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Film / Back to the Future Part III

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All spoilers for Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II are unmarked. You Have Been Warned.

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

Back to the Future Part III is the final part of the Back to the Future trilogy, released in 1990. It is directed by Robert Zemeckis, with the screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale.

When we last left Marty at the end of Part II, he was once again stranded in 1955 after a lightning bolt hit the DeLorean with the Doc still inside it, causing him to warp somewhere in time. However, the Doc sends a letter via The Slow Path, informing Marty that he is alright and happy, living in the days of the old west. He tells Marty that he hid the DeLorean so that Marty, with the help of the younger Doc of 1955, could repair it to return home, instructing him to destroy the time machine after doing so. Marty and the 1955 Doc exhume the buried DeLorean. However as they're doing so, Marty discover Doc's 1885 tombstone, which states he was murdered by Biff's infamous great-grandfather, the outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, seven days after sending the letter. Marty disregards Doc's instructions in the letter and heads for 1885 to save him. Trapped yet again when the DeLorean fuel line is ripped upon reaching 1885 (with gasoline yet to be marketed as fuel for a long while), Marty and Doc attempt to repair the time machine before a showdown with Buford, only for Doc to fall in love with schoolteacher Clara Clayton (played by Mary Steenburgen) and wanting to stay with her in 1885.

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

    open/close all folders 
    Tropes A-D 
  • 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.
    • The scene with Doc and Marty arguing about whether Doc should stay in the past or not. Both Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox are at their raw, emotional best.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Mary Steenburgen plays a woman who falls in love with a time-traveler, just like in Time After Time. It's also worth noting that in this film, she is a 19th century woman who falls in love with a 20th century time-traveler, the opposite of her role from Time After Time, where she was a 20th century woman who falls in love with a 19th century time-traveler. Clara even gets on a train headed for San Francisco, the setting of Time After Time.
    • Mary Steenburgen's first role was in a Western, Goin' South, where her character was being romanced by a man played by, wait for it... Christopher Lloyd! He lost her to Jack Nicholson in that one, though.
    • The three old-timers at the saloon are all veterans of westerns: Dub Taylor, Harry Carey, Jr. and Pat Buttram.
    • Doc's squeal of shock against the organ is the same as the death cry of Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
    • After Marty finally reunites with Jennifer, she wakes up from her long, deep faint and utters "I had the worst nightmare."—at this point she thinks that the events from the last film were All Just a Dream. This line is taken directly from Adventures in Babysitting, and Elisabeth Shue (Jennifer's note  actress)'s character says it also right after coming out of a (much shorter) faint.
  • An Aesop:
    Jennifer: I got this note back in the future, and now it's erased.
    Doc: Of course it's erased!
    Jennifer: But what does it mean?
    Doc: It means, your future hasn't been written yet! No one's has! Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one, both of you.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Doc decides the consequences caused by the time machine aren't worth keeping it around. That said, he builds a steampunk, flying time traveling train eventually. He tells Marty that he did so because he didn't want him to worry about him, and he had to come back for Einstein. And also, because he had a souvenir for him - a framed copy of their photo from the clocktower ceremony.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Subverted. Stuck in the old west with no gasoline to power the DeLorean, Doc Brown and Marty attempt this using the strongest liquor they were able to get their hands on. However, all it accomplishes is blowing out their engine.
  • The Alleged Car: The DeLorean is sadly a shadow of its former self in this film. The lightning that struck it in Part II destroyed its flying capabilities, it's become worn down from sitting in a cave for 70 years, which causes the fuel line to tear up after one use and empties the gas tank, and the fuel injector gets blown off when Doc and Marty try to use alcohol as a substitute for gasoline. In the end, it has to be pushed by a train to reach the velocity needed to travel through time and it's completely totaled by another train within minutes of landing in 1985.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Doc's dog Copernicus seems to have 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.
  • Amusing Injuries: The only complaint Buford has about being thrown off his horse is that it caused him to "bust a perfectly good bottle of fine Kentucky red-eye (whiskey)."
  • 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. That said, the Colt Peacemaker he is holding is a single action revolver, meaning that as long as the hammer was down, a finger on the trigger wasn't any more dangerous than a finger not on the trigger. This was even fairly true of double-action revolvers of the time (which had been invented in 1851) as they had long, heavy trigger pulls. Also, modern gun safety practices weren't common until much later, though pointing a loaded pistol at a potential customer would certainly not make you any friends in the Wild West.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Other than a barrier for Marty to crash into, there doesn't appear to be ANY reason for a bunch of Plains Indians and The Cavalry to be racing around in the California desert.
    • In some scenes you can see the California Flag, the movie takes place in 1885, and the California Flag was not adopted until 1911.
  • Artistic License – Law: We see the would've-been drag race that ruined Marty's life in 2015 which states that Marty was sued by the driver of a Rolls-Royce he plowed into. Here, the Rolls-Royce is shown speeding into the road and has to come audibly screeching to a stop to avoid a collision with Needles' truck. The screeching stop and resulting tire marks would show that the driver blew through a stop sign and did not give the right of way to the truck. Marty would still have gotten in trouble for racing and he still would have had to give up his dream of becoming a rock star due to breaking his hand, but the crash itself would have been found to be the Rolls-Royce drivers' fault for running a stop sign and not giving right of way.
  • Babies Ever After: In the final scene, Doc Brown and Clara are wed, and have two young sons, Jules and Verne.
  • Back for the Finale: George, Lorraine, Dave, Linda, Biff, Jennifer, and even Einstein all return for the final scenes.
  • Badass Boast: Doc when he saves Marty from being hanged by Buford with a long rifle: "It'll shoot the fleas off a dog's back at 500 yards, Tannen! And it's pointed straight at your head!"
  • Badass in Distress: Doc saves Marty from being hanged by Tannen's gang. Marty later returns the favor by preventing Doc's assassination at the town party.
  • Badass Longcoat: The first we see of Doc in 1885, he is sporting one, while being armed with a modified lever-action rifle in order to save Marty from being lynched.
  • 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 and chases Marty out.
  • 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, perfectly content to stay in 1885 because he always wanted to live in the Old West.
  • 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. Though if he kills anyone who utters it, it does make you wonder how that nickname got around publicly.
    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!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Doc Brown is an intelligent, altruistic scientist who spends the entire series trying to do what's right, help his friends better their lives, and who wouldn't hurt a fly. However, the moment he sees Mad Dog and his friends trying to lynch Marty, he promptly shoots the rope and they takes aim right at Tannen's head. He's fully prepared to drop the hammer on him if that's what it takes to save Marty, and Tannen doesn't try to push it. Also a definite case of Let's Get Dangerous!.
  • 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?"
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: As Doc Brown put it best, "We're going to hijack... borrow... the locomotive..."
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: It's a science experiment!
  • The Blacksmith: Doc sets himself up as one when trying to repair the DeLorean until giving up and hiding it in the Delgado Mine. By the time Marty comes to 1885 to rescue Doc, he's still operating as a blacksmith.
  • Book Ends:
    • Lampshaded by Doc. From the first film, Doc and Marty saw the last moments of the Hill Valley clocktower in 1955, and this time, they're present for the first moments of the clocktower in 1885.
    • After the DeLorean's first and last time-travel trips, its license plate falls off, spinning around before falling down.
      • Similarly, the thing that gets the DeLorean back to 1985 is the very same thing that takes it out upon reentry: the front end of a train going down the tracks.
    • In both Part I and Part III, the DeLorean can't fly, and due to a technical shortcoming needs some sort of extra help to return to 1985. In addition, both films end with a time machine flying at the camera.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Doc wishes he lived in the Wild West. Although when that wish comes true, he still wishes the Wild West had Tylenol.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Marty and Doc briefly trade catch phrases after Doc points out the possibility that the tombstone might be for Marty now.
    Marty: Great Scott!
    Doc: I know, this is heavy!
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, when "Mad Dog" Tannen shoots at Marty... er, Clint Eastwood, in the saloon, he shoots six times, making him dance. Later, when he gets the spittoon dumped on him, he tries to shoot Marty but the gun clicks on four empty chambers.
  • Brick Joke: As Marty first enters the saloon, the bartender asks him what he wants to drink. When he says "ice water", the bartender laughs him off, adding "Water? You want water, you better dunk your head in the horse trough out back.". Afterwards, when Doc takes Marty to his 1885 home, there's a massive machine that takes the two of them to operate, which produces a single cube of ice, which makes Marty realize it's a refrigerator. And much later, after being fed the "wake-up juice", Doc hurries to the horse trough, dunking his head into it.
  • Bullet Dancing: Spoofed, as Marty turns this into a Moonwalk Dance. And it is awesome. Buford and his gang are so dumbfounded that they just watch in disbelief. Then Marty accidentally hits Buford with a spittoon, and all hell breaks loose.
  • But Now I Must Go: Doc tells Clara he must leave 1885, forever.
  • Call-Back:
    • As Doc tells the truth about himself to Clara, he paraphrases Marty's explanation about himself from the first film.
      Marty/Doc: I'm from the future. I came here in a time machine that [you/I] invented, and [I need your help to get/tomorrow I have to go] back to the year 1985.
    • Before Marty leaves for 1885:
      1955 Doc: Remember, where you're going, there are no roads!
    • And his parting words reference the Time-Travel Tense Trouble lines from the previous film.
      1955 Doc: Well, good luck, for both our sakes. See you in the future.
      Marty: You mean the past?
      1955 Doc: Exactly!
    • Doc also alludes to Marty's first time travel, completely by accident:
      Marty: It's gonna be a hell of a long walk back to Hill Valley from here.
      1955 Doc: It's still the safest plan. We can't risk sending you back into a populated area... or to a spot that's geographically unknown. You don't want to crash into some tree that existed in the past.
    • In the first film, Marty finds that Lorraine took his pants off while he was unconscious in bed. In this film, after being unconscious, Marty takes a moment to check whether his pants were still on before getting out of bed (they were).
    • Additionally, when he encounters Maggie for the first time, he says "You're my.... my..." like he did in the first film with Lorraine before saying "Who are you?".
    • In the first film, a major plot point is Marty attempting to use knowledge of the future to prevent Doc from getting shot, but he waits until the day he leaves before attempting to do so. In this movie, Marty tells Doc immediately after they meet up in 1885.
    • The plot point of the $80 reflects the same situation with Biff at the beginning of Part I, inasmuch as they both involve a Tannen with a Never My Fault mentality complaining about spilling alcohol after an accident with a means of conveyance, and demanding recompense.
    • When Maggie talks to Seamus, she calls Marty "a strange young man", which was also what Marty's future grandmother said about him in Part I.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Doc passes out after a single shot of whiskey.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: While it's not explicitly stated, Marty's biggest handicap in the final showdown (to say nothing of the entire preceding film) with Buford is that, obviously, he can't just kill him. Apart from whatever else his impact on Hill Valley will be in the years to come, Buford needs to live long enough to continue the Tannen bloodline (and ensure Biff will eventually be born, thereby setting up his roles in the first two films). Killing Buford will only screw up the timeline worse than it already has been at this point in the Trilogy.
  • Cars Without Tires Are Trains: Averted. A careful viewer will notice that the DeLorean is actually fitted with train wheels.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Clara doesn't believe Doc when he tells her the truth about the time machine. She finally does believe when she sees the time machine model on the train tracks in his blacksmith shop.
    Clara: Time machine.....
    • She also believes this story is a concoction for him to leave her because he doesn't love her, which he denies. She overhears two folks who were with Doc in the bar afterwards, discussing how broken-hearted he was.
    • Neither do the cowboys in the saloon; they just figure Doc has gone insane with grief (and they're none too sympathetic).
  • Catapult Nightmare: Subverted: 1955 Doc snaps awake on the couch in his living room... because the TV automatically turned on when Howdy Doody started.
  • Catchphrase: Buford uses the same one as his great-grandson when he sees Clara: "Lookie what we have here."
  • Cattle Punk: Doc builds a refrigerator, a sniper rifle, and chemicals capable of pushing a steam locomotive over 88 MPH with materials available in 1885 Hill Valley. He can't repair the Delorean, though he manages to turn another locomotive into a Steampunk time machine years later.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Marshall Strickland's deputy and his men show up to arrest the Tannen gang for robbery almost immediately after Marty defeats Tannen in their duel.
  • Chandelier Swing: Marty does it while trying to escape from Buford Tannen in the saloon.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • At the beginning, there are a few reminders that Marty still has his hover board from the previous film (1955 Doc tripping over it and making sure Marty brings it when he leaves 1955), only for it not to be seen or mentioned again until the climax, when Doc needs to rescue Clara on the train.
    • Earlier in the movie, Doc uses a scale model to illustrate his plan to get the DeLorean up to 88MPH; later on, Clara comes to Doc's shop and finds the model DeLorean with "Time Machine" written on it, which makes her realize that Emmett was telling the truth about being from the future.
  • *Click* Hello: Happens twice: first to Buford Tannen by Marshall Strickland, and shortly afterward to Doc by Buford.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The "super logs" that Doc uses are colored green (fast), yellow (faster) and red (fastest), and produce that same color smoke.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Strickland's ancestor has no problems levelling a double-barrelled shotgun at someone's back.
    Marshall Strickland: Just like you, I take every advantage I get.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: A rather literal example with Doc's ice machine. It's a massive behemoth of screaming steam valves and violently shaking pistons that takes up most of the space in his workshop, and it can only produce one ice cube at a time.
  • Cool Guns:
    • 1885 Doc has developed a sniper rifle — an obviously-modified lever-action rifle with a very long barrel and an enormous, high-powered scope. He claims to be able to shoot the fleas off a dog's back at 500 yards with it.
    • And we can't forget the Peacemaker itself, the Colt Single-Action Army revolver. THE Trope Codifier for Revolvers Are Just Better.
  • Cool Train: The Time-Traveling Hover-Train at the end.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • After reading about his impending fate, Doc lampshades this trope by wishing he had just given Buford the $80.
    • Before that, Doc told him he could just properly fix the horseshoe, but Buford already shot the horse. Doc tells him that's his problem.
  • Could Say It, But...: Doc's caginess with regard to Marty's future.
  • Cowardly Yellow: "Yellow" is used by Mad Dog to imply Marty is a coward. Marty has the same reaction to Mad Dog calling him "yellow" as he does to being called "chicken".
    Marty: Nobody... calls me "yellow".
  • Cowboy Episode: 1885 Hill Valley is a fairly stereotypical Western setting and the film's secondary climax is a gun duel between Marty and local outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Dean Cundey, the cinematographer for all three films, appears as the photographer who takes a picture of Marty and Doc in front of the clock face.
    • ZZ Top is the Old West band playing during the town party in 1885 (playing an acoustic version of their song "Doubleback" from the end credits). They even do their trademark instrument spin.
  • 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.
  • Damsel in Distress: Doc saves Clara from falling into a ravine, and later rescues her again on the train.
  • 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.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Bobs consider III as such for Doc. The first two movies deal with fixing Marty's past, present, and future, but III deals with saving Doc, and a primary focus is on the budding romance of Doc and Clara. Needless to say, Christopher Lloyd was delighted to play a heroic Western role and the romantic lead in such a big movie, opportunities he rarely had as a character actor.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The History book Marty reads about Buford Tannen in 1955 uses slurs for Native Americans and Chinese Americans.
  • Demoted to Extra: While George, Lorraine, and Biff had pivotal roles in the first two films, here they only make brief appearances at the end. Justified in that the majority of the film takes place decades before any of them were even born.
  • 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:
    • Played for Drama: When Marty picks up Copernicus to take him back to 1955!Doc's truck, he merely glances at the "Emmett Brown" tombstone, before practically running back to it.
    • At the end of the movie, when Marty sees a train coming right for him.
  • The Dreaded: Buford Tannen absolutely terrifies the citizens of Hill Valley in 1885. When Marty calls him "Mad Dog," everybody immediately runs away or takes cover.
  • Drive-In Theater: Featured in a Played for Laughs scene before Marty leaves for 1885.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Doc, in the saloon—subverted in that he doesn't actually touch his shot glass. When he finally does gulp it down, he passes out instantly.
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Not exactly a plot hole per se, but Doc's last line "Already been there (the future)" is sometimes dubbed to "I already am in the future." The original line is meant to be the lead-up for the Time Train's flying capability. The dubbed line turns it into 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: A sweet rather than creepy instance. When Marty gets back to 1985, he sets out to Jennifer's house to check if she's all right after what she experienced in Part II, and finds her still lying limp on her porch swing, right where he and Doc last left her. His attempts to wake her up fail, indicating that she's not sleeping, but is instead still deeply passed out in the same faint that she fell into in 2015 in Part II. He kisses her on the lips, and she happens to wake up from her faint in that moment, and begins to instinctively kiss him back. This could also count as a Reunion Kiss.

    Tropes E-N 
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Clara can be seen in the background when Doc and Marty are discussing their plan to use a train to push the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour.
  • Easily Forgiven: 55 Doc makes it clear that he doesn't hold Marty at fault for (eventually) winding up in 1885.
    55 Doc: There are plenty worse places to be than the Old West. I could've ended up in the Dark Ages. They probably would have burned me at the stake as a heretic or something.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. (The nickname was invented by a newspaper reporter, for his Hair-Trigger Temper and his propensity for drooling. Buford didn't like it, and shot the reporter.)
  • Emergency Refuelling: Doc and Marty have to figure out an alternate means of propulsion when Marty gets the gas line cut in the DeLorean on arrival to the Old West.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Averted; Buford and his gang notice and remark on Marty's white teeth.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Buford's gang seems taken aback after seeing Buford seemingly fatally shoot an unarmed Marty.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Tannen counts to ten while calling out Clint, when he reaches ten, he visibly flinches. He was expecting Eastwood would ambush him from inside the saloon, because that's what he would have done.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Buford thinks trying to hang Marty is funny, and he breaks into a fit of chuckles after seemingly killing him during their showdown.
  • Evil Laugh: Buford, after seemingly killing Marty.
  • Exact Words: Doc's tombstone in 1955 stated he died on Monday September 7th, 1885. As Doc learned at the ceremony for the clocktower on Saturday September 5th, that didn't mean he was shot the same day:
    Doc: [Whilst Buford has a gun to his back; obviously scared] Tannen. You're early.
    Buford: It's a Derringer, Smithy. Small but effective. Last time I used it, the fella took two whole days to die. Bled to death inside, it was real painful. That means you'd be dead by about suppertime Monday.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
    • Early in the film, Doc, confused on who "Clara" is, denies to Marty that he knows that any woman by that name and dismisses the notion of love at first sight as "utter romantic nonsense." Then the Hill Valley 1885 mayor rolls in and talks to Doc, reminding him that at a town hall meeting he agreed to meet the new schoolteacher. Doc breezes over a majority of the details, until the mayor mentions her name, "Clara Clayton," to which Doc freezes in horror and gives the same Oh, Crap! face previously used for comedy a more serious twist.
    • When Marty is reunited with Doc, who is currently talking down Buford, they are discussing a recent shoeing job done on one of Buford's horses that, because it went afoul, Buford thinks Doc should be held responsible for. When Buford mentions the prices of the new horse and whiskey he bought that day, "$5 for the whiskey, $75 for the horse," Marty quickly does the math and whispers in shock, "That's the eighty dollars!" note 
  • Explosive Overclocking: Thanks to Doc's Presto Logs, once the train gets to 70MPH, and the boiler reaches 2000˚, it begins bursting apart at the seams.
  • Face Death with Dignity: On two different occasions, when Doc is about to be shot by Tannen, he straightens his coat, stands up straight, and faces Buford down without flinching. Both times, though, he is ultimately saved by Marty's intervention.
  • Faint in Shock: Both Jennifer and Doc, who we see falling into dead faints during Part II, wake up from their faints in Part III.
    • Doc faints from the shock of seeing Marty (whom he had just sent away in the time machine) reappearing behind him at the end of Part II, and wakes up hours later the next morning at the beginning of Part III.
    • Jennifer faints from the shock of encountering her future self in the middle of Part II. Accurate to Doc's predictions in Part II, Jennifer stays unconscious for a very long while due to the severity of the shock she experienced: she is placed on her house's front porch swing early on in the night soon after passing out, and it is already almost noon the next day by the time she finally wakes up from her faint in Part III, meaning that she stays totally out cold for more than half a day. Upon awakening, she assumes the events that caused her to faint to have all been a nightmare, since, from her perspective, coming face-to-face with her future self is the last thing she remembers right before waking up on the porch swing, as though it happened only a second ago.
  • Faking the Dead: Marty, suspecting Tannen would shoot him regardless, puts on an improvised bulletproof vest, lets Tannen take a shot at him, and plays possum for long enough for the outlaw to get close. Once the gun battle turns into a fistfight, the two are much more evenly matched.
  • Fanservice: Michael J. Fox's partially exposed rear in his 1885 pajamas. Word of God said there was much squeeing from girls at every screening they went to.invoked
  • Fashions Never Change: Spoofed: 1955!Doc assumes the outfit he got for Marty to wear in 1885 is era-appropriate, only once he is in 1885, he is repeatedly mocked for his attire before he changes it.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Doc arranges for Marty to return to his own time from 1955 by carefully storing his DeLorean in a cave, with instructions for his 1955 counterpart on how to restore the machine to working condition.
  • Finale Title Drop: In the last four lines of the trilogy (the other two being Doc telling Marty and Jennifer to stand back and telling his sons to buckle up as he fires up the train):
    Marty: Hey Doc! Where you goin' now? Back to the future?
    Doc Brown: Nope. Already been there!
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • When Mad Dog shoots Marty and he goes down, pay attention to the audio and you’ll hear a metallic “PING!”
    • Two bits back to back act as this in regards to the DeLorean's fate:
      • After the DeLorean jumps back to 1985, the fire trails left behind seem to crumble and fall apart. Granted, half of the trail hung in mid-air...
      • But then you factor in the fact that, as soon as the DeLorean reenters 1985 while still on the rails, it passes by a railroad crossing with the barriers down and the bells going off...
    • Pay real close attention when Marty and Needles are about to drag race at the end, right as Marty tells Jennifer "Hold on to something." You will notice that Marty throws his truck gearshift into reverse.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The scene that introduces Clara sees Doc grab her from an out-of-control vehicle before it crashes into the ravine. In short, this scene is Doc and Clara doing a dry run of the climax.
    • 1955 Doc accidentally steps on the hoverboard from the shock of seeing Marty again. In the climax, Marty passes it to 1985 Doc to save him and Clara while they're hanging from the speeding train.
    • Doc says it's a pity that there will be nobody near to watch the locomotive falling into Shonash Ravine. He ends doing it himself after failing to board the DeLorean.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Impressively averted. At the film's climax again, the hoverboard—which had been useful in the previous movie—gets reused.
  • For Science!: Invoked when Doc and Marty hijack... uh... irreversibly borrow a locomotive.
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: It's a science experiment!
  • For Want of a Nail: The train departed on time, but Clara stopped it when she heard the barbed wire salesman talking about her and Emmett. Otherwise, Doc and Marty would have missed the train entirely.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Needles challenges Marty to a race near the end, we are given two shots of Marty shifting gears in his truck. First, he moves the gearshift selector to the far left and up for 1st gear. Then, we see him shift again all the way right and down, for Reverse.
    • Clara Clayton actually appears in the scene immediately before her introduction. If you pay very close attention to the background when Marty and Doc are at the train station looking at the map of the track leading to Shonash Ravine, but especially when Marty says "Doc, according to this map, there is no bridge," her presence can be inferred if you pay close attention to her hat and her dress, though her back is to the camera so we can't see her face.
    • Also in that scene, the (then-)brand new clock shows the time around 10:04, which is when it will stop in 1955.
    • Before going to 1885, Marty complains that Clint Eastwood never wore such a ridiculous getup, and Doc doesn't know who that is. They have this conversation in front of a drive-in theater, in front of a poster for Revenge of the Creature, Eastwood's first film.
      • Right next to it hangs a poster of Tarantula!, another of Eastwood's first films.
  • 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.
    • When Chester (the bartender) and Joey are making the "wakeup juice", a patron watching them make it can be seen gripping his throat in disgust.
  • Gargle Blaster: "Authentic Frontier Whiskey" is strong enough to cause the bar to smolder. Doc, who Can't Hold His Liquor anyway, downs a glass and drops like a brick at the most inconvenient time. Also, when they try to fuel the DeLorean with some of the bartender's strongest whiskey, it destroys the car's fuel injection system.
  • Gathering Steam: In order to get the DeLorean time machine up to 88 miles per hour and return to the future, Marty and Doc "borrow" a steam locomotive. In order to get the train moving fast enough, Doc powers it with homemade Presto Logs made to raise the boiler pressure and speed up the train. Each one is set to ignite in sequence, and by the time the third log ignites, the only way to stop the train would be to run out of tracks.
  • 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) — especially one fancily dressed, as Marty was when they first met. Considering Marty is from The '80s, it's odd that he doesn't lampshade how that word changed.
  • Going Native: Doc has adjusted to life in 1885 very well. Although, he did say that the Old West was his favorite time period.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Seamus may not approve of guns, but he definitely appreciates Marty's use of pugilism to take down Mad Dog. Then again, he is Oirish.
  • Grand Finale: The exciting conclusion of the Back to the Future trilogy.
  • Greek Chorus: Word of God describes the three old-timers, played by western veterans Dub Taylor, Harry Carey Jr., and Pat Buttram, who hang out at the 1885 saloon as this. They comment on how Marty and his actions are being perceived by the average townsman (although unlike many examples, they let Marty hear them).
  • Hanging Around: Buford Tannen and his gang try to hang Marty. During filming of this scene, the safety line actually snapped, so Michael J. Fox was really being strangled during the scene. It was only due to the crew realizing what had happened that Fatal Method Acting was fortunately averted.
  • Held Gaze: Doc and Clara have one.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Despite explicit instructions in Doc's letter not to go back for him in 1885, Marty decides to risk further time disruption by going 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. When Doc sees him being hanged, he immediately engages Mad Dog to save his friend. Afterwards, he only gives a quick "I gave you explicit instructions not to come here but to go directly back to 1985," before admitting he's happy to see him.
  • Honest John's Dealership: In 1885 Hill Valley, we have Honest Joe Statler's horses, "Quality horses bought and sold!" Across the three films, the Statler family owns the horse dealership in 1885, an Oldsmobile dealership in 1955, and a Toyota dealership in 1985.
  • Hidden Weapons: After Tannen and his men have their primary guns confiscated at the party entrance, he attempts to assassinate Doc with a tiny Derringer pistol he smuggled in under his hat.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: The "wake-up juice". It's such a horrible concoction that it immediately causes Doc to run, screaming, to the horse trough and dunk his entire head in. And this is just the reflex action caused by the smell and taste, after which he passes out again. The bartender says it takes about 10 minutes to really start working.
  • 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 Choose to Stay: Zig-Zagged by Doc, who upon being thrust into 1885 is perfectly fine with settling down to live the rest of his days as a blacksmith, and gives Marty instructions to recover the Delorean and go back to 1985 without him. However, this changes when they learn that Doc will be killed within the same year. Marty travels to save Doc in 1885, and they prepare to get back to 1985 until Doc sacrifices himself to save Clara, leaving him stuck for good in 1885. Then they build a steam powered, time-traveling train for their own use sometime in the 1890s.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Mary Steenburgen is the only new actor of any note (other than Elisabeth Shue being The Other Darrin for Jennifer) introduced to the series for either sequel. She’s one of the most liked in the series.
  • I Have Your Wife: At the film's climax, Buford and his mooks capture Doc, and promise to kill him unless Marty agrees to go through with their duel. Tannen almost does kill Doc, but Marty gives himself up.
  • 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 from his expertise at Wild Gunman, as he demonstrated in Part II.
    Colt Gun Salesman: Where'd you learn to shoot like that?
    Marty: 7-Eleven.
  • Improvised Weapon: Marty uses a Frisbie pie tin to hit Buford's hand just as he tries to shoot Doc, causing his aim to shift slightly and blow Doc's hat off instead.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Seamus asks Marty how he could travel through the Old West without a horse, boots, or even a hat, Marty answers "Well, my car—horse broke down, a bear ate my boots, and I guess I forgot my hat," prompting Maggie to ask "How can you forget a thing like your hat?!" (A bit of Truth in Television, as a hat was an integral part of a man's wardrobe at the time, especially in a sunny southern desert, where it's useful for preventing heat stroke. The Spanish word sombrero, for example, literally translates as "shade-maker.")
  • Idiot Ball: Doc pouring the alcohol into the DeLorean's gas tank right from the bottle, without making any attempt to refine or purify it. Naturally this is what leads to the fuel-injection system being destroyed which means the rest of the movie can happen. Even factoring in the time crunch he was under (which can be used to Hand Wave why they don't get gasoline from a kerosene refinery and refine it to usable levels themselves), Doc Brown still wouldn't have made a mistake like that.
  • Immediate Sequel: Even discounting having the end of Part II as the opening of Part III, II ended just after 10:04PM on November 12, 1955. III begins at 7AM the following morning after Doc wakes up.
  • 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.
  • In the Back: Is where Buford Tannen is supposed to kill Doc.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted. Marty and Doc both assume that Doc will be shot on Monday, because that's when he dies. Turns out he got shot on Saturday in the original timeline, and didn't succumb to his wound for another two days. The gunshot wound thankfully doesn't even happen once Marty intervenes in the timeline thanks to a Frisbee pie pan.
  • Instant Sedation: We find out Doc really Can't Hold His Liquor when he swallows a single 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.
    Bartender: Now there's a man who can't hold his liquor.
  • Internal Reveal: Doc accidentally blurting out to Marty that he'll be in an accident that ruins his life because he was called a "chicken" that was briefly mentioned in Part II.
  • Irony:
    • In 1985-A, Biff idolizes Clint Eastwood. In 1885, Buford thinks the name is utterly ridiculous and doesn't hesitate to call "Eastwood" a yellow-belly and kill him on sight.
    • When Marty is preparing to go back in time at a movie theater, he is afraid that he'll crash into the painting of a group of Native Americans ("Indians") underneath the screen. Doc reassures him that when he goes back in time, the theater won't have been built yet and they won't be there. As soon as he arrives in 1885 however, he nearly crashes into a group of very real Natives who just happen to be riding through the area at the time.
    • A train helped get the DeLorean back to 1985. Another train destroyed it.
  • It Only Works Once:
    • Mad Dog has a small gun in his hat that can only hold one bullet. When he tries to shoot Doc in the head with it, he's foiled by Marty throwing a Frisbie pie pan at him, making him miss his only shot.
    • The plan to get the DeLorean up to 88 MPH with the train. They have only one shot, and Doc clearly states that after they pass a certain designated point, "it's the future or bust".
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • As Marty first meets Buford.
      Buford: What's your name, dude?
      Marty: Err, Mar—(pauses momentarily) Eastwood, Clint Eastwood.
      Buford: What kinda stupid name is that?
    • A second example occurs when Doc tells the bar patrons that people ride around in cars in the future and just run for fun.
      "Run for fun? What the hell kinda fun is that?"
  • Karma Houdini: Needles, despite being the one who challenged Marty to the car race that caused his injury as well as being the one who got 2015 Marty fired in Part II, just barely avoids hitting the Rolls Royce that would have caused Marty's injury when Marty refuses to go through with the race this time around after learning what happened to his great-great-granduncle Martin in 1885.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Buford had killed Doc because his horse threw the shoe Doc put on, throwing him off in the process. But as Doc points out, Buford never paid him for the job, "So I say that makes us even!"
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Subverted in Marty's showdown with "Mad Dog" Tannen. Marty discards his gun, saying he "thought we could settle this like men." Tannen laughs and just shoots him. Of course, Marty was counting on him doing that, and is wearing a cast-iron stove hatch as an impromptu bulletproof vest.
  • Lighter and Softer: Unlike Part II, which dealt with a hellscape 1985 being brought about by Marty's recklessness, this is (in spirit) a pure Western. The only dark aspects of the plot center around Mad Dog Tannen, and the destruction of the DeLorean.
  • 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 (all of Universal's 1990 movies had that, but this was the first). The Bobs wanted to use the old one so that all three movies shared the same logo, but the studio was insistent that their big 1990 blockbuster ushered it in.
  • Love at First Sight: Doc and Clara, though Doc's skeptical before they meet when Marty says that this happened with him and Jennifer.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: An odd example, considering you don't actually hear the words to the song, but the first song played at the hoedown is an uptempo version of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" of Titanic infamy. The song is traditionally very somber, so it's odd to hear such a positive version.
  • Made of Iron: Buford gets thwacked across the face with a two-handed swing of a solid iron boiler plate and then immediately gets back up and keeps 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. The novels and screenplays said Doc was 65 in 1985, and Mary Steenburgen was 36 when she played Clara.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Browns were originally known as the Von Brauns until the First World War, when Doc's father changed the family name to Brown.
  • Missed Him by That Much: When Clara realizes Doc still loves her, she bails from the train to run back to Hill Valley. However, Doc and Marty left moments earlier as when she makes it into town, the crowd is still gathered watching Buford getting arrested. Luckily for her, she finds the model showing their plan to travel back to 1985, and she takes a horse to catch up with them.
  • Missing Episode: In-Universe, as Marty is doing research on Mad Dog Tannen, he learns that precise records concerning his kills were not kept due to him shooting a reporter who printed an unfavorable story about him in 1884.
  • 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 does 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.
    • The whole train scene at the climax swings wildly between scary, heartwarming, and awesome. Then, when 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, he is nearly killed by a modern diesel train that destroys the DeLorean — one of the most iconic cars in cinematic history — and Marty realizes that this strands his best friend in the past. And then Doc shows up in an even cooler ride... with his new family.
  • Moonwalk Dance: Marty is forced to dance while Buford shoots at his feet. He confuses the 19th century cowboy by performing the moonwalk, even singing part of "Billie Jean" under his breath.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Jules and Verne, named after... guess who.
  • The Name Is Bond, James Bond: Maggie McFly introduces herself by saying "The name's McFly, Maggie McFly." Marty introduces himself as "Eastwood, Clint Eastwood" to both Maggie and Buford Tannen.
  • Network Sign Off: Inverted with Doc waking up when the TV starts broadcasting for the day with Howdy Doody.
  • Noodle Incident: Doc's alcohol incident on the Fourth of July is mentioned but never explained.
  • Not so Dire: Deconstructed first: Upon noticing the fuel line on the DeLorean was ripped, Marty is nonplussed at best. It's only after he casually informs Doc of the problem, thinking it's not one, that it's made clear it's the worst thing that could've happened; as with the plutonium (or lack of it) issue in 1955, gasoline was a very rare commodity in 1885, and once again Doc and Marty have to scramble for an alternative solution to get the DeLorean in time-traveling order. Played straight a few scenes later when the optimal route to get the DeLorean to speed leads to the ravine and its unfinished bridge; Marty thinks that's a problem, but Doc reminds him to think "4th-dimensionally" and that as long as they can get the car to 88 before reaching the end, Marty will arrive on the finished bridge in 1985.

    Tropes O-Z 
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Marty travels into the past and the Indians painted on the wall become real Indians riding straight for him.
    • 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, due to its small size and ability to only carry one shot, doesn't kill instantly.
    • 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 powers the flux capacitor — and there ain't no refined gasoline until the following century.
    • When it's spelled out to Marty that he may get killed if he duels Tannen tomorrow, Marty responds thusly:
      Marty: [hand to forehead] Great Scott!
      Doc: I know. This is heavy.
    • Another Doc reaction after he and Marty save Clara Clayton from falling into the ravine; Marty reveals that the ravine was supposedly named after a schoolteacher who fell into the ravine 100 years ago, where Marty and Doc are presently stuck in. Doc is horrified that once again, they have inadvertently meddled into historical events.
    • Doc stares horrified after "Mad Dog" Tannen shoots and apparently kills Marty.
    • Marty has a huge one near the end when he sees a modern train coming right at the DeLorean, with him still inside. He just manages to get out before it's smashed to smithereens.
  • Oireland: Seamus and Maggie McFly, complete with stereotypical (and non-existent in reality) accents.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Heard in-universe when Marty confirms to Doc that he returned to 1955 even after being sent to the future. Backed up against the organ in his house in terror at Marty's apparition, Doc's groping hands just happen to play a series of dissonant and ominous chords.
  • Pocket Protector: Marty manages to block a gunshot from Tannen by hiding a metal plate under his poncho. Justified as it was a thick metal furnace door and the gun was a 19th century pistol that probably wasn’t powerful enough to pierce it.
  • Point of No Return: The windmill marks the point where Doc and Marty no longer have enough time to stop the train before it goes down the ravine. As Doc puts it, "once we pass this windmill, it's the future or bust."
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Marshall Strickland doesn't arrest Tannen after he attempts to murder Marty and Doc on two different occasions. His deputy eventually does arrest Tannen for robbery (a crime he apparently considers more serious then attempted murder), but only after Marty has made it easy knocking Tannen out.
      • Though in the deleted scene, Marshall Strickland does try to stop him from his challenge with Marty, until Tannen shoots his gun from his hand, and then shoots him in the back.
    • No police investigate the train crash after Marty returns to 1985. He runs home, gets his truck, picks up Jennifer, avoids the drag race with Needles and heads back to the crash site, which probably took an hour at least, and no one has even looked at the ruins.
  • Precision F-Strike: "He's an asshole!"
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: After Buford's challenge to Marty for a duel, the photograph of Doc's grave changed to that of Clint Eastwood (who Marty named himself while in 1885). Later on, Marty saw a similar (nameless) grave at the undertaker and before the duel with Buford, one of the undertakers prematurely sized him up for a coffin.
  • 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. (Because Buford's guns are all confiscated to enter the dance, he sneaks in a small but effective pistol that would kill when fired — but thanks to the small calibre ammo, it would take three days for the victim to expire.)
    • Another one when Doc tells Marty in his letter to return to 1985 and destroy the the time machine. He didn't have to. A diesel train did.
  • Race for Your Love: Clara's race to get to Emmett before he leaves.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Averted. While Doc Brown took some measures to ensure that the DeLorean would not suffer too much deterioration by storing it in a dry, dark cave for seventy years, it still needs to be restored to working condition: the time travel circuitry has to be changed out with vacuum tubes, while the original tires need to be replaced with whitewall tires.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: The only viable track that could get a locomotive up to 88 miles per hour just happens to have an unfinished bridge at the end. Also seen when the DeLorean has just arrived back in 1985, during which, Marty notices the railroad crossing signal is sounding...and turns to see an incoming freight train charging towards him.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • Seamus McFly frequently is ridiculed for wearing a bowler hat instead of the typical Wild-west cowboy hat everyone else has on. The comedy in this may well have been intentional, but bowler hats were actually the popular style back then. The cowboy hat we know today (the Stetson)? Back then, it looked like this.
    • Yes, the word "dude" existed in the Old West. At the time it meant something like "city slicker", hence the existence of "dude ranches".
    • In the 1880s, there was a race to see who could get gaseous elements to liquid and solid form, and they were able to get pretty darn frigid.
      In the second half of the 19th century, this new understanding paved the way for steam power to artificially produce ice.
    • The saloon old-timers ridicule Doc for his future "predictions", which include the automobile. In fact, automobiles were closer in 1885 than you might think. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, widely regarded as the world's first automobile, was built in 1886 and commercial automobile production started in 1890. Then again, automobiles were mocked even after they were introduced as It Will Never Catch On.
    • Yes, you can actually run a modern car on alcohol without modification, assuming it lacks impurities and is nearly 200 proof (it's hard to get to pure, since alcohol tends to attract water vapor out of the surrounding air). In fact it's increasingly common for gasoline to have grain alcohol added to it as a way of stretching the oil supply and lowering gas prices.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Given that Doc didn't die and the DeLorean wasn't completely wrecked when it presumably crash-landed, especially with that looping time travel event, there must have been a nifty back-up system to allow it to land gently in case of an emergency.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: After a certain fashion, when Marty goes back in time for Doc, after Marty discovered that Doc would be killed in a duel in the past.
  • Rescue Romance: Doc and Clara first meet and fall in love after he rescues her from falling into a ravine.
  • Revolver Cylinder Spin: Marty impresses everyone with his shooting skills at the gun seller's shooting gallery. (He learned to shoot playing arcade games at 7-11.) After he's finished, he gives the cylinder of the revolver a spin before handing it back to the salesman.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: The movie truly uses this:
    • Marty takes a photo of Doc's grave to bring with him just in case it changes. After Marty challenges Mad Dog, the grave in the photo shifts to "Clint Eastwood."
    • Marty's true evidence Doc is in 1885 is a photo of him by the original clock tower. When he goes back, Marty is now in the photo with Doc.
    • When Marty returns to 1985, "Clayton Ravine" is now named "Eastwood Ravine" thanks to Marty and Doc saving her and the people believing that "Clint Eastwood" (Marty's alias) drove a train into a ravine.
    • The big one: When Marty doesn't get into his car accident, Jennifer sees the "YOU'RE FIRED" fax from the previous film turning into a blank page, meaning that future no longer exists.
  • Rule of Cool: Bob Gale admits during the DVD commentary that Doc probably would have realized horses wouldn't be able to pull the DeLorean up to 88 mph, but says the scene was too good to take out, also thinking it helped sum up this film's premise. Anyway, Doc wasn't trying to get them to run at 88 mph — they were moving the DeLorean from the cave to his shop.
  • 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 is a schoolteacher who gets saved by Doc.
  • Science Cocktail: Doc Brown has this elaborate machine in his Old West blacksmith shop. Takes up most of the room it's in. When he activates it, the thing huffs and puffs and shakes and finally, after all this ostentatious display, spits out two ice cubes. Effective for the implied humor, but also fairly realistic as creating a refrigeration unit in that time with limited materials and technology would result in a large machine.
    Marty: It's... a refrigerator?
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: This is the reaction the three members of Buford’s gang have after his duel with Marty and the deputy sheriff showing up to arrest him.
    Henchman: You know something? I think Buford is going to jail.
  • 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. Instead he comes out unarmed and asks Buford to "settle this like men". Buford shoots him, and it turns out Marty is wearing an iron stove door under his shirt as makeshift body armor. Cue No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Sequel Snark: The movie marquee in the background also lists three sequels, as a Take That! from the writers against the complaint that Hollywood was making too many sequels at the time, visually showing this was always the case in the industry.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Marty: You got a backdoor to this place?
    Chester: Yeah, it's in the back.
  • Shoot the Rope: Doc severs the rope with a personally-modified lever-action rifle to save Marty from a hanging.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Showdown at High Noon: Lampshaded and averted. Buford Tannen does his shooting before breakfast. Marty retorts he does his after.
  • Shown Their Work: Based on the existence of Jules and Verne, it obviously took the Doc several years to build the Time Train and return to 1985. This is reflected in Clara's costuming. While she spends the rest of the film wearing 1880s fashions, the scene at the end has her wearing an 1890s-styled dress. Compare the sleeves to the sleeves of every dress she appeared in previously.
  • 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.
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: It's a science experiment!
  • Strangled by the Red String: In-Universe, 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.
  • Steampunk: 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 Steampunk tech. The time train at the end throws all realism out the window, but Doc once said, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." As mentioned in Reality Is Unrealistic, there were already ice factories in 1885 that ran on steam power.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: The swelling, heroic Back to the Future theme stops and restarts more than once to accentuate Marty pummeling "Mad Dog" Tannen during their final fight.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: The film seems to be an outright Bittersweet Ending at first: Marty's back home in 1985 and changed his future for the better but the DeLorean is destroyed and Doc's forever displaced 100 years back in time... Suddenly, he and Clara show up in a time-traveling train, revealing that they're Happily Married and have kids. Though he goes back to the past soon after, at least with the time train he can visit Marty and Jennifer whenever he wants. However if the animated series were to be taken as canon, Doc Brown's family do eventually settle back in 1985 Hill Valley where they engage in more time travel hijinks.
  • Tap on the Head: For the third time in as many films, Marty gets knocked out by a physical blow, though this is the first time he wakes up in a room with someone who isn't his mother.
  • Temporal Duplication:
    • Thanks to this movie there's a brief period in 1955 with four versions of the same DeLorean time machine; the one from the first movie, the one Old Biff stole to give his past self the sports almanac, the one used by Doc and Marty to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, and the one taking The Slow Path in the Delgado Mine for 70 years.note 
    • Likewise, throughout the 1885 sequence, there are two DeLoreans present: the one that Doc has stored in the mine, and its 70-years-older counterpart with vacuum tubes that Marty used to time travel from 1955.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • At the drive-in, Marty expresses concern about running into the Indians depicted on the mural when he travels back. Doc Brown assures him that, when he actually gets back, it will be empty terrain. Marty jumps into the past and lands smack in the middle actual Indians being chased on horseback.
    • In the same scene, as Doc is doing a final rundown before Marty heads to 1885, he makes a point of saying there’s a full tank of gas in the DeLorean. No sooner does Marty enter 1885, he winds up ripping the fuel line.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: After tricking Buford by faking his own death, Marty springs up and begins the fight in earnest with his fists and improvised bulletproof vest. The heroic Back to the Future theme covers the brief battle, stopping and restarting several times as Marty punches Tannen in the face.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: 1955 Doc Brown mentions when he and Marty are looking for records of 1885 Doc Brown that his family immigrated from Germany after that in 1908 with the surname von Braun, then changed their last name when the USA entered World War I.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Doc Brown falls in love with a schoolteacher from the Old West.
  • Title Drop: Many times during the film's duration.
    • Doc gets an idea to use a train to push the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour and get him and Marty... back to the future.
    • The last lines of the film and the trilogy as a whole. Doc tells him he's already been in the future when asked if he's going back there.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Seamus McFly talks about his deceased brother, Martin, who also suffered from a Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"! mentality, which got him killed via bowie knife in the chest. Marty himself almost became this and was called out on it by his ancestors and Doc Brown.
  • 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.
    • Marty goes from nearly getting hanged by Buford to outwitting and curb-stomping him.
  • Track Trouble: Since gasoline isn't a readily available fuel, the Time Machine needs to be accelerated to 88 mph by a steam locomotive. However, the spur that's used leads to a half-completed bridge across Shonash Ravine.
  • Train Job: Not your typical train robbery, either. They want to steal—err, borrow the locomotive.
    Engineer: Is this a hold-up?
    Doc: It's a science experiment!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Voiceover Letter: Subverted. At the end of Part II, Marty receives a letter from time-displaced Doc in 1885, and reads the first few sentences of it aloud. In Part III, the entirety of the letter is read by Doc. What makes this case different is that it's read by 1955's Doc, who won't write the letter for another 30 years, and so is reading it for the first time along with the audience.
  • Wham Line:
  • Wham Shot:
    • The one that kicks off the plot of Part III: after Marty and 1955 Doc dig the DeLorean out of the mineshaft, Marty goes to get Copernicus, who's hanging out by a tombstone...
    • The faithful DeLorean is absolutely pulverized by a 1985 train. Shown in four different shots, both for shock (the car is almost a character by now) and to establish the totality of its destruction.
  • 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.
    • Doc also calls Marty out for actually going through with Tannen's challenge, while accidentally blurting out his future accident mentioned in Part II.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: As is standard for Hollywood, Marty's Oirish ancestors' accents are the stereotypical variety in that no Irish person anywhere ever has ever spoke with such an accent.
  • We Don't Need Roads: Or "We Don't Need Railroads" in this case. The time train Doc and his family travel in can fly like the DeLorean before it, albeit with some wings and a tail. Even its wheels fold downwards!
  • The Wild West: The setting. Although the movie mines some humor from showing that there were unglamorous aspects of the period, its depiction still errs on the side of The Theme Park Version and Rule of Cool. Realistically, 1880s Californian townsfolk would be dealing with a lot more Small Town Boredom than gunslinging outlaws. Also, the California Indian Wars were definitely over by 1885, so the battle Marty witnesses between Indians and the U.S. Cavalry makes no historical sense at all.
  • Write Back to the Future: Doc's letter to Marty. He leaves it in the care of Western Union with specific instructions to deliver it at the time and place he disappeared in 1955.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Said verbatim by Doc Brown.
    Doc: 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 is given a free gun by the gun salesman in preparation for his duel with Mad Dog Tannen (with the catch being he'll take it back if/when Marty loses). After playing around with it (even wearing it in public), Marty makes a point of discarding the gun when confronting Mad Dog on Monday. After all, he has the improvised bulletproof vest. Afterwards he gives it to Seamus, who plans to pawn it for another hat.
  • You Remind Me of X: Seamus and Maggie note "Clint"'s habit of taking up challenges reminds them of Seamus' brother Martin, who ended up knifed in a Bar Brawl. It seems like the McFly family by the 1980s didn't know of Martin's existence or at least Marty wasn't told about him. In any case, the reason why the information hit him so hard is that his given name is Martin. Turns out he was coincidently named after the brothers, as Martin Seamus McFly.
  • You Talkin' to Me?: Marty quotes the speech in 1885.

Marty: Hey Doc! Where you goin' now? Back to the future?
Doc Brown: Nope. Already been there!


Doc reads Doc's 1885 letter

Doc Brown from 1955 reads a letter from Doc Brown from 1985 written in 1885.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / WriteBackToTheFuture

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