ chatter, twice by Phil. The first time, he repeats it joyously when he escapes jail via the loop; the second time, its a Dark Reprise when he's reached his Despair Event Horizon and about to kill himself.
- Is It Something You Eat?:Phil: [to the bed and breakfast owner] Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I dont think so, but I could check with the kitchen.
- It's All About Me: Phil has this in spades at the beginning even going so far as calling himself "the talent".
- "Jeopardy!" Intelligence Test:
- Played with. After a few days, the other guests at the B&B start to think Phils a genius because he answers every question on that days edition of Jeopardy! correctly, but, of course, we know he only knows all the answers because hes seen that particular episode over and over again.
- It gets to the point where he answers one of the questions before it's even finished being asked, which visibly creeps one of the B&B guests out.
- Although, this is Truth in Television, since some viewers tend to read the answers quickly before Alex finishes reading them and give the response quickly.
- Jerkass: Phil most obviously, Ned somewhat less intentionally. Its also made pretty clear that Larrys a bit of a jerk as well. Phil later evolves into a pretty nice guy thanks to his Character Development.
- Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: Phil Connors is contemptuous toward almost everyone and makes no attempt to hide it. Fate decides to put him in a "Groundhog Day" Loop (Trope Namer), causing him to re-live the same day over and over again. He decides to help other people avoid being hurt, betters himself by learning to play the piano and create ice sculptures and falls in love. When he has improved his personality enough he's freed from the loop.
- Karma Houdini: Played With. Phil initially exploits the time loop to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants at any time he wants and avoid the consequences; he ends up repeatedly robbing, seducing, attacking, cheating, and manipulating the townsfolk seemingly without punishment. Over the course of the movie, however, it becomes clear that the time loop is his punishment not only for his actions in the movie, but for his whole Jerkass nature before the day began. Since all his misdeeds are undone at the end of every day, it hardly matters in the end. A deleted idea that the loop was the result of a curse from a jilted ex-lover underscores this point.
- Kick the Dog:
- Phil does this to everyone around him towards the beginning of the movie.
- Larry, too. At first, he just comes off as a guy who wont put up with Phil's crap, but the scene where he steals back part of his tip money is supposed to indicate that hes not a very nice person.
- Large Ham: Ned Ryerson in contrast to the deadpan Phil.
- Left the Background Music On: During one of Phils later time loops, Mozarts Piano Sonata in C plays. It turns out to be a little girl playing it for her piano teacher before shes kicked out when Phil lays down $1,000 for a single piano lesson.
- Love Redeems: This is how Phil escapes the time loop.
- Magic Realism: The setting is extremely mundane, with the time loop the only supernatural element.
- Manipulative Bastard: Phil becomes one when initially trying to seduce Rita by molding his likes and dislikes to match Rita's.
- Meaningful Name: Phil having the same name as the groundhog. It could be construed that Phil is in the time loop until he can no longer see his own shadow as well.
- Men Act, Women Are: Phil spends possibly thousands of years learning new skills and experiencing personal growth before finally breaking the loop by proving himself worthy of female Love Interest Rita. Rita is the same vaguely pleasant person at the end of the film as she is in the beginning.
- Men Don't Cry:
- Rita says that her ideal man wouldnt be afraid of crying.Phil: This is a man were talking about, right?
- He himself subverts this belief later when he finally learns how precious life is through his futile attempts to save a homeless old man from dying of old age.
- He also cries on the morning of February 3 after 6:00 AM.
- Rita says that her ideal man wouldnt be afraid of crying.
- Mental Time Travel: One of the possible explanations for the time loop.
- Mistaken for Gay: Phil pulls one on Ned one day just to scare him off.
- Mistaken for Quake: The old ladies with the flat tire think theres one when Phil jacks their car.
- Montage: Used effectively a couple of times to speed up the consequences of some of Phil's actions.
- Mood Whiplash: Phils protracted series of suicides and the montage in which he tries to save the old man are a bit jarring.
- Motor Mouth: Ned. Phil doesnt have a chance to say anything until he gives Ned the advice to Talk to the Fist.
- My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Ned apparently dated Phil's sister until Phil told him not to.
- Never Heard That One Before: Yes, his name is Phil. Like the groundhog that actually lives in Punxsutawney.
- Nice Guy: What Phil finally becomes when he grows to love all of humanity, Rita included.
- No Antagonist: Here is a heavily flawed man who is trapped in a time loop, and goes through the same day all over again indefinitely, until he learns to become a better person. The film has no villain, since Phil is at worst a Jerkass Anti-Hero, and the time loop is simply an unexplained event.
- No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: As the time loop gradually grinds away his sanity, to occupy himself Phil indulges in all manner of pleasure, and sees winning over the strong-willed Rita in a single day as a challenge he can't refuse. When this fails, repeatedly, a long spiral into depression begins, until Rita constructively suggests he strive for a better outlook on life. Eventually, using his knowledge of the day's events Phil is determined to make everyone's day a great one.
- No Endor Holocaust:
- The movie glosses over the immense psychological strain that would be placed on Phil getting used to surprises again after living a few lifetimes worth of the same day.
- Harold Ramis stated that Phil lived the equivalent of 10,000 years. So, whatever psychological state Phil was in, he passed it. Maybe he committed suicide for a few hundred years? Towards the end of the DVD Commentary, Ramis suggests that, based on how well Phil can play the piano now, he was probably learning for ten years. The time frame is open to interpretation.
- It takes several years to learn a language to fluency. It is implied he has learned French, Italian, and Spanish, although we also know Phil is not above inflating his credentials.
- Noodle Incident:
- Phil mentions he "stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned" himself, but we only get to see the electrocution.
- Ned Ryerson mentions a few in short succession:Ned: Ned! Ryerson! "Needlenose Ned"? "Ned the Head"? Cmon, buddy. Case Western High. Ned Ryerson: I did the whistling-belly-button trick at the high-school talent show? Bing! Ned Ryerson: got the shingles real bad senior year, almost didnt graduate? Bing, again. Ned Ryerson: I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple times until you told me not to anymore? Well?
- Nothing Left to Do but Die: An extremely bored and depressed Phil kills himself multiple times. Then, in a subsequent scene, he lists each one to Rita calmly as a shocked waitress looks on. Hilarity Ensues.
- Not So Different: Phil complains to Those Two Guys that in his time loop, he does the same thing over and over, and nothing he ever does matters. One of them mumbles That about sums it up for me. Although this is open to interpretation. What Phil asks is, "What would you do if every day was the same and nothing you did mattered?" and his buddy responds by taking a shot. So "That about sums it up for me," could be an agreement that drinking heavily is the thing to do.
- Off the Rails: Phil tries this by kidnapping the groundhog, going on a car chase, and getting both of them killed. It doesnt work.
- Oh, Crap!:
- The first time it loops, Phil reacts to the radio "Put your little hand in mine" by simply saying "Nice going, boys, youre playing yesterdays tape", but then they talk about the Groundhog Day celebration. When he looks out the window, he sees theres no snow from the blizzard. That's his first Oh, Crap! moment, but its certainly not the last.
- Larry mouths "Oh, shit!" when he sees who bought him at the bachelor auction for twenty-five cents.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: It's never established where the character of Rita is from, but there are moments when Andie MacDowell noticeably drops into her South Carolina drawl.
- Pet the Dog: When Phil and the crew arrive in town, he loudly complains how much he hates the hotel where theyre staying, when Rita informs him she knew he didnt like it and got him a reservation at a quaint bed and breakfast. After hearing this, Phil seems surprised at the act of kindness and sincerely (if smugly) thanks her for it. It doesnt sound like much, but its the only decent thing Phil does prior to character development.
- The Power of Love: Only by winning Ritas heart does Phil break the time loop.
- Punch Spin Gape: Phil decking Ned in the street. Andie MacDowell jokes in a featurette about what a ham Stephen Tobolowsky is.
- Railroad Tracks of Doom: On his night of lawbreaking, Phil actually drives on the tracks towards an oncoming train. He doesn't know at the time that even a collision would have no consequences though.
- Raised Catholic: Rita invokes this to tell Phil he isnt a god.
- Reset Button: The clock turning six starts the day over.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Punxsutawney Phil is a rather pleasant looking groundhog that Rita fawns over during the news broadcast.
- Ring... Ring... CRUNCH:
- Phil ends up doing this to his clock radio several times as a way to vent frustration from his situation.
- When hes finally out of the loop, the song starts at a totally different part with the alarm, and the radio show host says, "Oh no. Not again."
- Rousseau Was Right: The films message: There is love, kindness and decency in everyone; you just need time to bring it out.
- Sanity Slippage: Phil is definitely this when he kidnaps the groundhog. Lampshaded by Larry.Larry: Hes out of his gourd!
- Save Scumming: An unusual non-video-game example of this trope.Phil: Want some white chocolate?
Rita: Yecch, makes me sick.
Phil: [to self] No white chocolate.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong:
- The many errands Phil runs as he spends longer and longer in the loop.
- Subverted in that some of his errands have no lasting effect beyond February 2. For example, the young couple whom Phil sends to see Wrestlemania may still be a failed marriage, since Debbie was having second thoughts for a reason. Phil has no idea what the long-lasting implications are because, well, there werent any in the time loop.
- And subverted with the homeless man, since no matter what Phil does, he dies in the loop.
- Very subtle, but Phil stuffing his face with the cake in the Tip Top gluttony scene, his guzzling from a bottle of Jack Daniels as he watches Jeopardy (for the nth time), and his music act at the end with the Ray-Bans all echo great moments from Bill Murrays fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus, John Belushi.
- Also, his "Be the hat!" line spoken to Rita as he's trying to coach her in precise throwing of cards into a hat is a shout-out to the similar "Be the ball!" line in Caddyshack, a film also shot by Harold Ramis and featuring Bill Murray as well.
- When Phil tells Rita that he's a god, his "stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned" list echoes Vigo the Carpathian's Rasputinian Death in Ghostbusters II.
- Slipstream: There is no in-universe explanation for the time loop. It just... happens to someone. An early draft of the screenplay had the time loop caused by a curse put upon Phil by his ex-girlfriend, but that was dropped.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Phil before the loop. He invariably responded to greetings with "Hi, thanks for watching."Larry: [practically giggling] Did he actually call himself "the talent"?
- Snow Means Love: Several times. Alternately, exactly once. Time travel.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: At first, Sonny and Chers "I Got You Babe" may seem like a random pop song on Phils radio, but as the film goes along, it gets a sinister edge to it.I got you, babe. I got you, babe.
- When the loop is broken, the lyrics are: "I got you, babe / They say our love won't pay the rent...", indicating Rita is with him now.
- During Phils unsuccessful attempts to seduce Rita in the snow, Ray Charles "You Dont Know Me" starts playing.
- Switching P.O.V.: Phil is the center of the attention for almost the entire movie. There are short scenes where he is not involved, but will be or just was in the scene. The only glaring difference in point-of-view is one scene where Rita and Larry identify Phils corpse at the morgue. Although his body is still technically in the scene, so the film arguably just follows his corpses point-of-view instead.
- Talk About the Weather: Mrs. Lancaster tries to make small talk with Phil by talking about the weather unfortunately, hes a weather forecaster in a bad mood.Mrs. Lancaster: Theres talk of a blizzard.
Phil: We may catch a break and that blizzards gonna blow right by us. All of this moisture coming up out of the south by midday is probably gonna push on to the east of us and at high altitudes its gonna crystallize and probably give us what we call snow. Probably will be some accumulation but here in Punxsutawney our high is gonna get up to about thirty today, teens tonight. Chance of precipitation about twenty percent today, twenty percent tomorrow. Did you want to talk about the weather or were you just making chit-chat?
- Talk to the Fist: Phil dismisses Ned this way once just to make his daily encounter with him brief.
- Technically a Smile: During the second ceremony, Phil makes an awkward, nervous fake smile at the end of his intro.
- Title Drop: Groundhog Day gets brought up many times because of the setting.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Phil goes from a snarky curmudgeon to a loving individual over the course of a "day".
- Understatement: Phil does this at least once to avoid talking about his problem.Rita: What did you do today?
Phil: Oh, same old same old.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Throughout the loop he saves the same kid from falling from a tree. He snarks at the little brat for never thanking him once.Phil: What do you say? What do you say? [kid runs off] You little brat, you have never thanked me! Ill see you tomorrow, maybe!
- The Un-Reveal: The audience never finds out how Phil got trapped in the time loop. He blames the groundhog at one point, but that was after a good deal of Sanity Slippage and killing it didn't break the loop anyway.
- Viewers Are Goldfish: Subverted by this film and many others that use "Groundhog Day" Loop plot devices, as each repetition has variations.
- Weather Report Opening: The first scene shows Phil in the studio giving a weather report to the TV audience.
- Whammy Bid: Rita empties out her checking account to purchase Phil at the bachelor auction.Rita: Three hundred thirty-nine dollars and eighty-eight cents!
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Its six AM in this case. True, Phil relives Groundhog Day proper every day, but it's from 6:00 AM February 2 to 5:59 AM February 3. Lampshaded once when Rita says she expected one of them to disappear at midnight.
- A World Half Full: Invoked by Gus, when he comments Phil has a "glass-half-empty" mindset.
- Wrong Restaurant: Phil Connors gets pulled over by the cops for driving recklessly. When the cop walks up to his car window to question him, Phil acts like he's at a drive-thru and asks the cop for a burgers and fries.note
- You Can't Fight Fate: Phil has a hard time accepting that for all his time-repeating abilities, he can't control everything.Phil: What did he die of?
Doctor: He was just old, it was just his time... sometimes, people just die.
Phil: Not today.