Back to the Future (1985)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #5

He was never in time for his classes…
He wasn’t in time for his dinner…
Then one day…
He wasn’t in his time at all.

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 116 minutes
BBFC: PG
MPAA: PG

Original Release: 3rd July 1985 (USA)
UK Release: 4th December 1985
First Seen: VHS, c.1991

Stars
Michael J. Fox (Teen Wolf, Stuart Little)
Christopher Lloyd (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, The Addams Family)
Lea Thompson (All the Right Moves, Howard the Duck)
Crispin Glover (Willard, Alice in Wonderland)
Thomas F. Wilson (Action Jackson, The Heat)

Director
Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone, Forrest Gump)

Screenwriters
Bob Gale (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Trespass)
Robert Zemeckis (1941, A Christmas Carol)

The Story
After Marty McFly travels back to 1955 in a time machine invented by his friend, Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, he accidentally prevents his teenaged parents from meeting. It’s up to Marty to make them fall in love and therefore ensure his own existence.

Our Hero
A star-making turn from Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, cocky teen and guitar hero.

Our Villain
Thomas F. Wilson is Biff Tannen: in the ’80s, McFly Sr’s bullying supervisor; in the ’50s, McFly Sr’s high school bully. Prone to getting covered in excrement.

Best Supporting Character
An equally iconic turn from Christopher Lloyd as Doc, mad scientist extraordinaire.

Memorable Quote
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” — Doc

Memorable Scene
The climax: Marty’s one hope to get back to 1985 is a bolt of lightning that will strike the town’s clock tower, which he can use to power the DeLorean. As the moment approaches, Doc battles to connect the wiring, and Marty must make sure the car is travelling at the right speed at the right moment… Well, of course they succeed, and Doc skips happily between the time machine’s flaming tyre tracks.

Write the Theme Tune…
In a rare case of an iconic movie theme from the ’70s and ’80s not composed by John Williams, Back to the Future’s memorable motif was composed by Alan Silvestri.

Technical Wizardry
To some, the DeLorean is a failed automobile. To a generation (and, probably, every generation since) it’s one of the most iconic movie cars of all time. “Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?” “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Genius.

Making of
It’s now quite well known that Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty, and had even started filming before it was decided he wasn’t right and was replaced with Michael J. Fox. This wasn’t after just a day or two of production, though: Stoltz filmed for four weeks, completing a significant chunk of the film. So much, in fact, that it wasn’t all re-shot with Fox: most of the material without Marty actually on screen was retained (Fox had to film reverse angles for dialogue scenes without the other actors present), and a couple of long shots in the finished film actually feature Stoltz.

Next time…
Two direct sequels (the first of which picks up immediately from the end of this one), as well as an animated series, an iconic theme park ride, a computer game from adventure maestros Telltale, an ongoing comic book that launched last year, and a semi-disastrous Secret Cinema event.

Awards
1 Oscar (Sound Effects Editing)
3 Oscar nominations (Original Screenplay, Sound, Original Song)
5 BAFTA nominations (Film, Original Screenplay, Editing, Production Design, Visual Effects)
3 Saturn Awards (Science Fiction Film, Actor, Special Effects)
6 Saturn nominations (Director, Supporting Actor (Crispin Glover and Christopher Lloyd), Supporting Actress (Lea Thompson), Music, Costumes)
Won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation.

What the Critics Said
“though it is hardly one of the greater flights of cinematic imagination to be seen since science fantasy reared its head as mass appeal material again, it would be virtually impossible not to enjoy it in some way or another.” — Derek Malcolm, The Guardian

Score: 96%

What the Public Say
“nothing short of an example of screen-writing brilliance. Tightly pack[ed] and interwoven from the opening scene to the final ‘cliffhanger’ which, let’s face it, was never meant to be a cliffhanger as much as just a cool and intriguing ending to a stand alone film.” — nEoFILM

Verdict

Who knew a movie about mother-son incest could be one of the most entertaining family comedies ever made? That’s because it’s magnificently written, faultlessly performed, packed with inventiveness… oh, and because the mother is the same age as the son, doesn’t know he’s her son, and the incest doesn’t actually happen. Ah, time travel! A notoriously difficult sci-fi nut to crack, another reason BTTF succeeds is because it isn’t really about time travel. One of those times where talent and good fortune come together to craft perfect movie entertainment.

Roads? Where #6 is going, it doesn’t need roads…

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