Summary

  • Phil Connors learns to use his time to better himself and help others, ultimately breaking the Groundhog Day time loop.
  • The number of times Phil lives through the time loop is not explicitly given, but it is implied to be longer than what is shown on screen.
  • Phil’s character arc and transformation, as well as gaining Rita’s approval, are what ultimately bring an end to the time loop.


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At the end of Groundhog Day, Phil Connors learns to use the time he has to enhance his life and use his abilities to help others, making him a popular figure in Punxsutawney, finally winning the heart of Rita, and breaking the endless repeating loop of Groundhog Day. Directed by Harold Ramis from a script he wrote with Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day is a classic comedy featuring performances from Bull Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliot, Stephen Tobolowsky, and more.

Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is an arrogant Pittsburg weatherman who looks down on everyone around him and treats his coworkers poorly. His least favorite part of the year is when the network sends him to cover Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, so when he finds he’s stuck in an endlessly repeating Groundhog Day, it’s a living nightmare. Initially, Phil is driven insane by his curse, but eventually learns to use his time to better himself and treat everyone in Punxsutawney with kindness, finally getting Rita’s (Andie MacDowell) approval and ending the never-ending Groundhog Day loop.

Related: Groundhog Day’s Best Theory Makes The Happy Ending A Curse


How Long is Phil Stuck in Groundhog Day?

How many times does the Groundhog Day time loop repeat?

Groundhog Day shows the majority of the first few days of Phil’s time loop, but before long it becomes clear time is jumping ahead, occasionally skipping dozens, if not hundreds of days at a time. In his first few days, Phil follows a relatively similar pattern before he begins to explore and utilize the time loop for smaller schemes, such as learning about Nancy Taylor so he can seduce her; however, it’s quickly revealed that Phil has been in the loop for far longer than shown on screen, particularly when he shows up to a movie theater and says he’s seen the movie hundreds of times.

Initially, Phil uses the repeating Groundhog Day time loop to execute progressively elaborate schemes by memorizing the daily sequence of events, down to which way the wind is going to blow, so he can do things like rob money from the back of the armored car. Eventually, he starts to go crazy and tries to kill himself in as many different ways as he can, but he always wakes back up in Punxsutawney Groundhog Day morning at 6am listening to Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”

While some of the things Phil learns are shown on screen by a montage of trial and error, by the end of Groundhog Day it’s revealed he’s become proficient at skills that require years of study, dedication, and practice. He’s well-read, he has advanced medical knowledge, he’s an expert piano player, a master ice carver, and he’s memorized nearly every single detail of every character in the town. Many of the things he’s learned and accomplished would take years to master independently, but stringing them all together would account for years, if not decades, of dedication outside the time loop.

Related: Groundhog Day: The 10 Funniest Things That Phil Did, Ranked

The movie may not give a definitive measure of the number of times Phil lived through the Groundhog Day loop, but on the DVD Commentary, Harold Ramis said while they were writing the script he considered making it 10,000 years, although during the making of the film it got condensed to closer to a decade. While neither of those explanations make it onto the screen in the actual movie, Phil’s vast proficiencies in the final scene account for more than what many people learn in a lifetime, so it’s clear even a decade might not fully account for the number of times he experienced the Groundhog Day time loop.

How Rita and the Old Man Change Phil’s Character Arc

Why Phil finally stopped living so selfishly?

After the shock of the first few days of the time loop wear off, Phil begins to exploit the repeating days to his own benefit, mostly to satisfy more carnal desires. One of the first ways he’s shown to exploit the time loop is by targeting Nancy Taylor and learning all about her one day so he can trick her into going on a date with him the next day. He’s also shown taking another woman on a date to the movie theater and tries to follow a similar pattern with Rita, although Rita requires far more time loops and is much harder to exploit. There’s even a montage of Phil getting slapped by Rita.

Eventually, Phil realizes what’s different about Rita is her kindness and the fact that she wants to be kind to everyone around her. Phil begins to adopt a similar mindset and tries to help the old homeless man (Les Podewell), only to discover the old man dies every night anyway. Phil demands to see the man’s medical chart and the nurse tells him “some people just die,” to which Phil responds “not today.” Because of this, Phil is confronted with the fact that he has tremendous power to do good, and even if he can’t save the old man, he can still make a difference in Punxsutawney.

Why Did Groundhog Day Finally Stop?

What did Phil do to end the time loop?

The Groundhog Day-style repeating time loop trope has been used in a number of other movies over the years and often has some kind of magical or technological explanation for the time loop, but in the case of Groundhog Day there’s no reason given for why Groundhog Day keeps repeating for Phil. He’s been to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day before without encountering the time loop, and no other characters in the movie share the time loop experience with him, so as a result it’s hard to identify exactly what causes it to start or stop, although there’s a clear correlation to Phil’s character arc, so it’s easy to assume Phil’s character progression is what ends the loop.

Related: Every Harold Ramis Directed Movie Ranked From Worst To Best

At the beginning of Groundhog Day, Phil is mean and self-centered, and when he first starts utilizing the time loop, he does it in mean and self-centered ways. Eventually, he begins to despair and attempts to kill himself to make the time loop end. It’s not until he dedicates his time and effort into making the day the best possible he can for everyone and not just himself. He’s certainly improved himself drastically through study and practice, but he dedicates his life to a (partially) thankless Sisyphean task such as saving the boy falling from the tree, knowing full well the day will reset anyway.

Despite fixing tires for old women, saving old men from heart attacks, and more, the day still repeats until Phil finally garners the approval of Rita. It’s not clear if Groundhog Day’s time loop logic involves Rita in any way, but Phil notes that she’s the kindest person he’s ever met, so for him to go from someone who’s completely self-centered to someone she’s willing to bid $339.88 at the bachelor auction marks the end of a true character transformation.

Groundhog Day Ending and True Meaning Explained

Phil learns he has the power of a god, but he’s not God.

Despite the absence of a strict time loop logic or larger cosmic explanation for Phil’s endless repetition of Groundhog Day, the story hits on a few key themes that give a deeper meaning to the story of Groundhog Day. After trying to kill himself numerous times, Phil eventually tells Rita “I think I’m a god. Not the god, just a god.” The distinction is interesting, as Phil has learned he has tremendous power if he uses the time loop correctly, but he also doesn’t actually have total control. This is a very similar revelation Doctor Manhattan says in Watchmen “if there is a God, I’m nothing like him” or Father Cavanaugh in Rudy: “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.” It’s a careful balance of recognizing his own power while still humbly recognizing the existence of a higher power.

While Groundhog Day is hardly a fantasy or mythological epic, Phil has traveled through a portion of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey to discover self-actualization to learn “all the heavens, all the hells are within you.” Phil learns to both seize the day he’s given and make the most of the time loop to elevate himself but to do it in a way that helps those around him instead of simply living a self-serving life in his little domain. Through this, he’s finally able to ascend and both win the heart of Rita, but also finally escape from the time loop reborn, leaving the selfish Phil behind to live life as a new man.

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