Back to the Future I, II & III: About these classic time travel movies, plus see the original trailers

Back to the Future - Movie trilogy

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The original Back to the Future movie — produced by Steven Spielberg and co-written and directed by Robert Zemeckis — was released on July 3, 1985, and immediately became a favorite of critics and moviegoers alike, which led to its great success.

After Universal Pictures spent $19 million to make the film, Back to the Future went on to make $383 million dollars at box offices around the world. It also earned two sequels — one set in 2015, and the other back in 1885. (All three movies were rated PG.)

All three films in the “Back to the Future” trilogy starred Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, and Christopher Lloyd as “Doc” — aka Dr Emmett L Brown. Other recurring actors in the movies included Thomas F Wilson as Biff Tannen, Lea Thompson as Lorraine McFly, and Elisabeth Shue as Jennifer Parker (in parts 2 & 3 only).

Plan to go “Back to the Future”

by Joe Baltake – Philadelphia Daily News (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) July 2, 1985

Sometimes the first few small details in a movie are enough to tell us we’re in good hands. The film just seems to take off. This doesn’t happen in “Back to the Future,” a good movie whose first 15 minutes or so stutter and sputter, thanks to some arch, deadly exposition, I was certain the filmmakers would never be able to overcome.

I was wrong. “Back to the Future,” produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by his protege, Robert Zemeckis, shapes up as a wonderfully leisurely entertainment — a swell movie — once it progresses beyond its loud, hectic opening.

Its makers’ desperation to satisfy their audience according to today’s boom-or-bust standards subsides and “Back to the Future” calms down long enough to develop into that rare summer happening — a pleasant little movie.

Back to the Future movie poster - 1985

If you see this film — and I whole-heartedly recommend that you do — be patient and be ready to judge it by its lengthy middle section. This is where the sincerity and humanity of “Back to the Future” — its heart, if you will — are touching manifest.

As a filmmaker, Spielberg always has been like a mischievous little boy who knows all our weak spots, how to get a rise out of us. His commercial sense is single-minded and may be unparalleled. But he isn’t devoid of vision or sensibility either. When his instincts for his audiences’ wants and desires are coupled with a project of strength and integrity and, when he assembles the right crew, something wonderful usually happens.

Back to the Future Marty and Doc

Unlike “The Goonies,” Spielberg’s other summer movie (directed by Richard Donner), “Back to the Future” isn’t all viscera. (Most of that is gotten out of the way in those first 15 minutes.) Plus it was directed by the right man: Zemeckis is more than a hired gun here, a good little soldier who shoots what and when he’s told to shoot.

Left to his own devices, he’s a chef. You know, a smidgen of obviousness here, a touch of incredibility there. He adds just enough of the crass so as not to tarnish his films’ basic humanity and modest artistry. (Zemeckis also directed “Romancing the Stone” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”)


Zemeckis’ chief strength as a filmmaker is his daring, his willingness to shift, almost abruptly, from a hyper moment to one of sheer quiet and to get us to beg for more — for more quiet, that is. That’s what he does in “Back to the Future.”

Back to the Future - School in 1955

The plot can be told in one sentence: A boy is zapped back in time, where he meets his parents as teenagers. Michael J. Fox, less smarmy than usual, plays the boy, Marty McFly, and he is transported courtesy of a souped-up DeLorean concocted by mad scientist Christopher Lloyd. He ends up in his hometown, Hill Valley, in 1955, and the twist in this time-travel conceit is that his presence there can alter the future, his future.

DeLorean: About the '80s dream car that died due to drugs and debt

Marty now has to worry not only about being zapped back to 1985, but also about making sure that his future parents meet, fall in love and make that commitment that, someday, will produce Marty and his brother and sister.

Back to the Future - Mom meets Marty

The movie awakens a lot of thoughts about our parents that all of us share. Marty sees his parents in a different light. He sees his frumpy, overweight mother, Lorraine, as a sweet young girl (Lea Thompson) going through the ritual experience of sexuality and, surprisingly, she’s absolutely avid about it. (In the film’s most novel twist, Lorraine develops a crush on Marty.) And he comes to understand how and why his father, George (Crispin Glover), grew up to be such a weak, ineffective man.

If Marty makes the right moves, he can correct the future. He can make sure not only that Lorraine and George meet, but also that their life together will be more successful, happier. And so Marty works on the confidence of both these people. He becomes his parents’ parent. He develops a new emotional bond with them that we know will continue when he returns to the new and improved 1985.

Back to the future - Fading family photo

“Back to the Future” is very much a contemporary, high tech “It’s a Wonderful Life” and, despite those first few minutes of wisecracks and abusive noises, it convinces us that there’s a real human being at its core, several actually. It is vivid, evocative and altogether affable, a testament to Zemeckis’ finesse as a director — and to Spielberg’s good judgment.

We’re in good hands here.

Note in passing [from original article]: Eric Stoltz of “Mask” originally played Marty, but midway into filming, was replaced by Fox (of TV’s “Family Ties“). One of the theories surrounding Stoltz’ abrupt dismissal from the project is that he was a scapegoat, that certain bungled footage had to be reshot and an excuse was needed to do it.

Back to the Future 2 trailer

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'Happy Days' for the trio starring in 1950s revival (1974)

Outtakes from Back to the Future I

Here are a few outtakes from the filming of the first Back to the Future movie, starring Michael J Fox (Marty) and Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown).

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Back to the Future II: Sequel succeeds in matching original (1989)

by Sheldon Alberts – Calgary Herald (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) November 22, 1989

It took 4 long years to bring Marty McFly and his time-traveling DeLorean back to the big screen. It was well worth the wait.

Back to the Future 2 movie poster - 1985

Director Robert Zemeckis rewards the patience of Back to the Future fans with a sequel that matches the original in humorous adventure and bests it with dazzling special effects and a wonderfully intricate plot.

In Back to the Future 2, teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels to the future, to the present, and then back to the past again.

The film begins where Back to the Future 1 left off. Wild-eyed scientist Doc Brown, played by wild-eyed actor Christoper Lloyd, takes Marty to the year 2015 to sort out problems with the newest generation of McFlys.

Marty saves his son from obnoxious bully Griff Tannen, grandson of Biff, the villain of the original movie. But during the futuristic conflict, the original Biff steals McFly’s time machine, travels through the years and drastically alters world events.

"Back to the Future II" (1989)

As in Back to the Future 1, Marty and Doc must journey back to 1955 to set the world on its proper course. The result is a complex, hilarious and remarkably intelligent adventure.

Fox successfully reprises his role as the wide-eyed, fresh-faced Marty. The gags in Back to the Future 2 are similar to those in the original film, but Fox makes them fresh and funny again. He also deserves credit for portraying his future son, daughter and an older version of himself with some believability.

Predictions from 1906 about what life & technology would be like in the future year 2006

But Thomas F. Wilson outdoes Fox with the various reincarnations of the Biff Tannen character. He dons different make-up five times, all the while remaining deliciously evil. Lloyd is less effective in the sequel. The goofball antics of Doc Brown that sparkled in the original seem less spontaneous this time.

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Zemeckis and executive producer Steven Spielberg provide a new set of technological marvels appropriate for the 21st century, including flying cars, hovering skateboards and outlandish fashions.

Spielberg and Zemeckis have taken the concept of time travel to a new level. The concept of a flying DeLorean fuelled by banana peels and Pepsi-Cola is far-fetched. But there 1s enough logic spiced throughout the wild notions to start the audience thinking about what could happen if time travel were possible.

The movie’s main weakness lies in its dependence on Back to the Future 1. It’s possible that moviegoers won’t be able to recall some of the original scenes duplicated for the new film. The sequel will be baffling for the few who didn’t catch the original.

But this movie is worth a preparatory trip to the video. Fox and the rest of the cast invite the viewer to toss reality out the window and take a two-hour sojourn to the future and to the past.

Back to the Future II trailer

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About III: Sequel of sequel set for “Back to the Future” (1989)

Excerpts of an article from The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) July 6, 1989

Michael J. Fox, Steven Spielberg and other “Back to the Future” types are heading to the Sierra foothills this summer, where they will be filming Part 3 in a newly built Old West town — train station, saloon, the works.

But it’s supposed to be a secret. Although the town is visible from a tourist steam train and a country — road nearby, the filmmakers don’t want publicity until the film is ready for the theaters next summer. Their lips are zipped, and their town is under 24-hour surveillance by security guards to keep the public away.

The fake town — a late 1800s version of Hill Valley, the town in the original “Back to the Future” — is the first permanent Old West movie set in northern California. It is a distinction that local officials hope will bring more movies — and money — to Tuolumne County, Calif. For now, however, they are going along with the secret. The county’s visitors bureau would not comment on the film.

Tuolumne County Supervisor Charles Walter, one of the few locals who has toured the site, said, “I know that the studio is extremely paranoid about letting out information on what is happening in order to protect their storyline so that it won’t damage the box office when the film is released.”

Michael Klastorin, a publicist for the film, confirmed that the town exists and that it is strictly off-limits to the public, but could say no more. “At this point, we’re really not talking about the film. ‘Back to the Future 3’ is still something that is in the future, so to speak,” he said.

Back to the Future 3 trailer

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“Back to the Future Part III” packs an Old West wallop: Marty and Doc go gunning for laughs – and succeed (1990)

Excerpts of an article by Bob Ross, Tampa Tribune (Florida) May 25, 1990

No. 3 might not be the charm, but it’s certainly an improvement over No.2. After insulting us with last fall’s frantic, futuristic sequel, the “Back to the Future” gang returns to action today in “Back to the Future Part III” — a Wild West spoof full of movie-loving humor and a train-load of exhilarating effects.

Back to the Future 3 movie poster - 1985

“BTTF2” was mainly a plotless collection of flying skateboards and tacky product endorsements. Chapter 3 collects jokes instead — an impressive achievement when one realizes that both sequels were filmed during the same shoot, sort of a “Back-to-Back to the Future.”

The third installment spares us commercials by necessity — most of the action takes place in 1885, before canned cola, automobiles and athletic shoes were invented. You don’t need to have seen “BTTF2” to enjoy this snappy send-up of Hollywood’s best-loved cowboy cliches.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West & Rough Riders (1900-1908)

The movie’s most stretched gag is that Marty opts to call himself Clint Eastwood upon arrival among his 1885 ancestors. The alias is necessary: It wouldn’t do to tell a kind host that you are his great-great grandson.

Back to the Future III - Clock tower in 1885

“Clint Eastwood. What kinda stoopid name izzat?” scowls the oafish bully of the piece, Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson in his third and funniest appearance as a McFly family nemesis.) With a flat-crowned hat and a striped serape, timid Marty becomes an all-American daydream hero, complete with torrid six-guns that he learned to aim “at the 7-Eleven.”

“BTTF3” even has a plot — something about going back in time far enough to prevent Doc’s murder by nasty old Mad Dog Tannen. Doc is distracted by a force stronger than atomic physics: love. A new schoolmarm named Clara (Mary Steenburgen) arouses Doc’s untapped romantic impulses: Steenburgen’s screen charm makes this a plausible complication.

“BTTF3” doesn’t dive into major-league new effects until its final reel, when a chugging locomotive becomes the vehicle for impressive illusions indeed. We can’t divulge what the best tricks accomplish for the plot, but we can promise you the flashiest flaming plunge into a ravine that you’ve ever seen.

Back to the Future 4 fan-made FAKE trailer

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