Fans of the seasonal comedy classic "Groundhog Day" have wondered for decades how long Phil Conners spent reliving the same day — and there’s still no definitive answer.
At this point, it would be hard to find someone unfamiliar with 1993’s Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell — or at least with its time-loop concept.
But in case you happen to be one of those rare people, or even if it’s just been a while, here’s a brief synopsis: Phil Connors (Murray) is an egotistical weatherman who finds himself caught in a time loop on Groundhog Day, February 2, which he must live through again and again until he eventually overcomes his personal flaws and, of course, finds true love (because this is a Hollywood film).
Over the course of the movie, Phil engages in a litany of activities ranging from binge-eating and one-night stands to various suicide attempts, only to find himself once again waking up on Groundhog Day. He also picks up a number of talents over the course of the film, including playing piano, sculpting ice, and speaking French.
The film is also intentionally vague about how many times Phil goes through the loop. Most people might not think twice about it, satisfied with the answer, “Long enough to learn his lesson, pick up a few skills, and become a better person” — but the question of how long, exactly, Phil Connors spends in the time loop is one of those classic film questions that, due to its prominence in popular culture, fans have been determined to figure out.
So, now the question is, have they?
One Blogger Claimed To Have Found The Answer — But The Film’s Director Disagreed
In the DVD commentary for Groundhog Day, director Harold Ramis actually stated that Bill Murray’s character was stuck living the same day on repeat for 10 years, but that answer was evidently unsatisfying for certain fans of the film.
So, sometime around June 2009, a post from the blog “Wolf Gnards” claimed to have identified the amount of time Bill Murray spent in Groundhog Day's time loop, arriving at the answer: eight years, eight months, and 16 days.
The blogger identified a number of factors that could serve as indication for this number, but their main focus was on the various skills that Murray’s character picks up in his time, well, stuck in time.
The film itself shows at least 36 separate days, including the ones in which Murray’s character dies, but that doesn’t factor in the ways Phil Connors says he has died that aren’t shown over the course of the movie, namely being shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, and burned. Factoring those events in, that brings the number to at least 42 days.
By the time Phil Connors decides to start becoming a better person, the blogger argued, at least 256 days must have passed.
However, after this point, their math starts to become a bit more speculative. They estimated that it would take the average person three years to become an expert pianist, three years to learn to sculpt Andie MacDowell’s face into an ice sculpture, and at least two years to learn enough French to read French poetry.
Altogether, they figured Phil Connors lived through 3176 repeated Groundhog Days.
However, Harold Ramis later spoke to Heeb Magazine and said that he felt even his original 10-year prediction was inaccurate. Sadly, the Heeb interview is no longer online, but Wolf Gnards did include a snippet of that interview in a second blog post:
“I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and allotting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years… People like the blogger have way too much time on their hands. They could be learning to play the piano or speak French or sculpt.”
Wolf Gnards then clarified that they felt eight years, eight months, and 16 days was just the minimum amount of time needed for the film’s timeline. Still, others weren’t convinced this was the right answer, either.
One Writer Finally Deciphers The Groundhog Day Timeline
On February 2, 2011, former editor and COO of WhatCulture, Simon Gallagher, wrote a more in-depth article analyzing Groundhog Day’s events and pieced together his own timeline.
Gallagher was much more scrutinizing about Phil Connors’ talents, estimating that it likely took closer to seven-and-a-half years for him to become an “exceptional pianist,” between seven and 10 years for him to learn to sculpt ice, and roughly 12 years to become fluent in French.
Factoring in all of the other days in the film — the days shown and the days mentioned — Gallagher reached his ultimate conclusion: Phil Connors was stuck in the time loop for 12,395 days.
That’s 33 years and 350 days.
In other words, as Gallagher wrote, “That’s a far shout from that eight years figure bandied about in that article mentioned above — and even further away from the 10,000 years that were supposedly mentioned in the initial drafts of the film… All that effort to find out that Harold Ramis was pretty much right in the first sodding place.”
And in the more than a decade since Gallagher’s article, no other prominent theories have come about. Numerous outlets have since cited the WhatCulture piece as, essentially, the definitive answer — it does, after all, align with Ramis’ own prediction.
So, there you have it. The amount of time Bill Murray remains trapped in Groundhog Day’s time loop: 33 years, 350 days. Quite a bit longer than Wolf Gnards’ prediction or Ramis’ original 10 years, but certainly better than the 10,000 years the original script called for.
Interested in more film deep dives? Read James Cameron’s official response on whether Jack could have survived at the end of Titanic. Or, check out the inaccuracies in these 9 popular historical TV shows.