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Movies to See Before the World Ends: Back to the Future

By  · Published on June 8th, 2012

The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained.

The Film: Back to the Future (1985)

The Plot: 1980s styled Michael J. Fox (see: feathered hair, acid washed jeans, high tops) stars as every-kid Marty McFly who accidentally gets sent back to the 1950s via a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his eccentric cohort, Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, in one of his best scene chewing roles to date.) While going back in time may seem like a cool idea, Marty quickly realizes that altering the past can have serious effects on the future. Finding himself suddenly 30 years in the past, Marty discovers he must keep his now teenage parents’ relationship on track or else he will risk erasing his own future. As Doc would say: “Great Scott!”

The Review: This time-line shifting comedy is filled with moments that make Back to the Future a film you can watch over and over again as the filmmaker’s attention to detail is clear in every scene, prop and line of dialogue spoken and give you something new to spot or connect with each viewing. Featuring a breakout performance from Fox (that took him from TV star to movie star), the endlessly watchable Lloyd, fantastic music (and a cameo) from Huey Lewis and the News plus enough action to keep the film moving along at 88 miles per hour, Back to the Future combined science, rock and roll and romance into one highly entertaining ride.

Even though Back to the Future came out in the ’80s and spends the majority of its time in the ’50s, it has proven to be timeless tackling the ideas of relationships, history and (of course) timing. Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover play Marty’s parents and watching the juxtaposition between the two as adults versus teenagers really drives home the (alarming) idea that all parents really were young once, and maybe not too different from how we all were as dumb kids. While the film’s comedy runs rampant from the constantly befuddled Doc Brown to the ever nefarious Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) to the wide-eyed, slightly manic Marty, there is also a ton of heart infused in every scene as Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale show us that growing up is never easy, even if you have the power to travel back in time.

While Back to the Future’s title is slightly misleading (they technically go back to the past) and it isn’t until the film’s sequel (Back to the Future II) that we actually jump ahead in time (we’ll just pretend the weakest film of the trilogy, Back to the Future III, didn’t happen), it is this original film that has always been my favorite as it introduced us to these dynamic characters, the tenants of time travel (at least within this context) and was full of my favorite BTTF relationship – Marty and Doc. Yes, it is weird that a teenager and an older (possibly mad) scientist seem to be besties, but Fox and Lloyd take any of the creepiness out of this seemingly odd relationship and replace it with the elements that make up any good friendship – truly caring about each other and trusting one another. (I mean, Marty essentially allows Doc to electrocute him and send him speeding towards a building – talk about a trust exercise!)

Plus I am an OG Jennifer (Claudia Wells) fan (Elizabeth Shue was always my Adventures in Babysitting hero and I was too young to fully separate the two roles, something that has clearly stuck with me into adulthood) and more into the “vintage” non-nuclear fusion powered DeLorean that you had to get up to 88 miles before erupting into skid marks of time traveling flames.

But why spend 98 minutes watching this film when you only have 494,127 minutes left to live?

Back to the Future takes the idea of regret and the desire to change the past head on and shows us that, sometimes, changing the past only prevents your destiny (density?) of something even greater from happening. If the Mayans prove to be right, I am sure traveling back to the past would not prevent the end of world, but BTTF also reminds us that you should try and live your life without regrets. Go talk to the girl you have a crush on, go stand up to the guy making your life a living hell, go after your dreams of writing science fiction or being in a rock band, be late for class, tell your girlfriend that you love her.

Normally the idea of doing any of these things would seem terrifying and full of “what if” questions when trying to predict the outcome of these actions, but with the world is ending, really, what do you have to lose?

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