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?
An extraordinarily successful 1980s trilogy of Time Travel movies
starring Michael J. Fox
and Christopher Lloyd
(with an animated Spin-Off
series) which has received several homages
. They combined Fish out of Water
comedy with high-stakes drama, making deft use of threatened Temporal Paradox
In Back to the Future
, 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
Continuing in Back to the Future Part II
, Doc Brown takes Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer to 2015
in an attempt to save his identical son
from trouble. Successful in their plan, they find that the elderly Biff Tannen stole their DeLorean and made his young self rich
, altering the present into a dystopia
where he is a billionaire. Now Marty has to return to the 1955 school dance from the first movie and Set Right What Once Went Wrong
, whilst remaining unseen lest he cause a Time Paradox
. They succeed, but Doc is struck by lightning in the DeLorean and disappears; then receiving a letter dated 1885 from Doc, he explains he's stuck in The Wild West
and Marty should find 1955 Doc again to go home.
In Back to the Future Part III
, Marty and the 1955 Doc exhume the DeLorean hidden by 1885 Doc Brown. Discovering 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 breaks upon reaching 1885, 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.
The films are notable for their running gags, based on similar events occurring across time
, and solidified the career of Robert Zemeckis
(who went on to make Who Framed Roger Rabbit
, Forrest Gump
and A Christmas Carol (2009)
to name a few). The series itself is very successful beyond the films, later spawning a cartoon
, a Universal Studios
, a video game
, a pinball game
, a card game
, a cinematic re-release in 2010 (to celebrate the 25th anniversary), and several spinoff products.
Tropes? Where we're going, we don't need tropes!
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- Adorkable: George McFly. Especially as a teenager, an Extreme Doormat as an adult, walked over by everyone. A bit more of a smooth operator as an adult after Marty slightly alters the future, but as a senior in one possible timeline, prone to a brittle back.
- The Alleged Car: The films don't hide the fact that despite the cool looks the Delorean DMC-12 was a troublesome car which broke frequently. It's particularly bad in the first movie, so maybe Doc worked some of the kinks out with the hover conversion?
- Alliterative Name: Marty McFly; Clara Clayton; Marty McFly Jr.; Marlene McFly; Maggie McFly; S. S. Strickland
- All There in the Script
- The names of the goons from Biff and Griff's gangs, as well as Lorraine's friends. The most easily recgonizable is 3-D, wearing cardboard 3-D glasses in his youth, and aviators with red and blue lenses as a vice thug in the Bad Future.
- As well as other info of the characters' backgrounds. Including Doc's mother's side of the family growing up in Hill Valley.
- Almost Kiss: This happens three times in Part I, between Marty and Jennifer (though they did share a brief kiss before she went home with her dad). Towards the end of Part III, the two are finally able to kiss more definitively.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The DeLorean. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in 1982, well before the film was made, and Robert Zemeckis had to argue with Universal to use the car since DMC wouldn't be able to give them any commercial endorsements. At the time the car was considered a failure; it's now entirely thanks to this series that anyone remembers it.
- The use of the word "Dude" as an insult in the 1885 segments. Back then it was pretty much equivalent to "City slicker" or "Dandy", and meant someone from an urban environment trying to play cowboy. (It is still used this way when referring to a "dude ranch".) Its use as a term of affection only goes back as far as The Sixties.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The flux capacitor makes time travel possible. Never mind figuring out how, it just does. Lampshaded by Marty.
Marty: Flux capacitor... fluxing.
- Artistic License – Physics: They're time travelling. In a DeLorean. Physics in general takes a back seat to the plot, when it isn't given a total Hand Wave.
- Berserk Button
- "Nobody... calls me chicken." (With a variation in Part III, where the equivalent word is "yellow") This particular berserk button appears to be subject to sequel retconning, as it is nowhere in evidence in Part I. It could also be a result of the slightly altered timeline. Marty's whole family changed, so it's safe to assume that Marty did as well.
- Book Ends:
- The first time the DeLorean travels through time, it leaves its registration plate spinning on the spot behind it. After the DeLorean makes its final journey and gets destroyed by an oncoming train, the car's registration plate from 2015 is left doing the same thing.
- In the original film's climax, Marty returns to the shopping mall just moments before his past self warps to 1955. The only difference is he's returning to Lone Pine Mall, not Twin Pines Mall.
- "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & The News is played in both the second scene of the first film, and the second-to-last scene in the final film.
- Marty's first and last lines in the trilogy are "Hey, Doc?", though in Part III, Marty adds "Where are you going now, back to the future?"
- Brick Joke:
- Bullet Proof Vest: In all three movies; they seemed to like this trope. In real life, only Marty's improvised "stove-door vest" out of the Dollars trilogy in Part III would have worked; the high-velocity rounds from the Libyan's AKM would have torn through Doc's vest like it wasn't even there.
- Burning Rubber: The DeLorean leaves twin trails of fire in the "old" time period after it jumps to the "new" time period.
- Butterfly of Doom: Most of the first film, and much of the sequels. Namely, thanks to old Biff handing that almanac to his 1955 self, A-Biff was able to manipulate history enough that in 1985, Nixon was in his fifth term as President, and the Vietnam War was still ongoing.
- Call Back:
- Several set pieces (such as a Tannen and his gang chasing Marty in front of the Clock Tower) are reused throughout the trilogy, to show that history repeats. Lampshaded by 2015 Biff: "There's something very familiar about all this."
- The fundraisers trying to save the clock tower did, indeed, manage to save it.
- Doc justifies sending Marty to 1885 in the middle of the desert by saying "You don't wanna crash into a tree that once existed in the past". In the first film, one of the first things Marty did after arriving in 1955 was (accidentally) run down one of Old Man Peabody's twin pines.
- When Doc Brown makes a model of Hill Valley in the first movie, he apologizes to Marty that "this is not to scale." Lampshaded in the third movie when Marty interrupts him and says, "Yeah, I know. It's not to scale."
- Immediately following the scene where they plan up their escape on a scale model of Hill Valley, a girl is going to pay them a visit, upon which they need to hide the De Lorean. In the first movie, it's Marty's mother Lorraine asking him to go with her to the Enchantment under the Sea dance, while in the third movie, it's Clara Clayton asking Doc to go with her to the inauguration festival of Hill Valley's clock tower, with the pretext of asking him to fix her telescope.
- In all three films Marty wakes up in bed, believing his time-traveling escapades have been a nightmare. He is comforted by a character played by Lea Thompson (Marty's mother Lorraine in 1 & 2, his great, great grandmother Maggie in 3) by being told he's safe and sound in some place that jars him and reminds him it's not a nightmare after all.
- The Tannen family has every reason to hate manure.
- A blink-and-you'll-miss-it example occurs in the second film when Marty (indirectly) causes damage to Griff's car. Marty had previously done so to Biff's car in 1955, though in a different manner.
- In Part I, Biff Tannen crashes the McFlys' car while drunk driving and forces George to pay for not only the damage to the car, but also the cleaning bill for his shirt ("I spilled beer all over it when that other car smashed into me"). In Part III, Buford claims his horse threw a shoe while he was riding it and demands that Doc (who shoed the horse) should pay not only for the horse (which he shot in a rage), but for "the perfectly good bottle of fine Kentucky Red-eye" he was holding at the time.
- In the third film, before he gets out of bed at the McFly farm in 1885, Marty stops to make sure his pants are on, after Lorraine removed his pants in 1955.
- Car Fu: In Parts I and II, Biff tries to run Marty down with his car. Both times he crashes into a truck carrying large amounts of manure.
- Doc's "Great Scott!" and Marty's "This is heavy!" Inverted in Part III, where they once exchange lines.
- In the second and third films, Marty also developed the Catch Phrase "Nobody calls me chicken!" (or "yellow" in the Western setting) in response to his personal Berserk Button.
- Also hilariously lampshaded in the first film: "Weight has nothing to do with this!", "There's that word again, 'heavy'. [...] Is there a problem with the Earth's gravitational pull?"
- In the second and third films, Biff and Buford have good reasons to say,"I hate manure." His gang also subverts this in the first movie when they collide with the manure truck with a cry of "SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!"
- Strickland seems to think that everyone's problem is that they're a slacker. Drive-by shooters peppering his home with bullets? Well, EAT LEAD, SLACKERS!
- Marty's variations on "What's that?" followed by a punch.
- Various Tannens as well as Vice Principal Strickland tend to refer to Seamus, George, Marty, and Marty Jr. by their last names.
- Celebrity Endorsement: Michael J. Fox, and Pepsi. (Which he has difficulty ordering.)
- Changed My Jumper: Marty's clothes in both 1955 and 1885 cause people to remark about them.
- Chekhov's Gag: The jokes about Uncle Joey.
- Chekhov's Gun
- If you see a manure truck anytime during the trilogy, a Tannen is SURE to get covered deep in it before the movie's end.
- The hoverboard: used in the second film multiple times (and in different eras), the device is used again (by Marty) to save Doc and Clara during the climactic train sequence in the third film.
- The giant speaker seen at the beginning of the first movie is month's later used in the beginning of Episode 1 of Back To The Future: The Game by Marty to get Doc's notebook back from Biff.
- Marty's "auto accident": first referred to in Part II (during the 2015 segment), then narrowly averted during the finale of Part III.
- In Part II, Marty watches a scene from A Fistful of Dollars during the 1985-A segment (at Biff's Casino). The scene is question is the part where Clint Eastwood uses steel plating under his poncho to protect himself during a gunfight. Marty then uses this trick (with a boiler plate) in Part III to survive his confrontation with Mad Dog Tannen.
- Chekhov's Skill
- Marty holding onto cars while skateboarding (skitching) in Part I, he uses the same trick (on a hoverboard) in Part II to steal the Almanac from Biff, and to Travel along a train in Part III.
- In Part II Marty demonstrates his skill with a gun-based arcade game. This becomes important in Part III, giving him a sporting chance in an actual duel. This is subverted when he removes his gunbelt and lets Buford shoot him in the boiler plate he wears under his poncho — then beats the shit out of him. Also deconstructed by the reason he needs to pull this off- the gravestone photograph shows it would not be enough to save him from an experienced killer like Buford Tannen.
- Clock Tower: Which is used in the clock tower finale.
- Close Enough Timeline: There are not too many changes to 1985 when Marty returns there in Parts I and III.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The DeLorean's LED displays are red for "Destination Time", green for "Present Time", and yellow for "Last Time Departed", in homage to to The Time Machine 1960. In Part III, Doc has made presto logs, color-coded green, yellow and red, in increasing order of the amount of heat each produced to make their train run faster, with a corresponding gauge showing when it would happen.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Doc eventually comes to view the DeLorean as a menace. Considering it's a device that if misused has the potential to undo the universe, he's not far off.
- Compressed Vice
- Marty's "chicken" problem, a key element of the sequels, is never even referred to in the first film. There is a scene from Part I where Lorraine, in the car with Marty, says "anyone who's anyone drinks." Marty then takes a sip from the bottle. Of course, this is so he can do a Spit Take, but it could also be theorised that Marty is reacting to indirectly being called "chicken". Another theory posits that the "chicken" thing is a side-effect of the altered 1985 (cf. "the ripple effect") from the first movie — Marty's father (and, by extension the whole family) is more confident; for Marty, this caused arrogant insecurity.
- Related is that in Part I, Marty is concerned that nobody will like his audition tape. At the start of Part II, Marty simply assumes he'll become a rich rock star.
- Contrived Coincidence: Doc Brown had the revelation for the flux capacitor on the exact same day Marty's parents met. Exactly one week later on November 12, there was the school dance where the two kissed for the first time, and lightning stuck the clock tower. It also happens that the day of the school dance was also the day Old Biff traveled back in time to change the past. This is virtually lampshaded in the second film.
That's right, Doc. November 12, 1955. Doc:
Unbelievable that old Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that that point in time inherently contains some sort of cosmic significance. Almost as if it were the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum! On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence
- Cool Car:
- The DeLorean. Anyone who grew up in The Eighties and enjoyed the BTTF movies will invariably hold a sort of unrequited love for them, even though in their unmodified form they're underpowered and don't handle too well. (Arguably, that's part of the joke — getting a real DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour is about as likely as getting it to travel through time.) In fact, the car is so iconic that these days it's practically impossible to look at a DeLorean without thinking of these movies.
- Other examples: Biff's '46 Ford Super DeLuxe convertible, Marty's tricked-out 1985 Toyota 4x4, and Doc Brown's 1948 Packard Victoria convertible.
- Cool Old Guy: Doc Brown
- Cool Shades:
- Doc's steel glasses at the end of Part I, used in Part II when he flies the DeLorean.
- Also, Marty used sunglasses as part of his "Inconspicuous" '50s clothes.
- David Versus Goliath: George vs. Biff in the school parking lot. Or, alternatively, Marty vs. Biff and his assorted relatives
- Deadpan Snarker: Marty. Doc can be it as well, but not on Marty's levels.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance:
- In the first film, "A colored mayor? That'll be the day..." after Marty recognizes the malt shop's janitor is the future mayor Goldie Wilson.
- In Part III:
- "What's that writing? Nee-Kay? What is that? Some sorta injun talk or somethin'?"
- "Tannen bragged that he killed 12 men, not counting Indians or Chinamen."
- "Musta got that shirt off'n a dead Chinee."
- Diner Brawl
- At least as far as Part I and II are concerned, every time a McFly (or two) goes to the local diner, a Tannen is sure to be there with his cronies to cause grief along for the victim.
- Part III also invokes the trope, though in a saloon instead of a diner, as evident when Buford walks into the bar and mistakes Marty for Seamus.
- Double Vision: Used frequently and well.
- Dramatic Irony: Due to the time-travel heavy plot, we get a lot of this.
- The Eighties
- Einstein Hair: Doc. And in a way, Einstein the dog...
- Everyone Went to School Together: George, Lorraine and Biff. Justified by Hill Valley being a small enough town for this to be likely.
- Everytown, America: Hill Valley.
- Exty Years from Now: Thirty years in the past; thirty years in the future; then a hundred years in the past.
- Fake Shemp: George McFly in the sequels. Any shot of him is either a lookalike (faraway, or upside-down) or stock footage from the first film.
- The Fifties
- Fish out of Temporal Water
- Marty, everywhen but 1985. In a way, he was also one of these in a-1985!
- Inverted with Doc, he seemed to fit in better in 1885 and was a respected member of the community (as opposed to the crazed crackpot rep he had in 1985).
- Five-Temperament Ensemble: Biff (choleric), Clara Clayton (melancholic), Jennifer and George (phlegmatic), Lorraine and Doc (phlegmatic/sanguine), Mr. Strickland (choleric/melancholic), and Marty (sanguine).
- The McFly Family: Lorraine (phlegmatic/sanguine), George (phlegmatic), Dave (choleric), Linda (melancholic), and Marty (sanguine).
- Flashback with the Other Darrin
- The ending scene of Part I is also the opening scene of Part II. Since Elisabeth Shue had replaced Claudia Wells as Jennifer, the scene was refilmed for the sequel. The re-shot version is nearly identical, with the only difference being that Doc Brown's face is shown this time, he gives a significant look with his eyes, and hesitates slightly before responding to Marty asking whether he and Jennifer end up as "assholes". You'll notice that they didn't even bother to match Shue's hairstyle with Wells'. Sure, most people didn't notice at first because of the four-year lag in Real Life, caused by Robert Zemeckis being off shooting Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but if you watch the two films back to back it can be pretty jarring.
- Crispin Glover also didn't return, so in all refilmed 1955 scenes in Part II, George is always seen from behind (except one shot of recycled footage viewed through Marty's binoculars).
- The Spear Carrier couple ("Who is that guy?" "That's George McFly...") also get replaced in Part II's 1955 scenes, as do most of the other 1955 extras.
- Speaking of 1955 extras, the character Lester ("I think he took his wallet") was played by an unnamed extra in Part I, who could be seen crouching over Biff. Obviously, as Lester became a marginally Ascended Extra thanks to Marty's interference in Part II, he was Other Darrin'd for the sequel.
- Fly-at-the-Camera Ending
- The first Back to the Future ends with the DeLorean flying up in the air, turning around, then warping through time just as it hits the camera.
- The third movie ends the same way, except with the train in the place of the DeLorean.
- Foreshadowing: And plenty of it.
- Future Loser: Everyone at one point, notably Biff and Marty.
- Gang Of Bullies: Biff, his ancestors, and his successors lead a small group of thugs.
- Generation Xerox: Many examples.
- GASP!: Doc Brown. Doubles as an Actor Allusion for Christopher Lloyd who has done it in several other movies.
- Goldfish Poop Gang: Young Biff's greaser cohorts. They go by the names of "Match" (Billy Zane, playing a goon with an Oral Fixation), "3-D" (wearing 3-D movie glasses), and "Skinhead" (the one with a crew cut). The trio is still in Biff's employ in 1985-A, now working as corrupt security guards at Biff's Pleasure Palace; Match now sports a ten-gallon hat and bolo tie, Skinhead's gone grey, and 3-D has swapped out his eyewear for Tony Clifton sunglasses.
- Hair Today Gone Tomorrow: Subverted with Strickland in Part I as he is shown to be bald in 1985, and in the 1955 scenes, it's seen his receding hairline is on its last legs. Double subverted with the marshal in Part III as the marshal is an ancestor of Strickland's.
- Hero Stole My Skateboard: ...or hoverboard. At least Marty gives it back afterwards.
"Keep it. I got a Pit Bull now!"
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Marty and Doc, "Partners in Time". And how. In the first film, Doc sacrifices himself to save Marty from the Libyans, and Marty returns the favor by ensuring that he gets the news of his impending death. Throughout the entire trilogy, they're by each others' sides, protecting each other and providing the fandom with many crowning moments of heartwarming.
- In the third film, 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.
- Hidden Depths: A recurring theme.
- Part I gives us George, who starts out as a nerdy loser. Marty is surprised to find that George was very creative as a teenager, and everyone is shocked that George has it in him to stand up to Biff.
- Played straight in Part III, where we find that the eccentric Doc Brown is quite charming when around his love interest, and is a pretty good dancer to boot. Lampshaded by Marty:
Marty: The Doc can dance??
- Marty himself throughout the trilogy. He may be Book Dumb, but Mrs. McFly's boy can handle the practical intelligence needed to outsmart opponents and operate time machines any day.
- High Concept: One of the average film critic's examples — normally on the level of "Young man goes back in time and Grandfather Paradoxes himself, has to play cupid to his own parents."
- High School Dance: The Enchantment Under The Sea Dance.
- High School Rejects: Biff, in the "Lone Pine 1985/2015."
- High School Sweethearts: Marty's parents and Marty himself with Jennifer — though the first time we see either marriage, neither is especially happy. Both (implied for the latter) end up being Happily Married thanks to time travel and Character Development.
- Hilarious Outtakes: On the DVD release.
- Historical In-Joke: Plenty of them. Parts I and III show the "real" origin of rock-and-roll music, skateboarding and Frisbee discs.
- History Repeats
- Homemade Inventions: Doc has a passion for making these. The time machine being the prime example, more minor examples including a robotic dog-feeder, humongous amp, a mind-reading machine which doesn't work, and a steampunk ice-maker.
- Honor Before Reason: Marty is guilty of this due to his Berserk Button of being called cowardly in any way. This has done nothing but gain him more trouble than necessary and making things more difficult than they were before.
- Future Marty knew that Needles' proposition was illegal and that he could get fired if he went through with it, but does so anyway when called a chicken. Of course, Future Marty is indeed found out, immediately, by his employer (who was monitoring the call!), whose response is to send out a bunch of faxes reading "YOU'RE FIRED!!!"
- This almost gets Marty killed in Part III until Seamus and even Dr. Brown called him out on his stubbornness to not accept being called cowardly.
- Hover Board: Picked up in 2015, used in both 1955 and 1885.
- Hubcap Hovercraft: The DeLorean receives this upgrade at the end of the first movie.
- Identical Grandson: Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Thomas J. Wilson, and some of the minor characters all wind up portraying their own ancestors/descendants. Including Michael J. Fox in drag playing an Identical Daughter. Lampshaded in Part III, after Buford mistakes Marty for Seamus McFly, says "You ain't Seamus McFly... you look like him, though."
- If My Calculations Are Correct:
- "...when this baby hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit."
- "...you will receive this letter immediately after you saw the De Lorean stuck by lightning"
- I Know Mortal Kombat: Marty is a crack shot, thanks to whiling away his youth playing Wild Gunman. Established and mocked in the second, used straight in the third.
- Though "used straight" applies only to the fairground shooting gallery- as the changing gravestone picture shows, it would not have been enough to save Marty in a straight-up duel with Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, a hardened killer.
- I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference
- "Calvin Klein" is actually a subversion, as Lorraine sees it written on Marty's underwear and believes it's his name. Marty does correct her but she still calls him Calvin. Marty bemusedly goes with it to avoid arousing further suspicion.
- Marty intimidates George into asking Lorraine out by posing as "Darth Vader", an extra-terrestrial from Planet Vulcan.
- "Clint Eastwood", on the other hand, is played completely straight. Marty can't even back out of a duel because not only would it tap his personal Berserk Button, but it would also preemptively ruin the actor's career in Westerns by associating his name with cowardice, and keep the Dollars trilogy or Dirty Harry from featuring him.
- Immediate Sequel: Part II and III literally begin seconds after the previous ones, II after I, and III after II.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: George McFly. As nerdy as he is, he is very nice and won't fight the bullies because he feels it is wrong. Also, Jennifer Parker. She is the sweet, supportive, quiet girlfriend and later, wife of Marty McFly.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Marty and Doc. Word of God explains that the friendship started when Marty was around 13-14 years old. After being told for years that Doc Brown was a dangerous, crackpot, lunatic, he snuck into Doc's lab to see for himself and instead was fascinated by what he saw in there and thought Doc's inventions were cool. Doc found him and was happy Marty thought he was "cool and accepted him for what he was". Doc then gave Marty a part-time job helping out with experiments, helping in the lab, and feeding Einstein. Read for yourself.
- In Part III Marty befriends his Great-Great Grandfather Seamus. Seamus isn't much older than Marty during the time period though.
- In the Blood: The Tannens.
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: It's never really explained how the Mr. Fusion device Doc adds to the DeLorean from 2015 is able to generate the requisite 1.21 gigawatts of energy — not to mention undergo nuclear fusion — using an aluminum can and some other bits of garbage, though it's possibly supposed to be a comic-book style of fusion that turns matter directly into energy.
- It's also never explained why, in a future where such a compact and effective power source exists, 2015 technology couldn't simply modify the De Lorean to operate entirely on Mr. Fusion's energy along with the hover conversion and eliminate the need for gasoline (not to mention other cars—why were there even gas stations in 2015 when Mr. Fusion devices were readily available?).
- It's the Journey That Counts: The final Aesop of the series, and the reason why the Retroactive Preparation trope is never invoked. Marty learns about his family and himself over the course of three films, things that he would have never discovered had he not been stranded twice.
- Jerkass / Jerk Jock: Biff Tannen primarily, but also Buford and Griff.
- Just Eat Gilligan: A lot of complex plots and quick thinking have to be used; the simple solution cannot because it might cause a Temporal Paradox, although eventually both Marty and Doc choose Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right instead. Part of the adventure is the lengths the characters have to go to in order to preserve the timeline(s).
- Lady Drunk: Lorraine, at the start of the first film and during the 1985-A scenes of the second film.
- Large Ham:
- Christopher Lloyd in spades.
- Most versions of Biff to a certain degree, but none moreso than his future offspring Griff.
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: The first twenty minutes or so of Part I, as well as 2015 McFly house portion of Part II.
- Laser-Guided Karma: For all the crap Biff and his family line tries to pull to Doc and Marty throughout the course of the trilogy, there is always a cart of manure placed just at the right moment to deliver Tannen some sweet, sweet justice.
- Lightning Can Do Anything
- Like Father, Unlike Son
- George McFly in the original timeline was a spineless geek who let Biff Tannen continue to bully him even after they graduated high school. George's son Marty is a cool but hot headed kid who stands up to bullies especially if they call him chicken.
- Marty's own future son is also a contrast to himself. Whereas Marty stands up for himself and has some smarts in him, his future son is a pushover and appears to be a bit of a dumbass.
- A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": The Johnny B. Goode scene in Parts I and II.
- The Load: Jennifer Parker. Bob Zemeckis and Bob Gale never had a character development in mind for her, stating that had they planned to make a sequel to the original film, they would not have put "the girl" in the car at the end. Sure enough, less than five minutes into Part II, she's sedated and pretty much spends the rest of the series that way. Neither Claudia Wells in the first movie nor Elizabeth Shue in the others are even given top billing in the film credits, even though those who play even smaller roles are.
- Look Behind You: Works on most Tannens, although Griff's gang in part 2 has some really neat cybernetic implants. He almost seems a bit surprised when he looks back and finds that his hand has caught Marty's fist. Also doubles as Schmuck Bait.
- Lost in Translation: Most of the humor relating the fact the time machine is a crappy car for Americans is lost for foreign ones as that brand was never exported outside the U.S. since the company went bankrupt in 1982 so many foreign audiences got puzzled when Doc Brown explained about why a DeLorean, a modern car, could lose a duel against a very old car.
- Mad Scientist: Emmett Brown is the poster child for this trope, but only when he's inventing or planning; because of great writing it's just one facet of his character. He can also be quite lucid and/or calm.
- Biff Tannen: "Make like a tree and get out of here!" Lampshaded by none other than the Biff Tannen from 2015: "You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong!"
- In the now-closed theme park ride, 1955 Biff uses marbles to trip up the security staff coming after him and gleefully quips "Have a nice trip, see you next winter!" As he runs off, one of the fallen men says "It's 'see you next fall'!"
- Biff thinks pointing out his malapropisms is about as funny as a screen door on a battleship!
- Buford Tannen in Part III is also prone to this:
Buford: (to Marty) Eight o'clock Monday, runt! If you ain't here, I'll hunt you and shoot you down like a duck!
Gang Member: It's dog, Buford. Shoot him down like a dog.
- Meaningful Name: The strict Strickland family line (and how!).
- Men Act, Women Are: With the exception of 1955 Lorraine in Part I, female characters are only there to serve as Satellite Love Interests and victims to male characters. In fact, they had to basically write around Jennifer Parker because she was brought to the future in the end of the first film, but when they actually started making the second film they realized they did not know what to do with her. Rather then Retcon her away, they solved this problem by making her stay sedated for much of the 2015 scenes. See Back to the Future's entry under The Load.
- "Mister Sandman" Sequence: The Trope Namer, at least once in each movie, after Marty arrives in a new time period. It is to show what Hill Valley looks like in 1885, 1955, or 2015.
- Model Planning: A Running Gag. Doc Brown builds elaborate models of city blocks or canyons to demonstrate his plans to Marty, then apologizes for "the crudity of the model". It also catches on fire, repeatedly.
- My Car Hates Me: The DeLorean has a tendency to fall into disrepair at the exact moment Marty lands in another time period. Sometimes, however, justified: in the first movie, the plutonium needed to power the flux capacitor isn't available, and in the third movie, the fuel line is damaged during an Indian pursuit and the gasoline leaks out, which the car needs to accelerate. The DeLorean's habit of stalling in the middle of a road has prevented possible time paradoxes: In the original movie, Marty is forced to disguise the car behind a billboard, being unable to drive it openly through 1955 Hill Valley. By stalling right before the final run towards the clock tower it delayed Marty about 30 seconds; if he had started driving when the alarm went off he would have beat the lightning bolt and been stuck in the past for the rest of his life. At the end of the film, the DeLorean stalls again, preventing Marty from interrupting the shootout at Lone Pine Mall (thus avoiding direct contact with his past self).
- Newspaper Dating: Marty in 1955 and 1985-A, Doc in 2015.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Oh so very much. It seems like poor Marty can't go long without accidentally making the timeline worse thus requiring the need to undo the damage. "Saving" George from being hit by the car in Part I and buying the Sports Almanac in Part II were probably the worst cases. Not to mention any time Marty loses it whenever he gets called "chicken", which ends up making most situations twenty times worse.
- Nobody Calls Me Chicken: Marty's besetting flaw is that he'll do anything rather than be called chicken.
- No Communities Were Harmed: Outside of the iconic Universal Studios clocktower square set, "Hill Valley" is a mix of various SoCal communities. The zip code on Marty's fax is the same as Caspar, California.
- No Man Should Have This Power: Doc Brown repeatedly promises to himself to destroy his own time-travelling technology, which finally happens at the end of Part III. (And then it almost immediately turns out that he had built a new one.)
- No Pronunciation Guide: For "gigawatts". Not so noticeable to the general public at the time, but over 20 years on, the prefix "giga-" (beginning with a hard "g") has become commonplace for computer-related termsnote , so nowadays it's bound to give even non-engineers pause. (Or, make people think you're referencing Back to the Future...)
- Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Doc Brown. He even identifies himself a "student of all sciences" in the third movie.
- Once per Episode: All films have Marty being chased by a Tannen, a Tannen covered in manure, Marty thinking it was All Just a Dream, a estabilishing shot of Hill Valley...
- Doc has the closing line for each film. In Part I, he tells Marty "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.", in Part II, the 1955 Doc says "Great Scott!" when he encounters Marty just after sending the Marty from the first film back to 1985, and in Part III, he says "Nope, already been there." when Marty asks whether he's going back to the future.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Michael J. Fox's Canadian accent sometimes slips in as Marty.
- Our Time Machine Is Different: Because it is a car, and a cool one at that.
- The time-traveling steam locomotive at the end of Part III, which also flies!
- Percussive Maintenance: Marty bashes his head against the DeLorean's steering wheel when it refuses to start. At this, the ignition miraculously turns on. Doc is also seen giving his timer readout a whack in Part II when it flickers "1885"; he becomes stranded in that time period when lightning strikes the car.
- Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Tom Wilson jokingly described the Tannen clan as evil incarnate, though that's not far off. Biff has tried to kill Marty twice, once in the past and again in an alternate reality. Buford spent an entire movie hunting him for no particular reason, really.
- Pimped-Out Car: Doc made a time machine out of a car, and later a train, not to mention the flying abilities.
- Playing Gertrude: Lea Thompson is just nine days older than her onscreen son Michael J. Fox. Crispin Glover is actually three years younger than Fox, and Thomas F. Wilson is just two years older than Fox. This trope is played straight when it comes to scenes in 1985. But it becomes averted once we go back in time to 1955, where Thompson, Glover, and Wilson are playing their characters at or around Marty's age.
- The Power of Love: Powerful enough to defeat Temporal Paradoxes, apparently.
- Pretty in Mink: In the first two films, there is a girl wearing a white rabbit fur shoulder wrap among the crowd gathering around a knocked-out Biff. This is notable for a couple reasons. One is that the actress is different in the two films, first a brunette and then a blonde. The second is in the first film she is amazed George finally stood up for himself, while in the second she's just in the background due to the point of view shift.
- Prince Charming Wannabe: Biff with Lorraine in Part I and Part II.
- Product Placement:
- Plenty from Pepsi, to the point it's amazing they didn't try to work it into Part 3. For a really good example, watch the scene between Marty and George just after the "Darth Vader" scene... notice that Michael J. Fox never completely covers the logo of his Pepsi bottle. Also, the writers had to fight to keep the "give me a Tab" gag in the first movie, because Pepsi didn't want Marty mentioning another company's soda. The futuristic Pepsi glass in Part II makes it look awfully good, though
- Ditto from JC Penney, which gets shown at least three times of the trilogy.
- Mattel and Nike get mentions in Part II.
- Doc Brown's JVC camcorder. Also, if you look closely, Marty Jr. and Marlene's phone visors have a JVC logo on the arms.
- An interesting case for Frisbee in Part III; modern audiences will notice the Shout-Out to modern Frisbees with the pie tin, but Frisbie brand pies are still around as well.
- "Boy oh boy, Mom, you sure can hydrate a pizza." Yes, Lorraine, hydrate that Pizza Hut pizza in the Black & Decker hydrator.
- Mr. Fusion is a riff on Mr. Coffee, one of those ubiquitous Eighties/Nineties appliances that nobody owns anymore. Alternatively, it could reference Mr. Transmission, an auto repair chain primarily in the South, but with franchises in California.
- A copy of USA Today is featured prominently as a Ripple Effect Indicator in Part II.
- "Thank you for using AT&T."
- The local Texaco station catches Marty's attention in 1955 when an army of servicemen come out to take care of one car. In 2015, Marty gawks at a giant robot operating the station.
- Forget West Point. To master firearms, visit your local 7-Eleven. Foreign dubs reference Disneyland instead.
- The producers also put a Zale's Jewlery ad onto a Courthouse Square bench in Part I, and Zale's neon signs in the 50s scenes of both Part I and Part II. This was done mostly as a play on the names Zemeckis and Gale.
- The first piece of audio heard in the first movie is an ad for a Toyota dealer, which plays on Doc's radio. In 1955, this dealer instead sold Studebakers.
- During the pre-production of the first movie, someone negotiated an endorsement deal with the state of California's Raisin board that Back to the Future could do for raisins what ET had done for Reese's Pieces. He came back and told the writing staff that they needed Marty to habitually eat raisins throughout the film. The execution kept getting scaled back until the final inclusion of raisins was a single poster on the park bech the drunk is sleeping on when Marty returns to 1985. The California Raisin board was not happy and demanded their money back.
- A number of these instances were invoked, specifically the producers choosing brands whose 1955 logos were very different from their 1985 counterparts.
- Western Union will deliver a packet precisely when and where you ask. Even if it takes 70 years!
- The Professor: Doc Brown
- Race Against the Clock: The clock tower finale for Part I reappears in both sequels, and Part III tries to outdo it with its own take.
- Reality Ensues:
Marty McFly: "There he is, Doc! Let's land on him, we'll cripple his car."
Doc: "Marty, he's in a '46 Ford, we're in a DeLorean. He'd rip through us like we were tin foil."
- Recurring Location: Courthouse Square
- Rescue Romance: George and Lorraine in Part I and Part II; Doc and Clara in Part III.
- Ripple Effect Indicator: Varies by movie. Marty himself in Part I, newspapers in Part II, the tombstone in Part III.
- Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Doc and Marty throughout the trilogy.
- Rube Goldberg Device: Used by Doc in both Part I and Part III.
- Rule of Cool: Doc made his time machine out of a DeLorean out of style. He does begin to mention that there was a reason based of the car's stainless steel construction, but is cut off before he can fully explain it.
- Running Gag
- It doesn't matter what Marty and Doc do to the timeline for good or ill, Lorraine's brother Joey will end up a jailbird.
- Marty gets rendered unconscious, then wakes up to someone who isn't the mother he knows.
- Marty seems to wake up assuming he's at home with his mother. And of course always thinks it was a dream. Then comes a Wham Line and he snaps awake, parroting the words that registered as jarring.
- And he sleeps in a ridiculous position◊.
- The Tannen name will be forever associated with open-top cars rear-ending manure trucks or simply taking a stumble into a manure pile, and yelling "SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!" when the brown disaster is imminent.
- Doc Brown repeatedly falling over at the most bizarre times.
- Marty's inability to get the fashions of the period right. Taken to the extreme with the cowboy outfit in Part III. To be fair, in Part III the clothes are picked by 1955 Doc, and even Marty questions their authenticity.
- Whenever Marty finds himself in a new era or timeline, he can't resist walking aimlessly through the town square gawking, usually wandering right in front of an oncoming car (or carriage).
- Marty screaming helplessly as he enters into the a new time period because the DeLorean is often almost always about to crash into something upon arrival.
- Recurring family businesses, like the Jones manure truck.
- The Hill Valley clock tower is featured in each movie, sometimes pivotal to the story. In chronological order:
- Part III shows its construction in progress in 1885, where Marty and Doc Brown appear in an antique photo by the clock face before it gets mounted. Said clock also designates high noon at the climax of the movie.
- In Part I, during 1955, a fateful lightning bolt struck it and rendered it inoperable. This bolt was used to return Marty to the future.
- Finally, in Part II, the tower has been renovated and restored to functionality as a respected landmark following the success of the petition, with a beautiful glass exterior. Until moronic Griff Tannen smashes through it on his hoverboard like a bull in a china shop and receives the "I was framed!" headline in USA Today paper.
- The DeLorean continually breaks down and requires something to get it back to 1985.
- Freak lightning strikes causing things to stop working.
- The repeated appearances of the prematurely balding and irate Principal Gerald Strickland acting as the rigid authority figure, calling people, "Slackers!" In the third movie, his ancestor takes his place, minus the catchphrase.
- Marty sneaking around and then getting hurt in a way that would cause him to audibly scream, and he has to hold his tongue.
- Clint Eastwood movies and the usage of a bulletproof vest.
- Marty going by a ridiculous alias in each past time period, always someone far too notable in the present to be a watertight alias.
- Marty's egotistic nature getting the better of him at the slightest hint of being called cowardly, always luring him into making a huge mistake. Thankfully, he gets over it. Ironically, his father starts off as timid until learning to be assertive, which later saves the McFly family from taking a lot of crap and going down the tubes. On the opposite end of things, Marty's future son is even more irrational and plucky, so the hot-blooded streak grows with each generation.
- A member of the Tannen family walking into the saloon/cafe, calling out at McFly, and saying "I thought I told you never to come in here." Inverted with Grif in Part II, where Grif tells him to stay in the cafe instead.
- Say My Name: Doc and Marty do tons of this throughout the movies. And regardless of the decade, or even the century, Marty will be addressed by a Tannen with "Hey, McFly!!"
- Even middle-aged Marty isn't free of this. He attempts to run a scam on his own company, only to find his irate boss lying in wait. "MACH FRY!!!"
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Time travel needs 1.21 gigawatts — the only source of which is supposedly plutonium or a lightning bolt. A lightning bolt actually generates three whole orders of magnitude more power, peaking at just over one terawatt, and a plutonium-powered fission reactor kinda wouldn't generate any power whatsoever.
- Screw Destiny: Prevalent throughout the series as Marty and Doc change reality by time-traveling, but comes to a head two times. First, Doc, despite his misgivings, has his life saved - twice - by knowing how and when he is going to die, and Marty narrowly avoids a crippling accident that would change his life forever, thus changing the future they had just worked to save to the one we have now. At the very end of the trilogy, Doc says that it proves that there's no such thing as fate. Although the point about Marty avoiding his accident is less Screw Destiny and more learning a lesson while in the past/future and avoiding the situation on his own.
- Second Episode Morning: Numerous examples, including the "Mom, is that you?" scenes.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: A major theme in the trilogy.
- Shout-Out: Tons throughout the series.
- Two to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Doc owns dogs named after famous scientists (Copernicus in 1955, Einstein in 1985), just like how Caractacus Potts owns a dog named after a famous inventor (Edison). And they both make flying vehicles. The time machine train in Part III even sprouts wings like Chitty.
- Another Chitty shout-out is how they both have breakfast-making machines in Part I and Part III.
- The Y-shaped flux capacitor was designed to resemble an upside-down Oscillation Overthruster.
- Similarly, the DeLorean's requirement for 88 MPH was meant to resemble the Banzai Institute logo.
- Signature Team Transport: Doc Brown's DeLorean for him and Marty, of course. And later, his time-traveling train for his whole family.
- The Slow Path: The DeLorean between Part II and Part III. Also the letter Doc wrote to Marty explaining the situation.
- Snowball Lie: Doc and Marty are the undisputed masters of using this technique to preserve their cover.
- The Sociopath: Biff is likely this.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Doc is comfortable with technobabble but also fluidly adopts Marty's vernacular whenever appropriate.
- Spear Carrier: Red the Bum, who calls Marty a "crazy drunk driver" towards the end of Part I, and a "crazy drunk pedestrian" in the alternate 1985 in Part II.
- Stable Time Loop: Interestingly, according to Word of God, as a general rule of thumb, the past is never "already altered" (hence the inclusion of You Already Changed The Past below). So officially, if it seems like a time traveler has become the cause of something that already existed, he has merely replaced that cause, possibly using information gained from the result of a cause that now never happened. So originally, Clint Eastwood and Chuck Berry were truly original, Goldie Wilson came up with the idea to run for mayor himself, there wasn't a strange sequence of events at the 1955 school dance (let alone two), and Doc Brown was killed by Libyans. Then Marty happened.
It's best explained, as the filmmakers do, by paying careful attention to the Clocktower. In the original timeline the stone ledge under the clock is perfectly intact only for it to be broken when Doc climbs up there during the climax. The ledge is broken in all subsequent appearances. So yes, there was an original timeline that Marty erased through his actions in the past.
- Stock Sound Effects: BTTF loves Castle Thunder, especially in the first two installments. It appears literally dozens of times, mixed in different ways, during the big Clock Tower Finale.
- Take That: Biff Tannen and the Tannen family are named after then-Universal Studios executive Ned Tanen, who gave the Bobs a hard time during the making of their previous movie I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
- Technicolor Science: The lightning bolt.
- Techno Babble: Lampshaded. "English, Doc!"
- That Was Not A Dream: Once in all three films. In each one Marty gets knocked out and comes to in a dark room being nursed to health by a woman he thinks is the mother he knows, believing his recent hardships were a nightmare. The woman inevitably reassures him in a way that tells Marty (and the audience) that it actually wasn't a dream.
- Theme Naming: Doc's dogs are named after famous scientists.
- Theme Tune Cameo: "The Power of Love" in all three movies.
- Thermal Dissonance: The outer surface of the DeLorean comes out of a time jump extremely cold. If the air is humid, it promptly gets covered in ice.
- Time Is Dangerous: The DeLorean has to be traveling at 88 miles per hour. Which means that unless you know what's going to be in front of you when you arrive in the new timeline, you're going to crash. By the third movie, Doc seems to be acknowledging this. Marty's a little less sure, but both times Doc assures him that the obstacle he's seeing in the present won't be there in the destination time.
- Time Travel: Of course.
- Time Travel for Fun and Profit: Doc is the former, Marty and Biff seem to be the latter. Though Marty quickly gives up on the latter after Doc catches him red-handed and sermonizes him.
- Title Drop: It's done several times throughout the course of the trilogy. In fact, it's become so common for Doc and/or Marty to drop the title that it's practically become a Catchphrase / Borrowed Catchphrase.
- Toxic Friend Influence: Marty's "friend" Needles. Pretty much everything bad that happened to Marty in the original future was because of him. Although it's never stated that they're friends.
- Two-Part Trilogy: Although the first movie ends on a definite Sequel Hook, it can be clearly be enjoyed by itself. The second, however, ends on a clear Cliff Hanger that obviously requires a third movie in order to be resolved. Marty's "chicken" problem was also added for the sequels, as well as nemesis Douglas "Flea" Needles. Justified in that the second and third part were originally intended to be a single movie, titled Paradox. And even after the split, they were still filmed back-to-back.
- Story-wise, however, it is somewhat of an inversion, as Part II & III are both quite distinct from each other. Part II (especially during the second half) ties in strongly with the first film, while Part III is more or less a separate story that just uses the events of the previous films to get things going.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance
- Unfamiliar Ceiling: In every film, Marty wakes up with his mother (or great grandmother) ministering to him.
- Vague Age: Doc's age in 1955 and 1985 is never mentioned in the films. The fact that Christopher Lloyd looks exactly the same in both time frames doesn't help. He must be in his 80s in 1985.
- Fairly hilarious in that his age is referenced in Part II (with his "old" mask removal and his comments about having work done), so he didn't have to wear makeup. Yes, he really was given an age-up for the original 1985. Lloyd just has that old puppy dog face no matter what his age, apparently.
- In Back to the Future: The Game, they go to the year 1931, and Marty meets a very young Emmett Brown (not even Doc Brown yet, as he hasn't got any kind of degree). Emmett confirms to Marty that he is, in fact, 18 years old. Do the math, and you see he was born in 1913. This makes him 42 in 1955 and 72 in 1985. There. You can stop losing sleep at night over this now.
- Villain Decay: Actually invoked with Biff. In the first film, he goes from being George McFly's bullying co-worker to the family's submissive mechanic, all because of George's punch in the 1950s. He got worse in the sequel but went back to being subservient by the end of the third movie.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: A stock DeLorean DMC-12 only got about 130 horsepower. It would go 0-60 in about a day and a half. That, of course, is before you dump a fusion reactor in the back seat, with the requisite lead shielding to keep everyone inside from dying of a radiation overdose, easily doubling the weight of the car. So the notion that the car ever got up to 88 is hilarious.
- Zeerust: Awesomely happens both in- and out-of-universe:
- In-universe, 1950s-Doc makes a series of hilariously bad predictions about the future
Doc: "What on Earth is that thing I'm wearing?" (referring to the radiation suit he was wearing in the 1980s film to protect him from the Flux Capacitor)
Marty: "A radiation suit"
: "Of course! Because of all the fallout from the atomic wars!"
Doc: "I'm sure that in 1985, plutonium is available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955, it's a little hard to come by."
- Out-of-universe, we get to see what the film's creators envisioned for 2015. It, um... looks a little bit different than how things actually turned out (seriously, where are our hoverboards!?)
- 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.
- 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 and The Twilight Zone (in the extended version of the "Darth Vader" scene, Marty also name-drops those shows).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- Casting Gag: Huey Lewis, playing the audition judge in 1985, tells Marty's band that they're "just too darn loud." The band was playing Lewis' own song, "The Power of Love."
- 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. Its 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 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 flier 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's all seemingly useless information that parents just say for no reason, right?
- 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 hysterical.
- 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!
- Common Knowledge: In-universe example, when Doc Brown is showing Marty how to set the target date on the time machine:
Doc Brown: Say you wanted to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence." (sets date to JUL 04 1776)
- The Declaration was not signed on this date.
Doc Brown: Or witness the birth of Christ!" (sets date to DEC 25 0000)
- Jesus would not have been born in December. Plus "0000" isn't even a year on any calendar (the year before AD 1 was 1 BC). Both of these were intended as jokes by the filmmakers who knew full well that neither of these dates were accurate. Nobody got it.
- Contrived Clumsiness: Marty "accidentally" trips Biff when they're in the diner in 1955 Hill Valley.
- Convenient Slow Dance
- Cool Old Guy: Curiously, Biff!2015. He's a lot more relaxed and mature, even chuckling at things that were previously embarrassing for him.
- 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 activities — successfully!
- Death Glare: Marty gives one to Biff after stopping him from attacking George by tripping him up - which almost immediately turns into a hilarious 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.
- 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).
- Feet-First Introduction: Marty. You don't even get to see his face until a minute and a half later.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: 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?
- Former Teen Rebel: Lorraine
- 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
- 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.
Hold it, fellas. I'm afraid you're just too darn loud.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Libyans manage to hit everything but the DeLorean with their sprayed gunfire. That's justified since the Libyans are using AKs and not even bothering with short bursts. Nevermind that any unbraced weapon fired on full-auto will never make their mark. Also subverted: when they fire at Doc, they do kill him. Only the first time, though. The second time, he takes Marty's advice and puts on a bulletproof vest which saves his life.
- 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
- "Ronald Reagan? The actor?"
- "Hey, Biff, get a load of this guy's life preserver! Dork thinks he's gonna drown!"
- 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.
- 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.
- Limit Break: George punching out Biff after Biff laughs at him and pushes Lorraine to the ground.
- 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. Marty's tears of sadness soon turn to tears of joy.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": "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....
- And as George is stumbling his way in wooing Lorraine at the cafe, it seemed like he'd succeed until Biff showed up.
- 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 Libyan's VW bus.
"Rrrgh! Damn Soviet gun!"
"Gah! Damn German car!"
- And of course, the DeLorean.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the DVD commentary, it was said that 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 fails spectacularly (and causes some rags to catch fire) is utterly priceless.
- 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 they just dumped Marty in the trunk of 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 my 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.
- 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.
- 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 hour...you're gonna see some serious shit."
- One word: SHIIITTTTTTT!!
- Prince Charming Wannabe: Biff with Lorraine.
- Pronoun Trouble:
Marty: (shouting) Hey, Dad! George...! 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 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 than their speaking voice — see Singing Voice Dissonance for examples.
- 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 Men: "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: "Where we're going we don't need roads," and the DeLorean being flown at the camera.
- Shared Family Quirks: Marty sits in a diner and nervously rubs the back of his head in disbelief that he's in the past, and the camera pans to show he's sitting next to George, who is doing the exact same thing.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spear Carrier: The couple at the dance amazed at George standing up for himself.
- Stopped Clock: The clock tower stopped after being stuck 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.
- "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.
- 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 Einstein 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.
- 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.
- Abusive Parents: Biff-A is really abusive, not just to Lorraine, but also to Marty. Lorraine's line "They must have hit you over the head hard this time..." after Biff's tirade implies that Marty-A gets hit over the head a lot.
- All Bikers Are Hells Angels: In 1985-A there is a biker gang in the square outside the casino.
- Alternate History: 1985-A.
- And Your Little Dog Too: Biff-A to Lorraine-A, in 1985-A, threatens to put Dave and Marty in jail if she walks away from him, just like jailbird Joey (who apparently is the one thing in the timeline that hasn't changed).
- Angry Black Man: The dad of the family living in Marty's house in the alternate 1985. To be fair, he did catch Marty breaking into his daughter's room, so the anger was justified. His wielding a bat made him into a Scary Black Man.
- Apocalypse How: Several potential paradoxes in this film could destroy the entire universe, which would be a Class X-4, worst-scenario. (The effect might actually be localized to their own galaxy, which is a Class X-3.)
- The Apunkalypse: Not directly employed, but the inspiration behind Griff's gang in the future.
- The Artifact: The picture of Buford Tannen from the museum video was an early makeup test, which is why he looks different than when we finally see him in Part III (Buford is pictured with a full beard instead of a mustache). Word of God said that if they had the time, they would have replaced that picture with one featuring his final look.
- Ascended Extra: Biff's 1955 gang plays a bigger part. In 1985-A, we see they're still with Biff, and in 1955, they chase Marty into the gym while his other self in the original movie is playing. Because they mistake that Marty for this film's Marty, he has to stop them from attacking.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: 2015 Marty works for a "Mr. Fujitsu"; "Fujitsu" is the name of a Japanese company, but it's short for "Fuji Telecommunications Equipment Manufacturing"note , not a surname. Bob Gale remarks on this screw-up in the DVD commentary, and says that it would be like calling somebody "Mr. General Motors."
- As You Know: Played with cleverly; Griff's gang drops a piece of exposition as something they expected Marty Jr. to know, but young Marty Sr. doesn't.
Data: Hey McFly, you bojo! Those boards don't work on water!
Whitey: Unless you got POWAH!
- Bad Present / Bizarro Universe / Crapsack World: 1985-A. Hill Valley was reduced to the armpit of the west coast, and as mentioned above, Biff's political clout kept Richard Nixon in office for at least fifteen years. It's so bad that Doc Brown says that hell couldn't be much worse.
- Balls of Steel: There is a clang when Marty punches Griff in the groin. Subverted in that he feels the blow.
- Batter Up:
- A self-telescoping baseball bat is Griff Tannen's weapon of choice. He even says the trope name before attacking Marty with it.
- When Marty returns home in 1985-A, he discovers that his family doesn't live there in this timeline. Since a black family now lives there, his room is now occupied by a young girl, her father rushes in, wielding a baseball bat, and drives Marty out.
- Berserk Button:
- Never call George-A a butthead in front of Lorraine-A.
- Also, don't raise your hand on Lorraine in front of George. Or in front of Marty.
- Big Bad: With Doc's improvements making time travel easier, Biff graduates from antagonist into Big Bad with his villainesque alteration of the timeline.
- Big "NO!": Marty after finding out that Biff-A married Lorraine-A.
- Big Screwed-Up Family:
- The McFlys. Grandma Lorraine and Grandpa George can only shake their heads in bewilderment, inverting the plot of the first movie.
- The Baines-McFlys-Tannens-A's also count, but counting them as just "screwed-up" is a nice way of looking at their current situation.
- Binocular Shot: When Marty uses binoculars at the dance in 1955 and later when the DeLorean is flying above Biff's car.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: "Shark still looks fake." Also doubles as Take That, Us since Steven Spielberg became executive producer for Part II, and his son Max Spielberg directed Jaws XIX.
- Book and Switch: Biff hides a girly magazine inside the dust jacket of the sports almanac, which Marty mistakes for the real thing. An earlier scene in 2015 established the dust jacket for the purpose of this scene.
- Breast Expansion: Lorraine-A was forced by Biff to get breast implants. Even Marty is alarmed.
You're so... big.
- Also, one of the six channels that Marty Jr. is watching in 2015 has a commercial for breast implants.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Upon returning to 1955, Doc unveils a silver attache case full of emergency funds. It contains different denominations from various time periods.
- Broken Bird: Lorraine-A is a shattered woman, trapped in an abusive/loveless marriage to Biff, staying with him only so that her children can live in relative comfort.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : It takes four seconds for Future Marty's boss to send him the "YOU'RE FIRED!!!" faxes after Marty engages in an illegal business deal with Needles.
- Captain Obvious: "All I have to do is bet on the winner, and I'll never lose." Of course, this is completely in character for Biff to say.
- Celebrity Paradox: Cafe '80s in 2015 shows '80s TV shows, including Family Ties (starring Michael J. Fox) and Taxi (starring Christopher Lloyd).
- Chalk Outline: In 1985-A, Marty comes across the outlines of two drive-by shooting victims shortly after he is chased out of his 1985 house by the black family that resides there in this timeline.
- Chekhov's Gun: In 1985, Biff tries to give Marty a new matchbook for his company when Marty leaves. Later, in 1985-A, Marty takes a matchbox from Biff-A's office, and after destroying Grey's Sports Almanac, he sees its writing change from "Pleasure Paradise" to "Auto Detailing"
- Click Hello: Mr. Strickland thinks Marty's the son-of-a-bitch who's been stealing his newspapers from his porch.
- Concealing Canvas: In Biff-A's office.
- Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded by Doc, who ponders why Old Biff chose November 12, 1955 to return, the same day that Marty went there and the night of the storm. He wonders if there's some cosmic significance to the date - or if was all just one huge coincidence.
- CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Subverted — Biff comes to just as someone (named "CPR Kid" in the credits) asks, "What's CPR?", and Marty knocks Biff out again. Amusingly, the "Universal Animated Anecdotes" included in the DVD had to clarify that CPR does not mean punching someone in the face.
From the Actual DVD Commentary: No, kids, that's not CPR.
- Cue the Rain: It starts raining soon after lightning strikes the time machine and Marty is left stranded in the past again. Justified, of course, because this is the same storm that played a role in sending Marty back to the future in the first film, and there were all sorts of signs of a storm brewing the whole time anyway.
- Cyber Punk: Defied. According to the behind-the-scenes featurette, Robert Zemeckis intended the future he wrote to be a counterpoint to the darker dystopian visions of cyberpunk, Blade Runner in particular. Hill Valley really is "a nice place to live" in 2015; technology seems to make life better instead of worse, and the police don't seem overly concerned for their safety even in the rough neighborhood of Hilldale.
- On the other hand, the Hill Valley of 1985-A, with its filthy streets, garish neon and omnipresent, fire-belching smokestacks, looks like it could have been lifted right out of Blade Runner.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to Part I.
- Disproportionate Retribution:
- Domestic Abuse: To no one's surprise, Alternate Universe-Biff is a philander who's grown bored of Lorraine, keeping her around only a Trophy Wife and symbol of his victory over George. Marty goes berserk when Biff shoves her to the ground, earning a punch in the gut. That's right, Biff even slugs his adopted children.
- Dope Slap: Old Biff dope-slaps Young Biff for mangling a joke after giving him the Gray's Sports Almanac. And no, they don't explode (specially since Young Biff is too stupid to recognize himself).
Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here? Old Biff: (whap!)
", you idiot! Make like a TREE and LEAVE. You sound like a damned FOOL
when you say it wrong!
- Double Take: Jennifer does one when she lays eyes on the 47-year-old, drastically different Marty from the closet she's hiding in.
- Dramatic Irony: In alternate 1985, it is established that Lorraine ends up marrying the obscenely rich Biff. Earlier in 1955, when Biff torments Lorraine, she responds, "Biff Tannen, I wouldn't be your girl even if—even if you had a million dollars!"
- Drowning My Sorrows: Lorraine-A is a bigger alcoholic than in the first 1985 from the first film.
- Drunk with Power: The first film established Biff as a petty schoolyard bully who would continue to be so in his adult life in one timeline, or would become relatively harmless if a little sneaky in a better timeline. This film reveals how Biff would become an absolute monster if he had access to real wealth and power, even happily committing murder and getting away with it.
- The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Directly quoted.
(WHACK!) "The easy way."
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: While Biff has a "white guys only" rule in 1955, Griff Tannen's cybernetically-enhanced teenage gang includes at least one Asian and a blonde girl.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Or, rather, electronic in the case of Griff.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: Alt-Biff converted Hill Valley's historic courthouse into a gaudy testament to his own penis—er, wealth and prestige.
- Exact Eavesdropping: Marty and Doc have the misfortune of being stalked and heard by Biff during their argument about time travel for profit.
- Failed a Spot Check: During the exchange between Griff's gang and both Marty and Marty Jr., after Marty Jr. is thrown over the counter and lands on the floor next to our Marty, Marty tells him to keep quiet rather than say he's in on Griff's opportunity, then puts on Jr.'s hat and stands up. Somehow, Griff must be too thick-headed to notice that Marty visibly has a red t-shirt underneath his jacket, whereas Marty Jr. has a white shirt, or the fact that Marty Jr.'s left sleeve is ill-fitting, unlike Marty's. Not to mention that his eye color changed from brown to blue, and Marty Jr. seemed to be wearing some sort of hairgel while Marty wasn't.
- Justified in that these differences are subtle enough to be negligible considering Marty Jr. and Marty Sr. look identical otherwise. Plus, Griff is dumb.
- Fake Shemp: Word of Bob Gale says that Crispin Glover got an ego and started making outlandish demands for his return in the sequels. Gale and Zemeckis decided to forget Glover and get creative by using a double actor and some nifty tricks with stock footage and computer effects. It backfired on the producers and Glover sued. The suit was settled out of court and the Screen Actors Guild revised their rules on stock footage use.
- Flying Car: The De Lorean flies in this movie.
- Forced Perspective: The Lyon Estates site, and the tunnel.
- When the "DESTINATION TIME" readout on the time circuits flash to "JAN 01 1885 12:00AM" and Doc remarks "Damn, gotta fix this thing." By the time Marty catches up with Doc in the third part of the trilogy, he had already been there for nine months.
- As Doc is punching in the "Destination Time" of October 26, 1985, 9:00PM to return the group from 2015 to their home time, if you look quickly at the "Time Recently Departed" field, you'll see the date of "November 12, 1955", hinting at the Time Machine's theft by Old!Biff Tannen.
- Biff-A is watching A Fistful of Dollars, and crows when Clint Eastwood showed he was wearing a stovetop under his poncho, "A bulletproof vest! The guy is brilliant!" Guess how the showdown in III is resolved?
- Doc tells Marty that his visit to the rejuvenation clinic "added a good 30-40 years" to his life, ensuring that he can start a family with Clara and be around long enough to see their sons grow up in Part III.
- Future Imperfect: The '80s-themed diner confuses a lot of '80s pop culture, such as mixing up Max Headroom and Ronald Reagan.
- Future Slang:
What's wrong, McFly? You got no scrote
Hey McFly, you bojo
, those boards don't work on water! Police officer:
Hilldale, nothing but a breeding ground for tranks
, and zipheads
. Marty Jr.:
Don't drive tranq'd
, low-res scuzzball
- Future Spandex: 2015 fashion tends toward the "unbelievably silly" version of this trope. Marty does a Double Take seeing one girl wearing spandex leave the Cafe 80s.
- Futuristic Superhighway: The movie begins with Doc, Marty, and Jennifer arriving in the year 2015 inadvertently flying against traffic on a highway specifically designed for Flying Cars.
- Gilligan Cut: Marty needs to get some Fifties clothes:
Doc: Something inconspicuous!
(Cuts to Marty outside Biff's house, wearing a not-so-inconspicuous leather jacket, hat, and shades)
- God Test: Biff challenges his future self to prove that the Gray's Sports Almanac has the results of every sporting event in the next 50 years. So old Biff plays a sports broadcast and demonstrates it.
- Groin Attack:
Spike: What's wrong, McFly? (shoves a seven-inch-thick, ten-inch long and razor sharp nail between McFly's trousers) Ya got no scrote!?!?
- Guess Who I'm Marrying?: We don't actually see when Lorraine-A tells her kids who she is going to marry in 1973-A, but the reaction of the Marty from our timeline fits the bill.
- Half-Identical Twins: Marty Jr. and Marlene, possibly. Some scripts have both children mentioned as being 17, and both were played by Michael J. Fox — so they're commonly believed to be fraternal twins.
- Help Yourself In The Future: Marty has to stop Biff's gang from attacking his first film's counterpart during "Johnny B. Goode".
- Heroic BSOD: Doc at the end, when all of the implications of Marty's return from the future hit him. He faints.
- Marty also has one when he finds out that his dad was murdered in the alternate timeline - and that it's basically his fault, because Biff stole the almanac that Marty bought in 2015 after finding out about the time machine.
- Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: At the end of the first film, Doc lies about Marty and Jennifer not being "assholes in the future." When the scene was reshot for the start of the second film, Doc hesitates before answering their question.
- History Marches On: The USA Today paper reporting on Marty Jr.'s arrest also reports that "Queen Diana" is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C. Of course, everyone knows Diana tragically never lived to see 2015, let alone become queen.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: "Hey, McFly, your shoe's unvelcked!" (loose — think "Velcro")!
- Hologram: Marty McFly is attacked by a holographic shark advertising Jaws 19 playing at a holographic movie house in Hill Valley of 2015.
- Hypocritical Humor: "Just get in the car, butthead." "Who're you callin' butthead, butthead?"
- I Hate Past Me: Old Biff isn't all that thrilled to be giving anything to the idiotic, amoral, young Biff, but is willing to do so because then he'll be rich in the future.
- I Have to Wash My Hair: Said by Lorraine in 1955 when Biff "invites" her to the dance with him in an attempt to get him to stop harassing her.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A convertible full of gangsters emptying their rifles at Strickland's home, reducing it to a two-story block of Swiss cheese, and they manage to completely miss both Strickland and a cowering Marty.
- Improvised Weapon: Lorraine communicates her distaste for Biff by clocking him with the box carrying her prom dress before running away with her friend as Biff shouts after her that she'll be his wife one day. That must be some hefty dress.
- In Spite of a Nail: The only things that have been confirmed not to have been changed in the 1985-A timeline are that Michael Jackson still becomes a famous pop star, A Fistful of Dollars still gets made, the Wounded Knee Occupation still takes place, and Lorraine's brother Joey still turns out to be a jailbird.
- Insult to Rocks: Marty comparing 1985-A with Hell. Doc retorts he's not giving Hell enough credit.
- I Own This Town: A filthy rich Biff has corrupted Hell Valley and is now its overlord.
- I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday: Marty, when he returns to 1955. Doc mentions that he was there yesterday. From the time Marty left 1955 at the climax of Part I (arriving at October 26, 1985, 1:24AM), to the time he returns with Doc to 1955 in the middle of Part II (leaving 1985-A at around October 27, 1985, 2:00AM), is a real-time passage of about 24 hours.
- It's All My Fault: Said by Marty when he realizes Biff stole the almanac.
- I Want My Jetpack: Hoverboards, holographic movie posters, auto-adjusting clothes, ubiquitous robots, dehydrated pizza, weather reports accurate to the minute, commercially available fusion reactors small enough to power car, flying cars in such numbers to cause traffic jams...From the perspective of reality in The New Tens, this stuff had better get a move on, though as the Zee Rust entry below shows, they were deliberately going overboard with this stuff.
- So help them though Nike seems pretty determined to get those self-lacing shoes out by 2015.
- Jaded Washout: 2015 Marty Sr. is a sour salaryman who gave up his guitaring dreams when he injured his hand and was targeted with a lawsuit after a car accident.
- Japan Takes Over the World: 2015 was partly based on the assumption that the Japanese economy would have overtaken the US one by the early 21st Century.
- Just Between You and Me: Biff-A tells Marty the circumstances of how he received the Almanac, then pulls out a pistol mentioning that his older self told him to kill anyone who ever asked about it.
- Kavorka Man: The hotel's museum includes a slideshow of Biff's past conquests — which include the biggest pin-up gals of the day — each with Biff making sleazy Night at the Roxbury faces to the camera.
- Male Gaze: While trying to keep track of Marty, Jr. through some Star Wars-esque binoculars, Doc Brown's line of vision constantly shifts to the very busty women that passed by him. Although this may just be the auto focus feature of the binoculars, the trope still applies on a meta level.
- Manly Tears: Marty when he finds his father's grave in the alternative 1985 timeline. Thankfully things turn out differently in the end.
- Married In The Future: Doc takes Marty and Jennifer into the future where she sees their future home and kids, but everything else sucks. In Part III, however, Marty manages to avert the event that led to that timeline.
- Mean Boss: Ito T. "Jitz" Fujitsu. In fairness, he had good reason for firing Marty Sr., but he made no indication of coming down as hard on Needles.
- Megacorp: Biffco
- Meaningful Echo: The confrontation between Marty and Biff in the tunnel, with Marty trying to use his hoverboard to outrun Biff's car, then being pulled up by Doc with a kite string just as Biff gets to him, causing Biff to crash into a manure truck, is practically a repeat of the confrontation between Marty and Griff's gang in 2015.
- Money to Burn: Biff's image is depicted on the front of his casino doing this.
- Mood Whiplash: Going from the bright, lively Hill Valley of 2015 to the dark, terrifying "Hell" Valley of 1985-A.
- Mordor: 1985-A is a smoggy futuristic Mordor. Marty's neighborhood looks more or less the same (only shabbier, with the Lyon Estates lion statues being defaced with graffiti, and a pack of stray dogs roaming around), but smokestacks are visible everywhere else, including the graveyard.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Doc explicitly warns Marty to be careful in following Biff to get the Sports Almanac back that he must not be noticed or interact with his previous self.
- The New Tens: A good chunk of the movie takes place here.
- Nice Hat: Marty and Doc get nice hats past the movie's second half.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Word of God says the 1985-A Biff was inspired by Donald Trump. The portrait in Biff's office was even based on one of Trump.
- The Lorraine of 1985-A was modeled after various female televangelists of the 80s, particularly Tammy Fae Meissner (aka Tammy Fae Bakker).
- No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: Parodied with Doc in 2015. Played straight with Lorraine in 1985-A, who looks radically different from her 1973-A self, when she was shown marrying Biff.
- No-Paper Future: Averted, at least in the case of "YOU'RE FIRED!!!" faxes and "dust-repellent paper".
- Not So Great Escape: Marty finds himself trapped in Strickland's office while trying to retrieve the almanac and has to desperately hide beneath the desk and in other spots to avoid being discovered, including getting his hand crushed by Strickland's chair.
- Off to Boarding School: The alternate Marty in 1985-A.
- Oh, Crap: Biff-A's reaction to seeing Marty standing on the flying DeLorean.
- This is Jennifer's reaction to pretty much the whole time she is in her future home, trying not to be seen. Her biggest one comes from coming face-to-face with her 47-year-old self, causing BOTH of them to faint.
- Oppressive States of America: Besides Biff running Hill Valley of 1985-A like his own personal kingdom, there's news of Richard Nixon going on his fifth term as President of the United States, and (in the novelization) the Vietnam War still being waged in the 1980s.
- Paid Harem: Biff-A's got buxom blondes in the hot tub in 1985-A.
- Papa Wolf: See the Angry Black Man example above.
- Pre-emptive Declaration: Doc and Marty watch the newspaper article about Marty Jr.'s arrest, headlined, "Youth Jailed: Martin McFly Jr. Arrested For Theft" change to the headline, "Gang Jailed: Hoverboard Rampage Destroys Courthouse. Gang Leader: 'I was framed'", under a photo of Griff being taken to a police car in handcuffs. Doc looks up and sees Griff being led down the courthouse steps to a police car in handcuffs as a USA Today camera is lowered from the sky. Griff shouts, "I was framed!" at which point the camera snaps his picture.
- Prince Charming Wannabe: Again, Biff with Lorraine in 1955.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- "Read. My. Fax!"
- "Gray's. Sports. Almanac!"
- Revolvers Are Just Better: Biff's snub revolver. Handy for silencing environmental activists, pulp sci-fi authors, and meddling kids.
- Ridiculous Future Inflation: A single-serving bottle of Pepsi costs about $50 in 2015.
- Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: A holographic advertisement for Jaws 19, directed by Max Spielberg, with the tagline: "This time it's really, really personal." All Marty has to say is, "The shark still looks fake." Well, to be fair, the very first thing he has to say is, "AAAAAAAAHHHH!"
- Rooftop Confrontation: Biff vs. Marty on the top of the casino.
- Running Gag: Biff has seen the time machine in every single time period they go to:
- 1985 Biff sees a "flying Delorean" leave the McFly home and disappear.
- 2015 Biff sees the Delorean again and chuckles that he hasn't seen one in 30 years, but is distracted by seeing two "Marty's"
- 1985-A Biff doesn't have time to register fully either as he's knocked cold by the gullwing door.
- 1955 Biff sees it in flight, but smashes into a manure truck right after.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: "Kid, I OWN the police!"
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Taken to a whole new level by the animated holographic advertisement for Jaws 19 (this time, it's really really personal) that Marty encounters, in-which a shark eats you.
Marty: Shark still looks fake.
- The nostalgia curio shop window has a plush Roger Rabbit doll (another Amblin movie directed by Zemeckis and featuring Lloyd).
- It also features a framed Jaws print. (Not to mention the Jaws 19 hologram.)
- The virtual Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan and Ayatollah Khomeini are modeled after Max Headroom.
- Marty Jr. shouts "I'm Walkin' Here!" at a taxi.
- Many references to Its A Wonderful Life during the 1985-A sequence. 1985-A Hill Valley is a not-so-subtle reference to Pottersville, and you just substitute Biff in Potter's place.
- One of the articles in the paper in 1985-A about Doc Brown being committed reads "Nixon to seek fifth term", a possible shout-out to Watchmen.
- In 2015, there's a poster which says "Surf Vietnam". This doubles as forshadowing, as the Vietnam War is still grinding on in a dystopian Biffverse.
- Blink and you'll miss it, but the StarCar from The Last Starfighter can be seen in 2015. You can catch it just as the Jeep rockets down from the sky in the chase sequence.
- Shown Their Work: The college football scores Biff hears on his car radio are the actual scores of actual college football games played on Saturday, November 12, 1955 — except, oddly, the Texas A&M-Rice matchup, which the radio announcer says A&M won 20-10 when the actual score was 20-12.
- It's true that nobody really knew what CPR was until roughly two years later.
- Shrine to Self: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Biff Tannen Museum! Dedicated to Hill Valley's #1 citizen, and America's greatest living folk hero, the one and only Biff Tannen! Of course we've all heard the legend, but who is the man? Inside you will learn how Biff Tannen became one of the richest and most powerful men in America. Learn the amazing history of the Tannen family, starting with his great-grandfather, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, fastest gun in the West. See Biff's humble beginnings and how a trip to the racetrack on his 21st birthday made him a millionaire overnight.note Share in the excitement of a fabulous winning streak that earned him the nickname "the Luckiest Man on Earth."note Learn how Biff parlayed that lucky winning streak into the vast empire called BiffCo. Discover how in 1979, Biff successfully lobbied to legalize gambling and turned Hill Valley's dilapidated courthouse into a beautiful casino-hotel! note Meet the women who shared in his passion as he searched for true love. And relive Biff's happiest moment as in 1973, he realized his life long romantic dream by marrying his high school sweetheart, Lorraine Baines McFly! note
- Signs of Disrepair: In 2015, Hilldale's sign has gotten vandalized from "The Address of Success" to "The Address of Suckers". In 1985-A, the "Welcome to Hill Valley" sign says "Hell Valley" instead.
- Slasher Smile: Griff gets off a good one on Marty's failed Look Behind You.
- The Smurfette Principle: Jennifer Parker. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale say that had they intended to do a sequel at the time they made the original film, they would not have put "the girl" in the car at the end. Sure enough, in the second film, she's sedated less then five minutes in and pretty much spends the rest of the series that way.
- Also, Spike in Griff's gang.
- Spear Carrier: The kids unimpressed by Marty's gun skills.
- Spinning Paper: The video at the Biff Tannen Museum uses this editing trick while showing newspaper headlines documenting the Alternate Biff's life story, including his winning streak.
- Suicidal Gotcha: Marty, on the roof of Biff's Pleasure Paradise. Biff-A gets knocked out by the DeLorean doors as well.
- Surprise Vehicle: The DeLorean in the above scene.
- Tell Me About My Father: Marty, asking Lorraine-A about the alternate version of his father.
- They Don't Make Them Like They Used To: Implied.
Marty: Let's land on him, we'll cripple his car.
Doc: Marty, he's in a '46 Ford; we're in a DeLorean. He'd rip through us like we were tinfoil.
- Absolutely Truth in Television. DeLoreans feature a fiberglass body overlaid with relatively thin sheet metal (which would sometimes crack during manufacturing). Some of the crash tests show an unbelievable amount of crumpling when hitting a solid wall, so the Doc is quite accurate with his observation.
- Threw My Bike on the Roof: There's a scene in 1955 where Biff gets a hold of a ball belonging to a bunch of kids, and while listening to them plead to have it back, mocks them and then throws it onto a second story balcony. The kids stand there, crestfallen, as Biff walks away while cackling to himself(!).
- Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: Gray's Sports Almanac, the former trope namer.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble:
Doc: (after Marty realises that he's responsible for Biff's actions) Well, it's all in the past.
Marty: You mean the future.
- There's another one, in the middle of the movie:
Doc: While we were in the future, Biff got the sports book, stole the time machine, went back in time and gave the book to himself at some point in the past.
- Title Drop: The ending.
No! It can't be; I just sent you back to the future! Marty:
No, I know; you did send me back to the future. But I'm back — I'm back from
Great Scott! (he faints
- To Be Continued: Audiences were upset they actually showed scenes from III. Thanks for the Spoiler Alert, Zemeckis. Deliberately done to assure audiences that the last chapter would be finished in a matter of months, not years.
- Took a Level in Badass: 1985-A Strickland. Living in a crapsack world infested with trigger-happy gangs doesn't help.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The preview for Part III includes a shot revealing that Marty (still in his cowboy gear) eventually gets back to Jennifer, which is one of the trilogy's major subplots.
- Trophy Wife: Marty's mother has been coerced into becoming Biff Tannen's trophy wife, complete with unwanted breast augmentation.
- Two Decades Behind: Invoked and parodied with Gale/Zemeckis' "user-friendly" 2015 A.D. The fashions of the era reflect the 80's at their pastel, animal print and peroxide worst. Kids still wear acid-washed jeans (albeit inside out) and souped-up versions of Marty's vest and Nikes. The biggest offender might have to be Marlene Mcfly, who would fit right in with Saved By the Bell with no alterations whatsoever.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Michael J. Fox plays all of Marty's future family, including his daughter.
- Unintentional Period Piece: A weird case; the Cafe 80's scene, (remember, this movie was made in 1989), invokes this trope directly. The result was rather bizarre at the time, and still is. This is probably intentional, as Doc referred to it as "one of those nostalgia places that were not done very well."
- Unstoppable Mailman: The Western Union man at the end manages to arrive at exactly the time he was told to. Justified in that he and other mail carriers were holding bets on whether or not Marty would be there.
- Vice City: 1985-A. Marty's old neighborhood is now a ghetto overrun by wild dog packs(!). The city square has been replaced with a cluster of strip clubs, casinos, bikers, and roving six-wheeled army vehicles (suggesting a police state which is answerable only to Biffco). These scenes were reportedly the hardest to shoot due to filming near factories (which stank) and motorcycles (which also stank); the whole sequence reminded the filmmakers of Hell.
- Video Phone: The Future McFly household's video phone is connected to the television set. Personal information about the individual on the other end of the line is scrolled through on screen, including name, age, occupation, home address, spouse, children, and assorted hobbies and preferences. Video calling is also sponsored by AT&T. While such tech does exist as of 2012, it's provided courtesy of Skype.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: In the future, we're never told what Marty does at CusCo, or what "the plant" actually produces. His conspiracy with Needles (Embezzlement? insider trading?) is ambiguous and left to the imagination.
- Which Me?: A few times, given that Michael J. Fox is playing our Marty, 2015 Marty, Marty Jr., Marlene, and his past 1955 self. Meanwhile, Thomas F. Wilson is playing 2015 Biff, Griff Tannen, 1985 Biff, and 1955 Biff.
- Women's Mysteries: Doc mentions this while musing that he won't get to visit The Wild West.
- Worst News Judgment Ever:
- Even though Doc's copy of USA Today is a localized edition (the joke seems to be that they took over the whole newspaper industry), "Youth Jailed" is not exactly cover story material. Especially when you see the other stories from that day.
- Similarly, though perhaps less severe, later in the movie we see the papers from the alternate timeline where "Hill Valley Man Wins Big at Races" is the main headline on a 1958 copy of the local paper, over "Khrushchev Becomes New Soviet Premier." In the same scene we also see that "Emmett Brown Committed" has pushed a story about Nixon running for office for a Fifth time (!!) and vowing to end the Vietnam War. It seems the local press in Hill Valley really doesn't care for anything going on beyond their little town! Truth in Television: a lot of small-town newspapers are like this.
- Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Biff crows to Marty about murdering his father and getting away with it.
- Write Back to the Future: Doc's letter from 1885 to 1955, informing Marty of his current situation, and the location of the DeLorean.
- You! Exclamation: Biff to Marty, after awakening from being knocked out by George.
- You Just Had to Say It: Just after Marty warns Doc not to get struck by lightning at the end of the movie, he does.
- You Killed My Father: Biff-A murdered George-A.
- Zeerust / Twenty Minutes into the Future: Done on purpose; the filmmakers didn't want to try to accurately predict the future, so they just combined Jetsons-esque devices with some obvious jokes (the McFlys have a fax machine in every room of their house, which apparently all print the same message at once).note
Ironically, some of their predictions actually came pretty close. Things like 16:9 flat-screen TVs with the ability to watch multiple shows at once don't sound too crazy in a world with Google TV. Hell, think about Marty Jr. watching about eight shows at once, then ask yourself: how many tabs do you have open in your browser right now? (Of course, they completely missed the internet, but so did nearly everyone.)
- And the thing of a video-phone being integrated into those 16:9 flat-panel TVs? Smart TVs as early as 2012 were being touted as supporting Skype video-calls when equipped with an attachable USB camera/mic combo (sold separately, of course)
- Enforced by Major League Baseball- they could have sent the Miami Marlins to the American League, potentially setting up a Cubs-Marlins World Series in 2015, but instead chose to send the Houston Astros to the AL. Half of that may come true, as with the hiring of manager Joe Maddon and signing of Jon Lester, the Cubs have become serious NL contenders for the World Series.
- The idea of a robot dogwalker (like Marty sees in Hilldale) doesn't seem so farfetched, given the growth of the personal robot market in recent years. The flying thing's unlikely, though.
- 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.
- 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.
- Back for the Finale: George, Lorraine, Dave, Linda, Biff, Jennifer, and even Einstein all return for the final scenes.
- 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.
- 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: Averted. Initially, it looks like a Bittersweet Ending because Doc Brown is stuck in the 1800s, but he is with the woman he loves, and Marty is reunited with Jennifer in his own time, but it looks like he will never see Doc Brown again. However, they are reunited in the end anyway 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..."
- 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.
- Born in the Wrong Century: Doc wishes he lived in the Wild West. Although he wishes he still 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.
- Bullet Dancing: Spoofed, as Marty turns this into the Moon Walk. 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.
- 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.
- Neither do the cowboys in the saloon; they just figure Doc having his heart broken has made him crack up.
- 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.
- Chandelier Swing: Marty does it while trying to escape from Buford Tannen in the saloon.
- Click Hello: Happens twice in: 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 Stickland: Just like you, I take every advantage I get.
- Cool Train: The Time-Travelling Hover-Train at the end. Currently provides the picture for that page, even!
- Could Say It But: Doc's caginess with regard to Marty's future.
- Cowboy Episode
- 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 third 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.
- 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 about a recent shoeing job done on one of Buford's horse's that, because it went afoul, Buford thinks Doc should be held responsible. 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.
- 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!
- 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", as 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.
- 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 Eighties, 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.
- Honest John's Dealership: In 1885 Hill Valley, we have Honest Joe Statler's horses, "Quality horses bought and sold!"
- Again, keeping similar jobs in a family, 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 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 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?!".
- Truth in Television: 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."
- 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 assumed 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.
- 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.
- In addition, 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 happened to be riding through the area at the time.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- As Marty first meets Buford.
Buford: What's your name, dude?
Buford: What kinda stupid name is that?
- "Run for fun? What the hell kinda fun is that?"
- Laser-Guided Karma: Buford had killed Doc because his horse threw the shoe Doc put on, throwing himself 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.", also doing it to 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 shoot 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-existant in reality) accents.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Heard when Marty confirms to Doc that he returned to 1955 even after being sent to the future. In-universe: 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.
- 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 needed to be restored to working condition: the time travel circuitry had to be changed out with vacuum tubes, while the original tyres needed to be replaced with whitewall tyres.
- Railroad Tracks of Doom
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- Rescued from Purgatory: After a certain fashion when Marty goes back for Doc.
- Rescue Romance: Doc and Clara.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer / 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.
- 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 2, Marty receives a letter from time-displaced Doc in 1885, and reads the first few sentences of it aloud. In Part 3, 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
- You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost:
Marty: You're not far off, Doc.
(shines his flashlight on Doc's 1885 grave)
- Young Gun: Marty; subverted.
- 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.
And notably avoids...
- All Guitars Are Stratocasters: Marty plays a Gibson ES-335 at the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance. Unfortunately, this guitar was first made in 1958, three years after the year Marty has traveled to. (Note this is not Marty's guitar which he plays in 1985, it's the guitar he borrows from the Starlighters.)
- Also averted with Marty's yellow Erlewine Chiquita guitar at the beginning of the movie, and the black Ibanez 440-RS1 he plays at his band's audition.
- Meanwhile, in the Future: Once Marty goes to a time period, we stay there with him and don't see any changes he's made to the timeline until he gets back and sees them himself.
- No New Fashions in the Future
- One Steve Limit: There are three guys named "Joey" in the trilogy: Marty's uncle, one of Biff's cronies (nicknamed Skinhead), and the bartender's assistant in Part III.
- Only Child Syndrome: Both Marty and Lorraine have numerous siblings that aren't that important to the plot, and of course Doc and Clara have two children together. George and Jennifer are only children however. As far as we know, anyway — we never actually met George or Jennifer's family. In the novel, we meet George's family and it is implied he is an only child.
- Politically Correct History:
- In Part I, Lou quips, "A colored mayor? That'll be the day" when Goldie Wilson muses after Marty tells Goldie that he will be mayor in 1985.
- After locking Marty in the trunk, one of Biff's gang calls one of the Starlighters a "spook", which is a largely forgotten racial epithet for a black person. In kind, the band members respond by calling him "peckerwood", which was likewise a racial slur for a white person.
- In Part 3, one of the old timers sees Marty in his hideous outfit and says "Must'a got that shirt off'n a dead Chinee..."
- Retroactive Preparation: Apparently does not work. (If it did, after Marty got stuck in 1955, his future self would have popped in with some plutonium, easy-peasy, problem solved. Ditto 1885 and a gallon of gas.)
- San Dimas Time: "If only I had more time... wait a minute, I have all the time I want; I got a time machine!" Marty then proceeds to screw it up by giving himself only a few extra minutes, thus allowing him to make it back to the mall parking lot just in time to see Doc get shot. Justified in that he hadn't counted on the starter for the DeLorean failing. Again.
- Time Crash: Doc is concerned that causing an unresolvable time paradox or having someone encounter his or her past self could potentially destroy the timeline.
- We Will Not Have Photoshop In The Future: While trying to convince Doc that he's from the future, Marty shows him a picture of him and his siblings, in which his sister is wearing a Class of '84 sweatshirt. Doc immediately declares it a fake because it looks like the doctoring process cut off Dave's hair.
- What Year Is This?: Marty looks at newspapers instead. And of course, the DeLorean has a bright digital display that tells you exactly when you are.
- You Already Changed The Past:
- Although Doc's letter at the end of Part 2 sort of plays this trope straight (the only part of the Trilogy to do so), though Rule of Cool applies for obvious reasons.
- The 1955 Doc averts this. He specifically sends Marty back to a point after 1985 Doc has left the letter with Western Union. As can be seen in Part III, they didn't do anything about it, which allowed for normal 70+ year delivery. ...and the Western Union guy lost the bet!