My mom likes to tell this story. When I was about 4 or 5, I watched Back to the Future religiously—at least once a day, sometimes more if I ate dinner really fast. And I didn’t just watch the movie; I imitated it, reciting lines in my head and acting out scenes. I talked to the characters like they were my friends. I even had a Marty McFly outfit, with a vest and everything. It had a big influence on my life (technology, duh) and it’s still among my favorite movies ever.
Back to the Future turns 30 today, and even as an adult, it fills me with unbridled joy. Seeing the DeLorean first hit 88 miles per hour in a shopping mall parking lot remains one of the most transformative scenes in Hollywood history. At that age, I hadn’t seen anything like it, and still get goosebumps. I remember how I first reacted to that scene, how it completely blew my mind. It filled me with hope, and made me realize that anything was possible. If a scatterbrain like Doc Brown could invent a time machine—out of a DeLorean no less—then surely I could make something of myself.
What’s so great about Back to the Future is that, even today, it still holds up, despite its age. Turns out that themes of friendship and adventure are universal, no matter what decade they’re presented. And even though there’s some shoddy effects (by today’s standards), it’s just as relevant and entertaining as it was when it came out in 1985; it’s a timeless sci-fi tale that should be, without hesitation, considered an American treasure.
Some fun facts about the movie:
- Michael J. Fox was originally cast as Marty, but couldn’t commit to filming because he was busy with the TV show Family Ties. Consequently, Eric Stoltz was cast, but after about five weeks of filming, Stoltz and the filmmakers agreed that it wasn’t working out. Fox was approached again, and agreed to play the part.
- The film almost didn’t get made. Director Robert Zemeckis shopped the film around to dozens of studios, and each time he was rejected. But after Zemeckis’ film, Romancing the Stone, was a success, director Steven Spielberg agreed to produce the project, with Universal Pictures distributing.
- A studio executive wanted to change the title to Spaceman From Pluto because he was worried audiences wouldn’t like the word “future” in the title.
- Doc Brown had a pet chimpanzee in the film’s original script, but the head of Universal at the time convinced filmmakers to change it to a dog.
- Tony Hawk apparently helped Michael J. Fox with the skateboarding scenes.
- The time machine was originally supposed to be a refrigerator, but was later changed to the DeLorean.
I can’t say enough about Back to the Future. It was a special part of my childhood, as my mom will cheerfully recall, and I never miss an opportunity to watch it when it’s on TV. Luckily, the movie will forever be preserved as the treasure that it is; director Robert Zemeckis said there’s a clause in his contract that says no remake can be made unless he signs off on it, and he has no intentions of ever doing so.
Happy Birthday, Back to the Future. You are, and forever will be, the movie that started it all for me. “1.21 gigawatts?!”