Just How Many Days Does Bill Murray REALLY Spend Stuck Reliving Groundhog Day?

WhatCulture’s Simon Gallagher answers one of the most asked questions in cinematic history…

Simon Gallagher

Executive Editor

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

In case you didn’t know, February 2nd is Groundhog Day. And to celebrate the momentous American holiday that inspired the bloody brilliant Bill Murray film of the same name, as well as the movie itself, we’re going to answer one of the most asked questions in cinematic history:

Just how many days does Phil Connors spend trapped in the perpetual loop of Groundhog Day?

Okay, so director Harold Ramis has sort of already answered it on the DVD commentary of the film (10 years he reckoned) and then later, in response to several sites online running an article that came to an answer of just 8 years, 8 months, and 16 days, he offered the following (seemingly contradicting his own bloody answer in the process!):

I think the 10-year estimate is too short. It takes at least 10 years to get good at anything, and alloting for the down time and misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years…

Fair enough, Mr Ramis, but since when did I ever let something as trivial as the truth of the creator of something get in the way of a good opportunity to offer my own take? Anyway, I don’t agree with his estimate at all, as you’ll see below.

Now before I start, a small disclaimer – this article doesn’t take into account days in which Phil does nothing (like those days when all you want to do is lie in bed and play with yourself – which he inevitably will have done), so don’t go complaining that I haven’t factored them in. I actually have, though not explicitly, because my calculation inexplicitly accepts that Phil may have spent time learning some of his new skills on the same day. Don’t phone, it’s just for fun!

This process will be broken up into handy stages, to help everyone to keep up.

Right, so here goes:

Stage One: Days Shown On Screen

The first stage is to work out how many separate days are shown on screen during the movie. So here’s a good old-fashioned list of them:

  • Day 1: Groundhog Day
  • Day 2: The first repetition
  • Day 3: The fixed pencil
  • Day 4: Punching Ned
  • Day 5: Deceiving Nancy
  • Day 6: Robbing the bank
  • Day 7: Seeing Heidi 2 with a French Maid
  • Days 8-12: Engineering the near-perfect date
  • Day 13: The bad perfect date
  • Days 14-21: One for every slap
  • Day 22: “Phil you look terrible!”
  • Day 23: Jeopardy
  • Day 24: “This is pitiful!”
  • Days 25-27: Breaking the alarm clock
  • Day 28: Kidnapping Punxsutawney Phil
  • Day 29-31: Phil’s suicides
  • Day 32: I’m a God!
  • Days 33- 35: First piano lessons
  • Day 36: Sexually harassing Ned
  • Day 37: Looking after the homeless man
  • Day 38: The final Groundhog Day

So by my reckoning that’s 38 separate days shown in the movie. This is of course assuming that every separate thing listed above happens on separate days, which I think isn’t too much of a dangerous assumption, given that Phil is something of a quitter (case in point: multiple attempts at suicide).

Second, and far more difficult stage is to take things Phil says as indicators for other days we do not see. Jump over to page two to find out how we work that out…