Historical Circuit: Back to the Future (1985)

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It’s 2015. Robert Zemeckis promised us hoverboards by this point and the Cubs winning the World Series; how sad is it that the latter is probably the more likely of the two outcomes. Even if Zemeckis’ vision of 2015 didn’t come true, the past in which it came from is endlessly enjoyable as the “Back to the Future” franchise is one of the more beloved trilogies in cinema. The original “Back to the Future” came out 30 years ago this week, so let’s hop in the DeLorean, gun it to 88 and revisit Hill Valley.

Zemeckis was coming off his first hit, “Romancing the Stone,” when “Back to the Future” was released in 1985. Michael J. Fox was a TV-star and not the first actor cast in the part of Marty McFly – Eric Stoltz briefly held the role before being replaced. Add Christopher Lloyd to the mix and this triumvirate would create one of the best films of the 80s.

Ten year’s following “Jaws,” “Back to the Future” offered a perfect example of what a blockbuster should be. It had plenty of laughs, a cool concept, some nice special effects, and didn’t take itself too seriously. The film would top the box-office in 1985 and also proved to be a critics darling as well. Even the Oscars showered it with love, nominating it for four Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay, and winning one for Best Sound Editing.

One of the things that made “Back to the Future” so endearing, and continues to make it so is its reverence for the time(s) it inhabits. The film is filled with jokes and references to the pop culture of the time, including “Star Wars,” Calvin Klein, and especially the DeLorean, a total 80s car. Watching the film today, the scenes set in 1985 Hilly Valley are almost as much a historic to fans as 1955 was for Marty.

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that it was able to keep that magic throughout the entire trilogy. Despite some cast shuffling with Crispin Glover and the role of Marty’s girlfriend, the main trio of Zemeckis, Fox and Lloyd stuck around for all three films and seemed like they thoroughly enjoyed making these films. The films were also a continuation of a single story, so even though going to the old west was the kind of gimmick that today would be used when a franchise ran out of ideas, in the context of the three films it worked.

Whether you saw it for the first time 30 years ago, or you watch it today, “Back to the Future” is good old fashion movie magic, and I don’t see that changing in the near or distant future.