My Favorite Movies #1 – Back to the Future

Back to the Future


Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Quick synopsis… In this sci-fi comedy classic, an eccentric inventor turns a DeLorean into a time machine that inadvertently sends young Marty McFly back 30 years. In 1955, Marty disrupts his parents’ destiny and risks throwing the time-space continuum out of whack.

  • I love this movie.
  • It is perfect.
  • I mean… it’s not perfect… but it’s pretty dang close.
  • Pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that schools use this movie’s screenplay as an example of near perfection.
  • Everything the movie sets up in the beginning is paid off by the end.
  • Even the little things that you don’t realize you weren’t paying attention to wind up being important.
  • For example… just during the opening credits, the camera pans by all of these random clocks, one of which automatically turns on a television.
  • On that TV, we get a news report about a case of stolen plutonium that a Libyan terrorist group has taken credit for stealing.
  • Then, when Marty (Michael J. Fox) shows up and absent-mindedly kicks his skateboard across the room, it bumps into a case marked “plutonium” under a bed.
  • Wait… didn’t that news anchor just say something about stolen plutonium?
  • Yeah… little things.
  • Anyway, all those clocks are 25 minutes slow, which is exciting to Doc Brown, but it makes Marty late for school.
  • Marty gets to school and is cut off by his girlfriend, Jennifer, who lets him know that Principal Strickland is looking for him.
  • They try to sneak in, but Strickland catches them anyway and uses his favorite word to describe Marty McFly: slacker.
  • He also asks Marty why he’s bothered signing his band up for try outs to play at the dance because he’s “too much like your old man… No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!”
  • Marty’s response? “History is gonna change.”
  • In the business, I believe they call that foreshadowing.
  • Marty’s band, the Pinheads, do indeed try out by playing a rendition of Huey Lewis & the News’ “Power of Love,” but Huey Lewis himself tells them that they’re just too darn loud.
  • Jennifer gives Marty a pep talk as they walk through downtown Hill Valley and are interrupted by a woman raising money to save the clock tower.
  • Apparently, the courthouse’s clock tower was struck by lightning on the night of November 12, 1955 and the clock hasn’t run since and they feel it’s important to preserve the broken clock as part of their town’s history and heritage.
  • Later, Marty gets home to find the car is wrecked because his dad’s supervisor, Biff, borrowed the car and drunkenly totaled it.
  • George McFly is kind of a wimpy loser who lets Biff Tannen walk all over him.
  • At dinner, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), Marty’s mom, gives Marty a hard time about Jennifer calling for him on the phone, saying that girls shouldn’t chase boys.
  • She believes that true love will just happen…
  • Lorraine goes on to tell the story of her first date with George.
  • Her father hit him when he fell out of a tree where he was “bird watching” and she nursed him back to health, falling in love with him because she felt sorry for him.
  • Their first date was to the Fish Enchantment Under the Sea Dance on the night of that terrible thunderstorm.
  • When Lorraine tells the story, she seems so nostalgic… but in 1985, she’s a miserable alcoholic.
  • Marty agrees to meet Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall for a crucial experiment at 1:00 a.m.
  • Marty arrives to find Doc’s dog, Einstein sitting outside of a truck labeled Dr. E. Brown Enterprises.
  • Then Doc makes one of the greatest entrances ever, but remotely opening the back of the truck and backing out of it in a DeLorean.
  • Here’s the thing, though… there’s no way he could have gotten into that care while it was parked inside the back of that truck.
  • There’s just no room for the door to open or for a human being to fit in there.
  • So Doc Brown had to have driven the DeLorean into the truck and closed it, waiting for Marty to arrive just so he could make that entrance.
  • Anyway, Doc has Marty run the video camera to record tonight’s temporal experiment.
  • Doc straps Einstein into the driver’s seat and shows the camera that his watch and the clock around Einstein’s neck are in precise synchronization.
  • Then he pulls out a remote control to drive the DeLorean, which is cool in and of itself.
  • Doc grabs Marty and positions the two of them directly in the path of the car and warns the kid that when the car hits 88 miles per hour, he’s gonna see some serious… well… stuff.
  • Sure enough, as soon as the DeLorean hits 88 miles per hour, it seems to explode in a ball of light and fire, leaving two fire trails where the tires should have been.
  • Marty is concerned that Doc just disintegrated his dog, but Doc assures him that Einstein is all right.
  • And that he’s become the world’s first time traveler.
  • Doc sent Einstein one minute into the future and a minute later, the DeLorean reappears.
  • Einstein is fine and his clock is exactly one minute behind Doc’s.
  • Doc then shows Marty how the time machine works.
  • He sets the destination time as November 5, 1955 because it’s the day that he came up with the idea for time travel.
  • Doc explains that on that day, he was hanging a clock in his bathroom and slipped and fell, hitting his head.
  • When he came to, he drew an image of the flux capacitor, which is what makes time travel possible.
  • Marty asks a logical question: does it run on regular or unleaded gasoline.
  • Doc says, unfortunately it requires something with a little more kick: plutonium.
  • Yep… back to the plutonium.
  • Doc then explains that he needs a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity necessary to power the flux capacitor.
  • Indeed, Doc Brown did steal the plutonium from a group of Libyan nationalists who hired him to build them a bomb.
  • Instead, he took their plutonium and gave them a shiny bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts.
  • Just as Doc is about to depart for the future, he sees that the Libyans have found him and they are thirsty for some vengeance.
  • “They’ve found me. I don’t know how, but they’ve found me.”
  • Uh… could it be that you’re hanging out in a truck that’s labeled “Dr. E. Brown Enterprises”?
  • The Libyans proceed to shot Doc many times with a machine gun.
  • And when Marty makes his presence known, they go after him, too.
  • But he jumps into the DeLorean and leads them on a merry chase through the mall parking lot.
  • He’s doing all right avoiding the bullets, but then they pull out a rocket launcher, so Marty decides to kick it into high gear.
  • He’s obviously not thinking about what happens when the DeLorean hits 88mph, because he’s trying to approach 90 when he’s suddenly face to face with a scarecrow.
  • Marty crashes into a barn that probably hasn’t been on that property for at least a decade.
  • A farmer named Peabody and his family come out to investigate the commotion.
  • When they see Marty emerge from the car in a radiation suit, they assume he’s an alien and that’s his spaceship.
  • Peabody chases Marty off the property with a shotgun and in the chaos, Marty accidentally runs over one of Peabody’s twin pines.
  • He drives along, trying to tell himself that it’s all just a dream… then he sees the entrance to Lyon Estates.
  • It’s just beginning to be built… but it’s the subdivision in which he and his family live.
  • As luck would have it, the DeLorean dies and Marty is forced to hide and abandon the car behind a billboard advertising the new state-of-the-art homes coming to Lyon Estates.
  • On foot, Marty makes his way to downtown Hill Valley, which looks significantly cleaner than what Marty is used to.
  • Everything in town lets him know he’s in the past…
  • Then he hears a sound he’s never heard before… the courthouse clock tower chiming the half-hour.
  • He grabs a newspaper that someone has just thrown away and it finally sinks in: it really is November 5, 1955.
  • Marty stumbles into Lou’s Diner, hoping to find a payphone.
  • He finds Doc Brown listed in the phone book and tries to call but gets no answer.
  • Lou kind of bullies Marty into ordering something and he just happens to sit down next to a young George McFly.
  • And in walk Biff Tannen and his trio of cronies.
  • George McFly is kind of a wimpy loser who lets Biff Tannen walk all over him.
  • Marty is fascinated by meeting his father as a teenager.
  • Then he’s fascinated by meeting the future mayor, Goldie Wilson, who works at Lou’s.
  • While Marty is distracted, George slips out and rides away on his bike.
  • Marty chases after him and catches him “bird watching.”
  • Except that’s not what he’s doing in that tree… he’s spying on Lorraine changing clothes.
  • When George falls out of the tree, Marty impulsively saves him from getting hit by a car…
  • But that’s the car that was supposed to lead to George and Lorraine’s first meeting.
  • Instead, Lorraine meets Marty… and develops a crush on her own son.
  • After an awkward dinner with Lorraine’s family, Marty finds his way to Doc’s house, which is vastly different than what we experienced in 1985.
  • What we knew as Doc’s home in 1985 is only the detached garage on the property in 1955.
  • The rest of the place is basically a massive estate.
  • This takes us back to the start of the movie where the camera panned over a newspaper clipping hanging on Doc’s wall with a headline explaining that the Brown mansion burned down.
  • Doc, ever the inventor, is working on a machine that is supposed to read people’s minds.
  • It doesn’t work.
  • Marty tries to explain who he is and when he is from, but Doc doesn’t buy it.
  • At least, not until Mart recounts the story of how Doc came up with the idea for the flux capacitor.
  • At this point, Doc agrees to help Marty get back to the future, utilizing the lightning that will hit the clock tower the following Saturday night, since they don’t have access to plutonium.
  • Marty’s excited about spending a week in 1955, but Doc tries to put the kibosh on that, saying that any interaction with anyone other than himself could drastically alter future events.
  • That’s when Marty reveals he might have accidentally interrupted his parents’ first meeting.
  • Which is already affecting the future, as Marty’s older brother is slowly being erased from a picture he has in his wallet.
  • Now Marty has to spend the week trying to get Lorraine to notice George, which isn’t an easy task.
  • Marty gets a chance to invent the skateboard while trying to escape Biff and his goons, leading to Biff crashing his car into a manure truck.
  • They come up with a scheme where Marty takes Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and plans to “take advantage” of her in the parking lot when they arrive.
  • George would then come out and confront Marty for his inappropriate behavior towards the young lady.
  • But it doesn’t go quite right.
  • Biff interrupts, wanting to get back at Marty for the manure incident.
  • Seeing Marty in the car with Lorraine, who he’s convinced is his girl, he decides to let his buddies deal with Marty while he sexually assaults Lorraine.
  • Here comes George, right on time.
  • He hesitates when he realizes it’s Biff in the car, but is too good a person to allow Biff to rape Lorraine.
  • So George does what any bullied kid would do when they’ve taken all they can stand and they can’t stand no more.
  • He knocks Biff out with one punch.
  • George escorts Lorraine into the dance and Marty gets to play guitar when the band’s lead hurts his hand.
  • George and Lorraine share their first kiss and the future is saved.
  • Marty arrives at the clock tower where Doc Brown is waiting.
  • Just as Marty is about to get in the DeLorean, Doc finds a note from Marty in his pocket, warning him about being shot in the future.
  • Doc tears up the note, refusing the take responsibility for having knowledge of the future.
  • Marty then decides to set the time circuits back a little earlier, giving him time to get to the mall and warn Doc before the Libyans can arrive.
  • The lightning experiment works almost perfectly and Marty makes his way back to 1985.
  • Marty exits the vehicle and sees the dirtier version of downtown Hill Valley and knows he’s home.
  • Then he sees the Libyans’ VW bus heading toward the mall and realizes he has no time to lose.
  • Of course, the DeLorean breaks down again.
  • So Marty has to get to Lone Pine Mall on foot where he watches events from earlier in the movie play out exactly as they did before.
  • After watching himself disappear into the past and the Libyans crashing into 1-hour photo kiosk, he rushes down to check on Doc.
  • Turns out, Doc was wearing a bullet proof vest because he reassembled Marty’s torn up note from 1955.
  • Doc drops Marty back off at his house before heading 30 years into the future.
  • The next morning, Marty wakes up to a very different McFly house.
  • Everything is a lot nicer and his parents actually seem to enjoy being with each other.
  • And Biff? He’s waxing the McFlys’ vehicles out front.
  • Because we’re all okay with this guy who attempted to rape mom just coming by and detailing all of our cars?
  • Sure…
  • Just as Marty is reunited with Jennifer, the DeLorean explodes into the present and Doc tells Marty he’s got to come back with him…
  • Back to the future!
  • At this point, Doc Brown shows off that he’s had some work done on the DeLorean while in the future.
  • The time machine can fly now… and Doc, Marty, and Jennifer all fly off into the future: destination 2015.
  • To be continued…
  • Thus ends the greatest movie ever made.
  • Originally, Back to the Future was not intended to be the first part of a trilogy.
  • But the studio saw how successful the movie was and convinced Zemeckis and fellow writer Bob Gale to do a sequel.
  • They agreed, but only if they could do two movies back to back.
  • Any time these creators make an appearance at fan events, the question is inevitably asked, will there be a remake or another sequel.
  • The answer is always a resounding no.
  • And I hope the answer remains no until the end of time.
  • There will never be a need to remake this movie and the trilogy ended on a perfect note.
  • I’d be happy to pay to see Back to the Future in a theater any time they decided to re-release it.
  • If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a good one to check out.
  • But I might be biased…

That does it for my personal Top 100 movies of all time. It was definitely different from what the American Film Institute considers to be the 100 greatest films of all time.

Come back next week to check out the list of The 100 Best Movies I’ve Never Seen which will be the basis for blog posts for the following 100 Mondays.


4 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #1 – Back to the Future

  1. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

  2. Pingback: What Are the Best Movies I’ve Never Seen? | The Confusing Middle

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