In 2007, the American Film Institute issued its list of top 10 Fantasy Films of all time. Much to my delight, one of my favourite films made the list, Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day.”
“Groundhog Day” is based on the idea that weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is reliving the same day over and over. A lesser film would’ve had Phil tick off a gypsy or randomly find some ancient idol that casts a spell on him. But Ramis never explains why this is happening to him. When Phil lives the perfect day, he wakes up to tomorrow.
Many religions have claimed the film as a parallel for something they believe. While I doubt this was Ramis’ intention when he wrote the film, it is to his credit that he’s made a film that has resonated so deeply with so many people and transcended so many contradictory beliefs.
While 1989’s “Ghost” did not make AFI’s list, the film belongs alongside other films for the unique reality it creates. Like “Groundhog Day”, the reality is never theologically explained. Thus, the audience has to make up its own mind. Good people are called into the white light while bad people are dragged off by shrieking shadows. It’s ambiguous enough not to distract from the plot, which is essentially a romance.
Note to would-be fantasy filmmakers: don’t make fantasy films. Make character films in which supernatural elements serve the story. I mean, we love “Wizard of Oz” and not because of all the pretty colours but because we want to see Dorothy get back home.