With an excellent screenplay, perfect casting and a superlative theme song and score, it is not an overstatement to assert that Back to the Future is one of the finest films of all time. It is not a stretch to imagine the reaction of audiences in 1985; the film has retained that rare magic twenty-five years on.
After helping his friend Doc Brown with his scientific experiments, teenager Marty McFly is sent back in time, from 1985 to 1955. As well as trying to get back to the present day, Marty also has to ensure his parents meet as they should, otherwise there will be no future for him at all…
Back to the Future‘s script, by Bob Gale and director Robert Zemeckis, captures a dose of all the necessities in good measure. Part science fiction fantasy, part action comedy, the film also dips into the teen film and sprinkles a generous helping of retro kitsch. In amongst the plentiful humour is a real sense of peril; Marty’s quest at times seems unlikely to succeed, even though the idea of him failing is unthinkable. The pacing of Back to the Future is faultless; the film moves quickly enough to sustain interest, but at the same time allows sufficient space for character development.
The narrative is a paradox, being simple but also elaborate. Like many other 1980s fantasy and action films, Back to the Future follows a straightforward quest narrative and is linear in its structure. However, the time-travelling aspect is a little more complex than this. Such is the precariousness of Marty’s position, that one wrong turn could alter the fabric of history. Whilst the young protagonist attempts to cause as little damage as possible, at the same time he cannot help leaning on his knowledge of the future; introducing the 1955 contingent to Chuck Berry and Darth Vader, for example.
Michael J. Fox is perfectly cast as teenager Marty McFly. He exudes likeability and has great comic timing. Crispin Glover is excellent as Marty’s dad George in both 1955 and 1985. Christopher Lloyd, however, steals the show as Doctor Emmett Brown. He encapsulates the zaniness that makes the character so memorable.
Back to the Future features a now classic score by Alan Silvestri as well as the indelible theme song ‘The Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News. As well as the music, there are a whole host of other elements that affirm Back to the Future as very much a product of the mid-1980s.
As a film that is itself concerned with nostalgia, watching Back to the Future on the big screen now is a hugely nostalgic experience for those who remember the eighties. For those who do not, the film is a paragon of the original, immensely entertaining and exceptionally popular blockbusters that appeared much more frequently in that decade than they do now.
Back to the Future has been re-released in cinemas to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary.