Stuck on Repeat: 7 Hollywood Time Loops
It’s all Groundhog Day’s fault.
The 1993 comedy hit, which stars Bill Murray as a snarky weatherman forced to re-live the same day over and over again until he becomes a better person, made the idea of a time loop a very popular narrative device for movies and television — and for good reason. There isn’t one person who hasn’t had a day they wish they could take a mulligan on. It’s a very relatable idea, and it’s easy to see why Hollywood keeps going back to the time-loop well.
With Edge of Tomorrow becoming the latest member of the “Groundhog Day-ing It Club,” SPINOFF looks back at some of the most memorable TV and movie do-overs.
“Cause and Effect” (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Actually, maybe we should blame this fifth season episode of TNG, which aired in 1992 — a year before Groundhog Day.
The episode kicks off with the series’ best teaser — the Enterprise explodes with all hands aboard — and the crew struggle to learn why they are repeating the same event over again, always resulting in a fiery death. Picard and Company eventually discover that they are caught in a temporal causality loop (naturally), and free themselves from its broken record-y clutches. Their reward? A FaceTime convo with Kelsey Grammer!
It’s Groundhog Day with a strong dose of speed, as Jake Gyllenhaal struggles to stop a bad guy from blowing up a train in this underrated 2011 sci-fi thriller.
Source Code adds a new wrinkle to the time loop conceit, as our hero only gets to repeat the last 8 minutes that led up to the tragedy — by way of occupying another’s consciousness. The less you try to make sense of that, the better.
Jonathan Silverman(?!) and Helen Slater headline this 1993 TV movie which aired on Fox. The Weekend at Bernie’s star plays a scientist who witnesses the fatal shooting of his colleague (Slater), suffers an electrical shock and is forced to re-live the same terrible events whenever the clock strikes one minute past midnight.
This time, the whole world is stuck in a time loop and it’s up the star of NBC’s The Single Guy to sort it all out. (We’d be better off having Bernie save us.)
This 2007 Spanish-language film is full of “what the what?!” moments, as a seemingly normal guy — Hector — accidentally finds himself stuck in a time loop, being chased by a bandaged man through a secluded area of town. Time machines and paradoxes abound in this imperfect, but engrossing, time travel tale.
“Mystery Spot” (Supernatural)
This Season 3 episode of the CW series is a great example of what the show does so well: Take a trope and push it to its most fun and self-aware limits. While investigating crazy things at the titular location, Sam is forced to witness his brother Dean die over and over again — with increasingly graphic and sometimes hilarious results.
Run Lola Run
Director Tom Tykwer puts his titular character through her paces in this 1998 cult hit, as Franka Potente is forced to re-live the same “runs” three different times in an effort to score enough cash to save her boyfriend — a small-time criminal. Hitting the re-set switch results in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” vibe, giving Lola and the characters in her orbit different outcomes to their actions — which rightfully keeps the audience at the edge of their seats.
“Monday” (The X-Files)
The X-Files is at their self-reflexive best in this sixth season installment, which opens with Mulder bleeding out from a gunshot wound at bank robbery gone wrong. He then wakes up the next day — unharmed — atop his waterbed, which has sprung a leak. This sets off a series of events that finds Mulder reunion tour-ing with the wrong end of that bank robber’s gun, resulting in a very inventive and comical episode from co-writer Vince Gilligan.
This 2004 indie is the film equivalent of that pain you get from eating ice cream too fast — but in a good way.
Primer makes Timecrimes look like a straight line with its crazy faithful commitment to what would really happen if someone literally invented time travel in their garage. Headaches and crossed eyes ensue as the film centers on the paradoxes its lead characters must endure when they reach back in time and don’t like what they find. Like most time travel films, this one benefits greatly from repeat viewings. (See what we did there?)