There are very, very few films I consider 10/10 masterpieces. Back to the Future is one of them, and I can safely say is my personal favorite movie of all time. Is it perfect? Well, nothing is perfect, but this movie is pretty damn close.
I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Very few movies have had the popular and cultural impact that this one had. These facts are simply not debatable. Because of this, there have been so many lists made on the internet about the movie that it’s almost impossible to watch it and discover something new.
Having said that, there are a lot of interesting aspects about this movie that are rarely discussed, or at least, don’t show up as much as other facts do. The following list are ten aspects of Back to the Future that don’t get talked about quite as much as others. Some of these talking points can be a bit hypothetical, but could still be fun to talk about.
With the 35th anniversary of the film’s release now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to get deep into the facts you don’t hear much about.
1. The Great Plutonium Heist Cover-up
The opening credits sequence is one of the greatest one-take sequences in film history. It tells a great deal of exposition, sets the mood, explains all you really need to know about Doc Brown so far, and most importantly, it looks awesome.
At the end of the shot, it is shown that Doc has a case of plutonium stored under his bed. Prior to this, a news report explains that the nuclear research facility knew that there was missing plutonium and was stolen by Libyan nationalists. It was reported that it was nothing but a clerical error.
Imagine if this situation played out in real life. Stolen plutonium by foreign nationalists would be a pretty damn alarming cause for concern. If Doc was caught by the FBI with the case (which he literally hid under his bed) then he would probably be serving quite a bit of time in federal prison.
Doc pretty much had the power to end the world thanks to a reported clerical error. Fun!
2. What Exactly Killed Downtown Hill Valley?
By 1985, the decline of America’s downtown life was very much a social issue. As Bob Gale discussed in commentaries, Hill Valley’s downtown suffered as a result of the trend of city residents abandoning the city life and flocking to the suburbs. This plagued many cities causing major decreases in populations among city limits and turning the once-rural counties into sprawling parking lots and chain stores. This trend would have been coming into reality by the mid 1950’s in cities across America.
So was this the case in Hill Valley? Downtown had clearly seen better days, but even the original non-Biff influenced version of 1985 is pretty run down. Of the two movie theaters in town, one became a church, and the other turned into an adult-only theater (Orgy American Style anyone?)
Speaking of which, there is at least one adult bookstore, several abandoned storefronts, and of course, the Social Services building that never had the spare cash to fix the clock tower, the notable symbol of the city’s history.
It makes one wonder if there was any specific catalyst that forced so much business away from the center of downtown. Was there civil unrest in the 1960’s? Were there shady real estate practices like blockbusting? Major demographic changes? Or, in the end, was downtown just destined to undergo hard times during an economic lull?
It seems like the mall and the suburban flight was a major factor. Although for the entire town to suffer so much as a result just feels like deeper socioeconomic issues are really to blame.
3. The Toxic Nature of Biff the Boss
Biff Tannen has been an absolute bastard toward George McFly for years. At least 30 years for sure, but probably tortured him for way more. I always kind of figured half of Hill Valley’s youth treated George like trash through all of grade school with Biff being the one that stuck around into adulthood.
In 1985, George is working for Biff, which leads to an interesting question. Why would George willingly apply to work for his lifelong bully? Was George seriously that desperate for work that he would work for the most toxic person in his life?
Also, did Biff hire George knowing that George was going to do whatever he asked, no matter the consequences?
Clearly, George was going to put up with whatever bullshit Biff was going to throw at him. One wonders how long it would have taken before George gave him a knuckle-sandwich.
4. The JVC Camera on the Old TV
When to comes to being able to play back a VHS camcorder onto a TV, Marty would have to take the lead on this one. But how exactly would you hook up a camcorder to a 1950’s era TV?
The easiest answer to this one? It’s Doc’s TV. He made time travel possible, he probably invented his own RF converter years before something like that was widely available.
5. Did Lorraine marry her perverted stalker?
We all know what a piece of shit Biff is, but we never take the time to stop and realize that George is pretty gross too. The man climbed a tree, and risked his life so he could stare at either Lorraine or Lorraine’s mother in their underwear through binoculars. I say either, because obviously we can’t see their face in the movie.
In the original timeline, when he fell, Lorraine took him in and fell in love with him. Did it not occur to her why he was in the street?
Also, when Mr. Baines yells for his wife that “another one of these damn kids jumped in front of my car,” that means that this is an *ongoing problem* of young men climbing trees to stare at the Baines family women.
Maybe they just like the attention?
Or maybe the Baines family women are just a bunch of exhibitionists?
Maybe Lorraine enjoyed being stared at in her bra and panties in front of someone who could finally appreciate her body?
Maybe I should just move on to number six…
6. How long was Doc’s initial time travel adventure?
It’s so nice to be a member of the audience for a movie such as this. An entire time-traveling adventure takes place, and we absolutely don’t have to sit through it! Think about all the incredibly boring things Doc had to go through to learn all about what life is like in the future?
Which begs the question, how long was Doc traveling through 2015? To us, it was only a few minutes. But he would have had to have been traveling through time long enough to have…
- learned how to create fusion technology to travel through time without plutonium
- create a time travel emergency cash fund
- learn about Marty’s family and know enough to be able to fix their situation
Also, Doc literally traveled around time to learn as much as he can. So why is he so hell bent on Marty not knowing too much about his own destiny? I believe it’s because Doc saw enough in his travels to know that Marty would be better off not knowing what the future would bring.
Imagine if someone from 2020 traveled back to 2019 and told us what was about to happen? You probably would either not believe them, or be so horrified that you’d probably want to off yourself.
Maybe the future is so incredibly bleak that Doc is using the threats of paradox and universal destruction as a means of optimistically swaying Marty from wanting to know what it holds for him.
7. “By Terrorists” Removed from TV Versions
This one just makes me angry. This is just political correctness at its absolute most ridiculous. Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron?
Anyway, in recent TV edits of the movie, the words “by terrorists” have been removed from the letter that Marty writes to Doc.
This is one of those strange censorship decisions that I just flat out don’t get. Do they think that by removing this line that there will never be anymore terrorism? Are they afraid that convicted murderers will be offended? Are they afraid that everybody will be offended? Law suits? Political upheaval? Mean comments on the internet??
Whatever. It’s just a line. It’s just a movie. Moving on…
8. New Student Marty
Maybe this is the teacher talking in me, but how on earth did Marty get to just become part of the Hill Valley High School student body without any questions? He was running around the school trying to find his father, so I assume he would try to fit in.
Let’s say he never went to a single class. Wouldn’t the teachers be curious who this guy was running around the school stalking George and Lorraine?
Or on the other side, what if Marty did sit in on classes. Wouldn’t the teachers be curious who this new kid with futuristic vernacular was all of a sudden? If it were me, I’d ask to see his student ID at the very, very least.
9. Marty’s 10 Minute Window
This is absolutely pointless, but worth mentioning because it makes very little sense to me. When Marty said he had all the time he wanted, why did he give himself 11 minutes?
If he knew that Doc was going to get shot, why didn’t he allow himself more time to get to the mall? What if there was traffic, or a road block, or even just something silly like a pothole to hold up Marty? Then what?
Now, one could argue that it’s because he wanted to keep from seeing his other self, but he would have had to do that anyway. The plan to save Doc should have needed far more than 10 minutes.
Also, for something even more trivial, why did Marty say 10 minutes, and then input 11 minutes?
10. (Spoilers Ahead) What Exactly Happened to the McFly Family?
Something seriously changed after George decked Biff, and the McFly’s became classier.
Clearly the money they now have isn’t the result George being a writer, considering his first novel hadn’t been published yet. Maybe George is a big time businessman? Maybe he owns Biff’s Auto Detailing? It’s a fun thing to think about.
Whatever it is, he could buy Marty a new 4×4. And where I come from, that’s a sign of success.