Ever had déjà vu? What if it was just that you were stuck in a time loop repeating the same day?… Yes, probably not but that is the case in these movies. The repeating day narrative has been a staple of cinema in the modern era.
Perhaps even more so, the unique brand of storytelling has been extremely prolific in television in recent years. Its popularity may stem from its familiarity and the novelty of the structure of these types of stories, with the protagonist first coming to terms with the phenomena then embracing it in an often entertaining way. Or maybe we enjoy it because it presents a type of escapism where we can envisage ourselves in these situations and revel in the opportunity to right past wrongs and regrets.
Recently, the “repeating day” narrative mode has been embraced by genre films, with horror and sci-fi in particular making good use of its confined plotting. Its fantasy nature lends itself suitably to fantasy genres where the extraordinary is showcased. The limitations of the genre also allows for the nurturing of pure creativity – as the plot is restricted in where it can go, the challenge is to create interesting and new variables in each loop. For screenwriters, it is the kind of narrative that allows for practice and growth.
So, without further ado here are our choices for the 10 best films where the day repeats itself.
A British-Australian co-production, Triangle tells the story of a group friends stranded at sea who become trapped in a time-loop aboard a mysterious ocean liner. In the often adopted approach amongst the types of films that contain a time-loop narrative, Triangle begins mid loop, as the events of the future begin to influence and shape the very circumstances that birthed them.
Typically, the film is a mind-bending take on the narrative trope and it uses the clever twist to create an original mystery tale that is hard to predict. Whilst there are many like it out there, what makes Triangle stand out is how it slowly reveals its plot, draws out the tension and revels in the mischief it creates.
9. Happy Death Day
Released just this year, Happy Death Day marries the slasher flick with Groundhog Day, with the story of a college girl trapped in a time loop in which a mask killer ultimately murders her. The film follows the same narrative beats as Groundhog Day with protagonist, Tree (Jessica Rothe), first trying to establish what is happening, then convince others, before finally embracing it to right herr wrongs and reach her goal.
Where the film excels is in how it adds the kind of twists common to the horror genre and reveals them via the time loop narrative. Whilst the twists themselves aren’t particular impactful, how they interact with the narrative is. This marriage of filmmaking techniques helps bolster an otherwise unoriginal story to something carrying a little more intrigue.
8. Stork Day
Stork Day is an Italian take on the genre that adopts the comedic approach of Groundhog Day. The film focuses on an Italian TV star, Filippo (Antonia Albanese), who is in Tenerife to shoot a nature documentary about native storks. After his ferry fails to leave the island, he finds himself repeating the day over and over. Sound familiar?
Stork Day is an Italian depiction of Groundhog Day and this is a fact the film doesn’t try to hide. Whilst certainly flawed, and in no way resembling anything original, the film does make for an interesting experiment in cinema. With an American story told through an Italian lens, Stork Day presents an opportunity to see how two unique nations interpret the same story.
ARQ is another science fiction twist on this brilliant narrative technique. The film plays out like a mystery with each new loop revealing a new clue to what’s really happening whilst also plunging the viewer deeper into confusion. Starring handsome-man Robbie Amell as brilliant engineer, Renton, in a post-apocalyptic future in which energy resources are all but scarce.
The film opens with Renton and his ex-girlfriend experiencing a home invasion when Renton tries to escape he is killed only to wake up alive moments before the home invasion. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Renton has invented a machine that causes a time loop, of which he and the home invaders find themselves stuck in. This is all thanks to a clever machine built by Renton, the ARQ, which may be the reason for the home invasion in the first place.
6. Source Code
Source Code is Duncan Jones’ ambitious follow-up to his smash hit debut Moon. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, the film centers on a Chicago train, and the commuters aboard it, that falls victim to a terrorist attack. Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, an army pilot who is sent to try and figure out who committed the attack. To do this his consciousness is transplanted into the body of a schoolteacher, Sean, who died in the explosion. Embodying Sean, Colter relives the final minutes of the teacher’s life over and over again.
The film adds a new twist to the “repeating day” genre by adding in a terror attack and the narrative framing of being inside a dead man’s memory. The film is elevated another level when Colter takes on the added task of trying to stop the event ever happening. This one plays with the mind on so many levels and whilst it is certainly flawed it has fun with its concept in an invitingly fresh way.