Groundhog Day may take on a different meaning this year. Besides Punxsutawney Phil, the holiday brings to mind the classic 1993 film in which the main character is caught in a time loop — which is how many people are feeling as the pandemic approaches a full year.
An estimated 1 in 4 Americans will be working from home this year, and classes are still online for many students. Small, everyday interactions we took for granted have left a social void that Zoom has had to fill. Our larger outside routines have been compressed indoors since March. With all of this, time loops might now seem a little more realistic.
“What probably resonates most (about time loop movies) is that feeling of wanting to get out of something, but not necessarily knowing how to get out of it,” says Michael Coleman, a film studies instructor at MU. To break the loop, characters typically have to change themselves or change their circumstances.
But how can we escape a cycle with uncontrollable factors like the pandemic? Coleman believes small things in a routine can help break the mold, such as daily walks and regular virtual gatherings with friends.
And unlike the movies, no one is alone in this situation. “We’re all in the same boat on the same journey right now,” Coleman says. Here’s a list of time loop stories to help you explore this cyclical feeling and maybe find a solution to it.
Palm Springs (2020)
An intended one-off fling at a California wedding turns into an endless affair in this frantic romantic comedy. Maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) follows a rambunctious guest named Nyle (Andy Samberg) into a mysterious cave that pulls her into his time loop. Unable to escape the cycle or each other, they form a budding relationship while struggling to understand their strange situation.
Available on Hulu
See You Yesterday (2019)
From producer Spike Lee comes a bold sci-fi adventure that deals with the past and present. Two teenage scientists from Brooklyn accomplish the unimaginable: working time machines in the form of a backpack. But what started as a fun project for C.J. (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) turns into a serious one when C.J.’s brother is killed by a police officer. The two geniuses venture into a time loop to stop a tragic shooting and save her brother’s life.
Available on Netflix
Happy Death Day (2017)
Party people never want their birthdays to end — but not like this. College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) is killed by an unknown assailant and forced to relive the same birthday but different death every day. With each death she gets closer to figuring out her killer’s identity. Tree hopes solving her murder will solve her time loop.
Available on Hulu through FXM
About Time (2013)
On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns he was born with the ability to travel back in time. He meets the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams), accidentally un-meets her and tries to spark their relationship again through looping time. Tim soon learns the challenges of time travel — that changing the past can change the future in unexpected ways.
Available on Netflix
Russian Doll (2019)
In this dark comedy series, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) is sent back to the bathroom mirror of her 36th birthday party after being struck by a taxi. Multiple deaths later, she struggles to keep her wits about her while pinpointing the start of her mess. Nadia must confront her cynical nature when the time loop reveals itself to be more complex than she thought.
Available on Netflix
Outer Wilds (2019)
A beautiful, elaborate solar system is yours to explore — for 22 minutes. Then the sun explodes, and you reset at a campfire, ready to dive back again knowing more than before. This inventive space exploration game teaches you to make the most of your time as you uncover the secrets of various dangerous planets. One of those secrets might be what’s causing the time loop.
Available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4
Although not a time loop, Hades will have you die and die again as you try to escape the inescapable underworld. You play as Zagreus, the restless prince who finds himself back in the house of his disapproving father, Hades, after each failed attempt. But what kills you makes you stronger, as you level up your stats, unlock new weapons and form relationships with the gods of Olympus.
Available on PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch