Groundhog Day is a 1993 PG comedy directed by Harold Ramis that explores many important spiritual themes. Veteran actor and old spirit Bill Murray plays the sarcastic, misogynist Phil, a television anchor who is assigned to cover a “human interest” story involving a Pennsylvania town that puts on an annual Groundhog Day event. Presumably for the publicity it draws, town leaders keep a captive groundhog which they ceremoniously display on February 1, and announce whether or not winter will be short-lived or extended.
Phil and his television crew dutifully film the event and Phil retires to his hotel room, eager for be done with what he sees as a backward town and get back to the big city where he stands a better chance of accumulating fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the universe has other plans for him. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds he is reliving the same Groundhog Day. Much to his horror, this repeat day occurs to him over and over. The space-time continuum has gotten stuck on February 1rst for this obnoxious egotist.
True to form, Phil initially tries to exploit the situation. He uses his repeated experiences to build an extensive dossier on the townspeople and their habits. In this manner he is able to steal money, avoid consequences or unpleasant encounters, talk women into bed because he somehow knows all their secrets, etc. Much to his chagrin, his manipulations do not work on his news producer Rita, played by the talented Andie MacDowell, who trusts her instincts enough to reject his advances despite their smoothness.
Eventually, Phil tires of the hollow triumph of his manipulation of others but cannot give up his underlying addiction to negativity. His antisocial nature turns on itself and he begins a period of blatant self-abuse. “I don’t even like myself” he says to coworkers to explain repeated attempts to kill himself, all of which result in his simply waking up the next morning in his same bed on the same Groundhog’s Day.
As Phil struggles with and slowly comes to terms with the nature of the universe and his immortal place in it, he learns that treating people with the gentle sensitivity that he so admires in Rita works better for him. He tries out being kind rather than mean to the homeless guy and the insurance salesman with whom he has been seriously annoyed, develops self-love through creative interests such as playing the piano and ice sculpture which he gets quite good at since he has endless time to practice, divests himself of expectations about Rita that allows him to truly enjoy the times she chooses his company; and in many other ways explores the richness of unconditional love.
And of course, his generosity is rewarded. Spoiler alert. With his growing spiritual maturity, time unfreezes. But what also simultaneously unfreezes for the viewer, is the sense of time as one-dimensional. This film teaches many key spiritual concepts, including the importance of living in the moment, the fact that information is power, and the idea that our freedom is tied to unselfish service to others, (i.e. in Phil’s words: “what can I do for you today?”). It also subtly reinforces the idea that we get to do life over and over until we “get it right,” the essence of reincarnation.