Study Guide

Groundhog Day Themes

  • Spirituality

    If you lived the same day over and over for more than ten years, we're betting that you'd start to wonder what the point of your life was. Sure, the first days might be filled with you doing whatever you want, like Phil Connors does.

    But over time you'd get bored of doing whatever you want and you'd start looking for something more meaningful to do with your time. There's a reason why Groundhog Day is extremely popular among different religious groups: it's because the movie forces us to ask a lot of big questions about the meaning of life. Deep, bro.

    Questions About Spirituality

    1. What would you do if you were stuck in the same day? Why?
    2. Why do you think Phil eventually gets past Groundhog Day? What does he learn to do differently?
    3. Do you think that Phil's knowledge of one day and his inability to die make him a sort of god? Why or why not?
    4. Why do you think religious leaders love this movie so much?

    Chew on This

    In Groundhog Day, we learn that being selfish eventually becomes so boring that there's nothing else to do but become kind and selfless.

    Groundhog Day reminds us that most of the days in our lives are the exact same and don't really matter much.

  • Love

    When we first meet Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, he's a selfish jerk who doesn't care about anything but himself. But reliving the same day for more than ten years has a way of changing people.

    It doesn't happen right away, but over time Phil learns exactly what it feels like to care about someone else as much as (or more than) yourself. Along the way, Phil makes just about every mistake a guy can make when trying to get someone to love him.

    Questions About Love

    1. What does Phil think "love" is at the beginning of this movie? How does that definition change as he goes on?
    2. Why does Rita eventually come to love Phil? How has he changed?
    3. When does Phil really start making an effort to love the people around him? What sparks the change?

    Chew on This

    In Groundhog Day, we learn that selfishness is a dead end and the only path to lasting fulfillment is love.

    Groundhog Day reminds us that love can often grow out of total despair.

  • Morality and Ethics

    After he has lived the same day for over ten years, Phil Connors has tried out just about every moral approach to life that can be tried. He tries acting completely selfishly. Then he tries changing his behavior to be more moral. Then he finally tries changing his outlook altogether, and it's not until he does this that he makes a truly lasting change that allows him to move onto February 3rd.

    Yup, Groundhog Day is definitely not afraid to shy away from moralizing. But it's so hilarious (and the moral is so good) that we totally forgive it.

    Questions About Morality and Ethics

    1. When does Phil Connors first make the decision to act more morally? Why?
    2. How does Phil's morality change from the first time he tries to attract Rita to the last time? What's different?
    3. When does Phil fall into the deepest moral despair in this movie? What sorts of things does he do to show this despair?

    Chew on This

    Groundhog Day shows us that if we lived long enough, all of us would eventually choose to live more morally.

    In Groundhog Day, we learn that there's no point worrying about the past or future. We should worry most about the present and how we treat other people in the moment.

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Reliving the same day for more than ten years is the kind of thing that can give you a new outlook on life. That's definitely the case for Phil Connors, who goes through several transformations while living through Groundhog Day.

    By the end, he has become a much more moral person. But that's only because he has gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom along the way. At first, Phil only gains a superficial knowledge of the people around him. But by the end of the movie he learns to truly care about these people and to help them in whatever way he can.

    Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

    1. How has Phil become wiser by the end of the movie? What's our evidence for this change?
    2. What kinds of skills does Phil pick up while reliving Groundhog Day? How long do you think it would take him to develop them like he does?
    3. How is wisdom different from just changing your behavior? Why do we tend to think of wisdom as something more substantial than knowledge? How does Phil's case reflect this difference?

    Chew on This

    Groundhog Day shows us that there is a really big difference between knowledge about the world and wisdom about how we should use that knowledge.

    Groundhog Day shows us that people will like us more if we develop a lot of cool skills like piano playing and ice sculpting.

  • Time

    Time is probably the most obvious theme you'll find in Groundhog Day, since the entire plot of the movie is based on some sort of freaky disturbance in the space/time continuum.

    Director Harold Ramis shows us that when we tweak our normal sense of time, we can end up with a completely different perspective on how we go about living each day of our lives. Many of us just plow through life trying to achieve our long-term goals and we never take a moment to stop and look around at the people living with us in the present. The point of this movie is to get us to think a little differently about what we do with our time… and hopefully it'll inspire us to make some changes for the better.

    Questions About Time

    1. How long do you think Phil Connors is trapped in Groundhog Day? Why?
    2. How long do you think you'd live the same day over and over before you truly learned to live only in the present? Why?
    3. Do you think this movie gives a realistic portrayal of what a jerk like Phil Connors would do if he lived the same day over and over for ten years or so? Why?

    Chew on This

    Groundhog Day teaches us that our entire outlook on life is determined by the way we take time for granted.

    Groundhog Day has a simple message; we should live every day like it's our last.