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YMMV / Back to the Future

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  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: From the last comics. Every outgoing U.S. president has fans who wish that pesky 22nd Amendment didn't stop him from running after only two terms, up to and including members of Congress sincerely suggesting that maybe that term limit rule is unnecessary. It might be prudent to pass a rule that anyone considering repealing the 22nd Amendment should read Biff to the Future...
  • Anvilicious: The "Don't let your pride get the best of you" aesop is drilled into your head in Parts II and III through the character's dialogue.
  • Better on DVD: 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Goldie Wilson —Only appearing in the first film— is a fan favorite for encouraging young George to stand up to Biff and his gang and being the first black mayor of Hill Valley.
    • "CPR Guy" aka "Wallet 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.
    • Strickland only appears in a handful of scenes in the first two movies, but he proves to be one of the more memorable characters.
  • Fan-Preferred Cut Content: It's a small moment overall, but most fans find the extended version of the scene where a cop inquires if Doc has a permit for his "weather experiment" to be hysterical and wish it hadn't been trimmed down.
  • 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...
    • Also, Marty helps his parents realize their love for each other and get together while they were still teenagers, while they have no idea who he is, which leads to them naming him after himself. This wouldn't be the last time this happened. Timey-Wimey Ball indeed.
  • Love to Hate: Biff Tannen is a massive bully and complete jerk through and through, but he's so hilariously dumb that he ends up entertaining because of it.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Flea as Needles in the sequels.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games:
    • The infamously awful games released for the NES and Genesis. The first one, which has its own page, was a tedious Point A to Point B walking game minus four levels that involved goals, the last of which only gave you one chance to beat it. The second one that combined Part II and III, released the next year, quickly became one of the most infamous pieces of programming on the NES, with an incredibly confusing platforming mechanic which involved retrieving items; the fastest speed-run of this game still took at least an hour, and there's no save feature. The Genesis game was done by Acclaim, and only had four levels, but this led to the programming choice of making it Nintendo Hard to an insane degree. All three games were ripped apart by The Angry Video Game Nerd in 2010.
    • The LEGO Dimensions Back to the Future Level Pack's Story Mode has received complaints of It's Short, So It Sucks!, consisting only of four areasnote  that take 30 minutes to run through. Mitigated by the automatic addition of Marty McFly (who can use his guitar to break open certain boxes and doors with SONAR waves), the DeLorean, and the Hoverboard to the player's party, and the ability to freely explore Hill Valley's town square in 1985, 2015, and 1885.note 
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Alan Silvestri's iconic theme can remind others of the melody of the anime Sailor Moon's opening theme song, "Moonlight Legend", which in turn was inadvertently borrowed from the 1965 J-Pop song, "Sayonara wa Dansu no Ato ni (Goodbye after the End of the Dance)", which was performed by Chieko Baisho.
  • 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.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • The 1985 scenes, by being so current at the time of filming, fall headlong into this. Justified, in that the differences in eras wouldn't be nearly as significant if they'd been downplayed.
    • A specific one, that may not be understood by younger viewers, is the significance of the terrorists in BTTF I being Libyans. In 1985 when the movie came out, Libya under Col. Gaddafi was seen as a big Cold War bogeyman and considered by Ronald Reagan to be a serious enemy of the United States.
    • The DeLorean itself wound up being a huge flop, and is now remembered solely because of this franchise.
  • Vindicated by History: The sheer number of jokes about the approach and arrival of the year 2015 has definitely increased the notability of Part II. This leaves Part III as the only one that isn't really iconic.
  • 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 involving him faking a rape attempt on his own mother, which was then broken up by a real rape attempt from Biff. And the fact that George was peeping at Lorraine with a set of binoculars when her father ran over him with his car. Don't even get us started on the Parental Incest Lorraine gives to her future son Marty. It is generally believed that the movie most definitely would've received a PG-13 rating had it been released today, much like another Zemeckis film that came out later in the decade.
      "If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shit!"
    • 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. (With a bit of Ripped from the Headlines - Gaddafi was trying to acquire a nuclear weapon at the time.)
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: How genuine was Biff's nicer personality after Marty meddled with the past? Did he really become a better person after George stood up to him, or was he merely sucking up to George out of fear and respect? While he seemed truly excited when George's book got published and made sure that Marty's truck was ready for him to take Jennifer to the lake, a few scenes from the sequels suggest that he never fully outgrew his old ways.
  • 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. It is also true however that Lorraine's adult self gets barely a few minutes of screen time and, as noted, thirty years have passed. Plenty of time for a reconciliation (which there are many cases of in real life), especially with this far more timid version of Biff.
  • Award Snub:
    • One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1985 (according to Rotten Tomatoes, has a bigger average rating and percentage than any of the Best Picture nominees of that year), and did get a Best Original Screenplay nom, it didn't get a Best Picture nom.
    • While "The Power of Love" was nominated for Best Song, Alan Silvestri's iconic score wasn't nominated.
  • Covered Up: Many younger people are first exposed to "Johnny B. Goode" and "Earth Angel" through this movie, unaware of the originals.
  • Critical Research Failure: When Doc indicates the birth of Christ as December 25, 0. Of course, it is now accepted by educated people that Christ was born around 4 BC, but the Critical Research Failure is the fact that the Gregorian calendar does not include a year 0, only a 1 BC followed by a 1 AD — something that the inventor of a time machine should have looked into.
  • Ending Fatigue: The film appears as if it is going to end at least twice before it actually does...
  • Fan-Preferred Cut Content: It's a small moment overall, but most fans find the extended version of the scene where a cop inquires if Doc has a permit for his "weather experiment" to be hysterical and wish it hadn't been trimmed down.
  • "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, as Biff becomes a Corrupt Corporate Executive who turns Hill Valley into a nightmarish Dystopia. Plus, going ahead 25 years would put him smack in the middle of the US recession...which was preceded by another...and will be followed by another one and a pandemic. Not exactly a time to visit to give you optimism for the future.
    • 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 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:
    • At the start of the movie, a newspaper clipping is visible indicating that Doc Brown's mansion from the 50's burned down and he wound up selling the land to developers. In 2008, Christopher Lloyd's home in California, which he was selling at the time, burned down in the Tea Fire.
    • Huey Lewis' cameo as the band judge, complaining about Marty's band being "just too loud" can be a tad winceworthy now as Huey Lewis announced he has developed hearing loss.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • "Gimme a Pepsi Free." That whole exchange is also a good example of Who's on First?.
    • Biff, frequently calling Marty "Butthead", as Jason Hervey is in the movie playing one of Lorraine's younger brothers, and will later use that nickname pretty frequently himself.
    • In the "Making Of" documentary, Michael J. Fox expresses interest in travelling 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 (the time circuits, anyway; the car was gas). 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.
    • The shopping mall in pre-time travel 1985 is named the Twin Pines Mall.
    • One movie BTTF beat at the box office was Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider. In Back to the Future Part III, the 1885 Hill Valley was shot at the same location used for Pale Rider and has Marty use the alias "Clint Eastwood".
    • Originally, Eric Stoltz was cast as Marty, while Jeff Goldblum was considered for the role of Doc Brown in the first film. In the following year, Goldblum had an iconic eccentric scientist role of his own named Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986), which spawned a sequel The Fly II which starred Stoltz as Seth's son Martin Brundle.
    • In the film, Doc Brown saw a copy of Playboy from the future. In October 1985, one of the people in that month's issue was John DeLorean.
    • In the first draft of the script, the time machine was a refrigerator and needed to go to a nuclear test site, but Steven Spielberg had this changed because he didn't want kids mimicking the scene and it was too expensive to film. Fast forward to Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and a certain infamous scene involving a refrigerator.
    • Doc's initial dismissal of Marty's family photo as a fake has become all the more relevant with the ubiquity of Photoshop.
    • "What the hell is a jiggawatt?!" is oddly appropriate now that the hard-g pronunciation has cemented itself as the preferred pronunciation.
    • In one scene, Marty tries to convince George to invite Lorraine to the school dance by pretending to be an alien named Darth Vader. In the French dub, Marty is voiced by Luq Hamet, who later on became the voice of Dark Helmet in Spaceballs.
    • The dialogue between Doc and Marty, especially towards the end of the film, can include Doc Brown repeatedly saying the latter's name. This may remind one of a certain parody franchise.
  • Hollywood Homely: Marty's older sister Linda in the original 1985. Though not a model by any means, she's relatively cute and certainly not somebody you'd expect to have too much trouble finding a boyfriend.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • Dixon steals Lorraine from George at the dance and George starts to walk away. Unfortunately for Marty, this causes him to start fading out of existence. Luckily, George returns, shoves Dixon to the floor and kisses Lorraine, ensuring the timeline is fixed and also ensuring the existence of Dave, Linda and Marty.
    • Marty tries to send himself back to the future early enough to warn Doc he will be shot by the Libyans. When he gets there, the DeLorean stalls on him and he has to make the journey to the mall on foot. He gets there moments too late and Doc is shot and seemingly killed again. But, as it turns out, Doc came prepared by wearing a bullet-proof vest, having taped Marty's letter back together.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "If My Calculations Are Correct, when this baby hits 88 miles-per-hour, you're gonna see some serious shit."Explanation 
      • What the hell's a gigawatt?!Explanation 
    • November 12, 1955. NEVER FORGET.Explanation 
    • "It's your cousin Marvin Berry!"Explanation 
    • "Great Scott!"Explanation 
      • Become "Nom de Zeus!" (literally "Zeus' name" but more akin to "Zeus dammit") in the French version.
    • "Roads? Where we're going, we won't need roads."Explanation 
    • Oh my God! They found me. I don't know how, but they found me. RUN FOR IT MARTY!!!Explanation 
    • "I guess you guys aren't ready for that, but your kids are gonna love it."Explanation 
    • "Hey, I've seen this one!"Explanation 
  • Moral Event Horizon:
  • Narm Charm:
    • Marty almost fading has some bad green-screening, but it's still tense and terrifying to see him almost fade out of existence.
    • Marty's Big "NO!" when Doc gets shot by the Libyans. It's very over-the-top, but just imagine seeing your best friend killed in cold blood, twice, and not being able to do a damn thing about it in either case.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: This movie's initial teaser, whilst admittedly frigging awesome, gives entirely the wrong impression of the film. Marty is shown in complete control of the machine, deliberately setting it to go back in time, and far more self-assured and cool than he is in the film, more like Fox's Family Ties character Alex Keaton.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Match, one of Biff's goons, is played by Billy Zane.
  • 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.
    • Turns out, the image of the future Part II portrays stuck around in everyone's minds. The real-life 10/21/2015 ended up being something of a celebration of the series and The Future.
  • Signature Scene: Marty's rendition of Johnny B. Goode.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • The Bobs were never thrilled with the effect used to show Marty's hand fading from existence.
    • 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: Barely, since it relies on a coincidence Strickland couldn't have known about. He 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.
    • Based on the future Marty we see in Part II, it could be argued that he was somewhat right about the first part, too.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • In the DVD Commentary, it's mentioned that some European audiences were put off by how the "improved" McFly family had become more materialistic, as exemplified by Marty getting the truck seen earlier in the film. According to Crispin Glover, he also disagreed with showing this materialism, arguing that this contradicted the message that The Power of Love made the McFly's lives better.
    • Also to modern audiences, the implication that Chuck Berry was inspired to write his most famous song by hearing a white kid play it (Berry was an established, popular musician with a history of hit records years before "Johnny B. Goode" was released). Although Marty only knew it because Chuck Berry played it, so it's really a situation of Chuck Berry influencing Marty influencing Chuck Berry influencing Marty influencing...
    • The fact that the film, a mainstream, widely-popular and heavily beloved/referenced movie, involves incest not only as a major plot point, but Played for Laughs, could also count.
    • The fact that even after he tried to sexually assault Lorraine on the night of their first kiss, George apparently hires Biff to tend to his car thirty years onward; one would think George, Marty and especially Lorraine might take some issue with Biff being anywhere nearby after that harrowing encounter. Not to mention, George and Lorraine once saw Biff try to murder Calvin Klein with his car while he was still a high school student. Yet George and Lorraine regard him with a begrudged affection, almost like he's family.
    • Doc and Marty's plan to subject Lorraine to a staged Attempted Rape in general.
      • In a Deleted Scene, Marty is worried that the psychological fallout might turn him gay. This 1) implies that being gay is a bad thing, in the tradition of many other 80s movies; 2) completely disregards any potential trauma Lorraine might suffer from the encounter; and 3) is not how being gay works.
      • Things are slightly better in the final cut where it comes across less like Marty doesn't care about Lorraine's mental health and more like he didn't fully think the plan out. He wants to pretend to try hitting on Lorraine against her will so that George can come in and "rescue" her, but as soon as he parks the car and is alone with her, Marty realizes that he has to actually hit on his own mom, and can't bring himself to do it. There's also the fact that Lorraine reveals that she's not a completely innoccent teenager and isn't afaid of sex, turning the whole scenario on its head.
    • The fact that the Doc was willing to work with terrorists (albeit to rip them off) is treated relatively lightly by comparison to how it almost certainly would have been post-9/11 is jarring to a 21st-century audience. Whilst Reality Ensues with predctably brutal consequences (it gets better), demonstrating why exactly messing around with terrorists is a bad idea, Marty seems much more shocked that the time machine is nuclear-powered and the Doc had to (illegally) acquire plutonium to power it than the precise details of how.
  • Values Resonance: Marty telling a young Lorraine that she shouldn't drink or smoke. While it came from Marty literally knowing that these things would contribute to making her a bitter alcoholic and drug addict later in life, it was definitely a forward thinking lesson to teach. This is in stark contrast to most teen movies from the 1980s which relished in their characters liberally doing drugs without thinking about the consequences.
  • What an Idiot!: A few things that happen in this movie can be chalked up to foolish decisions by panicky individuals.
    • Doc and Marty have just reloaded the DeLorean time machine's plutonium chamber. Doc prepares to time travel 25 years into the future, but he sees the terrorists' van approaching.
      You'd Expect: Doc to jump into the time machine and yell for Marty and Einstein to quickly join him. The three could then hightail it outta there — especially since even with the time machine mods, a DeLorean should be able to outrun a panel van — and if worse came to worst, the three could quickly set the time circuits and go an hour into the future or past.
      Instead: Doc goes for his unworkable pistol, and this gives the terrorists enough time to drive up and kill him. Marty escapes to 1955 in the time machine, and ends up nearly erasing himself from existence.
    • After Doc tears up the letter warning him about the Libyans killing him, Marty realizes that since he has a time machine, he can go back early and warn him.
      You'd Expect: Marty to travel back an hour early to give himself ample time to warn Doc.
      Instead: He only gives himself ten minutes, severely limiting his ability to warn Doc on time. Even if he can get to the mall on time, he's really cutting it close.
      The Result: Upon returning to 1985, the DeLorean stalls again, forcing Marty to run on foot to the mall, where he arrives just in time to see Doc get shot. Fortunately, Doc eventually read the letter and protected himself with a bullet-proof vest, but Marty couldn't have known that.
  • Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?: A non-romantic version. Many have wondered that why exactly would George let Biff, who bullied him and tried to rape his wife years earlier, so close to his house in the improved 1985.
  • The Woobie:
  • Woolseyism: Biff's catchphrase of "How about you make like a tree and get out of here?" was changed in the French dub to "Tu fais comme dans l'infanterie, tu t'tires ailleurs" ("You do like in the infantry, you get lost"). "Tire ailleurs" is phonetically very close to "Tirailleur" (a skirmisher). Several French military units since the Napoleonic era, especially those drawn from the African colonies, have been called "Tirailleurs".

    The Animated Series 
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: One episode has Marty go by alias of Jimmy Olsen, referencing how Marc McClure, who played Jimmy Olsen in the live action Superman movies, portrayed Marty's brother Dave. David Kaufman, who voices Marty, would later go on to voice Jimmy Olsen in several animated productions. Years after playing Marty, Kaufman voiced another Michael J. Fox character for a cartoon adaptation.
  • Nightmare Fuel: "Forward to the Past" seems bent on traumatizing kids. First, Jules and Verne mess around with a molecular redistributor. A hypothetical demonstration makes everything Art Shift into chalk drawings, and it's demonstrated by having Verne dismember Jules in cartoony fashion and being told to reassemble him. When the cast goes to 3 Million B.C., they encounter the meteor that killed the dinosaurs and have to get out before it kills them, too. Doc destroys it with his device, resulting in a future where dinosaurs rule the world and humans no longer exist, including Marty, Clara, and everyone they've ever met—and because of that, Doc, Jules, and Verne will dissipate into nonexistence in 12 minutes. They end up having to put the meteor back, at the cost of seeing all the dinosaurs die, including a friendly Pteranadon they befriended.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Clara, for some of her detractors.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Josh Keaton voiced Jules.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: In "Super Doc", Verne has trouble with local bully Jackson pressuring him into swinging over Deadman's Swamp to join a club, despite his misgivings. Given that Marty has plenty of experience with this sort of thing, one might expect him to counsel Verne about it rather than simply being a tagalong on the time trip of the episode.

    The comic book 
  • Older Than They Think: Doc's steam trike time machine isn't far-fetched compared to other BTTF media, as the animated series episodes "Witchcraft" and "Gone Fishin'" showed that it's possible to successfully connect and use a small flux capacitor with something as simple as a remote control car, or a barrel going over a waterfall.

    The Pinball Machine 


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