Back to the Future (1985)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Cinematography Dean Cundey

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction adventure comedy film  directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It stars Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who is sent back in time to 1955, where he meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, Marty’s friend who helps him repair the damage to history by advising Marty how to cause his parents to fall in love. Marty and Doc must also find a way to return Marty to 1985.

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Zemeckis and Gale wrote the script after Gale mused upon whether he would have befriended his father if they had attended school together. Various film studios rejected the script until the financial success of Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone. Zemeckis approached Steven Spielberg, who agreed to produce the project at Amblin Entertainment, with Universal Pictures as distributor. The first choice for the role of Marty McFly was Michael J. Fox. However, he was busy filming his television series Family Ties and the show’s producers would not allow him to star in the film. Consequently, Eric Stoltz was cast in the role. During filming, Stoltz and the filmmakers decided that the role was miscast, and Fox was again approached for the part. Now with more flexibility in his schedule and the blessing of his show’s producers, Fox managed to work out a timetable in which he could give enough time and commitment to both.

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Teenager Marty McFly is an aspiring musician dating girlfriend Jennifer Parker in Hill Valley, California. His father George is bullied by his supervisor, Biff Tannen, while his mother Lorraine is an overweight, depressed alcoholic. While dissatisfied with Marty’s relationship with Jennifer, Lorraine recalls how she met George when her father hit him with a car.

On October 26, 1985, Marty meets his scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, at a shopping mall parking lot. Doc unveils a time machine built from a modified DeLorean and powered by plutonium stolen from Libyan terrorists. Doc demonstrates the navigation system with the example date of November 5, 1955: the day he conceived the machine. A moment later, the Libyans arrive and kill him. Marty escapes in the DeLorean, but inadvertently activates the time machine, and arrives in 1955 without the required plutonium needed to return.

There, Marty encounters the teenage George, who is bullied by classmate Biff. After Marty saves George from an oncoming car and is knocked unconscious, he awakens to find himself tended by an infatuated Lorraine. Marty leaves and tracks down Doc’s younger self to help him return to 1985.

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With no plutonium, Doc explains that the only power source capable of generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the time machine is a bolt of lightning. Marty shows Doc a flyer from the future that recounts a lightning strike at the town’s courthouse the coming Saturday night. Doc instructs Marty to not leave his house or interact with anyone, as he could inadvertently change the course of history and alter the future; because of this, Doc refuses to heed warnings from Marty about his death in 1985. Marty realizes that he has prevented his parents from meeting and Doc warns Marty that he will be erased from existence if he does not find a way to introduce George to Lorraine. Doc formulates a plan to harness the power of the lightning while Marty sets about introducing his parents, but he antagonizes Biff and his gang in the process.

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When Lorraine asks Marty to the upcoming school dance, Marty plans to have George “rescue” Lorraine from Marty’s inappropriate advances. The plan goes awry when a drunken Biff attempts to force himself on Lorraine. George arrives to rescue her from Marty, but finds Biff instead. George knocks out Biff and Lorraine follows George to the dance floor, where they kiss and fall in love while Marty plays music with the band. Satisfied that he has secured his future existence, Marty leaves to meet Doc.

As the storm arrives, Marty returns to the clock tower and the lightning strikes on cue, sending Marty back to October 1985. He finds that Doc is not dead, as he had listened to Marty’s warnings and worn a bullet-proof vest. Doc takes Marty home, then departs to 2015.

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Marty awakens the next morning to find his family changed: George is a self-confident, successful author, Lorraine is physically fit and happy, his brother David is a successful businessman, his sister Linda works in a boutique and has many “boyfriends” and Biff is now an obsequious auto valet. As Marty reunites with Jennifer, the DeLorean appears with Doc, dressed in a futuristic outfit, insisting they accompany him to 2015 to fix a problem with their future children. The trio get inside the DeLorean and disappear into the future.

Writer and producer Bob Gale conceived the idea after he visited his parents in St. Louis, Missouri after the release of Used Cars. Searching their basement, Gale found his father’s high school yearbook and discovered he was president of his graduating class. Gale thought about the president of his own graduating class, who was someone he had nothing to do with. 

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Gale wondered whether he would have been friends with his father if they went to high school together. When he returned to California, he told Robert Zemeckis his new concept.  Zemeckis subsequently thought of a mother claiming she never kissed a boy at school when, in fact, she was highly promiscuous.  The two took the project to Columbia Pictures, and made a development deal for a script in September 1980.

Zemeckis and Gale said that they had set the story in 1955 because a 17-year-old traveling to meet his parents at the same age arithmetically required the script to travel to that decade. The era also marked the rise of teenagers as an important cultural element, the birth of rock n’ roll, and suburb expansion, which would flavor the story.  In an early script, the time machine was designed as a refrigerator, and its user needed to use the power of an atomic explosion at the Nevada Test Site to return home. Zemeckis was “concerned that kids would accidentally lock themselves in refrigerators”, and found that it would be more convenient if the time machine were mobile.

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The DeLorean DMC-12 was chosen because its design made the gag about the family of farmers mistaking it for a flying saucer believable. Zemeckis and Gale found it difficult to create a believable friendship between Marty and Brown before they created the giant guitar amplifier, and only resolved his Oedipal relationship with his mother when they wrote the line “It’s like I’m kissing my brother.” Biff Tannen was named after studio executive Ned Tanen, who behaved aggressively toward Zemeckis and Gale during a script meeting for I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

The first draft of Back to the Future was finished in February 1981 and presented to Columbia, who put the film in turnaround. “They thought it was a really nice, cute, warm film, but not sexual enough,” Gale said. “They suggested that we take it to Disney, but we decided to see if any other of the major studios wanted a piece of us.” Every major film studio rejected the script for the next four years, while Back to the Future went through two more drafts. During the early 1980s, popular teen comedies (such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Porky’s) were risqué and adult-aimed, so the script was commonly rejected for being too light.Gale and Zemeckis finally decided to pitch Back to the Future to Disney. “They told us that a mother falling in love with her son was not appropriate for a family film under the Disney banner,” Gale said.

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The two were tempted to ally themselves with Steven Spielberg, who produced Used Cars and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, which were both box office bombs. Zemeckis and Gale initially had shown the screenplay to Spielberg, who had “loved” it.[Spielberg, however, was absent from the project during development because Zemeckis felt if he produced another flop under him, he would never be able to make another film. Gale said “we were afraid that we would get the reputation that we were two guys who could only get a job because we were pals with Steven Spielberg.” Zemeckis chose to direct Romancing the Stone instead, which was a box office success. Now a high-profile director, Zemeckis reapproached Spielberg with the concept. Agreeing to produce Back to the Future, Spielberg set the project up at his production company, Amblin Entertainment, with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall joining Spielberg as executive producers on the film.

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The script remained under Columbia’s shelf until legal issues forced them to withdraw. The studio was set to begin shooting a comedic send-up of Double Indemnity entitled Big Trouble. Columbia’s legal department determined that the film’s plot was too similar to Double Indemnity and they needed the permission of Universal Pictures, owners of the earlier film, if the film was ever to begin shooting. With Big Trouble already set to go, desperate Columbia executives phoned Universal’s Frank Price to get the necessary paperwork. Price was a former Columbia executive who had been quite fond of the script for Back to the Future during his tenure there. As a result, Universal agreed to trade the Double Indemnity license in exchange for the rights to Back to the Future. Thus, the film finally had a home at Universal.

Executive Sidney Sheinberg made some suggestions to the script, changing Marty’s mother’s name from Meg to Lorraine (the name of his wife, actress Lorraine Gary), to change Brown’s name from Professor Brown to Doc Brown and replace his pet chimpanzee with a dog. Sheinberg also wanted the title changed to Spaceman from Pluto, convinced no successful film ever had “future” in the title.

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He suggested Marty introduce himself as “Darth Vader from the planet Pluto” while dressed as an alien forcing his dad to ask out his mom (rather than “the planet Vulcan“), and that the farmer’s son’s comic book be titled Spaceman from Pluto rather than Space Zombies from Pluto. Appalled by the new title that Sheinberg wanted to impose, Zemeckis asked Spielberg for help. Spielberg subsequently dictated a memo back to Sheinberg, wherein Spielberg convinced him they thought his title was just a joke, thus embarrassing him into dropping the idea. In addition, the original climax was deemed too expensive by Universal executives and was simplified by keeping the plot within Hill Valley and incorporating the clocktower sequence. Spielberg later used the omitted refrigerator and Nevada nuclear site elements in his film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

On review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100, the film received an average score of 86/100, which indicates “universal acclaim”, based on 12 reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 77 reviews, certifying it “Fresh”, with an average rating of 8.7 out of 10 and the consensus: “Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.”

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Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt Back to the Future had similar themes to the films of Frank Capra, especially It’s a Wonderful Life. Ebert commented “[Producer] Steven Spielberg is emulating the great authentic past of Classical Hollywood cinema, who specialized in matching the right director (Robert Zemeckis) with the right project.” He gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Janet Maslin of The New York Times believed the film had a balanced storyline: “It’s a cinematic inventing of humor and whimsical tall tales for a long time to come.” Christopher Null, who first saw the film as a teenager, called it “a quintessential 1980s flick that combines science fiction, action, comedy, and romance all into a perfect little package that kids and adults will both devour.” Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader felt Gale and Zemeckis wrote a script that perfectly balanced science fiction, seriousness and humor. Variety praised the performances, arguing Fox and Lloyd imbued Marty and Doc Brown’s friendship with a quality reminiscent of King Arthur and Merlin. BBC News lauded the intricacies of the “outstandingly executed” script, remarking that “nobody says anything that doesn’t become important to the plot later.” Back to the Future appeared on Gene Siskel‘s top ten film list of 1985.

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Time Travel Movies Are Always Brilliant

Author: Big Movie Fan from England
4 June 2002

Time travel movies never disappoint-that is because the concept of time travel is a very interesting one which most people must have thought about at one time or another. What would happen if you went back in time and an innocuous act changed the course of history for better or worse? It’s something to think about.

I won’t reveal any plot details for this movie because it will spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Let’s just say that Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly ends up back in 1955 where a sequence of events inadvertently orchestrated by Marty threaten his very existence. He is aided by Doc Brown played brilliantly by Christopher Lloyd who tries to get him back to 1985 without causing any damage to the fabric of time.

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The movie is great-and I feel it can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their individual tastes in film genres. In fact, I find it hard to believe anyone could dislike a film like this. It has action, adventure, plenty of humour and some cool moments. All the actors involved in the movie play their parts great.

Anyone who watches this movie will love it.

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8/10
Author: TheNorthernMonkee from Manchester
17 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS When you build a time machine, it just has to be a Deloren really. The corrupt car manufacturer’s ultimate advert for his death trap vehicle, “Back to the Future” was your regular 1980s classic. Well written, entertaining to watch and with a killer soundtrack, it’s a film which has managed to survive the test of time. Released midway through one of the most irrelevant decades in history, this Michael J Fox driven piece is great.

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When Dr Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) creates a time machine, he’s made his greatest, and most risky invention. Shot for stealing the plutonium power source, Brown’s invention undertakes it’s first major expedition with young Marty McFly (Fox) behind the wheel. Travelling back thirty years to the 1950s, Marty finds himself in his home town of Hill Valley and in the company of his lovestruck mother (Lea Thompson) and useless father (Crispin Glover). Destroying their entire relationship, Marty manages to completely screw up his entire future. Still, with no way to get home, and a school bully on the prowl, he’s got all the time in the world to fix it.

Perhaps the one set of films that Robert Zemeckis will ever be remembered for, “Back to the Future” and it’s two sequels will forever be remembered as an entertaining piece of cinema. From the opening of the film where Fox glides around the fictional town of Hill Valley to the sound of Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love”, you can tell what decade it is, and yet you continue to watch.

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It might be harsh to really slate the 1980s as much as we do, after all, we did get entertaining films like “Ghostbusters”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Out” and “The Breakfast Club”, but for every one good film, there were so many dire productions. A bit like the current box office climate, you knew that the majority were a disappointing mess, but there would always turn up one rare beauty. “Back to the Future” is one of those.

Led by some straight forward but solid performances, the film just has something about it. The witty notion of the hypocritical mother and her secret youth, that one magnificent scene where Michael J Fox performs “Johnny B Goode” at the school prom and Marvin Berry (Harry Waters Jnr) phones his cousin Chuck, all add together to leave you with a huge grin on your face. It’s an icon for an age, and for once it makes you grateful for the decade.

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Robert Zemeckis has never really found the highs of the “Back to the Future” trilogy (1994’s “Forrest Gump” is his only other major success) since the final part was released in 1990. Ultimately though, there are worse positions to be in. A rare joy in an otherwise dire decade, this film and the continuing parts, was an entertaining piece of cinema which left you happy and content. It’s perfect afternoon viewing, and the one surprise is that it isn’t shown more often.

One of the finest Sci-Fi movies ever

8/10
Author: Philip Van der Veken from Tessenderlo, Belgium
2 August 2005

Even though I’m still convinced that the eighties are one of the worst decades in recent history when it comes to movies and music and even though I never liked Sci-Fi movies, there is one big exception to that rule. In my opinion “Back to the Future” is not only one of the best movies in the genre, it’s also in my list of all time favorite movies.

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When I saw it for the first time, I remember to be blown away by it. But than again, I was only 10 years old, not exactly an age on which you’ve already seen many really good movies to which you can compare another one. But even now, 20 years after its first release and after I’ve seen hundreds of movies, I still like it a lot.

It’s 1985 and Marty McFly is a typical teenager who doesn’t like his parents and who has some problems at school. His best friend is Doc Brown, a weird inventor of all kinds of (useless) machines. But this time he has invented something that is much more interesting. He has created a plutonium-powered time machine based on a DeLorean. But when something goes wrong, Marty is accidentally sent back to 1955, the time in which his parents still were young. Not only has he got to adapt to this entirely new environment, he also has to make sure that nothing is changed, because that might have serious consequences for the future…

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I guess the best reason why this movie works so well and feels so timeless is because they don’t use the time machine to go forward. Instead of showing us the future, which wouldn’t look exactly like it is right now, they have chosen to go back 30 years, a time period which they new very well and could recreate perfectly. If they hadn’t done this, the movie would have felt dated one day and no-one would have liked it because it was far from possible. Another good thing about this movie is the acting. Take for instance Michael J. Fox. Not everything that he has done in his career was very successful, but in this movie he shines. I truly believe that this is one of his best performances ever. The same for Christopher Lloyd. Even though his Dr. Emmett Brown looks like if he could have come out of a cartoon, his acting gives the character something likable and makes you forget about that ‘problem’.

Overall I really liked this movie a lot. It’s one of the finest examples in Sci-Fi movies and I can keep watching it time after time. That’s why I believe that this movie doesn’t deserve a rating lower than 8/10.

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Best ever. Period.

10/10
Author: Mark Hines from USA
22 April 2015

What else needs to be said? Anyone that knows anything about filmmaking knows that this is the best film ever made. Try watching certain movies over and over and see how quickly you get sick of it. This movie is different. The depth and richness of storytelling, the characters, oh my, the characters. Doc Brown is easily one of the best and most memorable on screen characters in any film ever. Biff, Griff, Buford…best on screen bully ever! Compare this movie to other epic movies, such as Star Wars – while those types of movies are great in their own right, Back to the Future is different. There is a warmth and comfort to the way that Bob Gale and Bob Zemekis crafted this screenplay. It’s pure genius. And for all of you fans that always have to mention “plot holes” or “minor flaws” – please make sure you have seen every second of the 25th Anniversary set of the trilogy that has an entire bonus disc, as well as more bonus features and two different commentaries on the main discs.

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Bob Gale is aware of every little detail about his script and talks about it in the commentaries. My true love of this film came as a result of watching all the behind the scenes material – which if you haven’t seen, you must see it if you’re a fan of this movie. It will give you a whole new level of appreciation for this film. As someone that is into filmmaking and a total nerd about directing, cameras, technical details, I can’t get enough of watching and listening to these guys talk about how everything came together just right for this masterpiece to happen. I can’t say enough about this film, its actors and all the people involved in making it. Truly something not to be rivaled and we will probably never see anything close to it ever again.

One Of The Greatest Films Ever Made. An Excellent And Unforgettable Classic.

10/10
Author: jcbutthead86 from United States
23 November 2015

Back To The Future is one greatest films ever made,an excellent and unforgettable classic that combines terrific direction,a wonderful cast,an amazing score and soundtrack,a fantastic script and great special effects. All of those elements make Back To The Future one of the best films of the 1980s that is Popcorn entertainment at it’s best.

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Set in the fictional town of Hill Valley,California,Back To The Future tells the story of teenager Marty McFly(Michael J. Fox). who is asked by his friend eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett Brown(Christopher Lloyd)to help him on experiment a time machine made out of a Delorean car. After an unfortunate incident Marty gets into the time machine and is accidentally transported back to 1955 where he not only meets Dr. Brown but also meets his parents George(Crispin Glover)and Lorraine(Lea Thompson)as teenagers. With the help of Dr. Brown Marty must find a way to get back to the year 1985.

Released in 1985,Back To The Future is a brilliant and entertaining film that was without a doubt the biggest Box Office hit of 1985 grossing over 300 million dollars world wide and is just an instant classic from the moment you watch it and is one of those movies that is the definition of what a blockbuster should be and where everything from the direction,the cast and story work to absolute perfection with no false note or missing beat.

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I don’t think director Robert Zemeckis or the cast knew what they had was something that was special,magical and timeless and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and will continue to be enjoyed by past,present and future generations. The movie is also the first feature of one of the most beloved movie trilogies of all-time and while all three Back To The Future films are classics as a whole the first is still the best. What Back To The Future does so well is that it takes the time travel movie and gives it style and creativity mixing together different movie genres Comedy,SCI-FI,Action,Romance and thrills giving viewers everything but the kitchen sink but the movie never becomes uneven or confusing making Back To The Future one of the best genre mash-up movies I have ever seen. Although there are some serious moments Back To The Future is lighthearted with non-stop fun From beginning to end,Back To The Future has an energy and flow that just never stops and keeps you glued to the screen with relentless pace and excitement that makes the film re-watchable and iconic to this very day.

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The screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale is incredible and quotable with tons memorable scenes and dialog that are funny done with perfection and fun as well with ingenious style and rapid fire delivery that is wonderful. The Comedy and laughs in BTTF are hilarious and fun with moments that are over the top and great thanks to the actions and reactions of Marty and Doc Brown and the main characters. The SCI-FI scenes in BTTF involving the Delorean are so dazzling and are done with imagination and beauty that will make your jaw drop and it doesn’t matter how many times you see BTTF you will be blown away by the Delorean sequences. There have been many classic movie duos throughout cinema and among the great duos are Marty and Doc. The scenes between Marty and Doc are truly funny with terrific back and forth banter and have some of the best scenes in the film that are unforgettable. While the two are different in personality and are separated by age the two have a friendship that feels genuine and real where you feel that Marty and Doc would have each other’s back at all costs.

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The friendship between Marty and Doc is further cemented in Part II and III where you feel they will be friends forever whether it’s in the future or in the present. Marty and Doc are two amazing and memorable characters that will never be forgotten. The ending of Back To The Future is terrific,thrilling and filled with surprises that will leave viewers laughing and smiling. A fantastic ending.

The cast is wonderful. Michael J. Fox is excellent and funny as Marty McFly,with Fox bringing laughs and charisma to the role. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant as Dr. Emmett Doc Brown,with Lloyd being delightfully over the top and having a fantastic chemistry with Fox. Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover are wonderful as Lorraine and George McFly,Marty’s parents. Thomas F. Wilson is terrific and fun as Biff,a neighborhood bully. James Toklin is great as Mr. Strickland,a hard nosed principal. Claudia Wells(Jennifer),Mark McClure(Dave McFly),Wendie Jo Sperber(Linda McFly),Jeffrey Jay Cohan(Skinhead),Casey Siemaszko(3-D),Billy Zane(Match),George DiCenzo(Sam Baines),Francis Lee McCain(Stella Baines),Harry Waters Jr.(Marvin Berry),Donald Fullilove(Goldie Wilson),Will Hare(Pa Peabody)and Norman Alden(Lou)give good performances as well.

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The direction by Robert Zemeckis is amazing,with Zemeckis always moving the camera while giving the film with great camera angles,pace and atmosphere.

The score by Alan Silvestri is outstanding and one of best scores in movie history,with Silvestri’s score being epic,suspenseful and uplifting. Incredible score,Silvestri. There is also a great soundtrack featuring songs by Huey Lewis And The News(The Power Of Love and Back In Time).

The Special Effects by Industrial,Light and Magic is dazzling and visual stunning and will blow your mind. Great effects,ILM.

In final word,if you love Comedies,SCI-FI,Robert Zemeckis or Films in general,I highly suggest you see Back To The Future,one of the greatest films ever made and an excellent,unforgettable classic that you will watch again and again. Highly Recommended. 10/10.

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