Movie Wednesday: Back to the Future
by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum
Marty McFly is a normal ’80s teenager with normal boring parents and normal concerns like girls, school, and being in a rock band. Marty worries that, like his father, he won’t ever amount to anything because he’s afraid to be rejected. But one day Marty receives a call from his mentor, the eccentric Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, who claims to have unlocked the secret to time travel. Doc has transformed a car into a time machine! But Doc’s experiment goes awry with the arrival of some unexpected consequences and Marty is accidentally flung back in time to the 1950s where he encounters his own parents as teenagers. When Marty accidentally interferes with his parents’ past, his own future begins to disappear. He must team up with a younger Doc to fix time, make his parents fall in love, and get himself…back to the future!
[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]
Back to the Future was released in 1985 and was an immediate box office hit. Produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, Back to the Future launched a beloved franchise and is still considered a staple of science fiction today.
The sets for the film were built on a Universal back lot. The ’50s sets were built first so that the crew could then age them for the sequences in the ’80s. A lot of research was done for the ’50s pieces. At the time, not many films were being set in the ’50s because it was considered “too recent,” a sentiment which seems pretty hard to comprehend now in the 21st century. For modern context, if the film were remade now about a teenager living in 2018, the sequences set back in time would be set in 1988 (which is pretty close to when the film was actually made)!
The DeLorean that Doc converts into a time machine is perhaps one of the most iconic images from ’80s science fiction. The design team even used air plane parts for the unique interior. It’s hard to imagine the story without it, but at one point the time machine was going to be refrigerator!
Originally, a different actor was cast in the leading role of Marty McFly even though Michael J. Fox was the filmmakers’ first choice. When Fox eventually took on the role, he had to work a grueling schedule because he was also filming a television series during the same time that Back to the Future was in production. As a result he got very little sleep and had to film later in the day to accommodate his TV schedule, which you might never know to watch his high energy performance in the finished product.
A note to parents: Although Back to the Future is rated PG, it does contain more mature themes than you might find in a PG film today. We recommend looking up the film on websites such as Common Sense Media before deciding if it is right for your family.
- “I was never like that when I was your age!” various adults around Marty, including his mom, exclaim. But when Marty goes back in time, he discovers that his own mother didn’t behave all that differently from the teenagers Marty knows. What might the film be trying to say about the way time changes people and their own recollections of themselves?
- Great Scott, it’s a paradox! Back to the Future plays with several time travel paradoxes. One of them is the bootstrap paradox (example: you’re a time traveler and you decide to take a copy of your favorite work of classic literature back in time to have the author sign it. But when you get there, you discover that the author does not exist! There’s no one to write your favorite book! So, you copy out the book and publish it under the author’s name, so that it can still exist. But wait! Who originally wrote that book?). How many instances of this paradox can you find in the film?
- How do you think you would react if you went back in time and met your parents when they were your age?
- Some aspects of Back to the Future haven’t aged well, for instance some of the racial stereotypes and gender norms included in the film. Did you notice anything that you didn’t agree with? Explain your answer.