Back to the Future is a 1985 American science-fiction adventure film. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, produced by Steven Spielberg, and starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson. The film tells the story of Marty McFly, a teenager who is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955. He meets his future-parents in high school and accidentally attracts his future mother’s romantic interest. Marty must repair the damage to history by causing his parents-to-be to fall in love, and with the help of scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, he must find a way to return to 1985.
Zemeckis and Gale wrote the script after Gale mused upon whether he would have befriended his father if they attended school together. Various film studios rejected the script until the financial success of Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone, after which the project was set up at Universal Pictures with Spielberg as an executive producer. Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly when Michael J. Fox was busy filming the TV series Family Ties. However, during filming, Stoltz and the filmmakers decided that he was miscast, so Fox was approached again and he managed to work out a timetable in which he could give enough time and commitment to both; the subsequent recasting meant the crew had to race through reshoots and post-production to complete the film for its July 3, 1985 release date.
Seventeen-year-old Marty McFly lives with his bleak, unambitious family in Hill Valley, California. His father, George McFly, is continually bullied by his supervisor, Biff Tannen, and his unhappy mother, Lorraine Baines McFly, is overweight and has a drinking problem. Marty’s underachieving older siblings, Dave and Linda, also live in the household. When Marty and his band audition to perform at the high school dance, they are rejected. Despite this setback, Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer, encourages him to pursue the dream of being a rock musician. At dinner that night, Lorraine recounts how she and George first fell in love when her father hit George with his car.
Marty meets his friend, scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, late at night at a deserted shopping mall where Doc reveals a time machine made from a modified DeLorean; the vehicle’s time displacement is powered by plutonium, which supplies 1.21 gigawatts of energy to a device he calls the “flux capacitor”. Doc also explains that the car travels to a programmed date upon reaching 88 miles per hour, using the date November 5, 1955 (the day he invented the flux capacitor), as an example destination. But before Doc can make his first trip, the Libyan terrorists from whom he stole the plutonium show up and shoot him. Marty attempts to escape in the DeLorean and unknowingly turns on the time machine. Reaching the speed of 88 miles per hour, he is transported back to the date programmed into the DeLorean, and finds himself without the plutonium needed for the trip back, leaving him stuck in 1955.
While exploring Hill Valley of 1955, Marty accidentally meets his teenaged father, George, who is being bullied by Biff. As George is about to be hit by Lorraine’s father’s car, Marty pushes him out of the way and is knocked out by the impact. As a result, a teenaged Lorraine becomes infatuated with Marty instead of George. Marty is disturbed by her flirtations and leaves to find the younger Doc of 1955. Marty eventually convinces Doc that he is from the future, and asks for help returning to 1985. Doc explains that the only available power source capable of generating the required 1.21 gigawatts is a bolt of lightning. Doc then sees the “Save the Clock Tower” flyer that Marty had received the previous day, indicating that lightning will strike the courthouse clock tower the following Saturday at 10:04 pm, and makes plans to harness the lightning strike to power the DeLorean’s flux capacitor. However, when they observe a fading photograph of Marty with his siblings, they realize Marty, by preventing George from being hit by the car, has prevented his parents from meeting, jeopardizing his siblings’ and his own existence.
Marty attempts to set George up with Lorraine, who only has eyes for Marty. To make his parents fall in love, Marty plans to have George “rescue” Lorraine from Marty’s inappropriate advances on the night of the school dance. But a drunk Biff unexpectedly shows up, pulls Marty from the car, and attempts to force himself on Lorraine. George arrives as planned to rescue her from Marty, but instead finds Biff, who humiliates George and pushes Lorraine to the ground. Standing up to him for the first time, an enraged George knocks Biff out with one punch. A smitten Lorraine follows George to the dance floor where they kiss for the first time, assuring Marty’s existence.
Marty arrives at the clock tower where Doc is making final preparations for the lightning strike, and tries to warn Doc of his impending 1985 murder in a letter, but Doc tears it up without reading it, fearing it will lead to altering the future. A falling tree branch accidentally disconnects Doc’s wiring setup that will carry the lightning’s energy to the DeLorean, but Doc repairs the connections just in time to send Marty and the DeLorean back to 1985. Although Marty arrives too late to prevent him from being shot, Doc is still alive and admits to reading the letter anyway, and wearing a bulletproof vest.
Doc drops Marty off at home and leaves in the time machine to travel 30 years into the future. Marty awakens the next morning to find his home and family significantly changed; Lorraine is happy and physically fit, a self-confident George has become a successful science fiction author, Dave is now a businessman, and Linda no longer has trouble finding boyfriends. Most significantly, George and Lorraine now have a closer relationship than ever, while Biff has become an auto detailer/washer who is now very deferential towards George. Just as Marty reunites with Jennifer, Doc arrives, insisting they accompany him to the future to sort out a problem with their future children. Marty and Jennifer enter the upgraded DeLorean, now a hovercar powered by nuclear fusion, and Doc flies the time machine into the future.
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First Published: Dec 23, 2011 – Last Updated: May 11, 2013