Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
Time travel has become a phenomenon of creating world-changing scenarios. It has started moral and philosophical discussions like if someone would kill baby Hitler and somehow this unrealized mode of transportation contains all of these hypothetical rules. All of it comes as good fun, which Back to the Future has grabbed and maintained the cultural touchstone and rightfully so.
Wishing to avoid being like his parents, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) helps out Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) with an experiment that goes wrong and then right. Doc obtained a way to achieve time travel, which lands Marty 30 years in the past and around the same age as his parents. He now needs to get back to the future without making too many changes to the past.
It’s quite hard to think of many other films that have become a crowd-pleaser with nearly no dissenters like Back to the Future. It wowed people in the 1980s and continues to be something new generations discover and love once again. I’d love to find someone who dislikes this film because it ticks off many boxes as to why it holds its entertainment value decades after its initial release.
The film came together from an incredible collaboration by Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and Bob Gale. Like many of Spielberg’s works in the 1980s, he allowed the audience to dream of the unimaginable and how the common person can find themselves wrapped up in something bigger than themselves. It allows anyone that finds this story to imagine themselves as Marty McFly, who’s a teenager not wanting to be like his wimp father and his depressed mother. These creators knew how to play with the idea of kids not knowing the lives of their parents and how they too were once teenagers. McFly’s travel gives him the opportunity to have interactions with his parents around his same age, which leads to some very interesting narrative decisions.
For all of the greatness of Back to the Future, some plot points simply just get ignored for how strange they are. For example, as an audience, we just accept that Marty casually hangs out with this older man and helps him conduct some wacky science experiments, including the time travel one that occurs at 1 AM. Also, consider Marty’s plot to ensure his parents get together. The affection Marty’s mom had for Marty when he ventured to the past became a comedic and disturbing combo that’s only made weirder with how he intends to draw her affections away from him and towards his father. Let’s just say the idea could have used more critical thought on the ramifications it would have on someone. These points get ignored because it’s easy to go along with the ride, as the film contains some iconic moments.
So many lasting images come to mind when thinking of the film, like Marty and Doc staring in amazement of the time travel machine or the lines of fire the DeLorean left behind. It gets ridiculous enough to not take everything seriously but also not too fantastical that it loses any thematic resonance. Much of the fun comes from the circumstance, but also the chemistry between Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.
Their combination works wonders because they combine the childlike wonder of discovery and the grizzled and wacky nature of their characters together. Doc Brown feels larger than life in the way he navigates everything. Lloyd combines the brilliance and zany nature of this character to make him believable even when it looks like he has lost it. Michael J. Fox took on this character and made him one of the most iconic characters in movie history. You just have to say “McFly” and many people will know exactly who you’re talking about.
Back to the Future even after many years, continues to be a fun ride in-between time periods. It allows us to imagine what it would be like to interact with our parents when we were their age. I often think about that when I see pictures of my own mother when she was younger and also when I look at the photo albums my wife and I have created that our kids will eventually view. It’s so odd to think of your parents being any different than the adults they’ve always been since your birth. They too had the same insecurities and perhaps rebelled against their own parents. Back to the Future allows for that type of thinking and its combination with some hilarious moments and wacky characters have allowed it to be a cinematic classic.