YMMV: Back to the Future


  • Better on DVD / Rewatch Bonus: Parts II and III make greater sense when watched back-to-back, as you'll see signs of Foreshadowing and other details between the two parts. For instance, as Doc and Marty discuss their plan at the train station, you'll see that Clara Clayton was standing in the background waiting for someone to pick her up.
  • Crazy Awesome: None other than Doc Brown.
  • Ear Worm: "The Power of Love" had been around before this movie, but the movie turned it into this for a while.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: "CPR Guy" from Part II. And for a short time in the fandom, the scarecrow that Marty runs over in Part I.
    • Red the bum, who calls Marty a "crazy drunk driver" upon his return to 1985 in Part I, and a "crazy drunk pedestrian" in 1985-A in Part II.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Spike from Griff's gang in Part II.
  • Fan Community Nickname: Backies.
  • First Installment Wins: The first is iconic. The second and third are good, but definitely not remembered like number one.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg's first concept for the time machine was not a DeLorean. Originally, the idea was that it would be a highly-scientific laser array that sent Marty back to the past. To get him back to the future, Doc Brown originally was going to put him in a refrigerator during an A-Bomb test. Spielberg vetoed the concept back then out of fear that kids would climb into abandoned refrigerators and become trapped, not to mention it was incredibly expensive. A couple of decades later, however...
  • One-Scene Wonder: Flea as Needles in the sequels.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Played straight by the infamously awful games released for the NES and Genesis. Averted by the Telltale game and Super Back to the Future Part II for the Super Famicom, which sadly was only released in Japan.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The "Don't let your pride get the best of you" aesop they drill into your head in Parts 2 and 3. It's Anvilicious, but it is surprising how may people actually do put themselves into situations just to prove themselves to others.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Jennifer in the sequels. It's unfortunate that the writers saw her only as The Load, depriving her of some Character Development.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The Time Machine itself, from the fire trails to taking off into the sky at the end of the first film. The second movie pioneered a computer controlled camera to make complicated panning shots with Michael J. Fox playing three roles at a time, and you can't tell any difference.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Remember the joy of watching these films when you were a kid? Remember the scene where the second lead is gunned down by Libyan terrorists? They sure don't make 'em like they used to. On the other hand, when Marty found himself in 1955, he made it a point to try and save Doc from his future fate... and succeeds; it was more of an extremely delayed Disney Death. There's also Marty's plan to get George and Lorraine together at the dance involved him faking a rape attempt on his own mother, which was then broken up by a real rape attempt from Biff.
    "If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit!"
    • As such, it was refreshing to see that line appear in the Telltale video game intact.
    • The first sequel isn't much better, starting with a Groin Attack on Marty Junior. Of course, the cherry on top is the alternate 1985 where Biff is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who murdered George in cold blood, forced Lorraine into marriage and breast implants, sits in a jacuzzi with naked women, and has turned Hill Valley into a hellhole.
    • Part III has Buford hanging Marty, threatening Clara with rape, and attempting a slow death by bullet on Doc. Plus there's Doc's (implied) one night stand with Clara.
    • Amusingly, this trope was why Disney turned down the first film, as they thought it was too raunchy, whereas many other studios thought it wasn't raunchy enough (this was the era of teen sex comedies like Porky's and Revenge of the Nerds).

Part I:

  • Acceptable Ethnic Targets: The Libyans.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Marty's mother pretty much shrugs off her Attempted Rape, and the fact that the man who attempted to rape her is working for the family thirty years later doesn't seem to cause her any noticeable distress.
    • That was the expectation at the time, much more than it is now, and she had been drinking and possibly didn't remember any of it very well.
  • Covered Up: Many younger people are first exposed to "Johnny B. Goode" and "Earth Angel" through this movie, unaware of the originals.
  • Ending Fatigue: The film appears as if it is going to end at least twice before it actually does...
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Before he was going to travel 25 years into the future by himself, Doc mentions that he'd get to find out who'd win the next 25 World Series. Then in Part II, we see the horrific results of someone using future sports knowledge.
    • The use of Middle Eastern terrorists as non-serious, throwaway villains in a family movie. Doesn't seem so innocent now, does it?
  • Genius Bonus: Biff's goons are very intimidated by the Starlighters, saying "We don't want to mess with no reefer addicts." To many viewers, knowing that marijuana is not addictive and does not cause violent behavior, this may make them seem like cowards. Those familiar with the time period, though, will know that it was the era of Reefer Madness and the goons had just bought into the propaganda. May double as a Parental Bonus.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Watching Michael J. Fox jam on guitar is a little sad knowing he can't anymore... Or maybe he can?
    • The angry Libyan terrorists shooting Doc Brown are less funny after the West Berlin disco bombing of 1986 and the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1989, both committed directly by or on orders of the Libyan government,
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: "Gimme a Pepsi Free." That whole exchange is also a good example of Who's on First?.
    • In the "Making Of" documentary, Michael J. Fox expresses interest in traveling back in time to become a cowboy. Then, in Part III, he really does. He even lampshades this in the behind-the-scenes special for Part III.
    • Doc says his DeLorean is electrically powered. In canon, this is non-sense because you can clearly hear an internal combustion engine which sometimes fails to start up. The need for gasoline becomes a plot point in the third movie. Fast forward to October 2011 when the DeLorean Motor Company announces the DMCEV which actually is electrically powered. It runs on batteries instead of a 1.21GW nuclear reactor, though.
      • Doc was talking about the time travel equipment, not the normal functionality of the car. Given what happened in Part III, he probably should have had an electric engine put in in the future.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Moral Event Horizon: Biff crossed it when he tried to rape Lorraine in 1955.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: George ordering a milk. Chocolate.
  • Sacred Cow: Regardless of people's opinions of the later movies, the first is widely regarded as one of the best time travel movies of all time.
  • Sleeper Hit: No one expected the movie to become as big as it did. Robert Zemeckis openly admitted he was just hoping it would break even and the final bit with the Delorean flying and "something's got to be done about your kids!" was meant as a joke on Marty having just changed the past for his parents. Michael J. Fox recalled his agent telling him that the movie was a hit and he was pleased, but the agent had to reiterate that it was a BIG hit.
  • Special Effect Failure: The Bobs were never thrilled with the effect used to show Marty's hand fading from existence.
    • Also, the green-screen shots of the flame trails not burning Doc and Marty are pretty obvious nowadays.
  • Squick: Behind the scenes: the idea that every studio except Fox and Disney thought that this film, which features a boy's mother falling in love with her son, was not risque enough.
  • Strawman Has a Point (or Jerkass Has a Point?): Strickland might be something of a jerkass to Marty at the beginning of the film when claiming he's a slacker who'll never amount to anything, but he is right that Doc Brown is dangerous, in a way- given he's not only willing to perform risky and highly illegal time travel experiments powered by stolen plutonium, but to rip off terrorists for said plutonium who might be out for revenge, and to allow Marty to be dragged into the situation.
  • They Just Didn't Care: Not the movie, but the 2010 HD transfer used on the Blu-ray and re-released DVD. (Like Digital Destruction, too, but minus the "digital" part.) The end credits are totally messed up: three-fourths the width they should be, way off-center, and listing to the left. It's as if the scanner was bumped out of alignment and something tried to autocorrect it without any human noticing. Those who recall Parts II and III getting misframed DVDs in 2002 may be wondering if Universal Studios Home Entertainment can get anything right; however, unlike that case, they're not fixing anything, and refuse to admit it's even wrong, over two years later.
  • The Woobie: George, before he Took a Level in Badass. The poor guy has been getting pushed around by Biff his whole life. He's always unsure of himself and ready to give up his ambitions because he can't stand even the thought of rejection.

Part II:

  • Crapsaccharine World: 2015. Lots of cool technology and recreational opportunities, but you can get sent down for disproportionately long sentences without legal representation as all lawyers, Acceptable Targets though they may be, have been abolished. Also, what you thought was that swanky neighbourhood in your time is now a deadbeat area full of The Future equivalent of drug addicts &c.
  • Fan Nickname: "Hell Valley" for the alternate 1985. Named for the knocked over Hill Valley sign with the "I" spray painted into an "E".
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: In Part, Needles asks Marty "How's it hanging, McFly?", and in Part III, Marty nearly gets hanged for real by Buford Tannen in 1885.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In Part II, the USA Today in 2015 talks of the U.S. preparing for Queen Diana's visit. Unfortunately, in 2015, she will have been dead for 18 years. Then again, that also assumes Elizabeth II isn't around in 2015. As of 2014, she still is.
    • We are clearly in a timeline other than that shown in Part II, because virtually none of the technologies in 2015 exist. This could be the result of further meddling on Doc's part - or, bit of Fridge Horror here, Marty's decision not to race Needles somehow caused his future self to prevent all those awesome things from being invented. Maybe he became an oil lobbyist and kept fusion from getting funding...
    • As mentioned in the example for the first movie, seeing an aged-looking Michael J. Fox struggling with his guitar might be a bit disconcerting to watch.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Even though Japan Takes Over the World by 2015, the Toyota (formerly Studebaker) dealership bizarrely now sells Pontiacs. Pontiac folded in 2009. However, before Pontiac went under, they did the Matrix/Vibe crossover car project... with Toyota. Zemeckis was in the ballpark...
    • When Marty first arrives back in the alternate 1985, he tries to enter his bedroom through the window and crawl into his bed, only to find out that an African-American family is now living in his house and is none too pleased with their bedroom intruder. This was kind of funny originally, but has become absolutely hilarious due to the similarities between it and a memetically mutated bedroom intruder incident. Yes, Marty's climbin' in yo windows, he's snatching yo people up.
    • Also, one of the newspaper's "Newsline" items refers to a female President. The way things are shaping up, that can only mean one thing...
      • Hillary Clinton?
      • Since Barack Obama was elected to a second term in 2012, the only way there'll be a female President in 2015 will be if Obama and enough male people in the presidential line of succession died. Or if there's some sort of coup d'etat between now and then.
    • Borderline example: a broadcast has the Cubs finally winning the World Series. The adversary is the "Florida Gators", as Florida was the biggest state outside the MLB... and now they have 2 teams!
    • As of 2012, just three years before the fictional setting in the movie, there IS now an MLB team that adopted Miami into its name.
    • The thought of videogames with handheld controllers becoming considered as lame as "a baby's toy" could easily come true after the release of the Kinect.
      • And scant months before 2015, the 3DS and Wii U versions of Super Smash Bros. introduced Duck Hunt, a dog and duck team that are able to incorporate Wild Gunman in several of their moves while completely lacking hands.
    • A headline on the 1985-A newspaper says that Nixon ran for a fifth term in 1984. In Futurama, Nixon got a sixth term in office.
  • Jerkass Woobie: As much of a jerk as Biff is, and as much of a monster he has the potential of becoming, you kinda have to feel bad for his treatment in this movie. As a result of Doc and Marty's actions, he's been buried in the contents of a manure truck twice in a single week, with just enough time after the first crash to get his car (and his bill) from the shop before he ends up covered in shit again. And while the first time he kinda deserved it, the second time he was merely (from his perspective) defending his property from that weird guy that came out of nowhere and ruined his life.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Biff. He may not be too smart, but with one simple plan from an older (and more experienced) Biff to help his younger self, he starts an empire from successful "gambling" that allows him to start several companies (most highly nuclear power plants that generate enough pollutant to require a waste reclamation sub-industry; hmmm). Considering how he claims he "owns the police," he can certainly manipulate a lot, and he's definitely a bastard.
  • Memetic Mutation: To a lesser extent than most BttF memes, but the Wallet Guy's lines are eminently quotable.
    • "Shark still looks fake", is a frequent snark used when watching the Jaws films.
    • The scene featuring Needles and Fujitsu spawned the memes "How's it hanging, McFly?" and "MCFLY!!!" on YTMND.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Biff himself definitely crosses it when he kills George and becomes Lorraine's abusive rapist husband after becoming rich through the Gray's Sports Almanac. Even though this is an alternate timeline that is later rectified, knowing that he even had the potential for it is enough. Thankfully, in the actual timeline he doesn't stoop to such lows.
  • Newer Than They Think: Although it seems like hoverboards should be a staple of sci-fi as old as jetpacks and flying cars, which have both been in stories since at least the 1930s, this is actually what introduced them.
    • This might have something to do with skateboards in general being Newer Than They Think, with short skateboards like the one Marty rides gaining popularity in the late 1970's.
  • One-Scene Wonder: "Wallet Guy."
    • Mr. Fujitsu, Future Marty's boss. You can tell the actor was enjoying himself.
  • Special Effects Failure: All the scenes of past and present characters interacting with each other were well done, except when 1955 Biff tosses the sports almanac to 2015 Biff in his garage.

Part III:

  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: The town used for the 1885 Hill Valley was destroyed by lightning in 1996.
  • Genius Bonus: When the Colt salesman tries to get Marty to shoot the Peacemaker, he forces it into his left-hand (causing the first shot to miss completely, being Marty's weak hand). The Colt Single Action Army was actually originally designed to be fired left-handed while riding a horse.
    • Marty uses a Frisbie pie tin like a Frisbee. This actually is how the toy was invented and got that name.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Towards the end of the film, Seamus muses about trading a gun for a new hat. Needless to say, the clip can be found on YouTube with the title "Team Fortress 2 in a Nutshell".
  • Moral Event Horizon: This trope caused a scene to be removed from the film. Originally, the movie was to have contained a scene where Buford Tannen, ancestor of Biff, shoots and kills Marshall Strickland in front of the lawman's son. According to screenwriter Bob Gale, the scene was removed because it was felt that after Buford is seen committing such a deed, it doesn't seem right that he not die (and he can't die, seeing as he will need to live long enough to extend the family line).
    • The scene made it into the novelization of the movie, however. And the Marshall's son grew up with a strong sense of discipline, and made sure it got instilled in all his kids. So Buford just made life hell for all his descendants in general, and Biff in particular.
    • It's also referenced and possibly canonised in the Telltale Games sequel.
  • Relationship Sue: Clara, to her detractors. Who would believe a woman in her 30s and a man in his 60s could fall instantly in love? Clara's main purpose is to be Doc's love interest and drive his decisions, thus influencing the outcome of the plot.
  • The Scrappy: Clara, for creating a Romantic Plot Tumor. Although her Characterization Marches On in the animated series.
  • Strangled by the Red String: The film discusses this in regards to Doc and Clara's relationship. After going back to 1885, Marty shows Doc a picture of his future tombstone, which contains a mention of "his beloved Clara", though Doc doesn't know who she is, even though he's supposed to be killed in three days. After finding out who Clara is and that he's supposed to be meeting her Doc and Marty discuss it. Marty believes it's possible, but Doc, being a man of science, refuses.
    Marty: Well, Doc, now we know who Clara is.
    Doc: Marty, it's impossible. The idea that I could fall in Love at First Sight? It's romantic nonsense. There's no scientific rationale to that.
    Marty: (Laughing) C'mon, Doc, it's not science. You meet the right girl, it just hits ya; it's like lightning.

The Animated Series:

The Pinball Machine:

The Ride:

  • Harsher in Hindsight: The direct-to-video special The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy plugs Back to the Future: The Ride when Kirk Cameron informs a young boy that Universal will not make a Back to the Future Part IV, but the series will "live on" through the ride. Some copies of this video consequently cut out the Back to the Future: The Ride reference, giving it kind of a Downer Ending.
    • The Pop-Up Trivia track on the Back to the Future Part III DVD ends with a similar plug.

Telltale Game:

  • Accidental Aesop: The ending of Episode 5 is sort of the logical conclusion to the entire series and films. Screwing around with the timeline keeps fucking things up til you have three older Marty's begging young Marty for help, all from different timelines. At that point, Doc just shrugs and tells Marty to ignore them. Now is important.
    • It's actually brought up several times throughout all five episodes.
  • Broken Base: There is a certain friction that occurs between those who are longtime fans of the Back to the Future franchise and those who are longtime fans of the Telltale Games company.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Young Edna.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: To main die-hard fans of the original trilogy, this game might as well not exist.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Even after everything, it's hard not to feel kinda bad for 1931!Edna when Marty breaks her up with Emmett.
  • Just Here for the Plot: Many non-gamers have taken interest in the game strictly for the Back to the Future story line — much to the chagrin of the more avid gamers who are, overall, disappointed with the game play of the series.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Marty shapes up into a heroic version through the game.
  • Moral Event Horizon: (Episode 3) Edna Strickland could have passed for an extremely obnoxious Well-Intentioned Extremist until she has her husband, Citizen Brown, tortured and brainwashed at the end of Episode 3.
  • Player Punch: Citizen Brown's possible Face-Heel Turn.
    • Seeing Citizen Brown die after being ran over by Edna.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Jennifer stops being a Shallow Love Interest and gains some actual personality traits.
  • The Scrappy: Edna Strickland, though this is intentional.
  • The Woobie: The Citizen Brown timeline in Episode 3. Everyone seems on the verge of a nervous crackup due to the Dystopia of alternate Hill Valley, Marty seems like he's panicking about 86% of the time, and the only halfway normal person is a Delinquent who would probably be a child psychologist's field day. Even Brown himself comes off as a Tragic Hero.