#48: Back to the Future (1985)

When and how did I watch this?

February 18th, 2017, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Yep, possibly a hundred times.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

This was (and probably still is) a cable channel staple.  During the non-prime hours, Back to the Future can fill a time slot and gather viewership on any station on a Saturday afternoon. The movie itself is a personal favorite, and it’s definitely a favorite of my generation. There’s something nostalgic about it: the high school shenanigans, the idea of time-travel (done in the most ridiculous way), and saving the day at the precise moment. Every dude wants to be Marty McFly, riding skateboards to escape the bad guys and playing guitar like a boss in front of all their friends. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably seen it and know exactly what I’m talking about.

What do I know about it now?

There’s really nothing new to report, but I did notice something in the film: there are numerous, perhaps a hundred, small details that the film leaves in, seemingly meaningless at the time, but it circles back and addresses them for a big a-ha moment. A brief list: the man hanging from the hand of a clock at the beginning of the film, the “Twin Pines” becoming the “Lone Pine Mall”, the reference to Marty’s uncle “behind bars”, and Marty’s own quote to the high school version of his dad repeated to him 30 years later. Many of these are obvious and part of the lore, but some are high level clever stuff that require attention to detail to pick up. Zemeckis takes care of these small details handily, along with the use of tension, attention to camera angles and music, and several laugh-out-loud “Zoinks!” moments. It’s now a classic, and a great starter to one of the great cinema trilogies in American culture. Watching this in the evening, I found myself humming the score in bed.

What are some themes in the film?

Time travel, fate, courage, perseverance, paradox

Did this affect me personally?

Psh, it’s a nostalgia-fest.

Why is this ranked #48?

The biggest reasons are its lore as a film “foretelling” the future, further perpetuated by the internet (the Cubs were one year off!), and its mainstay role on cable television.  Michael J. Fox as Marty and Christopher Lloyd as Doc might be the most beloved typecast characters ever, and they’ve since embraced it. 1.21 gigawatts and 88 miles per hour are now entrenched figures.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She has a crush on the young Michael J. Fox.  Of course she did.  =)

Would I watch it again?


Would I recommend it to a friend?

I don’t think that’s necessary.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The film is stupendous and memorable indeed, but as a concession, it does have an extra factor that transcends its own greatness: pop culture.  Of all the films on the IMDb Top 250 (yes, ALL of them), Back to the Future has become the most watched, analyzed, and celebrated film of my generation. Is the film great?  I’m not certain — it takes a lot of liberty in terms of probability and actual science — but it does belong on this list.

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