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YMMV / Back to the Future

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  • Adorkable: George McFly is a scrawny, spineless nerd who takes notes on what to say to the girl he likes, and then gets the words wrong ("Lorraine, my density has popped me to you!" "... What?").
  • 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...
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • The DeLorean. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in 1982, well before the film was made, and Robert Zemeckis had to argue with Universal to use the car since DMC wouldn't be able to give them any commercial endorsements. At the time the car was considered a failure—underpowered, unreliable, generally just a crappy car, which is why DMC went out of business. Indeed this joke is played on in the film as the DeLorean has a habit of stalling on Marty at the worst possible time. It's now entirely thanks to this series that anyone remembers it.
    • Back then in 1885, "dude" was an insult pretty much equivalent to "City slicker" or "Dandy", and meant someone with no experience of horses or cattle trying to play cowboy. (It is still used this way when referring to a "dude ranch.") Its use as a term of affection only goes back as far as The '60s.
    • The director's commentary notes that they were unaware that "gigawatt" is pronounced with a hard "g" sound, hence the use of the pronunciation "jiggawatt" in the film. However, they didn't just make it up; a real professor used that pronunciation in a lecture they attended in preparation for the film.
  • 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.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: Some fans believe that between many instances of impulsiveness, tendency to be distracted, possible executive dysfunction (sleeping in his clothes is not a rare thing, according to Dave), and time blindness, Marty has ADD/ADHD.
  • 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.
    • Biff, Griff, and Buford's respective trios of henchmen may be Jerkass Satellite Characters, but they are all fondly remembered by the fans. The standouts of each gang are probably 3-D (for his Iconic Item glasses), Spike (for being a Sexy Sweater Girl with menacing fingernails), and Stubble (for being Buford's Token Competent Minion and still getting some funny lines).
    • The barbed wire salesman, three saloon old-timers, and the bartender who makes "wake up juice" may not be in much of the third movie, but add a lot of color and heart to it that fans appreciate.
  • First Installment Wins: The first is iconic. The second and third are good, but definitely not remembered like number one.
  • Genius Bonus: The DeLorean was a flop on the marketplace and the DeLorean Motor Company that manufactured it went out of business in 1982. That is a big reason why a DeLorean was chosen as the time machine vehicle, as it not only fit the theme of the movie but allowed the filmmakers to avoid paying a hefty licensing fee or negotiating a product placement deal with an automobile manufacturer since the DeLorean trademark was in the public domain at the time.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Crispin Glover refused to return as George McFly for the sequels and he later sued the producers for co-opting his likeness without his approval by using scenes from the first film to show George in 1955, which led to the Screen Actors Guild writing new rules about using stock footage of actors. In 2023, SAG-AFTRA went on strike in large part as backlash against a proposal from Hollywood studios to use AI to scan and own actors' likenesses, making Glover's concerns completely justified.
  • 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, but he's so hilariously dumb and over the top that he's extremely entertaining to watch as a result.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The little "twinkle" musical cue that plays at various points throughout the trilogy, most notably at the very beginning of parts 2 and 3.
    • Any of the sounds associated with the DeLorean such as the time circuits powering on, the gear-shifting and acceleration, the gull-wing doors opening, and the crackling and whooshing when making the jump between times.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Flea as Needles in the sequels.
  • Narm Charm: Biff's go-to-insult, "Butthead," would typically appear juvenile, but the over the top way he says it makes it sound hilarious.
  • 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 
  • Signature Scene: The climax of the first movie, with Marty barreling the DeLorean down the street as Doc desperately attempts to reconnect the wire that will funnel the lightening bolt into the Flux Capacitor and send Marty back to the future. It's such an epic and exciting scene that it ended up being featured in every movie of the trilogy.
  • Vindicated by History: The sheer number of jokes about the approach and arrival of the year 2015 (and subsequently, the realization that the entire franchise is now set in the past) 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 (primarily the subplot with Lorraine being infatuated with Marty), 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).
  • The Woobie:
    • George McFly, before he Took a Level in Badass. The poor guy has been getting pushed around by Biff his whole life. He's always unsure of himself and ready to give up his ambitions because he can't stand even the thought of rejection.
    • In the comics, Marty, due to a serious dose of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome after the films. He sinks into a depression when his time-traveling days appear to be over, and his unfamiliarity with his life in the current timeline due to Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory eventually results in a full-blown existential crisis. He's verging on Death Seeker territory before he snaps out of it.
    • Clara Clayton, perhaps more so in the original timeline. In her backstory from the comics, Clara is raised in New Jersey with a passion for the sciences, thanks to her entomologist father and the works of Jules Verne. But her interests are shunned by the social norms of the time, and she even notes how domestic life has negatively affected her once-spitfire mother. Both of her parents have passed away by 1885, so with no other ties keeping her in New Jersey, she heads west to Hill Valley in search of a better life through educating children — only to die in a freak buckboard accident and spend a century as a punchline amongst Hill Valley's schoolchildren.
      • It's also terrible for Clara in the timeline with Doc (but no Marty) present. Clara meets and falls in love with a man who shares her interests and doesn't judge her for hers, only to watch him get shot and die a prolonged, agonizing death at the hands of a cruel, boorish outlaw. It's very telling how her fate in this timeline is left as an intentional Shrug of God.

    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 Superman Film Series, portrayed Marty's brother Dave in the films. 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:

    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.
    • Similarly, the idea of a time travel suit — which Doc cobbles together from an old timey diving suit — was originally seen in blueprints for a "Timeman" time travel suit in the Ride's pre-ride queue.
  • Salvaged Story: The stories attempt to reconcile a few dangling plot threads from the movies.
    • "Emmett Brown Visits the Future" shows that the internet does exist in the BTTF universe's 2015 alongside all the Zeerust. It also shows how Doc uses time travel to grab some copies of Action Comics #1 in 1938 to sell for a multi-million dollar profit in 2015, in order to finance the Mr. Fusion and hover conversion upgrades for the DeLorean.
    • "Clara's Story" shows that Clara's interests in science and the future — stymied by the cultural norms of the 19th Century — are the reasons why Doc changes his mind about destroying the time machine.

    The Pinball Machine