On Feb. 12, 1993, Groundhog Day landed in movie theaters and became one of the highest-grossing films of that year.
With its relatability, wit, and universal themes about finding meaning amidst monotony, it’s no wonder why this comedy remains such a classic -- even 30 years later.
A quick note about Groundhog Day (the holiday)
Groundhog Day is on February 2nd. This odd tradition varies in popularity from region to region. According to tradition, if the groundhog comes out of his burrow, sees his shadow, this predicts a prolonged winter. But when the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, this predicts an early spring.
Bill Murray portrays the groundhog in all of us
In the Groundhog Day movie, Bill Murray’s TV-weatherman Phil Connors starts off as arrogant, secluded and self-serving. In some ways, he’s like the titular groundhog who sees his own shadow (or darkness) and hides in his burrow.
For our protagonist to experience the joys of spring (and romance), he has to leave the comfort of his home, embrace the cold, and learn the virtues necessary for positive change.
Breaking out of a dead-end life
Every filmmaker knows that, for a protagonist to grow and change, he must break out of his dead-end life.
In Phil’s case, his dilemma provides a literal dead end, as he finds himself involuntarily living out the same day repeatedly, prompting him to assess the meaning of this infuriating situation and deduce how he can break the cycle.
Phase 1: Hedonism
Phil’s first interpretation of finding meaning in his monotonous new life is to satisfy every impulse and carnal urge he encounters -- from gorging on junk food to driving recklessly to engaging in a meaningless hook-up.
But alas, he finds that his self-induced instant-gratification cycle does nothing to make him happy or give his life meaning.
Phase 2: Nihilism
Desperate and depressed, Phil turns to a more extreme phase of attempting to escape his dead-end situation: life endangerment and suicide attempts.
However, each time he tries to endanger or take his life, he finds himself in the same continuous loop -- waking up on February 2nd with the sound of a boisterous alarm.
These experiences force Phil to face the music: that living the same day over and over might be a permanent inconvenience for him. Therefore, he must discover how to find fulfillment in it.
Phase 3: Self-Sacrifice
During the final phase of Phil’s journey to finding meaning in the monotonous, he strives to make virtuous choices under the guidance of coworker Rita (Andie MacDowell).
After witnessing the death of a homeless man, Phil vows to “not let anyone die” on his day. Phil commits himself to the service of others and to perpetual self-improvement.
As a result, he’s more generous and caring and even (eventually) earns Rita’s affection.
This combination of acceptance of his circumstances and positive growth ultimately breaks the cycle and gives Phil a new lease on life.
At the start of Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is a self-centered and self-serving groundhog who won’t even bother to look at his proverbial shadow (his dark side).
It’s only through leaving behind his narcissistic tendencies, striving for daily acts of heroism, and seeking to better himself that he sees the light.
Phil’s character arc proves to viewers that if they want to embrace the beauty of spring, they have to be willing to leave their burrows -- shadow or not.
With its themes of redemption and self-sacrifice, Groundhog Day is sure to speak to audiences for another three decades.
How to See Groundhog Day -- on TV or in Theaters
Groundhog Day is rated PG (for thematic elements). According to JustWatch.com, AMC+, DirecTV and Sling subscribers can stream the film, and it's available to digitally rent or buy on just about every major platform.
Also, on Jan. 10, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment marked the film's 30th anniversary by releasing Groundhog Day on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, in limited-edition Steelbook packaging. Included are a 4K disc, a regular Blu-ray and a digital copy.
And, as if all that wasn't enough, Groundhog Day returns to select theaters on Feb. 2 and 5, as a Fathom Event. Click here for tickets.
Image: © 1993 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Anna Livia is a Los Angeles native, Communications Specialist, and Hygge enthusiast. When she isn't writing copy or taking free digital marketing courses, you can find her at an Angeleno flea market, botanical garden, or the Rose Bowl for a three-mile walk. Her mission is to attract others to the truth, and she sees a bright future for herself in copy or technical writing for innovative corporations.