Summer Blockbuster Friday #5: ‘Back to the Future (1985)’- Throwback Review

Everybody has that one favorite movie to come out in the decade of the 1980s. There were so many classics to pick from, especially if you grew up around the time when it was the best time for different directors to bring out any kind of premise to the table and make people want to go to the theater again. Out of everything to come out in the history of cinema, 1985’s Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is what I can call pure fun that anybody can enjoy, and it’s what you call a timeless classic that combines three of my favorite genres: sci-fi, comedy, and action. 

What’s the Story: Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is your typical 17-year-old teenager living in Hill Valley, California. When his eccentric scientist friend Dr. Emmett L. Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has invented a time machine out of a DeLorean, Marty accidentally travels back in time from the night of October 26, 1985, to November 5, 1955, where he encounters younger versions of his parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson) and George (Crispin Glover). The problem with getting back is there’s no plutonium where he is. To make sure he’ll return on time and not change anything to cause the fact he wouldn’t exist, he must make his parents fall in love before he gets erased from thanks with the help of Doc Brown from the past. 

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985)

Ever since this came out, it has been incredibly well-received. This was only Zemeckis’ fourth feature film, and it’s only made better with Steven Spielberg serving as an Executive Producer under his production company Amblin Entertainment. This made me want to travel back in time to five-year-old me and just set a pile of videotapes of the greatest movies in history in front of him and tell them how they’ll be meant later on in life. I wasn’t alive when this came out since I would’ve been born 11 years later, surprisingly. There are so many movies I love to death, to the point where my number one has changed only a few times after watching countless classics everybody has been raving about since their inception. When it’s me, it changes from The Dark Knight, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Empire Strikes Back. Until one day, as I was re-watching this a few months ago, there’s so much joy to get out of one of the most popular films out there. With Back to the Future, this is the closest thing to me ever saying is my favorite film of all-time. 

First off, this wouldn’t be a fascinating motion picture without the likeness of Mr. Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly. To always know Fox was a replacement for actor Eric Stoltz always amazes me every time I watch it. Since Fox was filming his hit television series Family Ties around the time of shooting, Stoltz took over the role first, but it was decided he wasn’t the right fit after five weeks and started filming all over with Fox replacing him, costing $3 million to start all over again. What we got is a performance that’s one of my favorite characters ever in a film. Fox was perfect in the role. When you look at his life, we see his family life isn’t the best when his parents are estranged, and with his personal life, his hopes and dreams aren’t exactly true, except when he has a girlfriend like Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells). Regardless, he had this charm that was brought with the character that made us fall for him to make us care for what he has to do to prevent his future.

But he also needs a great co-star to work off of, which comes in the form of Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown. His previous roles in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock made his resume already worthy, but everybody recognized his name now when he was cast as the eccentric scientist. His casting is another reason it’s impossible to think of somebody else who could’ve played this part the right way. I love the chemistry he and Fox shared in the present and the past.

Michael J. Fox, Crispin Glover, Billy Zane, Thomas F. Wilson, J.J. Cohen, and Casey Siemaszko in Back to the Future (1985)

If you think about it, they have never explained their relationship with each other. Part of me wonders how they met and what made Marty, a high school student, want to hang out with this crazy scientist. Yet, I never expected them to give us a reason why they’re good friends, but it’s better to go along with it, no questions asked. And there’s always the classic car to ever be featured in film history- The DeLorean time machine. The introduction of the tailgate in the truck with fog coming from the back as we were introduced to a car like this. In hopes of ever being rich, buying this car would be a lifelong dream of mine, and it has to have the flux capacitor. This is the type of vehicle that’s so awesome that it’s a reference to time travel in every way. Those kinds of cars aren’t seen today, but you always wonder if it can travel through time.

As to talking about the rest of the supporting performances, there’s never a wink link with anyone of them. Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen is the ultimate fictional bully you love to hate, and he made “butthead” an insult for real-life bullies use. Lea Thompson as Lorraine was not only beautiful, but it’s a performance she can only pull off. And then there’s Crispin Glover as George McFly, who can be relatable to those who have been picked on constantly. Kind of a shame he doesn’t like to talk about these to anyone since he didn’t appear in the sequels. Impressions aren’t exactly a thing I do in front of people, but whenever I think about Back to the Future, I always try to do Glover as George as it’s pretty easy to do. All the scenes Fox shared with Thompson and Glover worked so well that you always forget he’s interacting with his young parents. 

Zemeckis’ direction should be given all the credit in the world for embracing every single aspect of fun thrown in this to the point of feeling immersed into the decade of the 1950s without thinking twice about it. It wasn’t until his previous film Romancing the Stone became a success at the box office that boosted his name enough to get this off the ground. Everything about this is shot beautifully in nearly every scene, as you’re never bored once since it’s fast-paced, and it’s easy to never get lost in the story. We already know he has made other fantastic movies later on (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Cast Away, Forrest Gump), but there’s no denying it’s everyone’s favorite in his career. 

Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson in Back to the Future (1985)

The screenplay by him and Bob Gale, which earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination, provides one incredible story that sounds realistic enough to believe. It’s what I call a flawless story with each act executed to a perfect degree as it sets up something that will happen later. Since it’s a time travel plotline, there will be those explaining logical points that won’t make sense. But, c’mon. The idea came about when Gale looked through his father’s yearbook, discover he was class president, and wondered if he would’ve been friends had he gone to high school together. You have this kid travel back 30 years ago in the same town he grew up in, and he’s a fish-out-of-water when he’s not in customs with everything being simple back then in his hometown. It’s only worse when he realizes he messed up a moment in time as Lorraine’s dad’s car hit Marty instead of George, making his mother fall for him. Awkward indeed. This is his way of fixing his folks for the better, especially making his dad more confident to stand up to Biff.

This might’ve been the first movie I watched where I got very invested in the concept of time travel because it’s always fascinating to see how directors put their way of it. Since then, it’s something that has aged well after 30 years. As you’re watching it, you always have that thought about if you had the ability to time travel to where you meet your parents the same age you are now, how weird would you be? I don’t know about myself, but it would be absolutely freaky. And it’s weird how it’s regarded as one of the best 80’s movies, but it mostly takes place three decades ago. One of my favorite scenes as when we first meet older George and Biff in the present, it’s the same scene in the past when Marty stumbles upon his dad in the cafe. 

And it has some memorable quotes that are always fun to say right as they are said on screen:

  1. “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious s–t.”
  2. “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some *style?*
  3. “1.21 gigawatts!”
  4. “Great Scott!”

In terms of comedy, it hits hard and no cheap jokes were used, thankfully. The laughs already come into play immediately after the opening credits end when Marty blows up Doc’s amp. There isn’t a ton of action in here, but when the time comes to having it placed in the story, it’s so exciting to watch with very little visual effects used. For example, the sequences where Marty escapes Biff and his gang while riding the skateboard is so cool that it made it want to skateboard. I never learned, sadly. But it also delivers one heck of a climax where Marty needs to return and Doc is on the clock tower before the lightning strikes it. Even though you already know what’s going to happen, you still feel nervous every single time.

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985)

We also have to talk about the brilliant score by Alan Silvestri and the iconic theme that perfectly captures the spirit of the franchise whenever it’s played. How is it that this wasn’t even nominated for Best Original Score? But there is also Huey Lewis and the News, who the director was a fan of, to provide two songs: The Oscar-nominated track “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time” during the end credits. I love both of them. Speaking of Lewis, he made a cameo as the judge who tells Marty’s band they’re “too darn loud.” The irony with that is they’re playing one of his songs. “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)” makes me tear up whenever George kisses Lorraine at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, solidifying Marty won’t be erased from time. And finally, what’s not to love about “Johnny B. Goode,” made famous by the late Chuck Berry? Rock & Roll was the real deal there. I always wanted to learn how to play guitar, but I never had the brains to figure it out. At least there’s still air guitar, though.

Some other elements I have to credit to are the makeup team because they made a few of the actors look old that I thought they appeared in three separate versions of themselves that way when they first filmed it since I would’ve bought them looking that way in the present. And the ending itself sets up the second installment so well that a cliffhanger like that makes you want to press play soon as this ends.

Though there’s no such thing as a perfect movie since it’s very impossible to make one, there isn’t anything negative to say about this. Maybe it gets too weird knowing Marty’s mom has a crush on him and a certain plot hole in regarding how his parents don’t acknowledge their second son looks like the same kid back in the 50s. I brush aside those kinds of things when everything else is full-on fun. This is one of the thousands of movies everybody needs to see before you die, and if you’re one of the few people in this entire universe who doesn’t enjoy every breathing moment of this masterpiece, then shame on you. Plus, everything is getting remade, but Universal Pictures shouldn’t even dare to ever, ever mention this getting some kind of remake or reboot, much like Jaws or The Princess Bride; they are perfect in every way imaginable. 

35 years later, you can see why it has become such a cultural phenomenon, and how it was the director’s most successful film he directed around that time. Knowing Hollywood passed the script around to multiple studios made them regret everything. It was the highest-grossing movie of the year with $211 million domestic/ $391 million worldwide, won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing, and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Original Song, and Best Sound. And with every successful movie of the 80s, it spawned a ride at Universal Studios (rode it once), an animated series, and a musical just recently. As for the two sequels, they might be not as great as its predecessor, but both are worthy follow-ups that are also enjoyable to watch whenever.

Michael J. Fox, David Harold Brown, Tommy Thomas, Lloyd L. Tolbert, and Granville 'Danny' Young in Back to the Future (1985)

In conclusion, Back to the Future is a timeless classic and incredible film that anybody in the world should watch. If you haven’t seen this or the two sequels, something’s very wrong with yourself. If I ever have a child, this will be one of many films I will show to understand what cinema was back then. Because of the hard work and effort Zemeckis brought to the story, it ended up being a hilarious, thrilling, and I will never forget breathing every second of fun from beginning to end that will never. A film like this is why I love movies, and nothing will ever change that fact.

Grade: A+

Back to the Future Movie Poster

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