The movie “Groundhog Day” came out in1993, but it feels as if we’ve been watching it over and over ever since. This story of a smugweatherman (Bill Murray) who is stuck endlessly repeating the same day has remained popular and inspired countless movies and shows. (The latest, the romantic comedy “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” debuts on Amazon Prime Video)
“Groundhog Day” wasn’t the first of its kind, but it was an especially clever and emotionally resonant twist on the time-loop plot, with a hero who eventually sees his situation as an opportunity for self-improvement. The best time-loop movies since — like the five featured below — are similarly heartfelt and original.
In this rocket-paced science-fiction mystery, the time loop encompasses a frantic eight minutes aboard a commuter train about to explode. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an Army pilot whose consciousness keeps getting projected back to the moments before the bombing, where he has been assigned by his shadowy superiors to figure out who’s responsible. The director, Duncan Jones, and the screenwriter, Ben Ripley, do a lot with short time stretches on the train, creating a miniature world for the hero to investigate and appreciate. Stream it on Showtime; rent or buy it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Google Play, Vudu or YouTube.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’
Also known as “Live Die Repeat,” this techno-thriller stars Tom Cruise as William Cage, a military bureaucrat, forced to join the fight against beastly alien invaders. Like a newbie playing a video-game, Cage keeps dying, often in stupid ways. But each death transports him back in time to train with a hard-boiled soldier (Emily Blunt) before restarting the battle. Cage’s serial mortality works as a darkly comic commentary on the disposability of action-movie characters. Yet the further he gets into the mission, the more genuinely tense and even moving it becomes to see him keep trying to survive. Rent or buy it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu or YouTube.
‘The Final Girls’
The loop in “The Final Girls” is a 1980s slasher movie called “Camp Bloodbath,” which starred the late mother of a woman named Max (Taissa Farmiga). When Max and her friends find themselves stuck in “Camp Bloodbath” — where scenes restart whenever they try to escape — they use their knowledge of the plot to try to make it to the credits. Unlike most time-loop films, the heroes here don’t endure a slew of resets. Instead, their awareness of horror clichés helps them hold on, while Max spends an emotional day hanging out with a character her mom played. Stream it on Hulu; rent or buy it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu or YouTube.
‘Happy Death Day’
“Groundhog Day” meets “Scream” in this raucous horror-comedy, featuring Jessica Rothe as the drunken college kid Tree, who keeps getting murdered by a masked maniac. Every time she reawakens, she edges closer to discovering the killer’s identity. But as often happens in these movies, to stop the slaughter Tree first must figure out why her life is a mess. Equally loaded with slapstick and splatter, “Happy Death Day” is one of the wilder entries in this weird subgenre, but it’s ultimately just as poignant. Stream it on FX Now; rent or buy it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu or YouTube.
One of the most recent “Groundhog Day” riffs is also one of the funniest, sweetest and smartest. The story starts in the middle, dropping in on a low-ambition slacker named Nyles (Andy Samberg) after he has lived through the same wedding hundreds of times. When Nyles accidentally pulls the bride’s restless sister Sarah (Cristin Milioti) into the loop, he shows her how to enjoy living without consequences — until she realizes this kind of life is meaningless. “Palm Springs” lets viewers enjoy the decadent fantasy of its time-loop story, even as the characters within it reassess their personal values. Stream it on Hulu.