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WMG / Groundhog Day

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Phil had to overcome the seven deadly sins in order to escape the time loop.
Almost all of the seven deadly sins make an appearance in the movie. Think about it:

  • Sloth: Sitting around in a bathrobe watching game shows till he has them memorized.
  • Greed: Stealing the money out of the van.
  • Gluttony: When he started eating like a pig.
  • Wrath: Basically whenever Phil hurt someone, knowing there'd be no consequence.
  • Lust: Sleeping with every woman he could find.
  • Envy: Hinted at in his relationship with the news anchor "Hairdo" Nan.
  • Pride: Phil's biggest character flaw.

With each loop/new day, an alternate universe is created.
In the time loop, when a day ends, the day does not disappear into nothingness. It becomes an alternate universe in which Phil exits the time loop through that day. Like the ending of the movie, when Phil exited the time loop through the day in which he is nice to everyone and lives with the consequences and results of that day, each day in the time loop has its own alternate universe in which Phil lives the results and consequences of that day. This means that there is an alternate universe where the time loop never happened in the first place, an alternate universe where Phil promised to marry a woman he did not know, several alternate universes in which Phil has a bad relationship with Rita, several alternate universes in which Phil is dead because of suicide, and so on. None of the Phils know this though, and each Phil except for the first and true Phil has exited the time loop, and only the first and true Phil retains the knowledge he has gained from each day. Furthermore...

The first Phil never exited the time loop.
The ending of the movie only showed Phil exiting the time loop in one of the many alternate universes. In reality, the first and true Phil woke up the next day as he woke up almost every other day: In the same time loop. The time loop will always continue, and the first and true Phil will never escape and will forever create alternate universes in which a different, alternate Phil must deal with the consequences of their corresponding day.
  • Or not, considering how many days he killed himself for kicks.

The whole film is an inadvertant metaphor for Buddhism.
Harold Ramis admits he has a bit of a Buddhist bent, but it really hits the bullseye - getting "reincarnated" for 10 000 years? Only finding inner peace through compassion? Suicide won't kill you - you'll just get reincarnated? It's Buddhism to a T! Well... non-voluntary Buddhism, for Phil.

The snowstorm is part of the time loop.
It was originally supposed to hit Altoona and miss Pittsburgh entirely — but when something decided that Phil Connors needed teaching a lesson, the weather was altered in order to strand him there. After all, so much more of a punishment to trap him in a small town he hates with limited options than trap him in a large city with plenty of alternatives to amuse / distract himself.

Ned Ryerson is a Time Lord.
After seeing for the first time what a huge douche his 'friend' was, Ned decided to teach Phil a lesson in humility. Much like the WMG below states, the loop was not broken by Phil's change of heart, but by his actual and sincere kindness towards Ned.May overlap with a very vague, temporal, Stalker with a Crush.
  • Another possibility is that Ned just wants to sell insurance. On the last day of the loop, Phil buys a major policy from Ned. Only after this purchase does Ned allow Phil out of the time loop.
  • Rita must be the doctor's companion!
  • That adds a lot of meaning to Ned saying "Whoa-ho-ho... that first step is a doozy!" on the first day.
    • OMG. That also adds meaning to Ned's last lines!
      Ned: Phil, this is the best day of my life.
      Phil: Mine too.
      Rita: Mine too.
      Ned: Where are we going?
      Rita: Oh, let's not spoil it!
      Ned: I got that. [noise]
    • They're going to tomorrow!!!!!
The Infinite Time Loop had nothing to do with Phil Conners.
In another part of Punxsutawney, a Japanese transport college student by the name of Furude Rika ends up getting involved in some crazy shenanigans similar to an incident in her "childhood". The ending of the time loop had nothing to do with Phil Connors learning not to be a douchebag, but because she was able to prevent her own murder after several altenate time lines and countless Groundhog Days.
  • One problem with this though: Why was Phil Conners able to remember every further Groundhog Day? And why wasn't anybody else?
    • Because... Phil Conners is Furude Rika's Opposite-Sex Clone! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!
    • Because Phil Connors is an Integrated Data Interface, sent to earth to investigate the phenomenon that humans believe allows groundhogs to predict the future on a certain day of the year.
    • Because Phil Conners was sleeping in a room above the temporary Secret Storage Facility where the Stargate that cancelled the lack of Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory was being held.
    • Because Phil Connors is a ghost buster. Also, he was possessed by Cthulhu. Time ripples just do not compare.

The Phil Connors shown at the end of the film is not the real Phil Connors.
He got Bored with Insanity after slaughtering a few dozen (or hundred) townspeople a couple of times, and ended up either wandering through his days in a haze or being taken over by whatever was causing the "Groundhog Day" Loop.

Phil Connors is Old Spock from Star Trek (2009).
He's Old Spock from an alternate universe where he decided, unwisely, to try touching the Red Matter with his tongue. Groundhog Day is the unfortunate result. His escape at the end is a hallucination - he remains in Puxatawny forever.

Groundhog Day ends when Phil learns to put up with Ned Ryerson.
For some reason, karma, fate or whatever really wanted Phil to learn to put up with Ned. Even when he's improving himself, he's still does everything he can to avoid or drive away Ned, until the final iteration before the next day begins; after all, anyone can be nice to people they like or want to impress, but it takes character to act the same to someone you think is a complete douchebag.

Winning Rita's heart was just a happy bonus.

  • Couldn't be. Phil actually is nice to (and even hugs) Ned before his last loop. Ned actually runs away from him.
    • But Phil wasn't really being nice to Ned when he hugged him, he was trying to freak Ned out and get Ned to leave him alone that loop. So just hugging him wasn't enough to satisfy the universe if this hypothesis is true.
    • Adding to the above, Phil pretends to come on to Ned.
      • Which is actually totally canon.

Phil is trapped in the world's most elaborate Gamebook plot ever.

Think about it. A number of events seem to happen in a specific order no matter how much time has passed or what you've done in the meantime. Phil can dilly-dally getting to Gobbler's Knob or he can jump out of bed and sprint there, and the same events will be happening. He can make minor choices, but the outcomes are few and simple. Slap, slap, slap, die, die, die.

  • This entry right here has made my day.

Groundhog Day is a video game
The player could end the loop at any time. He just wants to get the "Good ending", and keeps reloading the game at a save point (or possibly using save states). Like any player, he remembers his mistakes from last time and can try something different this time. Phil isn't in a timeloop, it's just the in-game explanation for why he can live the same day over and over and remember all previous iterations. The entire story is a massive case of Save Scumming.
  • But wouldn't he try focusing on the plot of the game instead of faffing about with stealing money and learning piano?
  • This also explains the sudden burst of suicide. The player was probably frustrated by how hard the game was proving and engaged in a little therapeutic cruelty by ramming their character into every hazard they could think of.
  • That's ridiculous. Who would go to so much effort for a game?
The time loop was caused by a white hole.
After all, a white hole spews time back into the universe. After all, a white hole spews time back into the universe. Like just then, when time repeated itself.
  • So, what is it?
    • Only joking!
    • Someone punch him out!
    • WHAM!
    • We're in the 20th Century now. Here's a frozen steak for your face.
Rita is the cause of the time loop and she did not even notice.
I will give you a minute to laugh at it. Anyone find it weird that only after winning Rita's heart did Phil managed to break out of the loop? Plus, she shares the same name as a certain witch.
Phil did manage to return to Pittsburgh a few times, he just had to leave town the moment he woke up in the morning.
It just proved to be such an inconvenience he gave up at it. The blizzard would always hit while he was there and everywhere interesting closed.

The Powers That Be of the time loop prevented Phil from doing anything that would be too damaging to his psyche.
While daydreaming about all the crazy things Phil could do with his powers is always an interesting thought experiment, he may have found himself unable to do things which would possibly haunt him forever - shooting up the town square, rape, cold-blooded murder, killing Rita herself - if the Powers That Be were intending for him to end up with Rita in the end they kept him from doing anything that would interfere with that end product of the loop.
  • Phil mentions he was "shot, stabbed, poisoned, blown up, electrocuted and hanged", which heavily imples he did do some things like murder, shooting spree, arson (Word of God is they don't show this because it would change the tone too much).
    • That's reading quite a bit into it, inasmuch as all of those are things one can do to oneself — and in fact we see one of them.
  • Or maybe Phil didn't commit rape and wanton murder because, you know, he had enough of a conscience to not do so? Even if history repeats, I don't think all but a sociopath would be able to do what you're describing.
    • I think a loop like that would eventually drive anyone to become a psychopath, at least for a while. Sociopaths aren't just people who kill for no reason, they're people who can't comprehend that other people have a sense of self. They're completely unable to empathize. From his perspective, eventually, these people would stop seeming like people. He knows exactly what they do, what they think, who they are. They'd seem like an NPC in a video game. Mindless drones going about their set path with no deviation, always spouting the same phrase and doing the same things. Phil even says at one point he's a God. I think almost anyone would eventually, after an incalculable number of years would go mad from frustration and literally do everything they can think of to break up the monotony including murder, rape and arson. Morals only hold true so long as we believe other people exist and matter. When you're the only one who can change, do something different, have an apparent sense of free will, other people simply wouldn't seem real.

Or alternatively, Phil did commit terrible crimes while stuck in the time loop
Having to live, reset, and repeat the same day over and over again drove Phil mad enough to commit suicide multiple times (once taking Punxsutawney Phil with him). I find it likely that Phil would've went on a rampage of arson, robbery, rape, murder, etc. at least once. And he may or may not feel remorseful afterwards, as he's aware that everything will revert back when the next day starts, with his victims back from the dead and totally unaware.
  • Word of God says he did, but they didn't show it because it would change the tone too much.

The bartender was the cause of the infinite time loop.
The bartender, playing the role of the Magical Negro, was the person who caused the infinite time loop— judging by the Knowing Glance towards the camera when Phil finally picks Rita's favorite drink and does her favorite toast.
  • I like the alternative idea that the bartender is also reliving Groundhog Day like Phil, but he just doesn't realize it. He probably gets the same customers every day anyhow, so he doesn't notice anything strange when it's the same routine with the same people—but he pays enough attention to them that he's happy to see Phil doing the right thing to impress Rita.
The time loop was started when Phil was hit in the head by the shovel after hanging up the phone.
This is the previous poster (the one about the bartender), and this is my sister's assertion.
Ned Ryerson is stuck in another (separate) time loop.
You know that scene where Phil randomly finds Nancy, asks her some basic information, then uses it to get her into bed the next time around? Ned did the exact same thing to Phil, implanting false memories in order to sell him insurance.
Phil was experiencing Haruhi's Endless Eight...
Only, he was feeling the delayed effects. This means that the last time was his Kyon moment.
  • Going along with that, he was created by the same organization that created Yuki.
    • Or, the Data Interface was just trying to gauge the reaction of a repeated period of time on a normal human.
  • Haruhi saw a subtitled version of Groundhog Day, liked the idea of having all the time in the world to have fun, and subconsciously created a Groundhog Day loop.
Phil didn't go to sleep for years
It's pretty obvious he got a good night's sleep before the loop - he never seems to need to take a nap. So I'm assuming outside of times when he tired himself out, he didn't actually go to sleep very often.

Phil never got out
  • He just went insane, this time irrevocably.

The loop was caused by the hobo

Everyone has a vague subconscious awareness of the Loop, but only Phil was consciously aware of it.
At one point during the many attempts at setting up a perfect date, Rita comments to Phil that this seems somehow familiar and asks him about deja vu. It's possible that while nobody noticed enough for them to alter their set pattern for Groundhog Day barring intervention from Phil, there are phantom memories in the subconscious that could cause people Phil interacted with over and over to remember him on a level they can't access consciously. Over the period of the loop (whether you believe it is ten years or several thousand, it makes no difference) all the things Phil does right starts to build up, which is why all the people like Phil so much on the final day, even though he should be a stranger that performed a good deed for them earlier; subconsciously remembering years to centuries of Phil's kinder acts means people on the final day instinctively react to him as the town hero rather than someone who's only been there a day. This is also how Rita accepts Phil admitting he loves her this time compared to her previous reactions; it's not just detecting his sincerity this time, it's also remembering on some level the many repetitions where Phil started improving himself by being nicer to her.

Groundhog Day is part of a Source Code experiment.
The reason Phil gets stuck in a loop is because Colter is hijacking his mind to stop a terrorist attack. The mind has nowhere to go, so it goes back a day. Idea gets expanded on the link.

  • The first draft of the script has it a gyspy curse, while the second draft has it a curse created by a scorned ex-girlfriend. The finished product doesn't rule out either explaination.

Groundhog Day takes place in the same universe as Replay
It's been eight years since Jeff Winston finished his Replays. Eventually Phil and Jeff's paths cross (they're both in the news industry) and they talk about their experiences.

Rita is on her period.
Explains why no matter how hard he tries to get her in bed, no matter how many right buttons he finds to press, the answer was always "no". It's always the same day, so it's not like her menstrual cycle is going to be over until time moves on.
  • Or more likely, she just doesn't want to sleep with a guy she met a couple days ago, and a colleague at that. One she thought was an arrogant prick the day before. Some women have personal codes about that kind of thing... it's not always about hormones.
    • Yeah, but that's cannon - not a Wild Mass Guess. And most women don't want the mess of fooling around on the rag - this doesn't have to involve hormones at all.
  • Except that, when the loop finally broke on February 3, it was her who seemed to be a little upset they hadn't moved further the preceding night...
But at least he's going to waking up next to Rita for a while.

Rita is a god (or at least an avatar of a god).

Specifically, Rita is god, and Phil's jerkassery towards her leads her to punish him. His punishment involves being trapped in a time loop until he impresses her. However, she (or the god who is using her as an avatar) doesn't want to let him out only when he proves impressive. The deity inhabiting Rita knows that Phil can become better, and the loop is a test. Once Phil truly improves himself, morally, spiritually, and personally, she lets him out. This also is why Rita is so incredulous at Phil's claiming to be god, because She is.

There never was a time loop.
It was all staged by the citizens of Punxsutawney, who wanted to have their town in TV every day. They also paid Rita to help them (Larry was too dumb to notice). They even went as far as cloning Phil after he killed himself to help with their advertisement campaign. When Phil made his report on the final day, they knew it wouldn't get any better and let him go.

Phil looped through the final day more than once.
After falling asleep with Rita, Phil woke up the next day, exactly like every other Groundhog Day. As his previous run though the day had been perfect, he did it again, exactly the same. This may or may not have repeated, but if it did, he lived the day the exact same way every time. Eventually, Phil was ejected from the loop due to the fact that nothing was changing. When he woke up with Rita, the identical days blurred together and felt like only a single day.

There were a finite number of loops.
The loop had nothing to do with Phil learning a lesson or finding true love. The loop repeated a set number of times, and then it ended. It was lucky that Phil had a perfect day that day, because it still would've ended even if he'd killed or mutilated himself that day.

We're all part of a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
We're the random extras who live the same day over and over and then forget about it.

Phil is dead.
Maybe he decided to try walking to Pittsburgh after all, maybe it was the hit on his head with the shovel, maybe shock from the cold shower, maybe something else, in any case, Phil died on the first day. He had to go through Purgatory (Purgatory, according to Catholic Church doctrine, is an intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven "undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven".) in the form of repeating his last day on earth, until he fianlly entered heaven (The Next Day).

Groundhog Day is a Deconstruction of Character Development.
It'd take ten/ten thousand years for a Jerkass to truly become a Nice Guy.

The "Groundhog Day" Loop was caused by Slaanesh
Because every WMG page needs a crossover with Warhammer 40,000.

Fred was the sort of guy who would be not afraid to cry in front of Debbie
...And change poopy diapers, and perhaps even be willing to use the word "poopy", if necessary. This spurred on her second thoughts about the wedding, because she was the sort of girl who wanted an overly macho sort of man (notice it is she who gets the most excited about the Wrestlemania tickets during their conversation with Phil.) Fred senses that Rita is looking for the more sensitive type of man, thus his longing glance towards her when he kisses her cheek at the party, but alas, her attentions have already been turned to Phil by this point. Debbie sees the longing glance that Fred gives Rita, and angrily pulls him away, which foreshadows a long and unhappy marriage, with an angry, controlling, jealous, and deeply critical woman. This, coupled with many torturous nights viewing pro wrestling, eventually causes a Sanity Slippage for Fred, thusly causing him to become Ax-Crazy at some point, flipping tables and flinging cutlery at the local Punxatawney Diner, raving about how Punxatawney Phil personally told him that the world would be experiencing six millennia of an uninhabitable ice age, and they must all move underground or die, and will be later committed to an insane asylum for the rest of his life, when all is said and done.

Phil's inability to save the homeless man is deliberate on the part of...whatever is causing the time loop
Phil, after his numerous attempts to commit suicide fail, ends up declaring that he's a god. This, on top of mastering all the numerous skills that he ends up showing off later on, cause the Powers That Be to nullify any attempt he makes to save the homeless man as a way of teaching Phil that, no, he's not a god, and that there are some things that he cannot do, nor is he meant to do. Once he accepts this as part of his Character Development, things move forward toward him eventually breaking the loop.

The loop was caused by the meddling of more than one Holiday Spirit

In Phil's universe, Santa, the Easter Bunny and other anthropomorphic personifications of holidays exist, and can converse with each other. One of these is of course, The Groundhog. Now The Groundhog, was just a rodent elevated to the status of immortal, albeit a minor one, due to collective belief, so it kind of got to his head and he was a bit overly egotistical. The Groundhog aspired to be like Santa Claus, and loved hearing stories from him about the many times there was someone who disrespected the holiday in one way or another and Santa or his comrades would whip out some Christmas magic on them and teach them a lesson, making them learn the “True Spirit” or whatever. Scrooge, George Bailey , Kevin Mcallister, Jack Campbell, Chris Van Allsburg and probably many other protagonists in typical Hallmark Christmas specials, all having a magic moment that converted them into true Xmas acolytes. The Groundhog yearned for at least one moment when his holiday would be glorified in this manner. Enter Phil Conners. He dislikes Punxsutawney, the closest thing to the North Pole or Halloweentown to The Groundhog, and can’t wait to leave. He was grumpily dismissive about the whole idea of Groundhog Day. There’s also the fact that this was going to be, he hopes, the last time he would ever do this yearly Gobblers Knob ritual. Phil Conners is the Scrooge of Groundhog Day. And so the overzealous Groundhog saw his moment:

“So this man dares to ‘bah humbug’ my holiday?! Well I shall unleash the Magic of Groundhog Day and let him know the true meaning of Groundhog Day so he will have the Groundhog Day Spirit in his heart!”

The blizzard of course was his first attempt…that was all him. He only symbolises the weather and seasons (and just two at that) so he just has minor control over winter and spring. But after this weak attempt, The Groundhog got some…outside help. From another holiday spirit who the Groundhog knows quite well, given that this guys’ holiday is the last one before that of the Groundhog. Who other than Father Time, the personification of New Years Eve, and also of Time itself (it could be Baby New Year but lets just refer to him as Father Time for now). Father Time lent The Groundhog his power either because

1) Out of plain friendship (also if it was Baby New Year it would be easy for a cute furry groundhog to convince him)

2) He lost a bet to The Groundhog.

3) Just to get The Groundhog to shut up and stop trying to mess with the weather

4) Perhaps The Groundhog managed to steal a time device from Father Time. Since it manipulates time The Groundhog would only need to have it a few minutes or so to give Phil a zillion days.

Either way, The Groundhog gets his wish. Note how all throughout the movie you see images of the groundhog here and there. Appropriate decorations sure, but they also symbolize the looming presence of the puppeteer behind Phil’s hell: The Groundhog …not just a groundhog THE Groundhog, the Spirit of Groundhog Day. And what happens: Phil gives a great speech at Gobblers Knob and winds up turning this holiday into the most magically wonderful day of his life, and not just for him, but for everyone in that town, creating Groundhog Day Miracles all over the place. And then he decides to live in Punxsutawney. Indeed he truly has the Spirit of Groundhog Day in his heart. So The Groundhog got his “Magic” “Spirit” “Miracle” moment he envied of Santa. Of course falling in love was a huge part of Phil’s experience so there good reason The Groundhog managed to get assistance from that OTHER Holiday icon who is close by.

Phil is the frog prince and Rita is the princess. By wooing her, he breaks the spell
There's a scene in the script where Phil is overhearing a school class reading the frog prince fairy tale.

The end of Phil's Character Development is what ended the time loop.
God himself had brought him through the loop to cause said development, too. If Phil had remained the Jerkass he was in the start of the film, he would just be stuck in the loop forever until the good in him was brought out.

The loop wasn't broken, he just advanced one day.

Bill will repeat the SECOND day, the one you saw at the ending. For a lot of time he will be waking next to Rita every morning, until he makes this day perfect too, just the day before. So he will break to madness many times, recover himself all the times, and finally make a streak of Perfect Days, wherever he goes and whoever is at his side. He will spread happiness and improve the world, ending poberty, ending diseases and ecological lingering catastrophes, and avoiding Ghostbusters 16.

When Earth would turn to be a paradise, he would be fully released, since every day will be a "Perfect Day". He -and everybody- will live in complete happiness.

So, would you mind helping him a little? If you contribute to the improvement of our world, he will have a little less work to do, and can just get his deserved reward a little bit earlier.

  • Interesting theory

Phil died that first day and was in Hell the whole time.
The theory is that the events of the movie has all been taking place in Phil's own personal Ironic Hell. One cannot say for certain when or how he died the first time and found himself in this hell, whether it was the blizzard or a car crash or if he had died in his sleep out of circumstance. Either way, Phil is dead and the reason why the world resets again and again as a means of tormenting Phil.

With the end of the movie having time continuing after (according to the director Harold Ramis) 10 years worth of one single day eventually turning a man deserving of Hell into a better person, this would imply that the Hell of this universe is not a place of eternal punishment, but a place of reform and cleansing trials similar to the likes of Jacob's Ladder, with Phil leaving for a better place. A subtle exaggeration of qualities that would trigger a Jerkass were carefully engineered in this personal afterlife (the small-town attitude, people he doesn't like wanting his attention, Rita's "high-standards" of decency) not to torment him, but to encourage him to be better in a way where he has no real choice but to improve.

Attempting to save the old homeless man was a key event in Phil's finding out how to help other people in Puxataney

It was because he was at the hospital that he learned about things like the Mayor of the town choking to death and the kid severely injuring himself falling out of the tree.

Everyone in Puxataney is subject to their own time loop
The town itself is a Genius Loci or even a well-meaning Eldritch Location that judges the moral compass of everyone in it and forces them into a time loop if they don't value their own life and the lives of others. This would explain why everyone is so jovial and compassionate, with even the drunks down at the local bar who give Phil the inspiration to be selfish and uncaring still having a moral code.