Back to the Future
gotta get back in time
Back to the Future 101
» Spoiler Warning: details on this page could spoil any surprise(s) in the story if you have not seen these movies.
Back to the Future (1985). Marty McFly is your average, slacker teenager, who is friendly with a wacky inventor named Doc Brown. When Doc creates a time machine out of a DeLorean car, Marty is accidentally transported into the year 1955. There, he stumbles upon a younger version of his parents and accidentally disrupts their meeting. He must get the two together so that they will get married - or else he won't exist! He also has to find a way back... to the future.
Back to the Future Part II (1989). Picking up where the first movie left off, Doc Brown and Marty go into the future to help Marty's future offspring. After doing that they return to their own time, only to discover that things have changed for the worse. It soon becomes clear that while they were in the future, the aged bully Biff Tannen overheard Marty's idea of profiting from knowing the outcome of sporting events. Biff then snuck into the time machine, went back into the past, and gave the book of sports scores to his younger self. Now, Biff has not only amassed a fortune but is also extremely powerful. So Doc and Marty must travel back to when the past Biff received the book - in 1955 on the night of the dance - and get it away from him.
Back to the Future Part III (1990). The conclusion of the trilogy sends Marty McFly on a rescue mission to the year 1885, where he must save Doc Brown from death at the hands of yet another member of the Tannen clan. However, a number of complications prevent a quick return to the future: a lack of gasoline for the time-traveling DeLorean, a band of gunslinging outlaws, and a schoolmarm with affections for the smitten Doc.
Back to the Future: Recap and Review
What makes it so notable? A standout among trilogies, all three movies are highly consistent with great writing, strong performances, and attention to detail.
What are its weak points? The second movie's premise felt a little forced, since Marty didn't have a problem with "chicken" in the first movie.
Verdict: Casual Fan or Big-Time Fangirl? Big-Time Fangirl
Comments: Romance. Adventure. History. Destiny. What's not to love?
- Quotes -
The good, the bad, the sad, the funny: the things we wish we'd thought to say first.
[From Back to the Future]
Mr. Strickland: You don't have a chance: you're too much like your old man. No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.
Marty McFly: Yeah, well, history is gonna change.
"What if they say I'm no good? What if they say, 'Get out of here, kid, you got no future'?" Marty, with a bit of foreshadowing
Marty McFly: Wait a minute, Doc. Ah... Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?
Doc: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?
Marty McFly: Plutonium... wait, are you telling me that this sucker is nuclear?
Doc: No no no, this sucker's electrical, but it requires a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need.
Marty McFly: Doc, you don't just walk into a store and buy plutonium-- did you rip that off?
Doc: Shhhhhh. Of course. From a group of Libyan nationalists. They wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and in turn, gave them a shiny bomb-casing filled with used pinball machine parts.
Marty McFly: Calvin? Wh... Why do you keep calling me Calvin?
Lorraine Baines: Well, that is your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear.
Doc: Then tell me, Future Boy, who is President in the United States in 1985?
Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.
Doc: Ronald Reagan? The actor? Who's Vice President? Jerry Lewis?
[1955 Doc is watching a video of 1985 Doc]
Doc: What on Earth's this thing I'm wearing?
Marty McFly: Ah, this, this is a radiation suit.
Doc: Radiation suit? Of course, because of all the fallout from the atomic wars.
Doc: I'm sure in 1985, plutonium is available at every corner drugstore, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.
Doc: If they don't meet, they won't fall in love, they won't get married and they won't have kids. That's why your older brother's disappearing from that photograph. Your sister will follow, and unless you repair the damage, you'll be next.
Marty McFly: Sounds pretty heavy.
Doc: Weight has nothing to do with it.
"Isn't he a dream boat?" Lorraine, who is "amorously infatuated" with Marty
Marty McFly: Whoa, this is heavy.
Doc: There's that word again, "heavy". Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?
Marty McFly: Just go in there and invite her.
George McFly: Okay, but I don't know what to say.
Marty McFly: Just say anything, George. Say whatever's natural, the first thing that comes to your mind.
George (pauses a moment): Nothing's coming to my mind!
George McFly: Lorraine, my density has bought me to you.
Lorraine Baines: What?
George McFly: Oh, what I meant to say was...
Lorraine Baines: Wait a minute. Don't I know you from somewhere?
George McFly: Yes. Yes. I'm George, George McFly. I'm your density. I mean... your destiny.
[From Back to the Future II]
Marty (reading the newspaper in 2015): "Within two hours of his arrest, Martin McFly Jr. was tried, convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in the state penitentiary"? Within two hours?
Doc: The justice system works swiftly in the future now that they've abolished all lawyers.
"Since when did you become the physical type?" Griff, after Marty (who is posing as his son in 2015) shoves him
Doc (on the ever-present threat to the space-time continuum posed by time travel): However, the destruction may be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.
Marty McFly: Well, that's a relief.
"And be careful in the future." One of the cops in 2015, appropriately, to 1985 Jennifer
Doc: Time-traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!
Marty (terrified): Marty McFly! Marty McFly! Don't you know me, sir? From school, sir!
Strickland: I've never seen you before in my life, but you look to me like a slacker.
Marty (in the alternate 1985): I don't get it, Doc. I mean, how can all this be happening? It's like we're in Hell or something.
Doc: No, it's Hill Valley. Although I can't imagine Hell being much worse!
Marty McFly: What about the police, Biff? They're gonna match up the bullet with that gun.
Biff Tannen: Kid, I own the police! Besides, they couldn't match up the bullet that killed your old man.
Marty McFly: You son of a...
Biff Tannen: I suppose it's poetic justice - two McFlys with the same gun.
Marty McFly: That's right, Doc. November 12, 1955.
Doc: Unbelievable, that old Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that, that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance. Almost as if it were the junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.
Marty (back in 1955): It's like I was just here yesterday.
Doc: It *was* yesterday.
Biff Tannen: That's about as funny as a screen door on a battleship.
Marty (under his breath): It's "screen door on a submarine," you dork.
Old Biff: Just get in the car, Butthead.
Young Biff: Who you callin' "Butthead", Butthead?
[Flying above Biff in 1955]
Marty McFly: There he is, Doc! Let's land on him, we'll cripple his car.
Doc: Marty, he's in a '46 Ford; we're in a DeLorean. He'd rip through us like we were tin foil.
[From Back to the Future III]
"I never knew I could write anything so beautiful." 1955 Doc, tearing up after reading the letter than 1985 Doc left for Marty in 1885
"No wonder this circuit failed. It says 'Made in Japan'." 1955 Doc, while working on the time machine
"That's him. Good-looking guy." Marty, seeing a picture of his great-grandfather (who looks like him) in an old book
"Clint Eastwood never wore anything like this." Marty, not sure about the fringed, pastel-and-red outfit 1955 Doc chose as appropriate for 1885
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: What's your name, dude?
Marty McFly: Uh, Mar- Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: What kind of stupid name is that?
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: You owe me money, blacksmith.
Doc: How do you figure?
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: My horse threw a shoe. Now seeing as you're the one who done the shoe, that makes you responsible.
Doc: Well, since you never paid me for that job, I'd say that makes us even!
Doc: Marty, you're going to have to do something about those clothes. You walk around town dressed like that, you're liable to get shot.
Marty McFly: Or hanged.
Doc: What idiot dressed you in that outfit?
Marty McFly: You did.
"Who in tarnation'd ever need to be in such a hurry?" the train conductor, after Marty and Doc ask if the train could go ninety mph
Doc: Marty, it's perfect! You're just not thinking fourth dimensionally!
Marty McFly: Right, right. I have a real problem with that.
"What's the worst that can happen, huh? So they don't name the ravine after her." Marty, when Doc regrets altering history by saving Clara
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: If you don't show, I'll hunt you and shoot you down like a duck.
Gang Member: It's "dog," Buford. Shoot him down like a dog.
"You had him, Mr. Eastwood! You could have just walked away and nobody would have thought the less of you for it. All it would have been was words... hot air from a buffoon. Instead, you let him rile you, rile you into playing his game, his way, by his rules." Seamus McFly, after Marty is goaded into a duel by being called a chicken
Marty McFly: Great Scott!
Doc: I know, this is heavy.
"What are you gonna say to her? 'I gotta go back to the future'? I mean, she's not gonna understand that, Doc. Hell, I'm in it with you and I don't understand it!" Marty, when Doc wants to tell Clara goodbye.
Doc: We will proceed as planned and as soon as we return to 1985, we'll destroy this infernal machine. Traveling through time has become much too painful.
Doc: Clara was one in a million. One in a billion. One in a google-plex!
"Why do we have to cut these things so damn close?!" Marty, hearing that an unconscious Doc needs 10 minutes to be revived, while it's 7:50 and Marty is scheduled to duel Buford Tannen at eight
Marty McFly: Is there a back way out of here?
Bartender: Sure. It's in the back.
Train Conductor: Is this a holdup?
Doc: It's a science experiment!
- Lessons Learned -
What can we learn from this film series?
* Accidents can produce some great ideas.
* No man should know too much about his own destiny.
* Choose your band's name carefully.
* There's nothing wrong with calling a boy.
* Apparently, Progress is every politician's middle name. At least, that's what they'll tell you.
* One rejection isn't the end of the world.
* It's important to do things with style.
* Don't be so gullible!
* We all make mistakes.
* Pepsi Free? You wanna a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna pay for it.
* Be very suspicious if a teenage boy tells you he was bird-watching.
* Don't believe everything you read on underwear.
* When all else fails, blame men from outer space.
* Nice girls get angry when guys take advantage of them.
* When could weathermen predict the weather?
* The past affects the future.
* Parents are people too.
* Stand tall and have some respect for yourself.
* Don't be bullied into doing things.
* Don't be a bully. It's hard on your car.
* Names really can't hurt you.
* Some time machines are amazingly easy to operate.
* Avoid saying what you won't do for a million dollars. That just might be your price.
* Never marry solely for money.
* Be prepared to run when asking nosy questions.
* Don't rely on a man to pick out proper period attire.
* Once a slacker does not mean always a slacker.
* If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
* Intellectuals devoted to science are not immune to love at first sight.
* You've gotta do what you've gotta do.
* Forfeit means "you win without fighting."
* Never punch a man who's wearing a poncho.
* One small event can change the world.
* Your future is whatever you make it. Make it a good one.
- Favorite Scenes -
Also known as "moments"
[From Back to the Future]
The scene where Marty arrives at the courthouse square in 1955 does a great job of showing his confusion at being thrust into another time. It's just another day for everyone else, but Marty is completely overwhelmed. He says in disbelief that it has to be a dream; as he walks near the courthouse, the music playing shifts from the very fitting tune "Mr. Sandman" to a distinctly more ominous note that reflects just how serious Marty's predicament is.
In 1955, Marty finds Doc and tries to explain that he's from the future and needs Doc's help to get back. Fortunately, Marty has video footage to help clear up the more technical details. However, as Doc from the past watches his 1985 counterpart explain how much power the time machine needs, he is absolutely flabbergasted. He squeaks, "1 point 21 jigawatts?! Great Scott!" and runs out of the room. Unaware of the problem, Marty follows, asking "What?!" and "What the hell is a jigawatt?!"
In 1955, Marty points out his future father to Doc. George is the picture of un-cool, wearing a Kick Me sign and getting harassed in the halls of the high school. Doc suggests optimistically that maybe Marty is adopted.
In 1955, when George goes into the diner to ask Lorraine to the dance, his botched delivery - "my density has brought me to you" LOL! - is both funny and sweetly appropriate, showing how nervous he is. When he quietly declares, "I am your destiny," Lorraine actually looks intrigued (proving that there is an attraction between them) until they are interrupted by Biff.
[From Back to the Future II]
In 2015, Marty is on the sidewalk in front of the movie theatre. Suddenly, from an advertisement for Jaws 19 a large holographic shark appears and reaches forward. Marty screams, closing his eyes and turning away, but it's just a hologram that harmlessly engulfs Marty in a bite before it disappears. When the shark is gone, Marty tries to recover, grumbling that it still looks fake.
In the alternate 1985, Biff has chased Marty to the roof of the skyscraper casino. Marty is near the edge, and Biff - with gun in hand - sneers at him to go ahead and jump. After a bit of banter, Biff raises the gun to shoot. With a glance behind/below him, Marty steps backward off of the ledge and drops out of sight. Pleased, Biff advances, but soon Marty's head pops back into view, followed by the rest of him. He's standing on the DeLorean, and Doc uses the door to knock Biff unconscious.
In 1955, Marty rides the Hoverboard and hides as he clings to Biff's car. As Biff drives along, Marty attempts several times to reach in and retrieve the sports almanac. Biff finally spots him and they struggle for the book, which is thrown out of the open convertible and lands on the windshield. Now in a tunnel, Biff tries to smash Marty between the car and the tunnel wall. With Biff about to try again to squash him, Marty raises the Hoverboard with his feet, up the side of the tunnel. This flips him over the car in sort of a cartwheel motion, and as he props briefly on the hood, he grabs the almanac before landing on the other side of the vehicle.
[From Back to the Future III]
Waking up the day after the big dance and lightning storm, 1955 Doc steps over to document the results of the experiment. Speaking into the recorder, he explains that it was a success, but concluding that he must've been confused, because he thought he heard Marty, and that couldn't be, because he was sent back to the future. At this, the Marty who is back *from* the future approaches Doc unseen. When Doc finally sees him, he screams a hilariously high-pitched scream.
[In 1885, Marty walks into a saloon, dressed in the flashy outfit that Doc gave him in 1955.]
Saloon Old-Timer #1: Take a look and see what just breezed in the door.
Saloon Old-Timer #2: Why, I didn't know the circus was in town.
Saloon Old Timer #3: Musta got that shirt off'n a dead Chinese.
In 1885, Marty recognizes the bad guy at the saloon as being the one he saw in a history book in 1955. "You're Mad Dog Tannen," Marty says, mostly to himself, thinking out loud. However, the others in the saloon scramble for cover, and the now-furious Mad Dog growls, "I hate that name." He starts shooting the floor, barking at Marty to "Dance!" Dodging bullets, Marty jumps around before honoring Mad Dog's "request" with the moonwalk.
Later, Marty again encounters Mad Dog and his gang in town. Mad Dog is continuing his terrorizing, bullying ways, and Marty finally tells him, "Lighten up, jerk." Mad Dog's expression is blank, as he's unaware what that means or how he should take it. He looks to a gang member, but the gang member shrugs, also at a loss. Mad Dog apparently decides to take offense, so he turns back to Marty and accuses, "Mighty strong words."
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (to Marty): Let's finish it, right now!
Gang Member #1: Uh, not now, Buford. Marshal's got our guns.
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (correcting himself quickly, as if he was never wrong): Like I said, we'll finish this tomorrow!
Gang Member #2: Tomorrow, we're robbin' the Pine City Stage.
[Tannen impatiently turns to his men to coordinate the schedule.]
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: What about Monday? Are we doin' anything Monday?
Gang Member #1: Uh, no, Monday'd be fine. You can kill him on Monday.
[Tannen turns quickly back to Marty and continues his threat.]
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: I'll be back this way on Monday! We'll settle this then.
After trying to say goodbye to Clara and hurting her feelings, the devastated Doc goes to the bar and orders some whisky. Doc raises the glass. Seeing that he's upset, another bar patron offers a sympathetic word and speaks optimistically of the future. This sets Doc off, and he begins to tell the others about all of the changes that will come. When Marty arrives, Doc is still talking, glass in hand. Marty asks how much he's had to drink and the bartender explains, "None! That's the first one, and he hasn't touched it. He just likes to hold it."
[At the duel, Marty tosses his gun aside, wanting to avoid a fight.]
Marty McFly: I thought we could settle this like men.
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen: You thought wrong, dude.
[He whips his gun from its holster and fires.]
In 1985, Needles and his crew challenge Marty to a race in his new truck. Marty exudes a very sexy confidence as he looks to Jennifer in the passenger seat and says, "Grab a hold of something."
- Afterthoughts -
* Trivia: In 2008, Back to the Future was listed at #12 on SciFi's top 25 of the past 25 years.
* Back to the Future website links: @ Wikipedia, @ rottentomatoes.com, @ sciflicks.com, @ YouTube, www.bttf.com, The BTTF Wiki, BTTF transcripts, fan page/fan fiction, fanfiction, BTTF F.A.Q. (archived)
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