Back to the Future

Year: 1985

Production: Amblin Entertainment / Universal

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson

Screenwriter: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

116 minutes; Color


One of the major sf hits of the 1980s, Back to the Future is a disarming, calculated and intelligent comedy about time travel. Teenage guitar-playing Marty (Fox), son of a tacky and ineffectual mother and father (Thompson and Glover), is interrupted by Libyan terrorists while helping mad scientist Emmett Brown (Lloyd) test a time machine mounted in a DeLorean car, and escapes to 1955. There he seeks out the young Dr Brown, but is disturbed to find his (now teenaged) mother strongly sexually attracted to him. The oedipal and culture-clash themes are deftly worked out with great good humor and something falling mercifully short of complete good taste. After demonstrating the power of rock'n'roll and convincing his teenage father to stand up to Biff the bully, he returns with the young Dr Brown's assistance to find a changed 1985, complete with a spruce mother and a confident father who is now a successful sf writer.

One of the few sf blockbusters made by a director wholly comfortable with the conventions of genre sf, Back to the Future deserved its success and won a Hugo. There was a four-year wait for its two sequels, Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Deservedly a huge box-office success. At the center of this pointed piece of nostalgia is the charming notion that the repressed 50s were a paradise compared to the liberal 80s. This is best seen in the lovingly created backdrops to the action. Thus the small town cinema that in 1955 is showing Ronald Reagan in Cattle Queen of Montana (1954) has become a pornohouse in 1985 , the car showroom selling Studebakers in 1955 sells Toyotas in 1985 and the comfortable drugstore becomes an aerobics gym.

The storyline is simplicity itself: teenager Fox travels back to the 50s in a Heath-Robinson/De Lorean time machine, courtesy of joyfully crazed scientist Lloyd, to make a man of his high-school slob of a father (Glover) and so make him a fit partner for his mother (Thompson) who, to complicate matters, falls for Fox, a very "knowing" young man by 50s standards. Masterfully orchestrated by Zemeckis, who makes of his hero a knight in shining armor rather than the Merlin Jones lookalike he might have been in other hands, the film neatly alternates between knockabout humor and nostalgia before sending Fox, his mission accomplished, "back to the future".

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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