Back to the Future Part II

Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part II

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Bob Gale
Neil Canton
Executive producers:
Steven Spielberg
Frank Marshall
Kathleen Kennedy
Screenplay by Bob Gale
Story by Robert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Starring Michael J. Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Thomas F. Wilson
Lea Thompson
Elisabeth Shue
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Editing by Harry Keramidas
Arthur Schmidt
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 22, 1989 (1989-11-22)
Running time 108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $331,950,002

Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film and the second installment of the Back to the Future trilogy. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson. Part II and the third installment of the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III, were filmed back-to-back, with some of the scenes of Part II and Part III filmed concurrently, and released six months apart. Although released in 1989 and 1990, both films continued to portray 1985 as the present, as they directly follow the events of the first film.



On October 26, 1985, Doctor Emmett Brown arrives from the future and tells Marty McFly and girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, he needs help to save their future children. As they depart, Biff Tannen accidentally witnesses their departure. They arrive on October 21, 2015, where Doc electronically hypnotizes Jennifer and leaves her incapacitated in an alley. Meanwhile, Doc has Marty pose as Marty McFly, Jr., Marty's future son, to refuse an offer from Biff's cybernetically-enhanced grandson, Griff Tannen.

Marty successfully switches places with his son and refuses Griff's offer, but Griff goads Marty into a fist fight. On his way back to meet Doc, Marty purchases Gray's Sports Almanac, a book detailing the results of major sporting events for the second half of the 20th century. Doc discovers the purchase and warns him about attempting to profit from time travel, but before Doc can adequately dispose of the almanac, they are forced to follow the police who have found Jennifer incapacitated and are taking her to her future home. Old Biff, overhearing the conversation and recalling the DeLorean from 1985, follows with the discarded book in a taxi.

Jennifer wakes up in her future home and hides while the McFly family has dinner together. She overhears that Marty's life, as well as their life together, is not what they had expected due to a car accident involving Marty. Jennifer witnesses the Marty of 2015 being goaded into a shady business deal by his friend, Needles, causing their supervisor to fire Marty from his job, as announced by numerous faxes (one copy of which Jennifer keeps). While escaping the house, Jennifer meets her older self and they both faint. As Marty and Doc run to retrieve the younger Jennifer, Biff uses the DeLorean to travel back in time to 1955, gives his teenage self the sports almanac, then returns to 2015. He abandons the DeLorean in fatigue (When 2015 becomes part of the 1985A timeline, Biff will be dead in 2015A, thus, a ripple effect is removing him from existence). Marty, Doc, and an unconscious Jennifer return to 1985, unaware of Old Biff's previous actions, and Jennifer is left on the porch at her home.

Marty and Doc soon discover that the 1985 to which they returned has changed dramatically. Biff has become wealthy and changed Hill Valley into a chaotic dystopia (that Doc describes as 1985A). Marty's father, George, has been murdered, and Biff has forced his mother, Lorraine, to marry him instead. Doc has been committed to an insane asylum. Doc finds evidence of the sports almanac and Biff's trip to the past in the DeLorean and tells Marty he needs to learn when the younger Biff received the almanac so they can correct the time line. Marty decides to confront Biff regarding the almanac. Biff explains that he received the book from an old man on November 12, 1955 who told him that he would never lose as long as he bet on every winner in the almanac. He was also told to eliminate anyone in particular who questioned him about the almanac in case of any attempt to change the past so Biff attempts to kill Marty during which time he reveals that he killed George. However, Marty escapes with Doc and, with the new information, returns to 1955.

Marty works undercover to trail the Biff of 1955. Marty is present when the Biff of 2015 arrives to give the Biff of 1955 the almanac, but Marty is unable to retrieve it. Marty is forced, with Doc's help, to try to get the book back during the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, being careful to avoid undoing the events that he had already corrected in his previous visit. Eventually, Biff leaves the dance as Doc and Marty follow him silently. After a struggle, Marty takes the almanac from Biff, who crashes his car into a manure truck as Doc and Marty fly away in the DeLorean.

With the storm approaching, Marty burns the almanac and restores the previous (improved) time line. However, the DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears. A courier from Western Union arrives minutes later and gives Marty a seventy-year-old letter. It is from Doc, who became trapped in 1885 after the lightning strike made the DeLorean go back to January 1, 1885. Marty races back into town and finds the Doc of 1955, who had just sent the original Marty back to 1985 seconds earlier at the courthouse. Doc is shocked by his friend's sudden re-appearance and faints.


The characters of George McFly and Jennifer Parker were played by different actors from those in the first film, requiring scenes that overlap to be re-shot.


Zemeckis states that initially Back to the Future was not destined to have a sequel, but its huge box office success led to the conception of a second installment. At first Part II was to take place in 1967. "Mr. Fusion" was to be destroyed, and Marty and Doc Brown would have to fly the DeLorean over a canyon.[1]

A major stumbling block arose when negotiating Crispin Glover's fee for reprising the role of George McFly. When it became clear that he would not be returning, the role was rewritten so that he is dead when the action takes place in the alternative version of 1985.

The greatest challenge was the creation of the futuristic vision of Marty's home town in the year 2015. Production Designer Rick Carter wanted to create a very detailed image with a different tone than the movie Blade Runner, saying he wanted to get past the smoke and chrome. Rick Carter and his most talented men spent months plotting, planning and preparing Hill Valley's transformation into a city of the future.

When writing the script for Part II, writer and producer Bob Gale wanted to push the ideas of the first film further for humorous effect. Zemeckis admits he was somewhat concerned about portraying the future because of the risk of making wildly inaccurate predictions.[2]


It took two years to finish the set building and the writing on the script before shooting could finally take place. During the shooting the appearance of the "aged" characters was a well-guarded secret. Their look was created using state of the art make-up techniques. Michael J. Fox describes the process as very time consuming, "it took over four hours although it could be worse".[2]

The film was also considered one of the most ground-breaking projects for Industrial Light & Magic. It was one of the effects house's first forays into digital compositing, as well as the VistaGlide motion control camera system, which enabled them to shoot one of the film's most complex sequences, in which Michael J. Fox played three separate characters, all of whom interacted with each other. Although such scenes were not new, the VistaGlide allowed, for the first time, a completely dynamic scene in which camera movement could finally be incorporated. The technique was also used in scenes where Thomas F. Wilson's character (Biff Tannen) had to interact with a younger version of himself.

As the film neared release, sufficient footage of Back to the Future Part III had been shot to allow a trailer to be assembled. It was therefore added at the conclusion of the Part II narrative, before the end credits, as a reassurance to moviegoers that there was more to come.[3]

Replacement of Crispin Glover

Crispin Glover was asked to reprise the role of George McFly. Glover indicated interest but could not come to an agreement with the producers regarding his salary. Glover later stated in a 1992 interview on The Howard Stern Show that the producers' highest offer was $125,000, which was less than half of what the other returning cast members were offered. Gale has since asserted that Glover's demands were excessive for an actor of his professional stature at that point in time.[3] For the George McFly character to appear, Zemeckis used some previously filmed footage of Glover from the first movie and inter-spliced Jeffrey Weissman, who wore prosthetics including a false chin, nose, and cheekbones and used various obfuscating methods, such as background, sunglasses, rear shot, and even upside down, to resemble Glover. Dissatisfied with these plans, Glover filed a lawsuit against the producers, including Steven Spielberg, on the grounds that they neither owned his likeness nor had permission to use it. Due to Glover's lawsuit, there are now clauses in the Screen Actors Guild collective bargaining agreements which state that producers and actors are not allowed to use such methods to reproduce the likeness of other actors.[4]

Replacement of Claudia Wells

Claudia Wells' scene at the end of Back to the Future (top) was reshot with Elisabeth Shue for the beginning of Back to the Future Part II (bottom).

Claudia Wells, who had played Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the original Back to the Future was to reprise her role, but turned it down due to her mother's ill health. The producers cast Elisabeth Shue instead, which required re-shooting the closing scenes of Back to the Future for the beginning of Back to the Future Part II. The re-shot sequence is a nearly shot-for-shot match with the original with only minor differences such as the dialogue scene where Doc Brown noticeably hesitates before reassuring Marty that his future self is fine — something he did not do in the original film.[5][6][7][8]

It was nearly 10 years before Claudia Wells returned to Hollywood, with a starring role in the 1996 independent film Still Waters Burn. She is one of the few cast members not to make an appearance within the bonus material on the Back to the Future Trilogy DVD set released in 2002. However, Wells is interviewed for the Tales from the Future documentaries in the trilogy's 25th anniversary issue on Blu-ray Disc in 2010. In 2011, Wells finally had the opportunity to reprise her role from Back to the Future, 26 years after her last appearance in the series. She provided the voice of Jennifer Parker for Back to the Future: The Game by Telltale Games.[9]

Rumors and urban legends

Robert Zemeckis said on the behind-the-scenes featurette for the film that the hoverboards (flying skateboards) used in the movie were real, yet not released to the public due to parental complaints regarding safety.[10] Footage of 'real hoverboards' was also featured in the extras of a DVD release of the trilogy. A number of people thought he was telling the truth and requested them at toy stores. In an interview, Thomas F. Wilson had said one of the most frequent questions he is asked is if hoverboards are real, to which he replies that they were guided by invisible wires, along with being asked if he fell into actual manure (he did not; it was peat moss).[11] After the release of Part III, Zemeckis explained in another interview that all of the flying scenes were accomplished by a variety of special effects techniques.

Robert Zemeckis also said in an interview that Marty and the Doc were originally going to travel back to 1967 rather than 1955 to recover the almanac from Biff, saying that this would allow the viewers to "see the hippies and lava lamps". This was later scrapped after it was decided that it would be too costly and time consuming to rearrange the set a fourth time to reflect a fifth decade.[citation needed]

Depiction of the future

There was high demand for the Nike tennis shoes Marty wears with automatic shoe-laces, which some fans thought to be real. Nike eventually released a real version of their Hyperdunk Supreme shoes, which appear similar to Marty's shoes, in July 2008; fans dubbed them the Air McFly.[12] An inspired fan named Blake Bevin also created shoes that tie themselves in 2010.[13] In late August 2010, Nike filed the patent for self-lacing shoes, and their design bears an uncanny resemblance to those worn by Marty McFly in the second film.[14] In September 2011, Nike revealed that their MAG line of shoes would not feature the self-lacing feature shown in the film.[15][16]

After the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, and again in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Cubs in the NLCS (and subsequently defeated the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series), rumors circulated that the movie predicted (or nearly predicted) the Series' results;[17] however, this was not the case. In the film's future news broadcast, it is announced that the National League Chicago Cubs beat the American League team 'Miami Gators' based in Miami, which has an alligator logo, in the 2015 World Series. Aside from the incorrect year, the mascot of the team mentioned does not match that of either current Florida-based team, the Florida Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays. At the time the movie was filmed, Florida did not have a Major League Baseball team of their own, but the Miami-based Marlins played their first season in 1993. In 2012, the Marlins will be known as the Miami Marlins.

In addition to foreseeing the birth of a Major League Baseball franchise in Florida, the film accurately predicted a number of technological and sociological changes, such as the rise of ubiquitous cameras, influence of Asian nations over America (though this was certainly already on the rise at the time of the film's release), flat panel television sets mounted on walls, the ability to watch six channels at once, and increased use of plastic surgery.[18] The movie also correctly predicted a future where video games do not need hands (Microsoft Kinect) or at the very least do not need traditional controllers (Wii Remote).[18]

The most glaring incorrect prediction is the ubiquity of flying cars which are at present nowhere near practicality. This could also be seen as an ironic jab at traditional science fiction. In many works, dating back to the turn of the 20th century, personal flying machines of one form or another were said to be available in the near to medium future. The non-existence of flying cars have become nearly idiomatic as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions.

Another prediction proven untrue in retrospect was the mention of "Queen Diana" in the future USA Today as Princess Diana had died in a car accident in 1997. She had also separated from Prince Charles since the release of the film making her ineligible from taking the title of Queen. The paper also mentions a female US President—-this of course remains to be seen.

Other predictions of the future depicted in the movie that have yet to come to pass:

  • The Weather Service able to predict when a rainstorm will start and stop to the second
  • Court trials take only a couple of hours from arrest to conviction and sentencing, abolishing all lawyers
  • With Steven Spielberg as executive producer to the trilogy, the movie predicts Spielberg's real-life son Max to be directing Jaws 19 by 2015, which is when Marty encounters the film's promotional advertisement in the form of a holographic 3D shark

Release and reception

Promotional poster of Back to the Future Part II featuring the De Lorean DMC-12.

Back to the Future Part II earned $27 million in its first weekend of U.S. release (November 22, 1989) and $118 million total US gross (or about $215,541,174.27 when adjusted for inflation[19]) – $332 million worldwide. However, this was still short of the first film's gross, and the film experienced a drop of over 50% in its second weekend, a steep figure at the time. The same fate occurred in Part III, which Universal Pictures released only six months later. On December 17, 2002 the studio released all three movies in a three disc DVD and three tape VHS boxed set which sold extremely well when it was released, despite having widely discussed widescreen framing problems, which had led to an unpublicized product recall.[20] The trilogy made its debut on Blu-ray Disc in October 2010. Back to the Future Part II received positive reviews including a 'fresh' score of 64% from Rotten Tomatoes.[21]

Home media release history

  • Released by MCA Home Video on May 22, 1990, on VHS & laserdisc, to coincide with the theatrical release to Back To The Future Part III on May 25, 1990.
  • July 4, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc, Laserdisc)
  • December 8, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc, Laserdisc)
  • March 23, 1995 (VHS, Compact Disc, Laserdisc)
  • June 7, 1998 (VHS, Compact Disc, Laserdisc — the last release of CD and Laserdisc)
  • March 15, 2002 (VHS, DVD)
  • May 7, 2006 (DVD)
  • October 26, 2010 (25th Anniversary Blu-ray Disc)

Awards and accolades

The film won the Saturn Award for Best Special Effects for Ken Ralston (the special effects supervisor), a BAFTA Film Award for Ken Ralston, an internet-voted 2003 AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award for the trilogy DVDs, a Golden Screen, a Young Artist Award, and the Favorite Movie Actor (Fox) and Favorite Movie Actress (Thompson) at the 1990 Kids' Choice Awards. It was nominated in 1990 for an Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Most visual effects nominations were due to the development of a new computer-controlled camera system, called VistaGlide, which was invented specifically for this movie — it enables one actor to play two or even three characters in the same scene while the boundary between the sections of the split screen and the camera itself can be moving.

Back to the Future Part II ranks 498 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[22]

See also

  • Back to the Future Part II: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


  1. ^ Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale (2005). Back to the Future Feature: Making the Trilogy DVD commentary on part 2 (DVD). Los Angeles: Universal Pictures. 
  2. ^ a b Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale (2005). Back to the Future: Featurette (DVD). Los Angeles: Universal Pictures. 
  3. ^ a b Tales from the Future: Time Flies documentary, Back to the Future Trilogy Blu-ray, 2010
  4. ^ Glover, Crispin (February 2011) (YouTube video). Crispin Glover on Back To The Future 2. with Simon Mayo. Mark Kermode. Kermode & Mayo. BBC Radio 5 Live. London. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Back to the Future CED Web Page". Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  6. ^ "Back to the Future Comparison". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  7. ^ "Back To The Future - Comparison". YouTube. 2009-04-08. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  8. ^ "Back To The Future Part 1 & 2 Scene Comparison". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  9. ^ Back To The Future Episode 1: It's About Time Video Game, Exclusive Behind The Scenes Part IV: How We Got Jennifer HD | Video Clip | Game Trailers & Videos |, accessed 3/24/2011.
  10. ^ "BTTF2 Featurette: Behind the Scenes". YouTube. 2009-05-24. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  11. ^ "Thomas F. Wilson's "Biff's Question Song"". YouTube. 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  12. ^ Krumboltz, Mike (9 July 2008). "Walk a Mile in McFly's Shoes". Yahoo Buzz. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  13. ^ O'Brien, Terrence (6 July 2010). "'Back to the Future' Inspired Shoes Really Tie Themselves". Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Coldewey, Devin (25 August 2010). "Nike Patenting The Power Laces From Back To The Future II". Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  15. ^ O'Neal, Sean (2011-09-08). "Nike finally making Back To The Future II's self-lacing shoes for real". A.V. Club.,61480/. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  16. ^ Chan, Casey (2011-09-08). "The Nike Air Mag—AKA the Back to the Future Shoes—Are Real, and They’re Glorious". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2011-09-08. 
  17. ^ "Whirled Series: Did the 1989 film 'Back to the Future II' predict that the Florida Marlins would win the 1997 World Series?". Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  18. ^ a b "11 Predictions That Back to the Future II Got Right". 
  19. ^ "$118,500,000.00 in 1989 had the same buying power as $215,541,174.27 in 2011.". 2011, September 29. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  20. ^ "Description of DVD framing fiasco". Various. Retrieved January 10, 2007. 
  21. ^ "Back to the Future Part II". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  22. ^ "Empire: Features". Retrieved 2009-03-21. 

External links

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