“Back To The Future”…Happy 25th!

posted by Coate on July 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

[b]BACK TO THE ‘80s

Compiled by Michael Coate[/b]

He was never in time for his classes… He wasn’t in time for his dinner… Then one day…he wasn’t in his time at all.

The most popular movie of 1985, and one of the most popular of the 1980s, Back To The Future was released twenty-five years ago today. Robert Zemeckis' “comedy adventure science fiction time travel love story” is remembered for its wonderful cast headed by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and for its clever, Oscar-nominated screenplay full of effectively executed set-ups and pay-offs. And on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of this crowd-pleaser, I thought I’d present a collection of information that includes some production history, historical data and trivia. So, without further ado, enjoy this quick-reference anniversary tribute to Back To The Future.

Marty McFly —– Michael J. Fox
Doctor Emmett Brown —– Christopher Lloyd
Lorraine Baines —– Lea Thompson
George McFly —– Crispin Glover
Biff Tannen —– Thomas F. Wilson

Director —– Robert Zemeckis
Producers —– Bob Gale and Neil Canton
Screenplay —– Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Executive Producers —– Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy
Director of Photography —– Dean Cundey
Production Designer —– Lawrence G. Paull
Editors —– Arthur Schmidt, Harry Keramidas
Music —– Alan Silvestri

Distributor —– Universal Pictures
Production Company —– Amblin Entertainment
Release Date —– July 3, 1985
Running Time —– 116 minutes
Projection Format —– 1.85:1
Sound Format —– Dolby Stereo
MPAA Rating —– PG

1 = Rank on top-grossing films of 1985
1 = Number of Academy Awards
4 = Number of Academy Award nominations
9 = Rank on all-time list of top-grossing films at close of run
11 = Number of weeks it was the nation’s top-grossing film
46 = Number of days it took to surpass $100 million
54 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing films (adjusted for inflation)
94 = Rank on current list of all-time top-grossing films
231 = Number of days it took to surpass $200 million
1,419 = Number of opening-week bookings in the United States and Canada

$11.1 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
$19.0 million = Production cost
$170.5 million = Cumulative international box-office gross
$210.6 million = Cumulative domestic box-office gross
$374.7 million = Cumulative domestic box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)
$381.1 million = Cumulative worldwide box-office gross


“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour…you’re gonna see some serious sh*t.” — Doc Brown

“Whoa. Wait a minute, Doc. Are you trying to tell me that my mother…has got the hots for me?” — Marty

“Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out, that he’d melt my brain.” — George McFly

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” — Doc Brown


“4 Stars! One of the most endearing and accomplished of entertainments. The writing here is really the star. It would be a classic even in Hollywood’s golden era.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune/At The Movies

“One sensational movie. Ingenious, hilarious and wonderfully touching.” — Dennis Cunningham, CBS-TV

“Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have made a true American comedy with the sweet wit and benevolent bite of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra.” — Jack Kroll, Newsweek

“What movie-goer of any age could resist it?” — Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

“An uplifting reminder that Hollywood can still provide truly great entertainment. A faultless, exquisitely developed script and a perfect cast.” — Michael Blowen, The Boston Globe

“A masterpiece of comic structure.” — Rick Lyman, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“It works with charm, brains and a lot of laughter.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times/At The Movies

“A high energy film full of great ideas and good spirits.” — Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight

“[Director Robert Zemeckis] handles Back To The Future with the kind of inventiveness that indicates he will be spinning funny, whimsical tall tales for a long time to come.” — Janet Maslin, The New York Times


Two theaters are featured in the movie’s fictional town of Hill Valley: the Essex and the Town.

A few of the 1,400+ prints struck for Back To The Future’s initial release were in the 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo format. The markets in which these coveted 70mm prints played first-run included Dallas (Northpark I & II), Los Angeles (Avco Center and Cinerama Dome), New York (State Twin), San Francisco (Regency I), and Toronto (Hyland). In addition, there were some 70mm sub-run/moveover bookings later in the film’s run in markets such as Chicago (Tivoli). The 70mm presentation was, arguably, the best way to experience Back To The Future and the only way to faithfully hear the movie’s Oscar-nominated sound mix.

During much of the production of Back To The Future, Michael J. Fox was working on the Family Ties television series. He would work on the TV show during the day and Back To The Future at night and on weekends.

Back To The Future inspired two sequels, a theme park attraction, and an animated TV series.

In early drafts of the screenplay, the time machine was a refrigerator.

A few weeks before its release, Back To The Future was test-screened at the Century 22 in San Jose, California.

Back To The Future was nominated for four Academy Awards: Original Screenplay, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and Original Song (“The Power Of Love”). It was awarded the Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing. Other awards included a Saturn for Best Actor (Michael J. Fox), Best Science Fiction Film, and Best Special Effects; a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation; and a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture.

Acclaimed artist Drew Struzan painted the image used on the film’s promotional material.

The character of Biff Tannen was named after Universal Pictures executive Ned Tanen (who reportedly had a reputation of a bully).

Huey Lewis had a small role in the film as one of the dance audition judges (“I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud”). Lewis was the first in a line of famous musicians to appear in the Back To The Future movies. (Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, appeared in Part II, and ZZ Top appeared in Part III.) The song Marty’s band plays is a heavy metal version of Huey Lewis and the News' “The Power Of Love,” one of their two songs featured in the film.

Eric Stoltz (Mask) was originally cast in the role of Marty McFly but was replaced by Michael J. Fox a few weeks into production. Stoltz had previously starred in The Wild Life (1984), which also featured Lea Thompson and, as well, featured music by Edward Van Halen, a cue of which was used in one humorous scene in Back To The Future.

If Universal executive Sid Sheinberg had gotten his way, Back To The Future would have been titled Space Man From Pluto.

Back To The Future was released on home video in the spring of 1986. The home video and TV version ended with a “To Be Continued” credit not present in the original theatrical edition.

Back To The Future was filmed at locations throughout Southern California, including the Los Angeles communities of Arleta, Hollywood, and Los Feliz; as well as the cities of Burbank, Chino, City of Industry, Pasadena, and Whittier; the unincorporated area of Newhall (known today as part of the city of Santa Clarita); and some stage and backlot work at Universal Studios.

Back To The Future was the top grossing film in the United States and Canada for eleven of its first twelve weeks of release.

Back To The Future is scheduled for release on Blu-ray Disc on October 26, 2010. (Part of the movie’s contemporary 1985 scenes were set on the date October 26.)


Primary references for this project were daily major-city newspapers archived digitally and/or on microfilm. Magazines referenced included Newsweek, Time, and the Back To The Future Souvenir Magazine, (1985, Ira Friedman, Inc). Books referenced included George Lucas’s Blockbusting: A Decade-By-Decade Survey Of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets Of Their Financial And Cultural Success edited by Alex Ben Block and Lucy Autrey Wilson (2010, George Lucas Books/HarperCollins). The following film was referenced: Back To The Future (1985, Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures). Also referenced were supplemental features from the Back To The Future DVD. Websites referenced include BoxOfficeMojo and CinemaTreasures.

Special Thanks: Steve Kraus, Bill Kretzel, Tim O'Neill.

Other recent tribute articles by this author:
The Sound Of Music 45th anniversary
Jaws 35th anniversary
The Empire Strikes Back 30th anniversary

You are invited to share any memories you have of seeing Back To The Future or any thoughts you may have pertaining to this retrospective article.

Comments (25)

moviebuff82 on July 3, 2010 at 10:28 am

I first saw BTTF when I rented it on vhs at a local library. It was a movie ahead of its time and original. It was The Time Machine but instead of a boxy machine it was a car, and a junky one. I then saw part II and III, which were okay but not as good as the first one. I now own all three on DVD. I’ve seen the cartoon when it was on CBS and was good. This film elevated michael j. fox to stardom beyond what he had done in family ties. After the trilogy was over, he starred in another tv show called spin city and then dealt with parkinson’s disease, which he still does. He then created a foundation in honor of that and still supports curing for the disease.

Keith on July 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm

the blu-ray will have footage of eric stoltz as marty.

JodarMovieFan on July 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I believe I saw this movie in 70mm at the Avalon in DC. This was after Circle had done a remodel installing a Sistine-chapel style ceiling painting. At the time, it was one of a handful (maybe two?) that had the HPS4000 sound system. Fantasia had a reissue there in a new soundtrack. It put me to sleep, actually by the time the Sorcerer’s Apprentice part started.

The movie was enjoyable overall, but I never did like Michael J. Fox’s acting style. With the exception of that army movie he did with Sean Penn, it always seemed like I was watching the same actor doing the same role but in a different situation. Watching him on Family Ties as ‘Alex’ was bad enough. I suppose it was his gesturing..looking back, maybe it was the start of his Parkinsons. Its hard to remember specific moments in the movie’s 6-track soundtrack but I suppose the coolest parts were when he was playing on stage and hoping his ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ would kiss. Then there was the DeLorean car, at the end, when it had the capability of flying, the sound started in front of you and sped behind you..to ‘move’ out of the way. Did it come around again and do a ‘warp jump’ explosion at the end? I forget. I think so..it did that light streak and then the titles began ..To Be Continued..

KingBiscuits on July 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

That so-called “junky car” was actually considered one of the most innovative for its time.

I first saw this movie when McDonald’s sold copies of it in the mid 1990’s. I’ve probably seen it at least 20 times since then.

HowardBHaas on July 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I enjoyed it very much at the then single screen Dupont in D.C. I think the northwestern DC cinemas (such as the Avalon) played the same movies as “downtown” but I don’t recall if the Dupont would have co-played it with the Avalon. I enjoyed “II” at the Uptown, and III here in the Phila. region at the Yeadon.

CSWalczak on July 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I thought a very enjoyable, highly entertaining film, but in my view, it is no classic, not even of its genre, and I did not bother seeing the third sequel. Like JodarMovie Fan, I have always thought that Michael J. Fox has very limited skills as an actor; his status as top film star was very brief, and his niche was really TV and voice-overs. That said, my admiration of him as a Parkinson’s fighter and spokesperson/educator is unbounded.

Mark_L on July 3, 2010 at 6:47 pm

For reasons I really don’t recall, I didn’t see this on its first time out. I saw the second and third, but not this one. One of the better trilogies, with the last one crossing everyone up and being a Western!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I agree with CWalczak on every point… except I saw the lame third sequel.

CSWalczak on July 4, 2010 at 12:09 am

Actually, as my cat just pointed out, the sequel I did not see and AlAlvarez did, was the second sequel, as the series only had three parts.

SethLewis on July 5, 2010 at 5:25 am

I was there opening day at the Rex in Kuala Lumpur! A great date movie of its time that still stand up well. Amazing that it only cost $19 million – it’s all on the screen…and an amazing Hollywood decision to replace Eric Stoltz with Michael J. Fox …Skipped Number 2 but Number 3 actually decent

KJB2012 on July 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I’ve always found “Back To The Future” films to be a lot of fun.

Is Fox a great actor,no. But “Future” is not “Hamlet”. It didn’t really Laurence Olivier in it.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Seemed more like a made TV movie certainly does not the kind of write up it is getting here.But I grew up on 2001,not Chewy and some cute robots.

StanMalone on July 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Thanks for another trip down memory lane Michael. I am glad you did not try to list the theatres involved. With 1500 locations that would have been a time consuming task. With so many multiplex screens and the end of exclusive runs and year long engagements that sort of thing had lost its charm by 1985.

Back To The Future was notable to me because it was one of those movies that kind of slipped in under my radar. I am not a TV watcher and had never heard of Michael J. Fox, or any other of the actors except Lea Thompson, and the anticipated sci fi movie of that summer, Cocoon, had opened a couple of weeks earlier. However, when the staff unlocked the doors on opening day, it was obvious that I was about the only one who was not ready for it. For the first couple of weeks we had sellouts even during the week despite the wide break release it had in Atlanta. I was working at Greens Corner at the time and we continued to have weekend sellouts until Labor Day. I also did some relief work at the GCC Southlake 3 and it was a big hit there as well.

As for the Mike Rogers comment above I would say two things:

First, it reminds me of a humorous episode regarding the film critic of the Atlanta paper whose last name was Ringel. (I forget the first name.) My one contact with her leads me to believe that she is a pleasant enough person, however, it was a standing joke among those of us who worked in theatres that if you wanted a good review from her then your movie better have subtitles. Back To The Future had received the expected lambasting on opening day although it was obvious that it made no difference at the box office even in those days when newspapers were relevant. Later on, outraged that it was still doing big business weeks after opening, she wrote another article lamenting that this piece of lightweight fluff was a hit while more worthy fare (in her opinion) was being ignored. In less than subtle language she questioned at least the taste if not the intelligence of the movie goers of Atlanta. As you might expect, this brought a flood of letters to the editor raising the same questions about her. In the end she wrote yet another article explaining her reasoning and suggesting that the Back To The Future fans could still find her reviews useful by going to see any movie that she hated.

Secondly, I hate to tell Mike this, but it is doubtful that he will ever see another movie as good as 2001. I saw 2001 when it first came out in 70MM at the Martin Cinerama. I liked it, and still do, better than the majority of the many movies I have seen since. However, if I judged every movie I saw by how it compared to my all time favorite, which is The Best Years Of Our Lives, then I would find very few even bearable. If I had to write a one sentence evaluation (obviously not my style) of Back To The Future, it would go something like this:

“A pleasant, well made film with good production values that entertained the movie going public to the point that many of them came back for more.”

If more movies could live up to that description then they would have to build more theatres to hold all of the people, and all of us who enjoy this business would have jobs for as long as we cared to work.

As to the 70MM version, I do not believe that it had a 70MM release in Atlanta, but the next summer, the Fox Theatre ran both Cocoon and Back To The Future in 70.

Dublinboyo on July 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

Saw it when it was released on July 5th, 1985 at the Monterey Mall Cinemas. Bad time in my life, but this film with it’s appeal lifted me out of my depression for those 2 hours and let me forget, mostly due to the great performance Michael J. Fox gave. Have not seen the sequels though. Now I live in South Pasadena and often walk pass some of the locations used in the film – namely the McFly’s house and Lorraine’s house (and the tree Marty climbs to spy.) Think I’ll watch my copy tonight to celebrate 25 years!

raysson on July 7, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Saw this when it was released on July 5, 1985 in Durham, North Carolina. However,it played on the other side on town at Northgate Mall at the Northgate Twin Theatres. The opening night this film played was sold out to capacity crowds that went to see it where the lines snaked from the side of Sears Department Store all the way towards the inside part of the mall all the way towards Roses Discount Store. “Back To The Future” came out when Michael J. Fox was at the peak of his career when at the time he was a bonafide TV star playing Alex Keaton on the 1980’s television series Family Ties.
Not to mention this film had one of the biggest hits of 1985…who remembers that theme song from Huey Lewis and the News Grammy winning song “Going Back In Time”…………….

“BACK TO THE FUTURE”-Played in Screen One

The other monster hit of 1985? “RAMBO:FIRST BLOOD PART II”-On Screen Two that also played at the Northgate to capacity crowds.

raysson on July 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Other theatres didn’t get BACK TO THE FUTURE until later on that month. Here are two of the theatres in North Carolina that didn’t played it until mid-July and early August.

-Carolina Blue and White Twin (Plitt Southern Theatres)

-College Road Cinema 6 (United Artists Theatres)

OTHERS: Didn’t open in these North Carolina cities until mid-July or August of 1985

-Imperial Cinema IV (United Artists Theatres)

-Town and Country Cinema 1 & 2 (Stewart and Everett Theatres)

-Cinema 1 & 2 (Eastern Federal Theatres)

-Eastgate Cinema 1 & 2 (Eastern Federal Theatres)

CSWalczak on July 7, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Ab article about an internet hoax over the last few days related to “Back to the Future”: View link

raysson on July 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm

The network television premiere of BACK TO THE FUTURE premiered on ABC in 1990.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Stan ,Elanor was her first name.I wrote her once about her review on a Dirty Harry movie,I think it was “SUDDEN IMPACT” she unlike most big city film critics really liked this Dirty Harry movie and admitted to me she had a crush on Clint Eastwood,I have the letter somewhere.I saw 2001 in 70mm at National Hills here in Augusta,and for a 12 year old not really understanding the movie,the beauty of space,well its a wonder I never went to NASA for work.

Coate on July 10, 2010 at 12:41 am

<<< The network television premiere of BACK TO THE FUTURE premiered on ABC in 1990. >>>

The network TV premiere was not in 1990 on ABC; it was in 1988 on NBC.

There was also a repeat broadcast on NBC in 1989 shortly before the release of “Part II.” That broadcast was hosted by Leslie Nielsen and included some clips and behind-the-scenes footage from the sequel.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 10, 2010 at 7:19 am

Michael, I noticed you have been on Ct since 2005.How many of these Articles have you done on different movies? I would certainly like to read them,minus the musicals.

Mark_L on July 12, 2010 at 11:01 am


If you click on Michael Coate’s name above, it will take you to his members profile page. Under the pictures, in the right column, you will find his articles.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Boy.Mark,He has the topics.It is hard,However to tell what are stories he wrote,guess it will be hit and miss on the topics.

raysson on April 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

From the previous comment: “Back To The Future” was NEVER shown in 70MM in the Carolinas. Raleigh’s The Valley Twin was only presented in the DOBLY STEREO format.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment