Film: Back to the Future

Marty McFly: Wait a minute, wait a minute, Doc...are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?!
Doc Brown: The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?

The first film of the Back to the Future trilogy, and started the Back to the Future franchise.

Marty McFly, a teenager from 1985, accidentally sends himself to 1955 in the time machine Doc Brown built out of a DeLorean, and requires 1.21 gigawatts of power to return home. After initial confusion, the 1955 Doc Brown agrees to help Marty get back home by striking his car with 1.21 Gigawatts of lightning, giving Marty a week to make his parents fall back in love at a dance and put bully Biff Tannen in his place. He does it, and in the process invents rock 'n' roll and skateboarding.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: In-universe. 50s Doc initially takes this approach towards a Reagan Presidency, but comes around to it when he sees Marty's portable television studio (read: a camcorder), realizing that the President has to look good on TV.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Initially, when no sequels were planned, the ending was this. The adventure ended well, it's all fine in Marty's world, but wait, no time to rest! We must go to the future, and have more adventures!
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Libyan terrorists speak vaguely Arabic-sounding gibberish.
  • Attempted Rape: Biff with Lorraine in 1955.
  • Auto Erotica: Marty's plan to get his parents together involves George finding him "parking" with Lorraine and trying to take advantage of her, then pulling him out of the car and pretending to beat him up to make him look like he's the tougher guy. Except Biff turns up instead of George, and he wants revenge on Marty for the $300 damages his car took in the manure truck incident, so he decides to attempt to molest Lorraine. Hence, George's "rescuing" Lorraine ends up becoming the real deal.
  • Awesomeness Is Volatile: The Delorean breaks down after Marty arrives in 1955, and again after he returns to 1985.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Back in 1955, Marty McFly plays Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" when he steps in for Chuck's cousin, Marvin Berry. While Marty is playing, Marvin calls Chuck up so he can listen in on this "new sound." He also gives the 1985 mayor Goldie Wilson, at that time the black janitor in the malt shop, political aspirations the exact year the Civil Rights Movement started.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: George and Lorraine at the dance, complete with "Earth Angel" swelling on the soundtrack, and saving their son's entire existence.
  • Big "NO!": Marty after Doc is shot by the Libyans.
  • Blatant Lies: Lorraine says to Marty that she never went chasing after boys. When we see her younger self, it turns out that she is instantly enamored with George and, due to Marty taking his dad's place due to an accident, all but attempts to force herself on him. She even admits "It's not like I've never been parking before".
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." Doc never actually says it in the movie (or the rest of the trilogy), but Jennifer attributes it to him. Only Marty and George ever say it — in fact, it seems that George has adopted it as his own catchphrase at the end of the movie.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Invoked. Lorraine is coming hard onto Marty, kissing him back into a corner, and it suddenly occurs to her that it's like kissing her brother. She is Squicked, although not nearly as much as Marty is, knowing that it's really Parental Incest.
  • Buffy Speak:
    Marty: Time circuits, on. Flux capacitor... fluxing.
  • The Cameo: Huey Lewis is the teacher who tells Marty that his music was "too darn loud".note 
  • Celebrity Paradox: Huey Lewis exists in the BTTF universe, as proven by Marty's posters in his room — and so does the audition judge, played by... Huey Lewis. Even better: at the end of the movie, Marty's clock radio plays "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis and the News. The song was specifically written for (and contains a TON of references to) a little movie called Back to the Future.
  • Cessation of Existence: Self explanatory and adverted. Marty inadvertently creates a paradox when he interfered with his parents' meeting in 1955. This slowly erases the existence of his brother Dave, his sister Linda, and then himself. It's averted at the last moment, when his father George kisses his mother Lorraine at the dance, thus resolving the paradox and ensuring a happier future.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Marty's radiation suit.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The joke about the TV show they're seeing at the Bates' house in 1955. It's seen earlier at McFly's house in 1985, and as Marty watches the same episode in 1955, he notes that he's seen it and it's a classic, to which one of his uncles replies that it's brand new and it's impossible that he could have seen it. Marty says he saw it on a rerun, prompting more confusion from them.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • At the start of the film, Marty is conveniently given a flyer by a woman who (along with other volunteers) is attempting to raise money to save the historic clock tower. The scene is played for laughs, but the flyer contains crucial information on how to return to the future, including the exact date and time that the clock tower was struck by lightning.
    • Lorraine tells the kids that if her father hadn't hit George McFly with his car in 1955 before the dance, none of the kids would've been born. She also says that she and George fell in love after they had their first kiss at the dance. It looks like it's just informing us about how the romance has gone out of their marriage. It's not.
    • When Marty hides the DeLorean shortly after arriving in 1955, he is shown putting the walkman he later uses as part of his alien impersonation in the car for no other reason than to establish he has it.
    • Ironically for a light-hearted action comedy, the film is often used in film studies as a perfect example of this trope, since virtually every single thing that happens in the film exists to set up a later event.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Dixon, the guy who cuts in on George and Lorraine at the dance, was previously seen kicking George around when he had the "Kick Me" sign on his back.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Surprisingly, Marty - near the end of "Johnny B. Goode". His faces while he goes over-the-top are...interesting.
  • Clean Up The Town: Goldie Wilson, in 1955 a busboy at Lou's Diner, imagines himself as doing this after Marty recognizes him as the future mayor and tells him that. Lou hands him a broom and tells him he can start by sweeping the floor.
  • Clock Discrepancy:
    • Marty is at Doc Brown's house, and thinks he will be on time for school, only to discover all his clocks are twenty-five minutes slow.
    • Doc Brown proves to Marty that the time machine works by syncronizing watches with a digital clock he attaches to his dog, then sending the dog one minute into the future. When the dog shows up again, his clock is a minute slower than Doc's.
  • Clown Car: Biff's goons make the mistake of insulting one of The Starlighters outside his Cadillac, causing four others to exit the car.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Marty has no problem sucker-punching Biff.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Played with, perhaps. It initially sounds as if Marty is amazed by the time machine. Then he adds the phrase, "out of a DeLorean?!"
    Marty McFly: Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?!
    • In 1955, when Marty tells Doc who he is while using the mind-reader:
    Marty: Doc, I'm from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented, and I need your help getting back to the year 1985.
    Doc: My God... Do you know what this means? It means that this damn thing doesn't work at all!
  • Contrived Clumsiness: Marty "accidentally" trips Biff when they're in the diner in 1955 Hill Valley.
  • Convenient Slow Dance
  • Curse Cut Short: Some TV versions invoke this trope when Marty travels back to 1955. When Marty drives out of the barn, Peabody shouts, "Take that, you mutated son of a bitch!" Whereas in some TV prints, Peabody's line is cut short to, "Take that, you mutated son of a-" (Marty bursts out of the barn)
  • Damsel in Distress: Invoked and then played straight — Marty's plan is to stage an Attempted Rape of Lorraine (his own mother) so that George can intervene and win Lorraine's affections. However, when Biff interrupts the staged attempted rape and tries to actually rape Lorraine, it's up to George to save the day, which he does, achieving the desired result.
  • Date Rape Averted: Invoked with Engineered Heroics, then doubly subverted: Biff interferes with Marty and Lorraine's activities, and George winds up interfering with Biff's attempt to rape Lorraine.
  • Death Glare: Marty gives one to Biff after stopping him from attacking George by tripping him up - which almost immediately turns into an Oh Crap! when he realizes that Biff is twice his size.
  • Delayed Ripple Effect: Marty has a week to get his parents together before he'll be erased from existence.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Everybody is stunned that Biff gets beaten by George.
  • Dies Wide Open: Subversion, towards the end.
  • Disney Death: Doc Brown in the revised timeline.
  • Diving Save: Marty pushes George out of the way of Lorraine's father's car, by accident.
  • Dysfunctional Family: George and Lorraine at the beginning of the movie.
  • Easily Forgiven: While Biff in the altered timeline appears to have become a harmless, eager-to-please Gentle Giant who is barely recognisable as the bully he used to be, both George and Lorraine seem to be remarkably grudge-free about him trying to rape Lorraine.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: George in 1955 tends to eat by himself in the cafeteria and focus on writing his ideas for a science fiction book down on paper.
  • Engineered Heroics: Subverted: Marty's plan to get George and Lorraine together goes wrong, requiring George to be a real hero. In the novelization, George worries that Biff was in on the plan and had faked being knocked out, until Marty confirms that Biff was serious.
  • Everything's Better with Cows: After Marty ends up in 1955, he runs into a scarecrow, then crashes into the barn where Old Man Peabody's cows reside.
  • Evil Redhead: "Dixon", the cackling punk who cuts in on George's dance with Lorraine.
  • Exact Words: George won't try to ask Lorraine to the dance, telling Marty "neither you nor anybody else on this planet is going to make me change my mind." So that night, Marty pretends to be "Darth Vader, an extra-terrestrial from the planet Vulcan".
  • False Start: George with Lorraine in 1955.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Marty. You don't even get to see his face until he takes off his sunglasses a minute and a half later.
  • First Kiss: George and Lorraine have theirs during the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, while the band plays "Earth Angel". (Marty has to fill in for a band member who injured his hand to ensure that it happens).
  • 555: Doc Brown's phone number, as well as Jennifer's grandmother's.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Discussed Trope. How Marty's mother fell in love with his father... and how Marty accidentally ends up replacing his father in her affections. Squicks Marty, repelling him, and inadvertently making him even more attractive to her. Especially after he defends her from Biff in the school lunch room. Lampshaded by Doc.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Among many things, Doc commenting on how Marty's 1985 photo is obviously a forgery, since his brother's hair is missing.
    • One of the clocks seen at the start of the film shows a man hanging off of the minute hand. Doc is later hanging off the clock tower face towards the end of the film. Also, the clocks are slow, with Marty being told of this, which sets up that he is going to go back in time later.
    • Marty's skateboard at the beginning hits a case of plutonium when Marty enters the garage. As revealed later, Doc had stolen it from the Libyans who later shoot him dead. Before that, Doc's TV was automatically turned on, which shows the news talking about a stolen case of plutonium.
    • Marty hitches a ride on the back of a Jeep in 1985 on his way to school. He later does the same thing in 1955 when he is chased around the town square by Biff and his thugs.
    • The following exchange at the beginning:
    Strickland: Mow let me give you a nickel's worth of free advice, young man. This so-called Dr. Brown is dangerous. He's a real nutcase. You hang around with him, you're gonna end up in big trouble. [...] No McFly has ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!
    Marty: Yeah, well, history is gonna change.
    • Lorraine says to her children at the dinner, "I think it's terrible. Girls chasing boys. When I was your age, I never chased a boy, called a boy or... sat in a parked car with a boy." Considering her behavior around Marty in 1955....
    • Upon being rejected for the Battle of the Bands, Marty says "I'll never get to play in front of anybody..." Guess what Marty does at the dance in 1955?
    • The McFly family are watching the episode of The Honeymooners where "Ralph dresses up as the man from space". The Baines family in 1955 watch the same episode when Marty is with them. It also sets up Marty being mistaken for a "man from space", first of all in front of the Peabodys when Marty first arrives in 1955 and later when he turns up in George's bedroom to coerce him to take Lorraine to the dance.
    • Doc recalls in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot how Old Man Peabody owned the area the mall is built on. Marty encounters him and his family upon first arriving in 1955, and during the encounter with the Peabodys, Marty runs over one of the two pine trees. It was Twin Pines Mall at first, but it is Lone Pine Mall at the end of the film.
    • When Marty gets to 1955 and crosses the street in front of the movie theater in the town square he is nearly hit by a car. Guess what happens a few scenes later?
    • When Marty tells Doc near the end that he never saw his dad serve up Biff in his life, Doc's concern is piqued. Astute viewers can cue in that the 1985 that Marty will return to may not be quite the same in noticeable ways...
  • Former Teen Rebel: Lorraine has a very prudish attitude toward teenage sexuality as a parent, looking down on Jennifer calling Marty twice in one evening. However, Marty discovers firsthand that as a teenager, his mother smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, and fooled around with boys in parked cars.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In the first movie, 1955-Doc has no less than four separate watches (one's even built into his clocktower model as the clock).
  • From the Mouths of Babes: "He's mutated into human form! Shoot him, Pa!"
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Strickland. His name is probably an inside joke on the word strict.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Stella keeps removing Milton's coonskin hat while Marty is taking in the surroundings of the Baines' dining room.
    • When Biff says "Make like a tree... and get out of here", one of his goons turns his head towards him, and his eyebrows slowly try to crawl their way up to his hairline.
    • In Lorraine's bedroom when Marty is struggling to get his jeans on, Lorraine can be seen in the mirror just before running out of the door - her face at the sight of Marty in his Calvin Kleins is quite revealing.
  • Gale-Force Sound: Marty hooks up an electric guitar to a ludicrously huge speaker. He plays a single chord and is physically hurled backwards by the sound (the speaker is destroyed in the process).
  • Garage Band: Marty McFly's band, the Pinheads, which auditions for the Battle of the Bands competition.
    Audition Judge: Hold it, fellas. I'm afraid you're just too darn loud.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Initially, this was released as a stand-alone film, and the ending was just a case when And the Adventure Continues. The "To be continued" text was added later in the video releases.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Biff, when he sits at Lorraine's table and tries to grope her: "You want it, you know you want it, and you know you want me to give it to you."
    • During the scene where Marty and George are going over the plan of how they're going to get George with Lorraine we have this exchange while George is doing his family's laundry:
    Marty: Because George, (voice begins to stutter) nice girls get angry when guys take advantage of them.
    George: Hoh! You mean you're going to touch her on her— (holding a bra in his hand)
    • When Strickland gives Jennifer her tardy slip, she holds it up between fingers, her middle finger very prominent.
    • Marty and Jennifer's plans to have a weekend camping at the lake doesn't sound too bad — but bearing in mind that Marty lied to his parents about it and says that if his mother knew, then he'd "get the standard lecture about how she never did that stuff when she was a kid" (although in the new timeline, Lorraine already knows thanks to having a better relationship with her son).
      Jennifer: She's just trying to keep you respectable.
      Marty: (puts his arm around her) Well she's not doing a very good job.
      Jennifer: Terrible... (both lean in to kiss)
    • May take a few viewings to notice, but in Marty's room, you can see a couple of...suggestive pictures on the wall above his bed.
  • Given Name Reveal: One of the black musicians, the one who broke his hand, is named Marvin. No big deal. But when we discover that his full name is Marvin Berry, and that he's talking in the phone with his cousin Chuck Berry, then suddenly he is a big deal.
  • God Guise: Marty uses his radiation suit and Walkman stereo to dress up as "Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan". He frightens George and threatens to melt his brain if he doesn't take Lorraine to the school dance.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Sam Baines really isn't that happy with Marty jumping in front of his car.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-Universe. 1950s Doc is very happy to discover that some day he will have the chance to travel to the future. Marty is very troubled when he said that: as far as he knows, the terrorists killed him in the initial sequence, and never had the chance to actually use the machine himself.
  • Here We Go Again: The ending was supposed to be this trope as they'd never planned any sequels. The film's main problem (that Marty accidentally erased himself from history) resulted because he used the time machine; just when everything is perfect, Doc arrives and whisks them off in it again.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Doc draws the Libyans' attention to give Marty time to run, and gets shot for it.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: Marvin Berry declaring that the school dance is officially over — unless Marty "knows someone else who can play a guitar?" Cut to Marty on-stage.
  • Improvised Lightning Rod: Doc Brown uses the Clock Tower as a lightning rod to gain the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity the DeLorean needs to get back to the future.
  • Improvised Zipline: Doc Brown uses the heavy duty electrical cable attached to the clock tower as a line to reach the ground quickly and fix a break in the line.
  • Incest Is Relative: Parodied, in that whilst Marty knows who Lorraine really is, she has no idea as to his true identity. Luckily for Marty, Lorraine likens kissing him to kissing her brother.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Played with. The new 1985 is identical in most respects... but not entirely. The McFly family turned out differently, Biff Tannen turned out differently, Hill Valley's shopping is now done at the Lone Pine Mall, and of course, Chuck Berry got the idea for "Johnny B. Goode" from a sample he overheard during a telephone call from his cousin Marvin.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: And indeed, George does, based on "Darth Vader" visiting him at night in 1955.
    • One hopes that Gene Roddenberry didn't get sued in 1966, or George Lucas in 1978, for stealing ideas from George's first novel!
    • In the novelization, while Marty visits Doc after visiting George's house for the first time, Doc remarks, "If you get back, maybe you could make a movie out of this."
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Doc Brown in 1955 on the idea of Ronald Reagan as President in 1985: "Ronald Reagan? The actor?"
    • Biff's gang on Marty's down jacket: "Hey, Biff, get a load of this guy's life preserver! Dork thinks he's gonna drown!"
    • Diner owner Lou on janitor Goldie Wilson's aspirations to run for mayor: "A colored mayor? That'll be the day."
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Lorraine at the beginning of the movie.
  • Just Keep Driving: Used as a one-off joke when Marty escapes Old Man Peabody's farm and steps on the entrance to the construction site for Lyons Estate (which is breaking ground next winter). After attempting to ask a passing middle-aged couple where he was, the woman starts to freak, tapping her husband rapidly on the shoulder and yelling "DON'T STOP, WILBER! DRIIIIIIIVE!!!" Marty then has to use the billboard advertising the new development to hide the DeLorean.
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: Marty gets locked in a car trunk, along with the keys to the trunk.
  • Key Under the Doormat: Doc Brown is not particularly security conscious.
  • Kick Me Prank: George is the victim of one at school. His classmates enthusiastically obey the sign until an unimpressed Strickland rips it from his back.
  • Kid from the Future: Marty, although his parents know nothing of who he really is. Lorraine is enamoured with him due to his cavalier attitude (and the "Florence Nightingale effect") and George initially thinks he's a pushy pest who keeps following him around.
  • Late for School: Marty, for the fourth time in a row.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Bumbling fretful Doc, when he sees that he accidentally unplugged the other end of the cable, sucks it up, and ziplines off the clock tower in the middle of a storm.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Happens the minute Biff angrily marches in to throw George out of the diner. Apparently, someone in the room had a good sense of dramatic tension to unplug the jukebox at that exact moment.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: George has changed his mind, and asks Marty for help to date Lorraine. What made him change his mind? A visit of Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan! Marty ask him to better keep that part for themselves.
  • Limit Break: George punching out Biff after Biff laughs at him and pushes Lorraine to the ground.
  • Little "No": Marty has a barely audible one as he cries over Doc's "death" at the end of the movie.
  • Looping Lines: Crispin Glover (George McFly) lost his voice due to nervousness while filming Back to the Future. For some scenes, he had to silently mouth his lines, with his voice being dubbed in later at a recording studio.
  • Malt Shop: Lou's Diner.
  • Manly Tears: Marty towards the end of the movie. After seeing his friend, Doc, killed once, Marty is now praying that Doc read his letter and took precautions so he wouldn't be killed a second time. Marty arrives just in time to see the Libyans shoot Doc again. Running over to him, Mary finds Doc unconscious. Assuming the worst, he begins sobbing. However, we find out that Doc is fine.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": Biff's gang just before crashing into the manure truck. "SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!"
  • Meaningful Echo: The instance here is George and Biff's conversation after Biff wrecks a car George loaned him:
    Biff Tannen: (playing George's head like a bongo) Hello? Helloooooo?! Anybody home?! Think, McFly! Think! I've gotta have time to get 'em retyped. Do you realize what would happen if I hand in my reports in your handwriting? I'll get fired. You wouldn't want that to happen, would ya? [pulls on George's tie] Would ya?
    George McFly: Well no, of course not, Biff. I wouldn't want that to happen. [Biff helps himself to some gumballs] Now look, I'll uh, finish those reports on up tonight, and I'll run 'em on over first thing tomorrow. All right?
    Biff Tannen: Not too early. I sleep in Saturday.
    • Likewise, Marty walks into Lou's Diner and after Lou hands him a cup of coffee, the camera pans to show that Marty is sitting next to George, who is occupied eating his breakfast. Suddenly the doors fly open:
    Biff Tannen: (again with the head-battering) Hello? Helloooooo?! Anybody home?! Think, McFly! Think! I gotta have time to recopy it. Do you realize what would happen if I hand in my homework in your handwriting? I'll get kicked out of school. You wouldn't want that to happen, would ya? [George hesitates. Biff grabs George by his shirt] Would ya?
    George McFly: Well no, of course not, Biff, I wouldn't want that to happen... I'll, uh, finish that on up tonight and then I'll, uh, bring it over first thing tomorrow morning.
    Biff Tannen: Not too early. I sleep in Sunday.
  • Meet Cute: George and Lorraine's first meeting, the way it originally happened.
  • Moment Killer:
    • Marty and Jennifer are playfully flirting in the courthouse square, and are an inch away from kissing...when they are interrupted by: "Save the clocktower! Save the clocktower!", complete with the lady shaking the donations tin in their faces. So much for that moment....
    • As George is stumbling his way in wooing Lorraine at the cafe, it seems like he'll succeed until Biff shows up.
  • Moment of Awesome: In-universe. For the 1955 teenagers (who had never saw films with action sequences, or perhaps ANY action in the all-peaceful Hill Valley), the way Marty eluded the bullies and sent them to crash with a manure truck was the most awesome thing ever seen. Lorraine was more in love than ever with him after witnessing that.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: George's method of ordering a milk....chocolate. The outtake is even better, where the milkshake glass bounces off George's hand and crashes to the floor.
  • My Car Hates Me:
    • The Libyans' VW bus, which refuses to start at the same time their Kalashnikov rifle jams.
      "Rrrgh! Damn Soviet gun!"
      "Gah! Damn German car!"
    • And of course, the DeLorean, which breaks down after Marty arrives in 1955, just before he is about to return to 1985, and just after he does return and needs to get to the mall to save Doc from the Libyans.
  • Mythology Gag: As Marty tries to tell George to ask Lorraine to the dance, George objects by saying it would mean missing his favorite TV show Science Fiction Theatre. Science Fiction Theatre was an actual sci-fi show from the 50s, a spiritual predecessor to The Outer Limits (1963) and The Twilight Zone (in the extended version of the "Darth Vader" scene, Marty also name-drops those shows).
  • Naughty Birdwatching: When George is spying on Lorraine in 1955. Lorraine in the original 1985 even refers to the event as birdwatching.
  • Nerd: George, although Marty's intervention via time travel turns him into a much cooler class of nerd.
  • Neutral Female: Averted by Lorraine, more or less, during the final confrontation with Biff. After pleading with Biff to leave George alone, she does make an effort to rescue him, but Biff responds by simply pushing her onto the ground. It's not particularly spectacular or feminist, but she probably did all she could without having Waif-Fu.
  • Never My Fault: Biff berates George for the auto accident he got into after basically admitting he was drinking and driving, and he complains about George's choice of beer afterwards.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The film was released on July 3, 1985, but set nearly 4 months later on October 25-26, 1985. According to the DVD commentary, some people actually showed up at Puente Hills Mall, the location used for Twin/Lone Pine(s) Mall, on October 26, 1985 at 1:18 AM to see if anything would happen.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Biff pushing Lorraine down and laughing about it gives George the resolve he needs to punch him out.
  • No Accounting for Taste: George and Lorraine in the original 1985, at the start of the film.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Marty setting fire to the living room rug at the age of eight.
    • Also, it's briefly implied that Marty and George McFly aren't the first victims of a Sam Baines hit-and-run accident, given that the moment George rides away on his bike, Sam shouts, "Stella! Another one of these damn kids jumped in front of my car! Come on out here and help me bring him in the house!"
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be:
    • Compare the film's portrayal of 1955 with that of 1985. On the other hand, the film does a good job in showing both the bright, sunny veneer of The Fifties and the darker, less pleasant aspects underneath without being bluntly Anvilicious.
    • When Marty arrives in the 1955 town square, we can see some of the things that have and haven't changed since then. The Texaco station has a team of four uniformed men to service cars, including filling the tank and polishing the engine. Also, much like the 1985 town square has a mayoral campaign van going around blaring "Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson!" on loudspeakers, the 1955 version of this scene has a car blaring "Re-elect Mayor Red Thomas!" on loudspeakers, even decked out with similar looking signs.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • "They found me. I don't know how, but they found me. Run for it, Marty!"
    • Marty goes wide-eyed after tripping Biff up in the diner, seeing how much bigger Biff is than himself.
    • The look on Doc's face when his return home simulation causes some rags to catch fire is utterly priceless.
    • Marty, when Biff, not George, pulls him out of the car on the night of the dance.
    • The look on George's face when he discovers it is Biff, not "Calvin", in the car with Lorraine.
    • Biff's thugs when the rest of the band members get out of the car in the trunk of which they just dumped Marty on the night of the dance.
    • Biff, when he sees in George's face that he's pushed him too far and a left hand is coming his way.
    • Marty gets a huge one at the dance when he starts to fade out of the photograph, and sees his right hand start to fade away.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Doc is surprised and asks for confirmation when Marty mentions that George stood up to Biff, for the first time ever. This is a subtle hint about Doc realizing that the status quo timeline has been deeply changed already so reading Marty's letter would be now a less game-breaker thing for him.
  • Parental Bonus: After Marty wakes up from being hit by Lorraine's father's car, Lorraine tells him that his pants are "over there... on [her] hope chest". Many people who were born after the 1950s may not understand what a hope chest is. It's a chest that young girls used to keep in preparation for their marriage. In other words, Lorraine is already fantasizing about marrying the young man that she does not realize is her future son. One assumes that in the original timeline, this also happened with George.
  • Parental Incest: Marty seriously tries to avert this trope, and does everything wrong until the night of the party; everything he does only makes him more attractive to her. He jumps and flees when she makes a pass at him, defends her from Biff's "meat hooks", trips up Biff when Biff goes after George, and leads Biff on an over-the-top skateboard chase culminating in Biff's comeuppance in manure. By this time, she really wants to get to know him.
  • The Peeping Tom: The then-teenage George McFly spies Lorraine undressing from a tree next to her window. This becomes a crucial plot point as this is the point where Marty alters history. When George falls out of the tree, Marty pushes him out of the way of an oncoming car... accidentally preventing his parents' original meeting. For an idea of how it originally happened, imagine Marty's actions that night at the dinner table with George in place of Marty.
  • Pet's Homage Name: Doc's dogs. His 1985 dog is named Einstein, his 1955 dog is Copernicus.
  • Plot-Based Voice Cancellation: When Marty tries to tell Doc about the future while the latter is on top of the clock tower:
    Marty: (shouting at Doc) On the night I go back, you will get— (the clock sounds its bell, drowning out Marty and startling Doc)
  • Police Are Useless: Aside from Attempted Rape above, Biff in 1955 also makes multiple threats of assault throughout the movie, and in one scene attempts to commit MURDER, and nobody even seems to think that he's doing anything illegal. Some of this is slightly justified by bullying not being taken anywhere near as seriously in the 50s as it is today.
  • The Power of Rock: Played with. Marty's rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" impresses everybody until he gets carried away with his guitar solos.
    Marty: I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per're gonna see some serious shit."
    • When Biff crashes into the manure truck he yells, "SHIIITTTTTTT!!"
  • Prince Charming Wannabe: Biff with Lorraine.
  • Pronoun Trouble:
    Marty: (shouting) Hey, Dad! George...! Hey, you on the bike...!
  • Psycho Strings: The musical score gets screechy as Marty fades from existence.
  • Punch Spin Gape: Biff catches one of these in the end.
  • Quip to Black: "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
  • Reality Ensues: Word of God describes the premise this way. If a modern teenager somehow wound up in the past, they'd hate it because everything would be completely different from what they were familiar with, and would want nothing more than to get back to their own time.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people complain that Michael J. Fox's singing double is a bit too low for Marty's character during his performance of "Johnny B. Goode". However, it's pretty common in Real Life for somebody's singing voice to sound radically different from their speaking voice — see Singing Voice Dissonance for examples.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Strickland really dishes it out to Marty at the beginning for being a "slacker", and to the rest of the McFly family as he drives his point home.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: It's understandable that Doc wouldn't want time travel technology spreading. But if he patented that nuclear reactor with 1.21 jigowatt output that's small enough to fit in the back of a car, he'd easily become a millionaire and probably revolutionize the global energy market.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Marty is saved repeatedly from being shot by Libyans because their rifle jams. They are shooting an AK-47, which are famed for their reliability even under the harshest conditions. However, we do see them simply trying to clear the jam rather than abandoning the gun immediately.
  • Rejection Affection: Lorraine with Marty.
  • Ret Gone: Dave, Linda and Marty in the photograph.
  • Retroactive Precognition: "That's right, he's gonna be mayor!"
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: "They found me... I don't know how, but they found me... Run for it Marty!" replayed by a Doc Brown who was told not to by Future Boy Marty.
  • Right Place, Right Time, Wrong Reason: Marty finding that George is a peeping tom.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: When Marty is looking up Doc Brown's house in the phonebook, he tears the page out for reference.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Marty ruining the mood of his song by acting like a Heavy Metal singer.
  • Running Gag: People mistaking Marty's down jacket as a "life preserver" - the guy behind the counter at the malt shop, or Lorraine's mother.
    • Lorraine keeps calling Marty "Calvin Klein", even after Marty corrects her.
  • Scary Black Man: "Who you callin' "spook", peckerwood?!" Biff's gang seems more afraid of the copious amount of pot smoke billowing out of the Starliters' car than anything else: "I don't wanna mess with no reefer addicts!"
  • Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl: Lorraine, much to the horror of Marty.
  • Sequel Hook: Averted and then played straight. The creators swore that Doc's line that "something's gotta be done about [Marty and Jennifer's] kids" was a joke.
  • Shared Family Quirks: Marty sits in a diner and nervously rubs the back of his head, and the camera pans to show he's sitting next to George, who is doing the exact same thing.
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?: The only time Marty is seen at school is towards the beginning. First, getting chastised by Mr. Strickland for arriving late and allegedly being a slacker, and afterwards, being rejected from his school's Battle of the Bands competition.
  • Shout-Out
  • Slow Electricity: Near the end of the film, the lightning crawls down the wire at roughly a walking pace.
  • The Slow Path:
    • 1955 Doc regrets having to wait 30 years to talk to Marty about their adventures.
    • Regarding Marty's attempts to warn him of his impending death, Doc insists that he'll find out through the ordinary progression of events.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Mr. Sandman" by The Four Aces, a cheerful song, is used to underscore Marty's confusion as he arrives in the 1955 Hill Valley during the "Mister Sandman" Sequence. Downplayed, as it represents the (apparent) clean, wholesome, optimistic, friendly Fifties Marty found himself in.
  • Spear Carrier: The couple at the dance amazed at George standing up for himself.
  • Stopped Clock: The clock tower stopped after being struck by lightning, giving Marty and Doc a precise time to use the lightning to time travel.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Towards the beginning, Marty admires a pickup truck, wondering what it'd be like if he had it. When he comes back from 1955, he discovers he has that truck (or another truck like it).
  • Technology Porn:
    • The DeLorean when Doc introduces it.
    • Also the opening, showing off various gadgets Doc has at home.
  • Title Drop:
    • Doc declares he has to send Marty "Back! To the future!"
    • And again at the end of the movie when Doc comes back from 2015, to pick up Marty and go back to... you know.
  • Took a Level in Badass: George standing up to Biff is a critical moment that fills him with self-confidence and changes the destiny of his whole life and family.
  • Trust Password: Marty tries several that don't work, such as who the President is in 1985note , and showing him a photo of his family with his sister in a Class of 1984 sweatshirtnote . What finally works is the story of how Doc got the (currently very fresh) bruise on his head, and the idea for the Flux Capacitor that came from it.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Played with in every possible way. People, especially Strickland, tell Marty he's going to be a loser like his dad, then the past changes and his dad is not a loser but Marty is still destined to be a loser, then that future is possibly avoided presumably letting Marty succeed at a creative pursuit like his dad.
  • Unconventional Vehicle Chase: Marty transforms a wooden trolley into a skateboard which he then uses to escape Biff and his gang who chase after Marty in their car.
  • Vanity License Plate: The DeLorean has the tags OUTATIME. And really crappy screws holding it on the back of the DeLorean, because of its habit of popping off and pirouetting on a corner.
    • After the first plate falls off, Doc Brown goes into the future and replaces it with a 2015 barcode license plate with enough bars to spell "OUTTATIME", inserting another "T". That one also falls off when the entire car is pulverized by a freight train, and does its little pirouette trick again, likely the only bit of the car that survived the collision intact.
  • Verbal Backspace: In the novelization, after his "When this baby hits 88 MPH, you're going to see some serious shit" line, Doc realizes that Marty is filming this and quickly rewords his statement without colloquial language:
    "When a speed of eighty-eight miles an hour is attained, unusual things should begin happening in this phase of temporal experiment number one."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The Libyans. They come charging in, shooting at Doc Brown from the van, they hit a kiosk and the van tips over. Then Marty, Doc, and the film forget about them completely, even having a joyful reunion at the end without bothering to see what's going on with the homicidally angry terrorists in the van a few yards away.
    • What happened to Doc Brown's remaining plutonium? Did he use it all before fitting Mr. Fusion, or did he just throw it in a bin somewhere? (Which, given the general recklessness he displays during the trilogy, is not that much of a stretch.)
    • When Doc traveled to 2015, he took Einstein with him, but when he came back, Einstein was missing. In Part II, Doc tells Marty that Einstein was in a suspended animation kennel between the trips.
  • Who's on First?: Marty's attempts to get a Tab, and then a Pepsi Free, at Lou's Cafe in the 50's.
    Lou: You want a Pepsi, pal, you're gonna have to pay for it!
  • You Keep Using That Word: At least from 1955 Doc's point of view, as he thinks that Marty's use of the word "heavy" still applies to weight and measurements, when, from Marty's point of view, he's just using the slang term for something that has a deep, powerful impact, whether philosophical, intellectual, or emotional.