5 Plot Point Breakdown: Groundhog Day (1993)

By Xiaofeng Chen · October 5, 2014

Screenplay Genre: Comedy / Fantasy / Romance 

Movie Time: 101 minutes

Phil Connors (Bill Murray), the weatherman of Pittsburgh Channel 9, goes to Punxsutawney with producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) to report February 2: the oldest Groundhog Festival in America. It’s the fourth time he does it as an annual routine. So all the things in that famous town: the cute groundhog, people celebrating, the adoring fans, and the unexpected meet with his old classmate Ned (Stephen Tobolowsky) are not making him excited any more. He just wants to get the work done and go home like he does every day of his life.


At Gobbler’s Knob, the groundhog “Phil” sees a shadow and “predicts” that the winter will last six more weeks. People are depressed, but Phil doesn’t care, he just wants to leave immediately. But an unexpected blizzard hits the region and the road is closed. They have to turn back to Punxsutawney (16:37) and stay there to wait for the weather to turn better. 

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

The next morning Phil is woken by the clock radio. He feels something is wrong (18:21): The radio announcers are repeating what they had said yesterday like a recorder. And everybody stands in the exact same spot they were in the day before, talking about Groundhog Day again. Phil asks them what day it is. The answer makes confuses him: it is February 2nd! Phil thinks he might have had too much to drink the night before and that everything was just a dream. He goes to Gobbler’s Knob to broadcast the festival, but everything happens like it did the day before: the old homeless man who is shivering at the street corner, his old classmate Ned who is an annoying insurance salesman now, the puddle of icy water he had stepped into, the royal celebrating in Gobbler’s Knob and the depressing prediction about a longer winter by the groundhog “Phil.” These make him sure that he is repeating yesterday again! And day by day the same thing happens again and again, Phil has been trapped within the vortex of Groundhog Day. Whatever he does, he just can’t get out of the circle of time!


One night after having a drinks, Phil and some drunkards drive their car on the railway. They almost crash with a train and get arrested by the police. But the next morning Phil still wakes up on the bed in the hotel. He finds he can do anything without taking responsibility and decides to play a cynical game with the situation he’s in: He sleeps around with local girls, robs the security truck, and does everything he wants without being punished. Soon he grows tired of doing these things and tries to seduce Rita. But Rita is not that kind of girl and all his attempts fail. Phil is left in despair and eventually breaks down. He kidnaps the Groundhog “Phil” from the Festival Ceremony and has a car chase with policemen. His car falls into a giant pit and blows up at the bottom. (64:21) But the next morning he wakes up and finds he is still alive.

Again and again, Phil tries to kill himself by electroshock, jumping from buildings and other ways. But they don’t work. Every time, he wakes up on the bed on February 2nd. He tells Rita about it and shows her he knows everything and everybody in town. Rita believes him and tells him that maybe it is not that bad.

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Phil finds out that on this day there are so many people who need help and so many things he can do to help out. He begins to do something different: He takes care of the old homeless man who is passing the last day of his life, saves Mayor Buster (Brian Doyle-Murray) from choking on a steak, catches the boy who is falling from a tree, persuades am anxious fiancee to go through with marriage… And he reads books, studies piano and ice carving, improves his knowledge and skills, lives a happy and valuable life in the very same days.

In the evening, Rita goes to the Dinner Party of the Groundhog Festival. She sees Phil is the keyboarder who is playing brilliant music! He has become a star in the town and everybody is thanking him left and right. Rita can’t believe it. In the following bachelor auction, Rita bids the highest prince and gets Phil from his other adorers. (91:30)


Phil and Rita go out and have a happy night on the town. Phil carves a beautiful ice statue for Rita. They fall in love with each other, embrace and kiss… The next morning Phil wakes up, finds something feels different: Rita is still with him! (94:49) He goes to the window to look out. He sees that everything is covered in new snow. He knows a new day has come at last! 

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