Groundhog Day on Feb. 2 might be when Punxsutawney Phil predicts the time that's left for winter, but it's also the time when we watch some of our favorite characters relive the same day over and over and over again and again and again.
The time loop, in which characters are caught in all types of problems, whether due to magic, quantum physics, black holes or mad scientists, is a mainstay for sci-fi. Check out 25 movie and TV instances when people are stuck repeating themselves, with clips when available.
The most notable entry to begin this list is Bill Murray's film, Groundhog Day, which influenced, directly inspired or was referenced in many later stories. In it, meteorologist Phil Connors finds that he's reliving Feb. 2 over and over again, and is at first confused, but soon liberated. Eventually he tires of the daily grind, however, and tries to find a way out.
This 2007 film based on a Stephen King short story follows skeptic Mike Enslin when he discovers a room in a hotel, 1408. The room is reputed to be haunted, and he encounters a repeating, hellish experience every hour, where death is the only escape.
Duncan Jones' second film brings the repeated time down to 8 minutes, when Captain Colter Stevens finds himself on a train that is soon blown to bits by a terrorist bomb in Chicago. Reliving the experience every eight minutes, he comes closer and closer to discovering the bomber in his own world and saving the lives of his fellow passengers and the people of an alternate Chicago.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Cause and Effect"
The crew of the USS Enterprise becomes caught in a time loop which precipitates in the ship's destruction. Slowly, the crew begins to realize their predicament, and work to prevent their inevitable destruction.
Following a mishap at his apartment, Fox Mulder heads to his local bank and finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery, ending in an explosion that destroys the entire bank and killing all of those inside. Both Mulder and Scully race to prevent the robbery each time, before the girlfriend of the bomber (who's the source of the time loop) is shot by FBI agents, finally ending the day.
Charmed: Déjà Vu All Over Again
A demon makes a deal with Rodriguez to kill the four Halliwell sisters, turning back time until he succeeds in killing them. Aided by a sense of déjà vu, Phoebe recognizes what's happening, and works to prevent the death of their friend, Andy Trudeau. Two other episodes, "The Good, the Bad, and the Cursed" and "Show Ghouls," also feature time loops.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Life Serial
This episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn't entirely centered on a time loop, but there is a sequence where a spell is cast on Buffy that has her repeating time over and over again, in which she gets more and more annoyed, before she realizes what it takes to break the loop. Interestingly, the characters mention both the Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Files episodes listed here. (Unfortunately, while we tracked down a promo for the episode, we could find nothing specifically on the time loop.)
Angel: Time Bomb
In this episode of Angel, Illyria rescues Gunn from a hellish dimension. As a result of her actions, she begins to grow unstable, and she's thrown back and forth through time before destroying everyone near her. Fortunately for the victims, Angel is thrown back in time and is able to stop the sequence from ever occurring.
Stargate SG-1: Window of Opportunity
In one of the best episodes of Stargate: SG-1 ever (and frequently topping the best-of lists for the show), a time distortion sends Colonel Jack O'Neil and T'ealc back to relive the same day over and over. While trapped, they work to uncover how to undo the problem, and learn skills like juggling and pottery.
Farscape: Back and Back and Back to the Future
One of the more bizarre episodes of the series: Crichton and the rest of the crew of Moya begin to relive the same day over and over again after they pick up a damaged ship and its crew.
Xena: Warrior Princess: Been There, Done That
In this episode, Xena begins to realize that she and her friends are reliving the same day over and over again after Joxer is killed in a fight. Remembering how the day went before, she works to try and save everyone, and tries to get the town to get along to break the cycle, eventually learning of a deal with Cupid on the part of a young lover distraught over the suicide of his partner.
DayBreak (Entire Show)
Following Lost, there were a ton of shows that followed with similar premises: ongoing storylines and a central mystery. Daybreak was a particularly good, if short-lived version where Detective Brett Hopper keeps reliving the same day over and over again, as he works to solve the mystery of his predicament.
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman: Twas the Night Before Mxymas
It's the night before Christmas, and Mr. Mxyptlk has created a time loop that brings the end of the world closer and closer. Clark Kent deals with the same stories, and unlike other episodes, things change for the worse as time goes on, with the onset of war stopped just in time for Christmas. (While we couldn't locate an embeddable clip, you can watch the entire episode here.)
Supernatural: Mystery Spot
Sam wakes up to Asia's "Heat of the Moment," and the brothers are soon off investigating a case, where Dean is soon killed. Sam awakens the same morning to find that they're repeating days over again, with his brother dying in different ways each time. Sam goes through a hundred loops when he finds that the Trickster is behind the event. When Dean is killed outside of the time loop, Sam goes on a hunt for the Trickster, and eventually is brought back one last time.
The Outer Limits: Déjà Vu
This episode of the Outer Limits has a loop that gets shorter and shorter following a failed wormhole experiment, and Dr. Crest is stuck as time dwindles. He tries to uncover why the loop is happening, and finds a saboteur on his research team. To his surprise, the woman is not the source of the problem, but he soon finds that his friend, Col. Glade is behind the loop for his own purposes, who then becomes trapped in an infinite loop of his own death.
Eureka: I Do Over
Sheriff Carter finds himself reliving the same day over and over again on Allison and Stark's Wedding day. Carter attempts to escape from the time loop as disaster looms over the town and universe. In the end, Stark himself sacrifices his life to save everyone.
There's a number of episodes in Dr. Who that involve a time loop: "Image of the Fendahl", "Carnival of Monsters", "The Invasion of Time", "The Armageddon Factor", "The Claws of Axos", "Meglos" and "Father's Day." The above clip is a particularly good explanation from the Doctor.
Lost: Flashes Before Your Eyes
After the implosion of the hatch on the Island, Desmond was flung back in time. While he doesn't repeat day after day, he does begin to relive the events of his life prior to his life down in the Hatch, and uses his foresight to save Claire and inform Charlie that he is destined to die.
Fringe: White Tulip
In this Season 2 episode, passengers on a commuter train are killed, and the Fringe team begin to investigate the event over and over again, as Alistair Peck continues to loop time back over and over again. Walter solves the man's equation, but tells him that there are greater things at risk: he knows from experience.
Andromeda: What Goes Around
Dylan Hunt and the crew of the Andromeda come across a scientist, Celine, who tries to get the crew to help her break out of the time loop in which she's trapped. Her inventions had been used for ill purposes, and to prevent their use, she damaged her equipment, trapping her in her loop. Time is running out as she gets weaker from the repeated loops as the crew works to fix the damage that has been caused.
The Dead Zone: Deja Voodoo
In this episode, Johnny meets a woman and sees a vision of the future where the two of them are kissing, learning that there are people after her. In order to save her, he has to go relive their meeting several times, with different outcomes. (Sorry, but we couldn't find any clips, embeddable or otherwise, for this one. If you know of one, let us know!)
Futurama: The Late Philip J Fry
In one of the newer episodes of Futurama, the professor invents a time machine, but one that only goes forward. Stuck far in the future, they keep moving forward, hoping that someone will invent a time machine that goes backwards, and find that time as a whole keeps repeating, and they jump into the future multiple times to get back to their past.
Painkiller Jane: Playback
A Neuro attempts to assassinate a Chinese official when Jane stops the act. Unfortunately, the man is able to jump back in time, and attempts to repeat his actions, not knowing that Jane has been brought back as well. When the second attempt is stopped, he tries again and again while the team puts together a plan to stop him. (Unfortunately, there seem to be no clips available for this one either. Sorry!)
Star Trek: Enterprise: Future Tense
The crew of the Enterprise come across an escape pod deep in space, with a long-dead occupant. While investigating, and with others chasing after the pod, crew members Trip and Reed find themselves caught in a time loop, but quickly escape. Using the time loop to their advantage, Archer booby-traps the pod and send it back out, where it's captured, and the gadget is fixed: it's a distress signal: the contents of the pod dematerialize.
Star Trek: Voyager: Coda
Captain Janeway and Chakotay are forced down onto a planet where Janeway is injured, and soon captured by the aliens who shot them down. Shortly thereafter, Janeway awakens to find herself back on the Shuttle, and begins to relive time over and over again, dying each time. After several loops, she finds that she hasn't jumped through time at all: it's an illusion created by another alien to try and feed off of her spirit.