Movie Review: Back to the Future (1985) #AtoZChallenge

I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!

Title: Back to the Future
Release Date: July 3, 1985
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Production Company:  Amblin Entertainment | Universal Pictures

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is the black sheep of his family.  While his parents and siblings are irredeemable losers, Marty has a cute girlfriend (Claudia Wells), rides a skateboard, and plays guitar in a band.  He also maintains an odd friendship with a mad scientist, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd).

One night, Doc invites Marty to help him out on his new project, a time machine … made from a Delorean.  Through a series of misadventures, Marty is sent back from 1985 to 1955.  After interfering with his parents’ first meeting, he faces the challenges of his future mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), falling in love with him and helping his father, George (Crispin Glover), stand up to the bully, Biff (Thomas F. Wilson).  Meanwhile, the younger version of Doc must figure out how to get Marty “back to the future!”

When Did I First See This Movie?:

I saw this movie with my family in the movie theaters not long after its release in July 1985.  Then I saw it again in the theaters and then several times on VHS and cable tv.  But it’s probably been 30 years since the last time I watched it.  There was a time when this was my favorite ever made and “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News my favorite song.  But by 1989 when the sequels came out, I’d lost interest, and I’ve still never seen them.

What Did I Remember?:

I remembered everything pretty well, as I really did see it a lot of times at an impressionable age.

What Did I Forget?:

Surprisingly, nothing significant.

What Makes This Movie Great?:

The casting is perfect, Doc Brown and Marty McFly, most notably.  But I think Lea Thomson and Crispin Glover deserve a lot of credit for being younger than Michael J. Fox and still convincingly portraying his parents.  Thomson as the teenage Lorraine is terrific at conveying both sweetness and a persistent horniness, while Glover is the ultimate geek.

I’ve also always been impressed with how everything that’s set up early in the movie gets paid off later on.  This goes for the main plots of when Doc Brown and Marty’s parents talk about their past, but also little details like  the clock tower, Marty’s uncle (a recidivist criminal) being in the playpen as a baby, or the Twin Pines Mall becoming the Lone Pines Mall.  This also may be the only time travel story ever told where changing the past makes things better.

What Doesn’t Hold Up?:

The depiction of Libyans as a pack of terrorists who smuggle uranium and travel around in a van with machine guns and bazookas is a nasty stereotype.  There are also a couple of instances of casual racism where Marty influences the future in a way that takes agency away from Black men.  The first is when he inspires young Goldie Wilson to run for mayor (which he would’ve done anyway). It’s also disconcerting that young Goldie says he’s going to clean the town up but in 1985 the city is in a state of decay.  I’m sure the filmmakers intended to show that most US cities had become rundown between the 50s and 80s rather than imply that it was because of a Black mayor, but the optics are bad.  The other scene is when Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck to let him hear Marty playing “Johnny Be Good.”  Again, it’s a gag because Marty is playing a song that Chuck Berry wrote, but I have just a twinge of uneasiness about it.

Is It a Classic?:

Most definitely.  Despite that fact that more time has passed since 1985 and today than 1955 and 1985, this movie hasn’t aged poorly.  Instead, it’s picked up a patina of nostalgia for two different eras of the past.

Rating: ****1/2

5 more all-time favorite movies starting with B:

  1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  2. Best in Show (2000)
  3. The Big Short (2015)
  4. Breaking Away (1979)
  5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

What is your all-time favorite movie starting with B?  What do you guess will by my movie for the letter C?  Let me know in the comments!


12 thoughts on “Movie Review: Back to the Future (1985) #AtoZChallenge

  1. Cool! Back to the future is one of our favorite trilogies here at home. I can’t say how many times we have seen them. If we’re skimming channels on tv and it shows up, it’s clear that we’ll jump to see them. No matter which one is it, or if it’s just starting, in the middle, or the ending. And despite some plot holes, or those little things that lack some sense, we enjoy the movie again. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been such a long time since I watched Back to the Future. I do remember liking it but I’m always afraid to revisit a movie. Sometimes it can take away my happy memories if it doesn’t hold up well. I’m glad that you feel Back to the Future does hold up for the most part. Weekends In Maine


  3. Back to the Future is a favorite for me. Such a fun concept! Out of the three Back to the Future films, I enjoyed the first and third. The second one… not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies! I also saw the original in the theater and the next two; I own them all. You should really watch the 3rd. It’s also filled with payoffs, which is pretty amazing considering they only planned to have one movie. (As Trudy above says, the 2nd isn’t as good.) I agree with your review of what hasn’t weathered well; thanks for bringing those points out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved Back to the Future and the sequels of them. Michael J. Fox was always a funny guy to me. On your other list of “B” movies, I remember watching Breakaway at least a few times. Such a good film.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this, Liam. I’m not much of a movie person, but this one was one of my son’s favorites (he was born in 1984), so I’ve seen it more than once though not for a long time. In the summer of 1990, when we were getting ready to move to a new town when our son was five and he was dead against moving, Back To The Future was showing outdoors on the town common as part of a Hot Summer Nights program. We were visiting the town for a few days to check it out and said that our son could stay up to watch it if he took an afternoon nap (which was unheard of). Well, he did, and we set up blankets on the common and watched it together, with many families around us doing the same thing. I think that night may have been the turning point for him. We moved here later that summer (and he became a filmmaker).
    I really appreciated your discussion of the scenes that left a bad taste in your mouth. You can celebrate a film as a classic and still point out its use of racist tropes and stereotyping.
    Look forward to returning over the month.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nicely reviewed. You gave the basic plot, the good things and why, as well as the not so good and why. The “why” is sometimes lost in the opinion and rhetoric of the reviewer.

    Liked by 1 person

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