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Influential Films in Pop Culture History: ‘Back to the Future’ – 80’s Time Travel Classic

Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Doc. Ah…are you trying to tell me that you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” – Marty McFly.

For the little trip down movie memory lane this week, it’s off to 1985. And this time the trip is going to be taken in style, aboard Doc Brown’s DeLorean. That’s right, it’s Robert Zemeckis’s 1985 hit Back to the Future. The brilliant science-fiction adventure comedy that spawned two sequels, an animated series, video games and to this day remains a favorite for fans of not only 80’s movies, but of movies in general.

This is a story that, under the guiding hand of Robert Zemeckis (pictured right), tapped into something special and channeled it into the masterpiece still loved in the modern age. A story about a young man inadvertently traveling back to the time when his parents met and having to get them together to save his own future, the plot is something straight out of the mind of great science fiction writers. Combine that with a killer cast, sweet soundtrack, and clever dialogue, mixed together with solid special effects, the end result being something that is timeless.

Michael J. Fox’s name was put on the map thanks to his role of Marty McFly, alongside those of Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover and Thomas F. Wilson. Added to the fact that with Christopher Lloyd for supporting star power, there was no stopping the cast from rising to great heights thanks to this movie. Michael J. Fox continued to make great movies and then transitioned into voice acting with one his most memorable rolls being that of Stuart Little. Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover have continued to have great roles in movies, to say nothing of Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson. Each cast member continues to shine bright in the Hollywood heavens thanks to this movie.

Many movie soundtracks are the stuff of legend, the songs and scores one of the defining features about them. But for great feel-good soundtracks, look no further then beloved 80’s movies. For Back to the Future, ‘The Power of Love’ by Huey Lewis and the News is the #1 track, with the runners up being ‘Earth Angel’ and Marty’s rendition of the Chuck Berry hit ‘Johnny B. Goode’. So if there’s ever time when anyone is listening to Pandora or Spotify, or flipping through the stations on their radio and one of those songs come up, heed this advice. Don’t click to the next song, don’t change the station, just enjoy the song and get pulled back to the happy memories that come with those tracks.

For the central theme to this movie, aside from that of Marty working fast to ensure his parents come together so that he doesn’t fade away, there’s the theme of overcoming fear and doubt, rising up from the expectations and confinements one has been placed in. George McFly was a wallflower, a Peter Parker who had never been bitten by the spider. It takes his own son coming into his life for George to stand on his own two feet, laying out bully Biff (finally) and falling in love with Lorraine.

 

There’s also what happens to him and his wife in 1985; their lives are much richer and fuller thanks to Marty getting run over by his grandfather in 1955. George is a successful author and college professor, Lorraine is a happier individual, both of Marty’s older siblings even are doing better thanks to the self-confidence Marty helped George to find. As George himself put it “You put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Many things about the 80’s are remembered with degrees of pride: the music (everything from hair metal to pop), to its politics (Reaganomics), advances in technology and science (home computers) and personal entertainment (CD’s, video games, etc). But when it comes mass market entertainment, the movies of the decade will always come out on top, Back to the Future being one of the greats. Its legacy and impact on the times were so powerful, that Ronald Reagan himself quoted the movie in his 1986 State of the Union, saying “Never has there been a more exciting time to be alive, a time of rousing wonder and heroic achievement. As they said in the film Back to the Future, ‘Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.’” President Reagan was right, the 80’s were an exciting time to be alive back then, even with the Cold War reaching its apex and the troubles brewing in the Middle East. The 80’s was a time of achievement, of new ground broken in so many fields. Robert Zemeckis broke all kinds of ground when he brought to the big screen a fantastic time travel tale involving love, family and one sweet set of wheels. To add to the already growing pile of movies written about during the course of these pieces, add this one to the top of the “need to watch again” pile.

 

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