During the height of the pandemic, as we all quarantined inside and binge-watched hundreds of hours of television, we got a firsthand look at what it's like to live the same day over and over again. At best, the ordeal left people feeling restless. For others, they had to commit to therapy to work through the psychological trauma of having their lives derailed.
Time loop films have long since been a staple in romance and comedy movies. I think we can all agree that Groundhog Day is a cultural cornerstone. But if you really take a closer look at what a time loop entails—what it means for the person reliving what is typically one of the worst moments of their life—it's a very dark and horrifying journey.
These films understand just how horrifying going in circles can be. Here are seven chilling time loop horror movies that deliver inescapable terrors.
Happy Death Day
One of the most notable time loop horror films out there is the 2017 flick Happy Death Day. On her birthday, college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is brutally murdered by a mysterious masked killer. She opens her eyes to start the very same day anew, and as she cycles through her death over and over again, she sets out to find her killer. Mixing in dark humor with the horror, the film was so popular it spawned a sequel, Happy Death Day 2U.
This psychological horror film from 2009 follows Jess (Melissa George) and her friends as they set out for a relaxing day at sea. As their yacht is hit by a bizarre and sudden storm, the boat capsizes, leaving the group stranded. When a strange ship comes to their rescue, the friends are thrown into a deadly series of events.
Brothers Justin (Justin Benson) and Aaron Smith (Aaron Moorhead) spent their childhood in a UFO death cult. They were fortunate enough to escape. However, as adults, an old videotape pushes them to seek answers by journeying back to their roots. Here they discover more about their old commune than they could have ever imagined.
This 2013 film injects an extra dose of the paranormal into time-loop horror. For teenage Lisa Johnson (Abigail Breslin), every day is almost exactly the same. As she and her family live out the same day in 1985 over and over again, Lisa starts to realize something isn't quite right. Connecting with a girl in another timeline, Lisa fights to rid her home of a serial killer that has haunted the place for years.
While this film isn't available for streaming on traditional platforms, it's definitely one worth tracking down. Claire Parker (Lauren Currie Lewis) is supposed to get a ride from her boyfriend after her shift at the convenience store. When a stranger shows up in his truck, she sets out on a path that ends in her gruesome murder. She wakes up the next day thinking it was all a dream. While the day unfolds differently, it ends the same—again and again and again. The twist in this film brings a fresh flavor to time loop films and delivers an experience unlike anything else you'll ever see.
After a terrible tragedy, a married couple goes on a camping trip to attempt to heal their relationship. When the pair get lost, they set up their tent on the side of the road, only to be assailed by a group of sideshow artists that enact unspeakable tortures upon them. Death after death the couple awakens only to suffer again through humiliation and grief.
Not your typical time loop film, Timecrimes employs a science fiction element that complicates matters for a man named Héctor (Karra Elejalde). After a disturbing series of events, Hector accidentally finds his way into a time machine that sends him back in time an hour earlier. When he finds himself, he sets in motion a repeating cycle of dastardly consequences.