Before Sunset to Groundhog Day: 10 of the best films set over one day | Culture

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Setting a movie during a single day has the beauty of compressing and heightening both incident and emotion. Spike Lee’s colourful, incendiary 1989 drama delivers on both fronts – from Rosie Perez’s punchy dance to Public Enemy’s Fight the Power at the start to the smashed pizzeria window near the end – as one hot, hot summer’s day in Brooklyn descends into racial violence.
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An armed robbery by an IRA gang led by James Mason’s Johnny goes badly wrong, sending him on the run, seriously wounded, through the streets of Belfast. In Carol Reed’s superbly shot 1947 thriller, elements of Christian allegory seep into Johnny’s plight, as cold day turns to freezing night and he seeks shelter and succour where he can.
Available on DVD

Meet cute ... Before Sunrise.



Meet cute … Before Sunrise. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia/Sportsphoto

Richard Linklater is the master of the day-in-a-life film (Slacker, Dazed and Confused) and 1995’s Before Sunrise is his most tender and bittersweet treatment of the theme. Light-touch but profound, it has Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Céline “meeting cute” and then wandering the streets of Vienna from dusk to dawn, talking about life and love.
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Time runs differently for children, so one day can seem life-changing. It certainly is for Alan Ruck’s angsty teen Cameron in John Hughes’s 1986 comedy, as best friend Ferris (Matthew Broderick) gets him to bunk off their Chicago school for a day in the city, and Cameron discovers a sense of self-worth.
Netflix

A landmark of Italian neorealist cinema, Vittorio de Sica’s 1948 parable is largely set on the first day of work for Lamberto Maggiorani’s labourer. When the bike crucial to his job is stolen, he sets off on a desperate search across Rome for it, with his young son a witness to the humiliations and injustices of poverty.
BFI Player

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 sci-fi drama, a guide takes two men into the Zone, a forbidden region that contains a room where your deepest desire will be met. With the laws of physics in this mysterious land being mutable, their quest may not even last just one day, as the oblique Russian auteur warps time and meaning.
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I got you babe ... Groundhog Day.



I got you babe … Groundhog Day. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Not just one day but the same day, over and over again. A simple conceit brilliantly executed by director Harold Ramis, writer Danny Rubin and star Bill Murray, this 1993 comedy deserves repeat viewings – if you can stomach hearing I Got You Babe multiple times. The balance between Murray’s comic shtick and misanthropic moodiness is at its most realised here.
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George A Romero’s 1968 zombie horror set a genre template that is still being used today. A disparate group holed up in a farmhouse face a shuffling but inexorable threat as reanimated corpses come to ravenous life, the real-time element adding peril to the claustrophobia. With an African American (played by Duane Jones) as the hero, it was – inadvertently – groundbreaking in other ways, too.
BBC iPlayer

Set during Ceaușescu’s dictatorship in Romania, Cristian Mungiu’s stomach-clenchingly tense 2007 drama offers a cold, hard look at the myths of ostalgie. Anamaria Marinca’s university student agrees to help her unreliable friend (Laura Vasiliu) obtain an illegal abortion, but the day goes far from smoothly. Hotel rooms have never looked so bleak.
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A film of a day that takes a day to watch, Christian Marclay’s 24-hour-long 2010 installation features shots of timepieces from films and TV, edited together so they tell the actual time. Commenting on how we organise our daily lives, the history of cinema and much more, it is an infinitely rewarding experience, however long you spend with it.
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