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10 Things You Probably Missed in the ‘Back to the Future’ Movies

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures

There is no denying the cultural relevance of Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future. It is a film that is not only entertaining, but it is smart, funny, and near perfect (from a storytellers’ point-of-view). It is a film that instantly makes me relate back to my childhood, and does that same thing for millions of other fans of the franchise as well. It’s timelessness adds to its allure. The film never seems to age, even over 30 years later.

The opening scene of Back to the Future is near perfect from a critical standpoint, and has been called one of the best film opening sequences in film history. It is full of great moments and call backs, not to mention the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the entire film. Could you really ask for anything better?

Here are 10 things you might have missed when you watch Back to the Future.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

1. The Script was Rejected by Every Major Studio, Over 50 Times!

Film scripts are like trading cards in Hollywood. They bounce around from studio to studio, until someone decides they want to invest in the story. Several big Hollywood blockbusters are among these films that don’t initially seem promising. A few of these films were Indiana Jones: Raider of the Lost Ark, Pulp Fiction, and even Star Wars.

In fact, In fact, Pulp Fiction was called, “The worst thing ever written. It makes no sense. Someone’s dead and then they’re alive. It’s too long, violent and unfilmable,” by a Columbia Pictures executive. Shrugging this off, Tarantino went on to be an extremely successful filmmaker. When the right union of script, director, and actors comes together, it is nothing short of magic.

According to Back to the Future co-creator, Bob Gale, the script was rejected by “some more than once.” [CNN]

Columbia Pictures saw the first draft and rejected it, saying it was a cute idea, but “not sexual enough.” Columbia said to take the script to Disney. Disney executives deemed the film too dirty. According to Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Disney told them, “You’ve got the kid and the mother in his car! It’s incest!”


Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image art by: Steven Cormann. Image: Unversal Pictures

2. A Universal Studios Executive Wanted to Change The Title from Back to the Future to ‘Spaceman From Pluto’

Not everyone has great ideas in Hollywood. Actually, sometimes people have really stupid ideas. Thank God that this one didn’t make it through the mouth diarrhea stage. Consequently, changing the title of Back to the Future to Spaceman from Pluto would have been a huge mistake.

This wasn’t just anyone who had this ‘brilliant’ idea, it came from Sid Sheinberg, the head of Universal Pictures. He thought that having the word ‘Future’ in the title would turn people away from the film. At the time, futuristic films did not do really well at the box office, with the exception of a few (looking at you Star Wars). Sheinberg suggested that to Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis in a memo. He want further saying that they should work the title into the film more. In response to the memo, Steven Spielberg sent one back to him, thanking him for the “joke memo” and said that the office “got a kick out of it”. This embarrassed Sheinberg, and he backed down, allowing Spielberg and Zemeckis to keep the title.

Not to discredit Sheinberg completely, he did come up with some changes to the film that were implemented. He suggested changing ‘Professor’ Brown to ‘Doc’ Brown and even vetoed Einstein being a chimpanzee. He said, “You have to get rid of that chimp, because no one’s going to see a film with a chimp in it. I’ve done the research. No movie with a chimpanzee in it has ever made a profit.” Gale recalls “I said, ‘What about Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can, Sid?’ Then Sheinberg said, “That was an orang-utan in those movies.”


Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

3. When Marty McFly Got Back to 1985, You Can See a Bum Sleeping on the Bus Bench. This Was The Same Man that Was the Mayor Running for Re-Election in 1955.

This is a bombshell fan theory from the film, more than something you might have missed, but it was worth including. According to the fan theory, the bum (‘Red the Bum’) that is sleeping on the bus stop bench when Marty travels back to 1985 is mayor Red Thomas who is running for re-election in 1955. Unfortunately, the theory is not true, but it is easy to see how you could mistake the two.

According to the commentary by Bob Gale on the Back to the Future DVD set, this was more of an ad-lib mistake rather than a misconception. Gale says that the name of the bum was ad-libbed by Michael J. Fox. Gale goes on to say that the photo of the mayor in 1955 on the campaign van is set director Hal Gausman, but the bum was played by George Flower.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

4. Back to the Future is Full of Predictions that Have Come True, and Some that Almost did…

Back to the Future made a lot of predictions about the future, especially in the year 2015. There were a few of these thing that have come true, and some huge bombshells that almost happened.

1. The first one is a big one, and it almost came true. During the film (in 2015) the Cubbies win the Word Series. No, The Chicago Cubs didn’t win the MLB World Series in 2015, but they came close. They actually lost the series on the same day that Marty traveled into the future in Back to the Future II. They did come back and win the Wold Series in 2016, ending a 108 year team championship drought. Not bad Zemeckis, not bad.

2. “Video games where you have to use your hands are lame.” That is what a young Elijah Wood and his friend tell Marty in 2015. With the invention of the Xbox Kinect, games where you don’t use your hands are actually a reality.

3. 3D Movies and Sequels. We are obsessed with 3D movies now, and we can’t seem to kick our infatuation with making sequels.

4. Hand-held computer tablets. Tablets are commonplace in today’s society. In the film, Marty is asked to electronically sign a petition to save the clock tower.

5. A Baseball team in Florida. We actually have two teams in Florida now. The Florida Marlins, who debuted in 1993, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who debuted in 1998.

6.  Video Conferencing. This is definitely a thing of reality now. Do I even need to talk about this anymore than saying Skype and FaceTime, or Google Hangouts? This is how old-aged Marty was fired from his job by Needles. Needles is also a cameo appearance by Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

7. Wall Mounted TV’s. Old Marty is using a wall-mounted big screen television for everything from television to video phone calls.

8.  Our obsession with personal electronics. Mary’s children were hooked. We are hooked today. We get lost in everything from iPad’s to Apple Watches, to XBox’s. Today’s society has an addiction.

9. Multiple television channels. Most cable providers have this option today.

10. Performance enhancers and sports. In the film, the newspaper that says that Martin McFly is jailed, in the left column, it says that a pitcher has been banned for using a bionic arm. This isn’t a drug like we have today, but it is a performance enhancer.

11. Finally, Hoverboards. Although they are not mainstream, Lexus has recently announced that they have made a hoverboard. The bad part: You cannot buy one, it only works at custom skate parks that have tons of magnets in the ground, and it needs a liquid nitrogen refill every 10 min.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

5. How Did Marty and Doc Brown Become Friends?

This is something that obsessed fans of the series have asked the actors and creators since the film was made. Bob Gale finally gave up this answer. He told Mental Floss about the origin of Marty and Doc’s friendship:

“He snuck into Doc’s lab, and was fascinated by all the cool stuff that was there. When Doc found him there, he was delighted to find that Marty thought he was cool and accepted him for what he was. Both of them were the black sheep in their respective environments. Doc gave Marty a part-time job to help with experiments, tend to the lab, tend to the dog, etc.”

How about that for some back-story?

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

6. In Early Drafts Of Back To The Future, The Time Machine was Actually a Refrigerator!

The DeLorean was actually the third choice for a time machine in the film.  The first choice for the time machine in the film was a refrigerator. This was quickly changed, due to fears that children would see this, and begin locking themselves inside of fridges across the world. Zemeckis and Gale quickly abandoned that idea.

Their second choice was a tank, and why not? They finally chose the DeLorean, because of its similarities to a spaceship. They even included a bit about that in the script.  When Marty goes back to 1955, the farmer reacts as if the DeLorean is a spaceship.

John DeLorean sent a fan letter to the creators of Back to the Future, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, thanking them for “keeping my dream alive” in using the car in the films. The design of the car in the film was so popular that car companies began making BTTF kits for DeLorean owners.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

7. Minute Details Are Changed in Different Timelines

The most celebrated things about the film are all of those wonderful details. The details are little Easter Eggs that how cause and effect are infused throughout the script. There is a minor little detail that those with a keen eye would spot. At the beginning of the film, the name of the mall that Marty and Doc are testing the DeLorean at is Twin Pines Mall. When Marty travels to 1955, he runs over a pine tree on the farmers property who owns the land that the mall resides on in 1985. By running over the tree, Marty involuntarily changes the name of the mall from Twin Pines Mall to Lone Pine Mall.

Another little thing about this scene, the farmer’s name is Mr. Peabody. A meticulous observer will pick up that Peabody’s son is named Sherman. This father son duo is named after the famous time traveling duo from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The beauty is in the details.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

8. Marty’s “Johnny B. Goode” Stage Performance Was Inspired By Some Of The Biggest Names in Rock-N-Roll

One of the most-popular scenes in the first film is the final act, the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. In the scene, Marty has to accost his mother, allowing George McFly to save the day. This will reunite his parents, so he won’t be erased for time. When the front man from the band, Marvin Berry cuts his hand trying to free Marty from the trunk of his car, Marty is forced to cover for him.

This opens up one of the best music sequences in film. Marty begins playing Johnny B. Goode in 1955, a song that is years away from being written. The songs hard rock feel seems to work with the crowd at the dance, but then Marty goes off the rails, imitating some of is favorite rock icons and using their signature moves. These moves shock the crowd.

These moves include: Chuck Berry’s one-legged hop, Pete Townshend’s windmill and kicking the amp, playing behind his head like Stevie Ray Vaughan, taps the guitar like Eddie Van Halen, and he moves on the ground like Angus Young. His solo is inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.

In the film, Marvin calls his cousin Charlie to tell him about Marty’s sound. Marvin’s cousin Charlie is actually supposed to be Chuck Berry, who originally composed Johnny B. Goode in March of 1958. How’s that for responsible time travel?

Back to the Future is known for its musical cameos. Some fun musician cameos occur throughout the franchise. The judge at the band auditions in the gym that tells Marty he is “too darn loud” is Huey Lewis, of Huey Lewis and the News who contributed two songs to the film’s soundtrack.

There is a fun fact in Back to the Future III, the band that is playing is ZZ Top.

According to the book Billy Gibbons: Rock & Roll Gearhead, ZZ Top was hanging around the set and was asked to be the town band. During one take, the camera broke and while waiting for it to be repaired, Michael J. Fox asked if they would play “Hey Good Lookin’,” which they did. Afterwards, more requests were played. Two hours later, someone inquired whether or not the camera had been repaired. Robert Zemeckis replied that it had been fixed for a while, he just didn’t want to stop the party that had evolved.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

9. Eric Stoltz was Originally Cast as Marty McFly, Not Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox has always been the first choice to play Marty McFly, but because of Family Ties he didn’t have time to be in the film. So the studio went ahead and began filming with Eric Stoltz, even though Zemeckis and Spielberg still felt he wasn’t right for the part.

Zemeckis once said in an interview, “He’s a magnificent actor, but his comedy sensibilities were very different from what I had written with Bob [Gale].” You can see some of the Eric Stoltz scenes in the clip below:

After the production had shot for five weeks, Fox’s schedule freed up, and Zemeckis convinced Universal Pictures to go ahead and recast Fox in the role of Marty. A lot of the scenes had to be re-shot using Michael J. Fox, and adding Fox also added $3 million to the budget. Not to worry though, because Eric Stoltz’ fist is still in Back to the Future. When Biff gets punched in the diner by Marty, it is clearly not Michael J. Fox, It is Eric Stoltz. Finally, these weren’t the only two actors up for the role of Marty McFly. Johnny Depp read for the role, and Ralph Macchio turned the role down.

Back to the Future, Universal Pictures
Image: Universal Pictures

10. Crispin Glover Hated the End of the Movie, and Filmed the Last Scenes Under Protest

Crispin Glover had a few questions about the plot at the end of the film. He didn’t think it was right that Marty got a financial reward (his black Toyota) at the end of the movie, because he thought that this idea would translate  poorly to children. He asked that Marty not get rewarded, because he didn’t want wealth to be part Marty’s reward. He didn’t mind the love aspect, but hated the wealth idea.

This wasn’t the only issue that Glover had with the film. When contracts were being worked out for Back to the Future II, Glover got into a big dispute with the studio because he was going to get paid less that two of his costars, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson. He refused the salary and the studio went ahead without him. They recast the part, and used prosthetics to make the actor appear like Glover. They also used archived footage of Glover, left over from the filming of the first film. Glover ended up suing the studio and the case was settled out of court.

Another little tidbit about Glover was that he lost his voice during filming, so some of the scenes in Back to the Future had him just mouthing his lines, and he dubbed the dialog later.

What do you think of this countdown for Back to the Future? Let us know in the comments below!

Brad Repka

I am an avid lover of all things Movies, TV, Games, and delicious other randomness. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comment!