The 50 Funniest Moments in ‘Groundhog Day’
Groundhog Day opened in theaters on February 12, 1993, but nobody celebrates its anniversary on that day. Instead, it’s the actual Groundhog Day, February 2nd, when the world pays tribute to this beloved romantic comedy. Starring Bill Murray as a grouchy, smug Pittsburgh weatherman who longs for a major-market job, annoyed that he has to truck on over to Punxsutawney to attend their lame Groundhog Day ceremony once again, the film also featured Andie MacDowell as his lighthearted producer Rita and Chris Elliott as the vaguely creepy cameraman Larry.
The film’s premise was ingenious: Weatherman Phil Connors goes to bed the night of February 2nd, only to discover that it’s February 2nd again the next day — and the day after that and the day after that. He’s inexplicably trapped in a time loop, and he can’t convince anyone of his odd dilemma. (Their memories are all wiped clean each new February 2nd, so no wonder they think he’s crazy.) What’s Phil going to do? And is there any way out of the loop?
Funny and profound, Groundhog Day holds up on repeat viewing, allowing you to catch the jokes and sight gags you might have missed the first time. In honor of another Groundhog Day, I put together a list of the film’s 50 funniest moments, including an amusing bit that’s in one of the deleted scenes that didn’t make the final movie. Compiling this ranking, what was clear was how integral Murray is to Groundhog Day’s lasting appeal — nobody around Phil remembers what happened, but these 50 iconic highlights are impossible to forget.
‘Call Me Bronco’
Phil apparently has a thing for women dressed as French maids.
‘On Second Thought, I Think We Should’
Falling for Phil, Rita starts kissing him, but she isn’t sure they should hook up. Phil pretends to agree with her, but then delivers this line, which is unassailable in its airtight logic.
The Harold Ramis Cameo
Murray and director/co-writer Harold Ramis, longtime friends, famously feuded during the making of Groundhog Day, severing their bond for years to come. They eventually mended fences, but it’s still a touch poignant to see Ramis in the movie, playing a doctor studying Phil’s brain scans.
The Michael Shannon Cameo
If you haven’t seen Groundhog Day recently, you may be surprised to recognize a certain Oscar-nominee in a small role as a guy who’s about to get married. (As part of his good deeds, Phil helps the dude’s bride-to-be overcome her cold feet.) Sure enough, the movie was one of Michael Shannon’s earliest film roles. “Super nervous going in to meet Mr. Ramis, but he was as sweet as could be,” Shannon later recalled of his audition. “You know, there wasn’t much to it, the scene, it was basically just me shouting ‘WrestleMania!,’ but I guess he was charmed by what I did, and I got the part.”
When you’re making out with someone, especially someone you’ve tricked into liking you, the least you could do is call her by her correct name — and not “Rita,” the name of the woman you actually love.
The Cold Shower
Yes, Phil, that’s exactly what a lack of hot water in a hotel feels like.
‘I Always Drink to World Peace’
Just Phil’s luck: He’s in love with the one gal who won’t drink to the groundhog.
Phil at the Psychiatrist
When the shrink Phil visits (somewhat understandably) doesn’t understand his condition, our despondent hero puts a pillow over his own face and starts punching himself. I’m not an expert in psychology, but I wouldn’t recommend that as a form of therapy.
Pucker Up, Mrs. Lancaster
The overly cheery owner of the B&B where Phil is staying, played by the late Angela Paton, quickly gets on his nerves as he keeps repeating the same day. Finally, he snaps, answering all her dopey questions before she can ask them and planting a big kiss on her. Paton, who died in 2016 at the age of 86, was a theater actress who also appeared in Joe Dirt, The Wedding Singer and American Wedding.
Bill Murray Saves His Brother’s Life
Most know that Murray’s older brother is actor and writer Brian Doyle-Murray, who won Emmys for his work on Saturday Night Live and has appeared in several of Bill’s movies, including Groundhog Day. Doyle-Murray plays the guy who runs the Groundhog Day pageant, but his big moment comes when he chokes on a piece of steak — thankfully, Phil, on cue, is there to give him the Heimlich. That’s what a brother’s for.
Phil Gets Good at ‘Jeopardy!’
To the amazement of everyone at the bed and breakfast, Phil is a whiz at the quiz show, getting every question right. (Hilariously, Murray is utterly blasé — Phil must have seen this episode so many times.) I confess: If I was in Phil’s situation, this is definitely something I would do to show off.
‘They Call Me Punxsutawney Phil’
Not every great Groundhog Day moment ended up in the final cut: In this deleted scene, we see that Phil becomes a pool hustler who also happens to make a smart bet on every major pro game going on that day. This answers a question I know lots of fans of the movie have, which is, “Hey, if you can repeat the same day, why not make a mint gambling on sporting events?” But unlike Back to the Future Part II, Phil can’t actually do anything with his winnings — my assumption is that, like everything else around him, his bank account resets the next morning.
Phil Does Some ‘Errands’
The longer Phil stays stuck in the time loop, the more altruistic he becomes, helping those in need. To illustrate this, Groundhog Day offers a montage of some of his good deeds, the funniest of which is that he times it perfectly to catch a kid who falls out of a tall tree. Not that the kid is ever grateful: “You little brat,” Phil yells as the boy runs off, “you have never thanked me!”
Beat It, Kid Who Wants to Learn Piano
Phil decides that he needs to master a musical instrument since that’s something Rita says impresses her in a man. So, he starts taking piano lessons from a local woman, who initially tells him she’s busy with another student. Well, once Phil offers the teacher a thousand dollars, the little tyke is kicked out the door. You’re never too young to learn how capitalism works, kid — that’s a more valuable life lesson than memorizing “Chopsticks.”
Wait, Phil Became a Doctor?
Near the end of the film, once Phil has become a good guy, Rita is at the party, dancing with him, as more and more people come up to Phil, thanking him for how he’s helped them. My favorite is the revelation that, apparently, Phil spent enough time being knowledgeable in medicine that he was able to fix someone’s ailing back. Is he Dr. Connors now? “It’s kind of an honorary title,” he says, modestly. (There was more of this subplot originally in the film, but Ramis cut it.)
‘You Know, People Like Blood Sausage, Too. People Are Morons’
Phil’s retort to Rita’s peppy reasoning for why people get so excited about Groundhog Day is not wrong.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it terrific moment: Early on, Phil jabs the snide anchorwoman at his Pittsburgh station (Carol Bivins) by announcing, “For your information, Hairdo, there is a major network interested in me.”
Rita’s… Still There in the Morning?
Phil finally gets his happy ending when he wakes up with Rita the next morning. That’s a big deal because, as we all know, everything normally resets and it’s February 2nd all over again. But not this time, and the look on Phil’s face is priceless. Is he dreaming? Is this a trick? No, buddy, it’s finally February 3rd, and you got the girl.
Did the world need a sequel to Heidi? Probably not, but apparently it exists in Punxsutawney, where it screens at the town’s only movie theater.
For the record, that’s really the name of the place where Punxsutawney Phil “lives.” But, sorry, it just sounds so dirty.
‘Yeah, They’re Hicks, Rita’
One of my favorite variations of jokes in Groundhog Day is when Phil pours cold water on Rita’s wholesome enthusiasm. The more she relishes the homespun pleasures of this Punxsutawney community, the more contemptuous Phil gets. These are the kinds of burns Murray was born to deliver.
Phil Dabbles in Robbery
Give someone enough repeats of the same day, and it’s inevitable he’ll eventually try to figure out how to do something crooked. All things considered, Phil’s plot is fairly benign — figuring out the exact moment when two armored-truck security cops aren’t keeping an eye on the money they should be guarding — but it’s really Murray’s serenely self-satisfied look as he pulls off his victimless crime that makes the moment sublime.
‘Don’t Mess With Me, Pork Chop!’
Take a bow, Ken Hudson Campbell, who played Man in Hallway, the dude who bugs the hell out of Phil when he leaves his room at the bed and breakfast.
‘At Sunset, We Made Love Like Sea Otters’
Phil’s description of his favorite day — which was in the Virgin Islands, where he met a beautiful woman — sounds pretty swell. But my question is… is sea otter sex that wild? I guess I’ll need to look into that.
‘Gosh, You’re an Upbeat Lady!’
Even as Phil and Rita are falling in love, he can’t help but mock her sweet demeanor. After convincing her of his time-loop plight, she tries to explain that he should look at his hell as an interesting opportunity to make the most out of life. His super-sarcastic response only works if Murray sells both the sting and the affection underneath those cutting words.
When Phil first learns that Rita studied French poetry in college, he can’t help himself, reflexively laughing and declaring, “What a waste of time!” A little insensitive, sure, but I mean, honestly…
‘This Is a Man We’re Talking About, Right?’
Phil tries to trick Rita into falling for him by innocently asking her what she’s looking for in a guy — information he’ll use later to become that ideal partner over subsequent days. But her laundry list ends up being a lot longer than he expected. (Also, shout-out to Murray for the way he says, “I have a great body.”)
Phil Gives Ned a Hug’
What I like about this joke is that there’s something playfully profound at its core. After enduring a stunning amount of days in which he’s had to repeat his annoying interaction with Ned, Phil just hugs him and tells him how much he wants to spend time with him. By simply being warm — maybe a little too warm in his sarcastic manner — Phil turns the tables on Ned, who gets freaked out and feels like Phil is the one being invasive, quickly getting the hell out of there. Turns out, even the neediest people can be turned off by someone who seems too needy himself.
The Slap Montage
You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and in Phil’s case, you can’t win Rita without first doing a lot of boneheaded things. We get a sense of how many times he’s failed to court her thanks to an amusing montage of different times where she slaps him over a series of disastrous dates.
The Suicide Montage
Here’s the darkest moment from Groundhog Day, in which Phil, totally devoid of hope, decides to just keep dying over and over again. It’s bitterly funny but, also, unexpectedly poignant.
Larry, No, Don’t Do That
Please enjoy the film’s most terribly awkward moment.
Larry’s Creepy Pickup Line
I don’t know how well it works in Pittsburgh, but “would you be at all interested in seeing the inside of a van?” isn’t gonna cut it with Punxsutawney gals, dude.
Larry, the Terrible Tipper
If you’re not paying attention, you might miss this joke in the same scene: Larry tries to impress the woman by leaving a generous tip at the bar… then stealthily takes one of the dollars back when she’s not looking.
‘Would You Help Me With My Pelvic Tilt?’
Lucky for Phil, Rita decided not immediately to go to HR after this comment.
‘That’s Not True. I Don’t Even Like Myself!’
One of Groundhog Day’s funniest lines is also one of its truest. When Rita rebuffs Phil’s advances, she tells him, “I could never love someone like you, Phil, because you’ll never love anyone but yourself.” Which is accurate, but so is Phil’s clever response, underlining all the self-loathing that’s woven into his sardonic personality. But fear not: Phil is gonna change his ways, earning Rita’s love along the way — and escaping that time loop to boot.
Phil Eats Everything at the Diner
Realizing that his actions have no consequences — so, really, nothing he does matters — Phil starts going to town at the Tip Top Cafe, ordering the entire menu and pigging out. It’s a fantasy so many of us have had, but Murray’s DGAF face really makes his gluttony funny.
Death to the Alarm Clock Radio
Sometimes, the snooze button just isn’t enough.
Larry Goes Up for Auction
Emboldened by how successful Phil’s charity bachelor auction goes, Larry decides to throw his hat in the ring. Bad idea, Larry. (That said, I feel fairly confident I could snare more than two bits if I tried the same thing.)
‘Is It Snowing in Space?’
Desperate to get out of town, Phil discovers that the blizzard has knocked out all communication, including satellites, prompting this incredible response. This wouldn’t have happened in the smartphone era, Phil.
‘I’m a God’
Look, there’s no easy way to tell your co-workers/love interests that you may be immortal, but Phil actually finds a pretty compelling way to make his case to Rita.
Phil’s Late-Night Drive
Starting to grasp the enormity of his time-loop dilemma, Phil grows more reckless, including this hangout with some drunk locals in which he gets behind the wheel, weaving around the road and mowing down mailboxes. The capper is the terrifically dry one-liner he lays on the cops who pull him over.
Nancy… Lincoln… Walsh
Once Phil discovers how this time loop works, one of his evilest schemes involves learning everything he can about pretty women in town and then using that information to create a false sense of connection with them. We first realize how his plan works when he walks up to a stranger (Marita Geraghty) and then starts asking her questions: What’s her name? What high school did she attend? What was the name of her 12th grade English teacher? Poor Nancy doesn’t know what’s about to happen to her — and what’s going to keep happening day after repeated day. (Fun fact: Geraghty later appeared on the Seinfeld episode “The Big Salad,” playing Jerry’s beautiful new girlfriend who used to date Newman — until Newman, inexplicably, broke up with her, a fact that freaks Jerry out.)
‘You’re Hypocrites! All of You!’
When Phil has reached his lowest moment, he can’t even pretend to give a shit about Groundhog Day anymore, leading to this wonderfully absurd rant. (That said, it would be amazing if they really did eat the groundhog afterward.)
‘You Speak French!’ ‘Oui’
The way Phil responds to Rita’s shock is exactly the way every dude who’s just used up all the meager French he’s learned to impress a woman would.
‘He Might Be Okay!’
That Larry, always the optimist.
Phil Kidnaps Phil
That shot of Bill Murray and a groundhog driving together is just too adorable for words.
Phil Blows the Cold Front During His Weather Report
Early on, we see how irreverent a weatherman Phil is during one of his reports, in which he acts like he’s controlling a cold front that’s moving across the country by “blowing” it with his mouth. What I’ve never understood: Why is Phil so popular as a weatherman? He seems more like a sarcastic jerk than the sort of shiny, happy guy we usually see in that job.
Phil Punches Ned
Oh, if only life were like this.
And now, I’d like to present my favorite Marx brothers-esque exchange from Groundhog Day.
Phil (concerned): “Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?”
Mrs. Lancaster (confused): “I don’t think so — but I could check with the kitchen.”
Stephen Tobolowsky has talked about what a challenging shoot Groundhog Day was. “It was a battle to create the (movie) that it was. … (Writers Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin) started cutting out scenes right and left that were in the original script, and reshaped it,” the actor said last year. “We were getting new pages every day; it was like guerilla theater, doing Groundhog Day. And in a way, that either leads to disaster, or leads to something brilliant. In terms of Groundhog Day it led to something just brilliant.”
And yet, the film’s funniest line, and its delivery, is so effortless. Really, it’s how Tobolowsky leans hard on his character’s last name while trying to jog Phil’s memory about this forgotten classmate. Ryerson!!! To be fair to Ned, though, I can’t imagine how you couldn’t remember that guy — he’s so damn loud. And so damn pathetically hilarious.