Hollywood during the Reagan era might as well be known as the time of the blockbuster. While many of the blockbuster films of the era were forgettable, Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 time travel comedy Back to the Future manages to stand out from the rest.
For anyone who has been living in a cave for the past 17 years, here’s a quick plot summary. The movie stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a typical 1980s teenager who finds himself back in the year 1955, thanks to a time machine invented by wacky scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). As if going back in time 30 years wasn’t adventurous enough, Marty soon finds himself interfering with his parents falling in love. Things become really strange when Marty’s teenage mother (Lea Thompson) develops a crush on him, instead of his father (Crispin Glover). A family photograph tells him that if he doesn’t get his parents together, his existence and that of his siblings will soon be erased.
The movie made a star out of young actor Michael J. Fox. His agent originally turned down the role because it would interfere with his filming of the TV show “Family Ties.” However, when actors like C. Thomas Howell and Eric Stoltz didn’t work out, the filmmakers went back to their original choice and Fox filmed both the movie and the show at the same time; getting only a couple of hours sleep a night. Christopher Lloyd was also a relatively unknown actor when the film was released. He had appeared in a handful of movies and on the show “Taxi,” but he had not yet had a big film role. He was always the first choice for the role and it is easy to see why. To this day it is still impossible to think of a mad scientist without seeing Lloyd’s Doc Brown (unless, of course, he’s Hannibal).
Just as impressive as the actor’s performances is the time machine itself. Making a time machine out of a DeLorean was an inspired decision, creating a time machine unlike any other time travel movie. The choice also provides one of the movie’s best gags when a 1955 farmer thinks the car is a spaceship from outer space.
Back to the Future also featured one of the most memorable movie scores to come out of the 80s. The songs are wonderful too, including “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis, who has a small part as a music judge. And who can forget Michael J. Fox on stage singing “Johnny B. Good”?
Screenwriter Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis came up with the idea for Back to the Future as a way of answering that age old question: were my parents ever my age? Starting with that simple idea, Gale and Zemeckis managed to create one of the most enjoyable blockbuster films of all time. Of course, it would go on to become one of the most entertaining movie trilogies, but it was never in Zemeckis’ original plans to make more than one film. The famous ending—emphasized by the brilliant line “Roads? Where were going, we don’t need roads”—was thought of as nothing more than a good joke. Good thing for us, they thought better of it. I give it an A.