Back to the Future (franchise)

Back to the Future Back to the Future Part II Back to the Future Part III

Back to the Future
Back to the Future film series logo.png
Official franchise logo
Created byRobert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Original workBack to the Future (1985)
Owned byUniversal Pictures
Amblin Entertainment
Print publications
Book(s)List of books
ComicsList of comics
Films and television
Short film(s)
  • Doc Brown Saves the World (2015)
Animated series
Theatrical presentations
Video game(s)List of video games
Theme park attractions

Back to the Future is an American science fiction adventure comedy film series written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The franchise follows the adventures of a high school student, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), and an eccentric scientist, Doctor Emmett L. Brown (Christopher Lloyd), as they use a DeLorean time machine to time travel to different periods in the history of Hill Valley, California.

The first film was the highest-grossing film of 1985 and became an international phenomenon, leading to the second and third films, which were back-to-back film productions, released in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Though the sequels did not perform quite as well at the box office as the first film, the trilogy remains immensely popular and has yielded such spin-offs as an animated television series and a motion-simulation ride at the Universal Studios Theme Parks in Universal City, California; Orlando, Florida; and Osaka, Japan (all now closed), as well as a video game and a stage musical. The film's visual effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic. The trilogy was nominated for five Academy Awards altogether, winning one (Best Sound Editing).[1]


Back to the Future
Directed byRobert Zemeckis
Produced by
Written by
  • Robert Zemeckis
  • Bob Gale
Music byAlan Silvestri
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
Running time
337 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$99 million
Box office$975.2 million

Back to the Future (1985)

Seventeen-year-old Marty McFly is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in a time machine built from a DeLorean by eccentric scientist Emmett "Doc" Brown, when they are attacked and Doc is apparently killed by Libyan terrorists for whom he stole the plutonium that gives the flux capacitor the 1.21 gigawatts it needs to time-travel. Soon after his arrival in 1955, Marty's mother Lorraine falls in love with him, rather than with his father George McFly, threatening to cause a paradox that would result in Marty ceasing to exist. Without plutonium to power the time machine, Marty must find the 1955 Doc Brown to help him reunite his parents and return to 1985.

The efforts of Biff Tannen, George's bully and supervisor, further complicate Marty's situation until Marty successfully causes his parents to fall in love and simultaneously convinces George to finally stand up to Biff. Returning to the future via a lightning strike that powers the machine, Marty discovers a vastly improved situation for the McFly family, as a much more confident George has become an accomplished science fiction author, Marty's two older siblings have better lives, he owns the car of his dreams, and an apparently-softened Biff is now an auto detailer, rather than George's supervisor. Despite 1955 Doc's insistence on not knowing details of the future, a note Marty leaves in his pocket prevents him from being killed by the terrorists. But in the film's final moments, Doc Brown appears in a modified version of the DeLorean and tells Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker that they must travel to the future to fix a problem caused by Marty and Jennifer's kids.

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The series continues as Doc Brown travels with Marty and Jennifer to the year 2015 where he has discovered Marty's family is in ruins. Shortly after rectifying the situation, Marty buys a sports almanac containing the outcomes of 50 years (1950–2000) worth of sporting events to make easy money. However, Doc talks him out of it and throws the almanac in the trash bin, where the 2015 Biff Tannen finds it. A sleeping Jennifer has been taken by police to her future home, needing Marty and Doc to retrieve her before returning to 1985. While Marty and Doc are at the 2015 McFly home, 2015 Biff steals the DeLorean time machine and gives the book to his 1955 self just before he goes to the dance at the end of the first film. When Doc and Marty return to 1985, they find that Biff has used the sports almanac's knowledge for financial gain, which allows him to turn Courthouse Square into a 27-story casino, take over Hill Valley, get away with the murder of Marty's father, and later marry Marty's mother. Marty learns that Biff was given the book by 2015 Biff on November 12, 1955, so he and Doc go back to that date in order to steal the almanac from Biff before he can use it to destroy their lives. They accomplish this in a complex fashion, often crossing their own past-selves' paths. When the duo is about to travel back to 1985, a lightning bolt strikes the DeLorean and activates the time circuits, sending Doc back to 1885 and leaving Marty stranded once again in 1955.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

After finding out that Doc Brown is trapped in 1885, Marty sets out to find the 1955 Doc to help have him fix the DeLorean, which has been waiting for him in a mineshaft for seventy years and restore it to working order. Learning that Doc gets shot in 1885 by Biff's great-grandfather, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, Marty travels back in time to save Doc (who has become a blacksmith) and bring him back to the future. Arriving in the middle of a melee between the United States Cavalry and American Indians, Marty is forced to flee to a cave, the uneven terrain tearing the DeLorean's fuel line in the process, emptying the fuel tank and rendering the engine useless. Marty convinces Doc to come back with him and find a way to get back to his time before it's too late. After several dramatic action scenes involving using a speeding locomotive to push the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour (142 km/h), Marty returns to 1985 without Doc Brown. When the DeLorean appears in 1985 on the same train track as planned, a modern train destroys the DeLorean, with Marty jumping out just in the nick of time. Marty reveals to Jennifer the time travel adventure and they visit the scene of the wreckage of the DeLorean. He worries that Doc has been lost in the past forever, when suddenly Doc appears in a new time machine, modeled after a locomotive. When Marty asks if Doc is going to the future, Doc replies that he has "already been there." Doc's last words of wisdom are that nobody knows their future, so they "must make it a good one." The locomotive flies across the sky and disappears, ending the trilogy.


Co-writer and director Robert Zemeckis, who has final rights to all films in the Back to the Future franchise, has stated that he will block all attempts to remake or reboot the original film. Co-writer Bob Gale has stated that he did not wish to see another film in the series without the Marty McFly character nor any other actor than Michael J. Fox playing him, while acknowledging that Fox's current health condition would make this impossible. He illustrated this at a 2008 fan convention in Florida, stating "The idea of making another Back to the Future movie without Michael J. Fox – you know, that's like saying, 'I'm going to cook you a steak dinner and I'm going to hold the beef."[2] Gale also said that the Telltale video-game adaptation is the closest thing to what a fourth film could be like.[3] In an interview on October 21, 2015, the day of Marty McFly's purported arrival in the future, Christopher Lloyd stated that he would consider making a fourth film under the condition that the original cast and creative team returned, along with a story "worth telling".[4] The same day, Lloyd reprised his role as Doc Brown in a brief segment in which the character returns to announce a special message (titled "Doc Brown Saves the World"), explaining the discrepancy between reality and the future as depicted in the film.[5]

Short film

Doc Brown Saves the World (2015)

Doc Brown Saves the World is a 2015 direct-to-video short film directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Christopher Lloyd as Emmett Brown. The short is featured on the 2015 Blu-ray and DVD release of the Back to the Future trilogy commemorating the franchise's 30th anniversary. The short was written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale and produced by Bob Gale and Neil Canton through Amblin Entertainment. Music for the short was performed[clarification needed] by Alan Silvestri. The short was released in the United States on October 20, 2015.[citation needed]

Emmett Brown is in an undisclosed location outside Hill Valley, California. He sets a video camera to track his body in order to videotape a message for Marty McFly. He explains that it is October 21, 2015, one hour before Marty, Doc, and Jennifer Parker arrive from 1985. He explains that when he traveled to the future, he discovered that there was a nuclear holocaust that occurred on October 21, 2045. He tracked it down to four inventions: the food hydrator, self-lacing shoes, the hoverboard, and the Mr. Fusion home energy reactor.

The former three inventions led to the world becoming lazy and obese, leading to widespread waste. The invention of hoverboards led to hovercars, which led to people throwing their trash out of the windows, causing a great trash storm in 2021. All of this trash needed to be disposed of, which led to 100 million Mr. Fusion units being manufactured. All of the Mr. Fusion units had a tiny nuclear reactor inside, and all of them detonated on October 21, 2045. The chain of events that led to this happening began less than twenty-four hours after Marty caused Griff Tannen to crash his hoverboard into the Hill Valley Courthouse when Griff was sentenced. He vowed to get back at the world for laughing at him and planned to do it through a company that he would found, GriffTech.

Doc holds up a tablet computer with a digital version of the Hill Valley Telegraph. On June 13, 2032, GriffTech invented a social media network called ThingMeme, which secured funding from Douglas J. Needles. ThingMeme allowed inanimate objects to post selfies on the internet. However, it was a scam, as it allowed Griff to gain access to every object on Earth. On the 30th anniversary of his arrest, on October 21, 2045, he uploaded a virus that was supposed to flash the word "butthead" on everything. However, it short-circuited the Mr. Fusion network, causing nuclear explosions in 100 million homes worldwide.

Doc Brown travels to an unknown date to ensure these inventions are never created, which will prevent the nuclear explosion. He leaves his camera on, which captures the inventions being erased from history. He arrives back in 2015, in a winter jacket and ski goggles, declaring that the mission was more complicated than he calculated, but declaring it a success. He holds up the tablet computer, where the headline on the Hill Valley Telegraph changes from "Griff Tannen Founds Grifftech" to "Griff Tannen Found Guilty".

Doc's excitement is short-lived, however, as he reaches in his pocket. He pulls out the Quantum Mind Jar, which he thought he disposed of in 2075. He is worried that not doing so will unravel everything they accomplished. The artificial intelligence of the Quantum Mind Jar tells Brown that they need to go back to the future, which he dismisses as he does not want to risk further time travel.

Another Emmett Brown then arrives, also declaring his experiment a success. Both versions of Brown, along with the artificial intelligence of the Quantum Mind Jar, are shocked at discovering that there are two Emmett Browns present.


Back to the Future (1991–1992)

An animated television series, Back to the Future: The Animated series, lasted two seasons, each featuring 13 episodes, and ran on CBS from September 14, 1991 to December 26, 1992.

Cast and crew

Principal cast

Principal cast and characters of the Back to the Future franchise
Characters Films Theme park ride Animated series Video game Short film
Back to the Future Back to the Future Part II Back to the Future Part III Back to the Future: The Ride Back to the Future Episode 1: It's About Time Episode 2: Get Tannen! Episode 3: Citizen Brown Episode 4: Double Visions Episode 5: Outatime Doc Brown Saves the World
1985 1989 1990 1991 1991–1992 2010 2011 2015
Martin "Marty" McFly Michael J. Fox Michael J. Fox
(archive footage)
David Kaufman A. J. Locascio A. J. Locascio
Michael J. Fox
(future Martys)
Doctor Emmett "Doc" Brown Christopher Lloyd Dan Castellaneta Christopher Lloyd Christopher Lloyd
(First Citizen Brown)
Christopher Lloyd
(First Citizen Brown)
Christopher Lloyd Christopher Lloyd
Christopher Lloyd
(live-action segments)
James Arnold Taylor
James Arnold Taylor
Biff Tannen Thomas F. Wilson Kid Beyond
Thomas F. Wilson
(2015 re-release)
George McFly Crispin Glover Jeffrey Weissman Jeffrey Weissman Michael Sommers
Crispin Glover
(archive footage)
Lorraine Baines-McFly Lea Thompson Aimee Miles
Jennifer Parker Claudia Wells Elisabeth Shue Cathy Cavadini Claudia Wells
Einstein Tiger Freddie Freddie Danny Mann Dog sound effects only Dog sound effects only
(archive footage)
Gerald Strickland James Tolkan Photograph Photograph
David "Dave" McFly Marc McClure Marc McClure
(deleted scene)
Marc McClure
Linda McFly Wendie Jo Sperber Wendie Jo Sperber
Goldie Wilson Donald Fullilove
3-D Casey Siemaszko Photograph
Match Billy Zane
Skinhead J. J. Cohen
Marvin Berry Harry Waters Jr.
Marty McFly, Jr. Michael J. Fox
Marlene McFly
Griff Thomas F. Wilson Thomas F. Wilson
Douglas J. Needles Flea
Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen Thomas F. Wilson
Thomas F. Wilson Cameo in Season one intro
Clara Clayton Mary Steenburgen Photograph Mary Steenburgen
Seamus McFly Michael J. Fox
Maggie McFly Lea Thompson
William McFly Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox
James Strickland James Tolkan Photograph Photograph
Jules Brown Todd Cameron Brown Joshua Keaton
Verne Brown Dannel Evans Troy Davidson
Copernicus N/A Foster
Biff Tannen, Jr. Benji Gregory
Beauregard Tannen Thomas F. Wilson Photograph Owen Thomas
Edna Strickland Shannon Nicholson
Shannon Nicholson Rebecca Sweitzer Shannon Nicholson
Rebecca Sweitzer
Rebecca Sweitzer
Arthur McFly Michael Sommers Photograph Michael Sommers
Irving "Kid" Tannen Owen Thomas Owen Thomas
Erhardt Brown Roger L. Jackson Roger L. Jackson
Trixie Trotter Melissa Hutchison Melissa Hutchison

Additional crew

Additional crew of the Back to the Future franchise
Role Film
Back to the Future
Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part III
Director Robert Zemeckis
Writers Robert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Robert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Bob Gale
Producers Neil Canton
Bob Gale
Executive producers Steven Spielberg
Kathleen Kennedy
Frank Marshall
Cinematographer Dean Cundey
Editors Harry Keramidas
Arthur Schmidt
Composer Alan Silvestri
Production designers Lawrence G. Paull Rick Carter
Production company Amblin Entertainment
Distributor Universal Pictures


Box office performance

Box office performance of Back to the Future films
Film Release date Box office gross Budget References
North America Other
Back to the Future July 3, 1985 $210,609,762 $178,444,035 $389,053,797 $19,000,000 [6][7][8]
Back to the Future Part II November 22, 1989 $118,450,002 $213,500,000 $331,950,002 $40,000,000 [9][10]
Back to the Future Part III May 25, 1990 $87,727,583 $156,800,000 $244,527,583 $40,000,000 [11]
Back to the Future Day October 21, 2015 $1,650,000 $3,200,000 $4,850,000 [12]
Total $420,087,347 $555,044,035 $970,381,382 $99,000,000

As of June 2011, the Back to the Future series is the 14th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time at the domestic market (adjusted for inflation),[13] 17th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time at the domestic market (not adjusted for inflation),[14] and the 13th-highest-grossing trilogy of all time, worldwide (not adjusted for inflation).[15]

The trilogy was re-released in certain countries worldwide on October 21, 2015 to commemorate the date traveled to by the protagonists in Back to the Future Part II and generated $4.8 million on its opening day.[16] In the United States and Canada, it earned $1.65 million from ticket sales across 1,815 North American theaters on its opening day.[16][17] Germany opened with $1.4 million and the United Kingdom with $345,000. Revenues from other territories such as Australia, Austria, France, Italy were moderate.[16]

The first movie in the trilogy returned to certain countries once again for the 35th anniversary of the first film. In the United Kingdom, this was originally scheduled to begin on May 29, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic the opening dates of various cinemas were delayed, and on a cinema-by-cinema basis slowly reopened. Many cinemas also showed the rest of the trilogy, partially due to the coinciding 30th anniversary of Part III.[18]

Critical and public response

Critical and public reception of Back to the Future films
Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
Back to the Future 96% (79 reviews)[19] 87 (26 reviews)[20] N/A
Back to the Future Part II 65% (60 reviews)[21] 57 (17 reviews)[22] A-[23]
Back to the Future Part III 80% (44 reviews)[24] 55 (19 reviews)[25] A-[23]

Marty McFly and Doc Brown were included in Empire's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, ranking No. 39 and No. 76 respectively.[26][27]

Cultural impact

Back to the Future Day

OCT 21 2015.png
The replica Toyota Tacoma concept based on the original Toyota truck, on display during the Pittsburgh International Auto Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in 2016.

October 21, 2015, the date used for the setting of the future events during the first act of the second film, has been called "Back to the Future Day" by the media.[28][29][30][31][32] The year 2015 also commemorated the 30th anniversary of the release of the original film.

Many promotions were planned to mark the passing of the date, with many playing to the depiction of the future in the film, including:

Cast members appeared on Today and Jimmy Kimmel Live! on October 21, 2015.[48][49] Nearly 2,000 theaters worldwide showed back-to-back screenings of the Back to the Future trilogy on October 21 and continuing through that weekend, which earned over $4.8M in single day ticket sales.[50] Universal Studios offered location tours of the various filming locations around the date.[51][52] The town of Reston, Virginia, temporarily changed its name to "Hill Valley" to commemorate the series during its annual film festival.[28][53] Esquire Network aired the trilogy all day that day, plus all weekend.



In 1985, MCA Records released the Back to the Future soundtrack. It featured eight tracks performed by Huey Lewis and the News, Lindsey Buckingham, Eric Clapton, Marvin Berry and the Starlighters, and Etta James. Only two tracks were culled from Alan Silvestri's orchestral score.

In 1989, MCA Records released Back to the Future Part II soundtrack with 13 tracks.

In 1990, Varèse Sarabande released Back to the Future Part III soundtrack with 18 tracks.

In 1999, Varèse Sarabande released The Back to the Future Trilogy soundtrack with eight tracks from the first film, seven from the second, four from the third, and one from the ride.

In 2009, Intrada released a two-CD Back to the Future set as Intrada Special Collection Volume 116. It features the complete original motion picture soundtrack (that is, Alan Silvestri's entire orchestral score) from Back to the Future (Part I) with 24 tracks, 15 tracks of alternate early sessions and one unused source cue from the scoring sessions.

Home media

2002 DVD and VHS release: "The Complete Trilogy"

In July 1997, Universal Studios announced that Back to the Future would be one of their first ten releases to the new format, though it ended up being delayed for five years. The films were finally released on DVD and VHS on December 17, 2002[54] in both Widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Screen (1.33:1).[55][56]

2009 DVD reissue

On February 10, 2009, Universal released each of the Back to the Future films individually. The first film was released as part of a 2-disc set featuring the documentary Looking Back to the Future and Back to the Future: The Ride.[57]

2010 DVD and Blu-ray release: "25th Anniversary Trilogy"

In June 2008, a special screening of the trilogy was held in Celebration, Florida. Bob Gale told the crowd they were seeing the digitally remastered version that was going to be used for the Blu-ray version of the movies. Gale also spoke to potential supplemental features on a Blu-ray version of the trilogy, saying only that never-before-seen bonus materials may appear, though he stopped short of offering any specifics.[58] On June 28, 2010, Universal announced that the Blu-ray edition of the films would be released on October 26, 2010, twenty-five years to the day from the date of the fictional events from the first film.[59] There have been numerous complaints about the R1 packaging,[60] leading to the release of an instruction sheet on how to safely remove and insert discs.[61]

2015 DVD and Blu-ray release: "30th Anniversary Trilogy"

On October 20, 2015, one day before the date of the fictional events transpiring in the 2015 segment of Part II, the trilogy was once again released on Blu-ray and DVD. A bonus disc was included, which featured new bonus material such as Outatime which is a look into the restoration of the time machine from 2012, Doc Brown Saves the World! which is a new short movie starring Christopher Lloyd, Looking Back to the Future which is a nine-part retrospective documentary from 2009, two episodes from The Animated Series, two novelty commercials about Jaws 19 and the Hoverboard from 2015 and much more.[62][63]

2020 Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD release: "The Ultimate Trilogy"

On July 2020, a new release was announced via press release for The Ultimate Trilogy, a new set for Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD featuring newly remastered picture and sound, never before released content and store exclusive collectible packaging for Target and Best Buy including three newly designed steelbooks and a Limited Edition Gift Set with a collectible levitating replica of the Hoverboard featured in Part II.[64]

Other media

Comic books

A comic book series was published by Harvey Comics in 1992 detailing further adventures of the animated series. Only seven issues were produced. IDW is publishing a mini-series which presents the first meeting of both Marty and Doc Brown and is written by co-screenwriter Bob Gale, which was released in stores on October 21, 2015, the same date that Marty travels with Doc Brown to the future depicted in the storyline for Part II. In issue 3, it was revealed that it had become an ongoing monthly comic due to popular demand. Beginning in issue #6, the original format of one or two untold stories per issue was replaced with a multi-issue ongoing story arc. The original subtitle for the comic, "Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines", was used for the trade paperback which contained the first five comics in the series. Other series published by IDW include "Citizen Brown", which adapts the Telltale video game, "Biff to the Future", which depicts Biff Tannen's rise to power after being given the almanac by his future self. The latter is also co-written by Gale. The series has now gone on to what IDW calls "chapter 2" of the series with "Tales from the Time Train." This is a series of stories detailing where Doc and the Brown family went after time traveling at the end of Back to the Future Part III.


Each film in the trilogy also received a novelization that expanded on the movies by adding scenes, characters, and dialog, often culled from early-draft scripts.

In 2012, Hasslein Books released A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon, written by Rich Handley.[65] The book was released in cooperation with BTTF.com, the official Back to the Future website.[66] A second volume, Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology, by Greg Mitchell and Rich Handley, was released in 2013.[67]

Video games

Various video games based on the Back to the Future movies have been released over the years for home video game systems, including the Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Master System, Genesis, Nintendo Entertainment System, and Super Famicom platforms. Additionally the game trilogy has also been released for Windows (PC), for Apple (MAC) and for Apple (iPad).[68]

The 2015 video game Lego Dimensions features two Back to the Future-themed toy packs. The Level Pack adds a bonus level that adapts the events of the first film and includes a Marty McFly Minifigure, along with a constructible DeLorean and Hoverboard. The Fun Pack includes a Doc Brown Minifigure and a constructible Time Train from Part III. Both unlock access to an in-game open world set in Hill Valley. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd reprise their respective roles.[69]


Two pinball adaptations of the film trilogy were released. The first pinball adaptation was a physical one produced by Data East, available in 1990, and titled Back to the Future: The Pinball. Over two decades later, Zen Studios developed and released a new, digital pinball adaptation in 2017, available as add-on content for Pinball FX 3 along with two other tables based on iconic classic films from Universal Pictures, Jaws and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.[70] The latter table behaves differently than the original Data East version and features 3-D animated figures and visual effects that are impossible to reproduce on a physical table.

Stage musical

On 31 January 2014, it was announced that a stage musical adaptation of the first film was in production.[71] The show was co-written by original writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. According to Gale, the musical will be "true to the spirit of the film without being a slavish remake". Originally intended to be part of the 30th anniversary of the original film in 2015, the musical got pushed back to 2016 [72] before finally having its premiere set for Feb. 20, 2020.[73]

Automotive commercials

In 2015, Fox and Lloyd starred alongside popular YouTube science personality Go Tech Yourself in an extended Toyota commercial for Toyota's new fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, entitled Fueled by the Future. The commercial doubled as a tribute to the franchise and illustrated how the idea of converting trash into fuel had become reality. The commercial was released on October 21—the same date to which Marty, Doc and Jennifer traveled in Back to the Future Part II.[74]

Theme park ride

Back to the Future: The Ride was a simulator ride based on and inspired by the Back to the Future films and is a mini-sequel to the 1990s Back to the Future Part III. The original attraction opened on May 2, 1991, at Universal Studios Florida. It also opened on June 2, 1993, at Universal Studios Hollywood and on March 31, 2001, at Universal Studios Japan. The rides in the United States have since been replaced by The Simpsons Ride. The ride in Japan remained operational until May 31, 2016.


In the fall of 2015, a Kickstarter project released the Back in Time documentary film.[75][76] The film features interviews with the members of the cast and crew along with the cultural impact of the trilogy 30 years later.


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