What can I say about the Back to the Future films that hasn’t already been said? Robert Zemeckis hit a home run with this, the original convoluted paradox movie. Full of clever twists and turns, all three films interconnect in amazingly imaginative ways, with running jokes and scenarios repeated in different time periods. The situations are so pervasive that I forgot that Marty’s whole “chicken” hang-up was only introduced in the second film rather than the first.
Michael J. Fox as Marty and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown were impeccably cast, creating for each of them their most iconic roles. Fox especially exhibits a wide range, from his cool 1985 self to his wimpy 2015 son to his wise 1885 ancestor to even his own daughter (I swear I just noticed that last one!). Lea Thompson as Lorraine/Maggie McFly and Thomas F. Wilson as Biff/Griff/Mad Dog Tannen also span several unique but similar identities throughout history. Supporting performances are also excellent, such as Crispin Glover’s geeky mannerisms as the first film’s George McFly. The role of Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer changed from Claudia Wells in the first film to Elizabeth Shue in the sequels; perhaps it’s simply because she has more screen time, but I think I prefer Shue.
I’ve always loved time travel, and though even more complex films have been made since, Back to the Future’s various paradoxes, alternate time lines, and potentially universe-destroying encounters boggle the mind while remaining altogether fun. The second film is particularly complex, yet it’s probably my favorite, with its visit to a positive but not idealized future and its more active time traveling. The first is the most classic; the second is the most breathlessly entertaining; and the third boasts the best action sequence, the train-hopping finale with a thrilling crash that is much more impressive and real-looking than the similar climax of The Lone Ranger.
The films are also famous for their humor, such as the irony of building a time machine out of a DeLorean. My favorite comedic moments are the reactions: Doc’s crazed gaze when Marty convinces him he’s from the future, Marty’s stunned expression when his younger mother kisses him, Jennifer’s shock at seeing herself older/younger, Doc’s “Great Scott!” when Marty says he’s “back from the future,” Doc’s reaction to the Wake-Up Juice, etc. By the time of the third film, much of the situations are too familiar, but even then the Wild West milieu offers a different lens for everything; I might compare the trilogy to the Disney show Phineas and Ferb, in which a highly predictable formula is altered in small clever ways to still be entertaining and funny.
Back to the Future was one of my dad’s favorite films, and though over time he has complained that it’s dated, each film boasts endless watchability. Even my most recent viewings have yielded new details I had never noticed, like how Twin Pines Mall becomes Lone Pine Mall after Marty runs over one of Mr. Peabody’s two trees in 1955. Though the company went out of business before the first movie was filmed, the DeLorean will always be remembered as Doc Brown’s time machine, and Fox and Lloyd will always be fondly known as Marty and Doc. With its thirty-year anniversary approaching, including a London musical (and a 2015 that unfortunately doesn’t quite possess all the conveniences shown in Part II), Back to the Future still remains as fun as ever.
Best line from Back to the Future: (George McFly) “Last night, Darth Vader came down from Planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.”
Best line from Part II: (Doc, as 1985 Jennifer is being taken to her 2015 home) “I foresee two possibilities. One, coming face to face with herself thirty years older would put her into shock, and she’d simply pass out. Or two, the encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that’s a worse-case scenario. The destruction might, in fact, be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.”
Best line from Part III: (Marty) “Listen, you got a back door to this place?” (bartender) “Yeah, it’s in the back.”Rank: 56 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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