The success of Groundhog Day catapulted time loop movies into mainstream popularity – now we recommend some modern films that use the concept.
When life feels like a loop, movies are there to pull us out of it. No matter what mood you’re in, there will be something for you to watch in that moment. If you’re having a bad day, the thing you don’t want is for tomorrow to be exactly the same. And that same thought is what usually starts off a time loop movie.
Pretty much everyone’s heard of Groundhog Day. The 1993 film starring Bill Murray and directed by Harold Ramis, the story of a selfish man stuck living the same day over and over until he learns to become a better person. It’s the film that most other loop stories will reference at some point, just in case you needed reminding.
Many TV shows have used this concept for single episodes, usually if a character needs to make a revelation, or have a change of heart, or to build drama and change the central character’s view by the end. Buffy has done it; Star Trek has done it. Legends Of Tomorrow gave us one of its best episodes in season three’s ‘Here I Go Again’, which firmly planted then new character Zari as an integral part of the show. The entire series of the excellent Russian Doll uses the concept to great effect. I’m still surprised it took until the recent Eve of the Daleks for Doctor Who to take a stab at it.
We’re all familiar with how it works. There’s normally some mix of fun visual clues and odd lines of dialogue that make each time the character goes back interesting. It’s been done a million times; audiences know what to expect from this type of narrative. But over the past few years there’s been a small influx of these films being made, and they have done something new and interesting with the time loop concept.
Edge Of Tomorrow (or Live, Die, Repeat, depending on who you ask) the 2014 action/sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt is a favourite of mine and many who have seen it. Doug Liman directed, adapting from the novel All You Need Is Kill. It was a surprise upon release, after a wave of less than inspired trailers and, frankly, a train wreck of an advertising campaign. Yet the time it hit cinemas it was actually really good.
The issue was that not many people made it past the trailers to buy a ticket. On a $178m budget, the film grossed around $370m at the worldwide box office. Not a huge hit by any stretch, but I’d argue just about north to not be called a big flop either.
A sequel has been talked about for years, but the lack of fireworks at the box office has been holding this one back, as most of the people involved with the film have expressed interest in making a return. Fingers crossed on that front as it really is a corker of a movie, and maybe with a better ad campaign behind it, it can do the business it deserves. Its star has certainly risen on home formats, which helps.
Ever been to a wedding that feels like it is never going to end? Well, that’s exactly what happens to Andy Samberg in Palm Springs. One of the best films of 2020 took a while to make its way over to the UK, so it may have been easy for you to miss it. Cristin Milioti also stars, and when Samberg saves her from the horror of the wedding (she’s the maid of honour), drama and hilarity unfold.
An interesting thing that this film does is that it starts out with Samberg having already been in the loop for some time, which is something I hadn’t seen done before. It helps the film get straight into it and adds another layer on to the characters and story. There’s also a scene stealing showing from the always brilliant J.K. Simmons, who is clearly enjoying himself in this one.
And actually, what immediately stuck out to me was how much everyone is having a blast making it. Coming in at a breezy 90 minutes, it never outstays its welcome. Just sit back, relax, and have a great time.
There have been a few films that have tried to do something fresh with the Groundhog concept recently, like 2017’s Happy Death Day pushing it into the horror genre (though the film does end up leaning more towards the humorous side). But a film that doesn’t reinvent the wheel is one that stuck out to me.
Last year’s The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, released on Amazon Prime, is a lovely little picture that might not have been on your radar, or maybe you did see it on your homepage and kept scrolling. Its concept is simple and nothing new, (boy meets girl and both keep looping until they get a better understanding of one another) and doesn’t reach the heights of some of the other films I’ve mentioned, but it is a lovely coming of age story carried by two wonderful leads.
Kyle Allen and Kathryn Newton wonderfully play two teens as they try to find all the tiny perfect moments that would usually pass them by, but with the help of being stuck living the same day over and over, they are determined to witness them all. Probably not for everyone, some may find it a bit too quirky, but for me, some nice imagery from director Ian Samuels and great chemistry between the leads elevate this from being ‘just another time loop movie’.
There are of course more that I’ve not mentioned, but these are just some of the ones that stick out to me. I’m not sure what it is about the concept but recently I just seem to enjoy, on some level, any film trying this out. I look forward to watching the next Groundhog Day-inspired film when it’s inevitably made. Either way, one thing is for certain – when life feels like a loop, movies are there to pull us out of it.
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