Film: Back to the Future Part III

1955 Doc Brown: Great Scott, it's me! Then, it is true. All of it. It is me who goes back there and gets shot.
Marty McFly: It's not gonna happen, Doc. After you fix the time circuits and put new tires on the DeLorean, I'm gonna go back to 1885 and I'm bringing you home.

Back to the Future Part III is the final part of the Back to the Future trilogy.

When we last left Marty at the end of Part II, he was once again stranded in 1955 after a lighting bolt hit the DeLorean with the Doc still inside it, causing him to warp somewhere in time. However, the Doc sends a letter via The Slow Path, informing Marty that he was alright and happy, living in the days of the old west. He tells Marty that he hid the DeLorean for Marty to use to get back to 1985, with the help of his 1955 self. Marty and the 1955 Doc exhume the DeLorean hidden by 1885 Doc Brown. However as they're doing so, they discover the 1885 Doc's tombstone, which states he was shot dead by Biff's famous ancestor, the outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. Marty disregards Doc's advice and heads for 1885 to save him. Trapped yet again when the DeLorean fuel line is ripped upon reaching 1885 (with gasoline yet to be discovered for a long while), Marty and Doc attempt to repair the time machine before a showdown with Buford, only for Doc to fall in love with teacher Clara Clayton (played by Mary Steenburgen).

Back to the Future Part III provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • The scene in the saloon towards the end, which you could compare to High Noon. Buford and his gang have Marty trapped, and Buford is counting down to a showdown. Doc is unconscious. Marty is visibly struggling with whether or not to fight Buford, as Seamus looks on.
    • The telescope repair between Doc and Clara.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Doc decides the consequences caused by the time machine aren't worth keeping it around. That said, he builds a Steampunk, time traveling train eventually.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Machines to make ice already existed in 1855; Doc's genius is that he was able to build a working prototype using podunk Hill Valley parts.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Doc's dog Copernicus seems to at an almost human level of intelligence at times. For starters, after Doc finishes reading the letter that his future self wrote to Marty, Copernicus seems to be rather sad about Doc being Trapped in the Past. In addition, Copernicus is the one who discovers Doc's tombstone, and he seems to realize what it says.
  • And Starring: Lea Thompson.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: The Colt salesman at the festival is surprisingly cavalier about having his finger on the trigger and gesturing with the barrel at people, including Marty. Somewhat justified, though, in that there were no double-action firearms in those days, meaning that as long as the hammer was down, a finger on the trigger wasn't particularly dangerous, and modern gun safety practices weren't common until much later.
  • Back for the Finale: George, Lorraine, Dave, Linda, Biff, Jennifer, and even Einstein all return for the final scenes.
  • Badass: Marty, surprisingly. While he's not a good gunfighter due mostly to inexperience, his fight with Buford proves that he's a much better fist fighter.
  • Badass Boast: "It'll shoot the fleas off a dog's back at 500 yards, Tannen! And it's pointed straight at your head!"
  • Badass Longcoat: Doc's.
  • Bag of Spilling: The DeLorean lost its flying abilities when it was struck by lightning in the last movie.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A black bear happens to be lying in the cave Marty hides the DeLorean in.
  • Becoming the Mask: Doc tells Marty in his letter that he'd set himself up as a blacksmith as a cover while attempting to fix the DeLorean. But when he realized the damage was beyond the capacity of 1885 technology, he buried the time machine so that Marty could fix it with the help of his 1955 counterpart and go back to 1985 himself, and accepted his place as a blacksmith, content to stay in 1885.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not call Buford Tannen "Mad Dog." It's clear that this button has been around for a while, as the moment Marty calls him "Mad Dog," every single patron and bartender hides or silently runs away.
      Buford: Mad Dog?! I hate that name! I hate it, you hear?! NOBODY calls me Mad Dog! 'Specially not some duded-up, egg-suckin' GUTTERTRASH!
    • Don't hurt Marty in front of Doc or especially Doc in front of Marty. If you have, don't laugh about it.
    • Finally, don't suggest assaulting Clara in front of Doc. Not that you'll get off easily if only she hears it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Marty defeats Buford Just in Time to stop him executing Doc; meanwhile, Doc swoops in Just in Time to save Marty from getting hanged AND Clara from falling. Lampshaded by Marty: "Why do we have to cut these things so damn close?"
  • Bittersweet Ending: Subverted. Initially, it looks like a Bittersweet Ending: Doc Brown is with the woman he loves in the 1880s, and Marty is reunited with Jennifer in his own time, but it looks like Doc is stuck and they'll never see each other again. However, they are reunited in the end because the Doc builds a steam-powered train time machine.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: As Doc Brown put it best, "We're going to hijack... borrow... the locomotive..."
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: [beat] It's a science experiment!
  • The Blacksmith: Doc sets himself up as one when trying to repair the DeLorean until giving up and hiding it in the Delgado Mine. By the time Marty comes to 1885 to rescue Doc, he's still operating as a blacksmith.
  • Bookends:
    • Lampshaded by Doc. From the first film, Doc and Marty saw the last moments of the Hill Valley clocktower in 1955, and this time, they're present for the first moments of the clocktower in 1885.
    • After the DeLorean's first and last time-travel trips, its license plate falls off, spinning around before falling down.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Doc wishes he lived in the Wild West. Although when that wish comes true, he still wishes the Wild West had Tylenol.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Marty and Doc briefly trade catch phrases after Doc points out the possibility that the tombstone might be for Marty now.
    Marty: Great Scott!
    Doc: I know, it's heavy!
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, when "Mad Dog" Tannen shoots at Marty... er, Clint Eastwood, in the saloon, he shoots six times, making him dance. Later, when he gets the spittoon dumped on him, he tries to shoot Marty but the gun clicks on four empty chambers.
  • Bullet Dancing: Spoofed, as Marty turns this into a Moonwalk Dance. And it is awesome. Buford and his gang are so dumbfounded that they just watch in disbelief. Then he hits Buford with a spittoon, and all hell breaks loose.
  • But Now I Must Go: Doc tells Clara he must leave 1885, forever.
  • Call Back:
    • As Doc tells the truth about himself to Clara, he paraphrases Marty's explanation about himself from the first film.
      Marty/Doc: I'm from the future. I came here in a time machine that [you/I] invented, and [I need your help getting/tomorrow I have to go] back to the year 1985.
    • Before Marty leaves for 1885:
      1955 Doc: Remember, where you're going, there are no roads!
    • And his parting words reference the Time Travel Tense Trouble lines from the previous film.
      1955 Doc: Well, good luck, for both our sakes. See you in the future.
      Marty: You mean the past?
      1955 Doc: Exactly!
  • The Cameo: ZZ Top is the Old West band playing during the town party in 1885 (playing an acoustic version of the song on the end credits).
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Doc passes out after a single shot of whiskey.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Clara doesn't believe Doc when he tells her the truth about the time machine. She finally does believe when she sees the time machine model on the train tracks in his blacksmith shop.
    • She also believes this story is a concoction for him to leave her because he doesn't love her, which he denies. She overhears two folks who were with Doc in the bar afterwards,discussing how crestfallen he was about leaving her.
    • Neither do the cowboys in the saloon; they just figure Doc having his heart broken has made him crack up.
  • Catch Phrase: Buford uses the same one as his great-grandson when he sees Clara: "Lookie what we have here."
  • Cattle Punk: Being from the future, Doc has been able to invent things using his advanced technological knowledge, but keeps it hidden from the townspeople. (The ice-making refrigerator, however, was not Doc's invention. Ice factories were already popping up all over the United States and scientists were already making liquid nitrogen.)
  • Chandelier Swing: Marty does it while trying to escape from Buford Tannen in the saloon.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning, there's a few reminders that Marty still has his hover board from the previous film (1955 Doc tripping over it and making sure Marty brings it when he leaves 1955), only for it not to be seen or mentioned again until the climax, when Doc needs to rescue Clara on the train.
  • *Click* Hello: Happens twice: first to Buford Tannen by Marshall Strickland, and shortly afterward to Doc by Buford.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Strickland's ancestor has no problems leveling a doubled-barreled shotgun at someone's back.
    Sheriff Strickland: Just like you, I take every advantage I get.
  • Cool Train: The Time-Traveling Hover-Train at the end.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: After reading about his impending fate, Doc lampshades this trope by wishing he had just given Biff the 80 dollars.
  • Could Say It But: Doc's caginess with regard to Marty's future.
  • Cowboy Episode: 1885 Hill Valley is a fairly stereotypical Western setting and the film typically climaxes with a gun duel between Marty and local outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Marty vs. Buford. The only punch Buford lands on Marty after he gets up from Faking the Dead ends in Buford clutching his knuckles. Marty, on the other hand, pummels him silly.
  • Dare to Be Badass: The saloon regulars try to give one to Marty, saying he'll be labeled a coward for the rest of his life if he doesn't duel with Buford, though mostly because they're betting on the outcome one way or another.
  • Description Cut:
    • "We may have to blast!" Cut to Doc using dynamite to blast into the Delgado gold mine.
    • This little gem from trying to find where to get the car up to 88 mph.
      Marty: Doc, according to this map, there is no bridge.
      [cut to them standing at the unfinished bridge]
      Marty: Well Doc, we can scratch that idea.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Marty earns the respect of many 1885 citizens for standing up against Buford during the dance.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
  • Doomed New Clothes: Marty's original "western" outfit, particularly the boots and hat.
  • Double Take: At the end of the movie, when Marty sees a train coming right for him.
  • The Dreaded: Buford Tannen absolutely terrifies the citizens of Hill Valley in 1885. When Marty calls him "Mad Dog," everybody immediately runs away or takes cover.
  • Drive-In Theater: Featured in a Played for Laughs scene before Marty leaves for 1885.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Doc, in the saloon—subverted in that he doesn't actually touch his shot glass. When he finally does gulp it down, he passes out instantly.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Not exactly a plot hole per se, but Doc's last line "Already been there (the future)" is sometimes dubbed to "I already am in the future." The original line is meant to be the lead-up for the Time Train's flying capability. The dubbed line turns it to a character moment, showing that whenever he can go, his heart is still in the Old West. Both versions work in their own way, though the dubbed version makes the train's flight something of an Ass Pull.
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Played to be romantic rather than creepy. When Marty gets back to 1985, he sets out to Jennifer's house to check if she's alright from the events of Part II, and finds her asleep on her front porch. After trying and failing to wake her the old-fashioned way, he kisses her on the lips, where-upon she kisses him back then wakes up. This could also count as a Reunion Kiss.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. (The nickname was invented by a newspaper reporter, for his Hair-Trigger Temper and his propensity for drooling. Buford didn't like it, and shot the reporter.)
  • Emergency Refuelling: Doc and Marty have to figure out an alternate means of propulsion when Marty gets the gas line cut in the DeLorean on arrival to the Old West.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Averted; Buford and his gang notice and remark on Marty's white teeth.
  • Evil Laugh: Buford, after seemingly killing Marty.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • Early in the film, Doc, confused on who "Clara" is, denies to Marty that he knows that any woman by that name and dismisses the notion of love at first sight as "utter romantic nonsense." Then the Hill Valley 1885 mayor rolls in and talks to Doc, reminding him that at a town hall meeting he agreed to meet the new schoolteacher. Doc breezes over a majority of the details, until the mayor mentions her name, "Clara Clayton," to which Doc freezes in horror and gives the same Oh Crap! face previously used for comedy a more serious twist.
    • When Marty is reunited with Doc, who is currently talking down Buford, they are discussing a recent shoeing job done on one of Buford's horses that, because it went afoul, Buford thinks Doc should be held responsible for. When Buford mentions the prices of the new horse and whiskey he bought that day, "$75 for the horse, $5 for the whiskey," Marty quickly does the math and whispers in shock, "That's the eighty dollars!" note 
  • Explosive Overclocking: The train, near the end.
  • Fanservice: Michael J. Fox's partially exposed rear in his 1885 pajamas. Word of God said there was much squeeing from girls at every screening they went to.
  • Fashions Never Change: Spoofed.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Impressively averted. At the film's climax, the hoverboard—which had been important to the previous movie—gets reused.
  • For Science!:
    Train Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: No, it's a science experiment!
  • For Want of a Nail: The train departed on time, but Clara stopped it when she heard the barbed wire salesman talking about her and Emmett. Otherwise, Doc and Marty would have missed the train entirely.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Needles challenges Marty to a race near the end, we are given two shots of Marty shifting gears in his truck. First, he moves the gearshift selector to the far left and up for 1st gear. Then, we see him shift again all the way right and down, for Reverse.
    • Clara Clayton actually appears in the scene immediately before her introduction. If you pay very close attention to the background when Marty and Doc are at the train station looking at the map of the track leading to Shonash Ravine, but especially when Marty says "Doc, according to this map, there is no bridge," her presence can be inferred if you pay close attention to her hat and her dress, though her back is to the camera so we can't see her face.
    • Also in that scene, the (then-)brand new clock shows the time around 10:04, which is when it will stop in 1955.
    • Before going to 1885, Marty complains that Clint Eastwood never wore such a ridiculous getup, and Doc doesn't know who that is. They have this conversation in front of a drive-in theater, in front of a poster for Revenge of the Creature, Eastwood's first film.
    • The movie marquee in the background also lists three sequels, as a Take That from the writers against the complaint that Hollywood was making too many sequels at the time, visually showing this was always the case in the industry.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • When Doc and Clara return in the time machine train, Doc in the foreground tells Marty and Jennifer to make their future a good one. In the background, for whatever reason, the child playing Verne motions towards the camera and points to his crotch. It's been hypothesized that the child actor was trying to signal to someone (possibly director Zemeckis) that he needed to pee.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: Ever wonder why Buford Tannen kept referring to Marty as "dude"? During that time period, "dude" basically meant City Mouse (hence, a "dude ranch" is a ranch for "dudes", i.e. tourists). Considering Marty is from The '80s, it's odd that he doesn't lampshade how that word changed.
  • Going Native: Doc has adjusted to life in 1885 very well. Although, he did say that the Old West was his favorite time period.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Seamus may not approve of guns, but he definitely likes Marty's use of pugilism to take down Mad Dog. Then again, he is Oirish.
  • Greek Chorus: The three old-timers who hang out at the saloon.
  • Held Gaze: Doc and Clara have one.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Despite explicit instructions in Doc's letter not to go back for him in 1885, Marty decides to risk his life to go back anyway after stumbling upon Doc's tombstone that reveals he was killed by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen less than a week after sending the letter. And when Doc sees him, he only gives a quick "I specifically told you not to come back for me," before admitting he's very happy to see him.
  • Honest John's Dealership: In 1885 Hill Valley, we have Honest Joe Statler's horses, "Quality horses bought and sold!" Across the three films, the Statler family owns the horse dealership in 1885, an Oldsmobile dealership in 1955, and a Toyota dealership in 1985.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: The "wake-up juice". It's such a horrible concoction that it immediately causes Doc to run, screaming, to the horse trough and dunk his head in. Note that he doesn't wake up, that's just the reflex action.
  • High Speed Hijack: Doc and Marty hijack the train from horseback with the intent of using the locomotive to push the out-of-gas DeLorean to the requisite 88 mph.
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: It's a science experiment!
  • Hypocrite: Mad Dog sneers at Strickland for pointing a gun at a man's back, but that's exactly what he does to Doc a few seconds later.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Doc with the train whistle—"I've wanted to do that all my life!"
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: While Marty is only a teenager who has probably never used a real gun in his life, he is an expert at quick draw and pistol shooting because he played a shooting video game in 1985, as he demonstrated in Part II.
    Bystander: Where'd you learn to shoot like that?
    Marty: 7-Eleven.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Again, the new timeline has barely changed toward the end, except that the ravine the train is supposed to cross over is originally called "Shonash Ravine" but was supposedly called "Clayton Ravine" after Clara fell in it (which Marty and Doc stopped from happening). After the train crashes into the ravine and Marty goes home at the end, the DeLorean rolls along the tracks and past a sign that says "Eastwood Ravine." Marty was going by Clint Eastwood in 1885, so "Clint Eastwood" fell into the ravine instead.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted. Marty and Doc both assume that Doc will be shot on Monday, because that's when he dies. Turns out he got shot on Saturday in the original timeline, and didn't succumb to his wound for another two days. The gunshot wound thankfully doesn't even happen once Marty intervenes in the timeline thanks to a Frisbie pie pan.
  • Instant Sedation: We find out Doc really Can't Hold His Liquor when he swallows a shot of whiskey and instantly passes out—the whiskey has barely gotten in his stomach, much less into his bloodstream or brain to have any effect.
  • In the Back: Is where Buford Tannen is supposed to kill Doc.
  • Irony:
    • In 1985-A, Biff idolizes Clint Eastwood. In 1885, Buford thinks the name is utterly ridiculous and doesn't hesitate to call "Eastwood" a yellow-belly and kill him on sight.
    • When Marty is preparing to go back in time at a movie theater, he is afraid that he'll crash into the painting of a group of Indians underneath the screen. Doc reassures him that when he goes back in time, the theater won't have been built yet and the Indians won't be there. As soon as he arrives in 1885 however, he nearly crashes into a group of very real Indians who just happen to be riding through the area at the time.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Seamus asks Marty how he could travel through the Old West without a horse, boots, or even a hat, Marty answers "Well, my car—horse broke down, a bear ate my boots, and I guess I forgot my hat," prompting Maggie to ask "How can you forget a thing like your hat?!" (A bit of Truth in Television, as a hat was an integral part of a man's wardrobe at the time, especially in a sunny southern desert, where it's useful for preventing heat stroke. The Spanish word sombrero, for example, literally translates as "shade-maker."
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • As Marty first meets Buford.
      Buford: What's your name, dude?
      Marty: Eastwood, Clint Eastwood.
      Buford: What kinda stupid name is that?
    • "Run for fun? What the hell kinda fun is that?"
  • Jump Scare: To some, the explosion that happens immediately after Doc says, "We may have to blast."
  • Knight of Cerebus: Marshall Strickland is the only character who doesn't know he's in a comedy. Even after Mad Dog tumbles into horse manure, Strickland just snaps irritably, "Get him out of that shit."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Buford had killed Doc because his horse threw the shoe Doc put on, throwing him off in the process. But as Doc points out, Buford never paid him for the job, "So I say that makes us even!"
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Subverted in Marty's showdown with "Mad Dog" Tannen. Marty discards his gun, saying he "thought we could settle this like men." Tannen laughs and just shoots him. Of course, Marty was counting on him doing that, and is wearing a cast-iron stove hatch as an impromptu bulletproof vest.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Part II.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: The "Bobs" (Zemeckis and Gale) claim that McFly men are attracted to women who look like Lea Thompson, to explain why Marty's paternal great-great-grandmother looks so much like his mother. In addition, when you look at them, Claudia Wells (and later, Elizabeth Shue) both look a bit like Lea Thompson.
  • Logo Joke: Old Universal logos appear during the opening, in honor of the 75th anniversary of Universal Pictures Film Company, Inc. and the new logo being introduced for it (though all of Universal's 1990 movies had that, this was the first one to have it). The Bobs wanted to use the old one so that all three movies shared the same logo, but the studio was insistent that their big 1990 blockbuster ushered it in.
  • Love at First Sight: Doc and Clara, though Doc's skeptical before they meet when Marty says that this happened with him and Jennifer.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: An odd example, considering you don't actually hear the words to the song, but the first song played at the hoedown is an uptempo version of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" of Titanic infamy. The song is traditionally very somber, so it's odd to hear such a positive version.
  • Made of Iron: How in the world does Buford manage to be thwacked across the face with a two-handed swing of a solid iron boiler plate and then immediately get back up and keep fighting?!?
  • Match Cut: In a variant, Marty accelerates up to 90 mph in a drive-in movie theater. He speeds towards a mural depicting the background landscape with an Indian raid. He hits 88 mph, and from the perspective of the viewers, jumping back to 1885, the car is suddenly now racing towards a landscape of actual Indians being chased on horseback by a cavalry charge.
  • May-December Romance: If you're being very gentle with how old Doc must be, he still must be at least twice Clara's age. Of course, Doc paid a visit to a rejuvenation clinic in 2015 that added thirty to forty years onto his life, so it's not as unfortunate as it sounds. They also replaced his spleen and colon.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: What the heck is a black bear doing in a California desert?
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • One of the reasons why the scene where Buford shoots Marshal Strickland was removed. The producers thought it was too depressing, and after doing it, it didn't seem right that Buford not die. They were worried it would make audiences want Marty to kill Buford, and he can't, because Buford needs to live long enough to extend the Tannen family line. In 1985-A in Part II, Buford was explicitly identified as Biff's great-grandfather, meaning Marty couldn't risk killing him. This leaves a minor plot-hole in the scene when Buford is arrested by Marshal Strickland's deputy instead of by Strickland himself. However, even if the scene were kept, it's possible Biff would have been born regardless because Part II does show that he lives with his grandmother Gertrude in 1955, who is implied to possibly either be Buford's child or married to one of his.
    • At the end of the movie, right after Marty makes it back to 1985, we see a sign for "Eastwood Ravine," and it looks like the DeLorean has triggered the grade crossing gates at the end of the bridge—both funny moments. A few seconds later, a modern train destroys the DeLorean—one of the most iconic cars in cinematic history—and Marty realizes that this strands his best friend in the past.
  • Moonwalk Dance: Marty is forced to dance while Buford shoots at his feet. He confuses the 19th century cowboy by performing the moonwalk, even singing part of "Billie Jean" under his breath.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Jules and Verne, named after... guess who.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Maggie McFly introduces herself by saying "The name's McFly, Maggie McFly." Marty introduces himself as "Eastwood, Clint Eastwood" to both Maggie and Buford Tannen.
  • Noodle Incident: Doc's alcohol incident on the Fourth of July.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • The look on Doc's face when Buford comes to shoot him on Saturday, and he realizes that just because he died in the original timeline on Monday doesn't mean that's when he got shot. This is lampshaded by Buford by explaining that his derringer, despite its small size and ability to only carry one shot, causes a slow, agonizing death.
    • Similarly, when Marty tells Doc that the fuel line on the DeLorean was ruptured. Doc tells him that the car always ran on gasoline to get it up to 88 miles per hour—the Mr. Fusion had nothing to do with that—and there ain't no refined gasoline in 1885.
    • Marty has a huge one near the end when he sees a modern train coming for the DeLorean, with him inside. He just manages to get out before it's smashed into smithereens.
  • Oireland: Seamus and Maggie McFly, complete with stereotypical (and non-existent in reality) accents.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Heard in-universe when Marty confirms to Doc that he returned to 1955 even after being sent to the future. Backed up against the organ in his house in terror at Marty's apparition, Doc's groping hands just happen to play a series of dissonant and ominous chords.
  • Precision F-Strike: "He's an asshole!"
  • Prophecy Twist: The photograph of Doc's tombstone accurately predicts that he will die on Monday, September 7, 1885 by Buford shooting him in the back over a matter of $80 if history continues on the same course. Doc and Marty fail to realize that just because he dies on Monday does not mean he gets shot on Monday, hence Doc's surprise when Buford shows up to shoot him on Saturday is quite genuine.
  • Race for Your Love: Clara's race to get to Emmett before he leaves.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: Averted. While Doc Brown took some measures to ensure that the DeLorean would not suffer too much deterioration by storing it in a dry, dark cave for seventy years, it still needs to be restored to working condition: the time travel circuitry has to be changed out with vacuum tubes, while the original tires need to be replaced with whitewall tires.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: The only viable track that could get a locomotive up to 88 miles per hour just happens to have an unfinished bridge at the end.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • Seamus McFly frequently is ridiculed for wearing a bowler hat instead of the typical Wild-west cowboy hat everyone else has on. The comedy in this may well have been intentional, but bowler hats were actually the popular style back then. The cowboy hat we know today (the Stetson)? Back then, it looked like this.
    • Yes, the word "dude" existed in the Old West. At the time it meant something like "city slicker", hence the existence of "dude ranches".
    • In the 1880's, there was a race to see who could get gaseous elements to liquid and solid form, and they were able to get pretty darn frigid.
      In the second half of the 19th century, this new understanding paved the way for steam power to artificially produce ice.
    • The saloon old-timers ridicule Doc for his future "predictions", which include the automobile. In fact, automobiles were closer in 1885 than you might think. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, widely regarded as the world's first automobile, was built in 1886 and commercial automobile production started in 1890.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Given that Doc didn't die and the DeLorean wasn't completely wrecked when it presumably crash-landed, especially with that looping time travel event, there must have been a nifty back-up system to allow it to land gently in case of an emergency.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: After a certain fashion when Marty goes back for Doc.
  • Rescue Romance: Doc and Clara.
  • Rule of Cool: Bob Gale admits during the DVD commentary that Doc probably would have realized horses wouldn't be able to pull the DeLorean up to 88 mph, but says the scene was too good to take out, also thinking it helped sum up this film's premise.
  • Schizo Tech:
    • Invoked; by the end of the film, the DeLorean is a 1980s car, whose time circuits are powered by a 2015 fusion device, with jumps calculated by a computer built of 1955 vacuum tubes, running on 1885 train wheels.
    • There's also the time machine built out of a train which the Doc and family later arrive in, playing it somewhat more straight.
  • Schoolmarm: Clara Clayton.
  • Screw Your Ultimatum!: Marty gets challenged to a duel by Buford Tannen. He accepts, but eventually realizes from the photograph of Doc's tombstone that he will die from the duel. Trapped in the local saloon by Buford and his gang, he gets a count to ten to come outside and duel. The patrons also try to tell Marty to fight, but Marty eventually refuses.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "You got a backdoor to this place?" "Yeah, it's in the back."
  • Shoot the Rope: Doc does this with a personally-modified lever-action rifle to save Marty from a hanging.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Showdown at High Noon: Lampshaded and averted. Buford Tannen does his shooting before breakfast.
  • The Slow Path: The DeLorean does this—mothballed by Doc in an abandoned gold mine in 1885 so Marty can retrieve it 70 years later in 1955. Also, he has to leave a letter with Western Union to get to Marty.
  • Spear Carrier: The train engineer who asks if it's a robbery and Doc answers, "It's a science experiment."
  • Steam Punk: Doc's custom sniper rifle, the time train from the end, as well as Doc's refrigerator in the blacksmith shop. The sheer size and complexity of the refrigerator, along with the difficulty of getting a conventional steam locomotive up to eighty-eight miles per hour (easily done with an internal combustion engine), illustrate more "realistic" applications of Steam Punk tech. The time train at the end throws all realism out the window, but Doc once said, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." As mentioned in Reality Is Unrealistic, there were already ice factories in 1885 that ran on steam power.
    By the 1880s, many towns across America had (steam powered) ice plants like this one, which could produce 150 tons of ice a day.
  • Time Travel Romance: Between Clara and Doc Brown.
  • Title Drop: Last lines of the film.
    Marty: Hey, Doc! Where you goin' now? Back to the future?
    Doc: Nope. Already been there!
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • After spending some time in The Wild West, Doc Brown totes a huge rifle, rescues (and subsequently woos) a Damsel in Distress, stands up to the local gunslinger, hijacks... er, BORROWS a steam locomotive, and drives it off a cliff.
      Doc: It's a science experiment!
    • Marty goes from nearly getting hanged by Buford to outwitting and kicking his ass.
  • Train Job: Not your typical train robbery, either. They want to steal the locomotive.
  • Trapped in the Past: Doc, after realizing he's stuck in 1885. All he has to do is leave a letter with Western Union.
  • Undertaker: The town undertaker is seen measuring Marty up for his coffin size the day before the duel, due to the bets among the townspeople going against him.
  • The Unseen: Joey the "Wake-Up Juice" man.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Indians' reaction to the DeLorean when Marty arrives in 1885. True, they are being chased by the US Cavalry and one of the Indians hits the DeLorean with an arrow, but you would think at least a few of them would stop dead, especially since they just saw the DeLorean appear out of thin air in a flash of light.
  • Urine Trouble: The first McFly born in America greets his future descendant with this trope.
  • Voice Over Letter: Subverted. At the end of Part II, Marty receives a letter from time-displaced Doc in 1885, and reads the first few sentences of it aloud. In Part III, the entirety of the letter is read by Doc. What makes this case different is that it's read by 1955's Doc, who won't write the letter for another 30 years, and so is reading it for the first time along with the audience.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Seamus and Maggie McFly, Marty's ancestors, give Marty one of these when they call him out on taking up Tannen's challenge when he was called "yellow" instead of just walking away and being the better man. They comment "Clint" reminds them of Seamus' brother Martin who also took up a challenge and died for it.
  • The Wild West: The setting.
  • Write Back to the Future: Doc's letter to Marty. He leaves it in the care of Western Union with specific instructions to deliver it at the time and place he disappeared in 1955.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost:
    Marty: You're not far off, Doc. [shines his flashlight on Doc's 1885 grave]
  • You Remind Me of X: Seamus and Maggie note Marty "Clint"'s habit of taking up challenges reminds them of Seamus' now dead brother Martin.
  • You Talkin' to Me?: Marty quotes the speech in 1885.