The three Back to the Future movies are easily the best-known time travel stories ever told. Audiences won’t be forgetting Avengers: Endgame any time soon, but Back to the Future will always be the movie that made audiences across the world believe in time travel and root for a protagonist who just wanted to set the timeline straight and ensure that he would be born.
The culture clash of an ‘80s kid in ‘50s America, or an ‘80s kid in 2010s America, or an ‘80s kid in the Old West, were all just the comedic cherry on top. Here are the 10 Most Memorable Quotes From The Back To The Future Trilogy.
10 “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious s***.”
We’d seen dozens of mad scientist characters in movies before Back to the Future, but Christopher Lloyd was the first to play a mad scientist who didn’t take everything so seriously. From this, we got Dr. Emmett Brown, a guy who describes his first experiment involving actual, tangible time travel as “some serious s**t.”
It was no wonder that his best friend was a teenage boy. Doc is just as cool as Marty. He’s not a square, just because he can’t understand Marty’s slang. Doc is a cool guy. He’s a guy who can invent a real time machine and then tell you about it over a beer.
9 “Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?”
One of the main character traits of Biff Tannen is that he gets idioms wrong. Instead of “Make like a tree and leave,” he says, “Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?” And in the sequel, we see this paid off as the older Biff goes back in time and starts talking to the younger Biff.
The younger Biff is more boneheaded and idiotic and says the incorrect “leave” expression to the older Biff, and then the older Biff corrects his past self: “It’s ‘leave,’ you idiot! ‘Make like a tree and leave!’ You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong!” He does.
8 “Who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis?”
Then-sitting President Ronald Reagan reportedly loved this joke so much that he had Back to the Future screened at the White House so that he could show it to his administration.
When Marty claims to be from 1985, 1955 Doc asks him, “Tell me, Future Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?” Marty says, “Ronald Reagan,” and Doc laughs, “Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha! Then who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady. And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury!”
7 “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it.”
Back to the Future set the template for time travel comedies. One thing that was in Back to the Future and has been in every time travel comedy made since then is the scene where we see the setup for something in the present day. At the end of Back to the Future, Marty plays Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” for a 1955 audience that isn’t ready for rock ‘n’ roll.
Meanwhile, a guy who turns out to be Chuck Berry’s cousin, Marvin Berry, is on the phone with him, telling him to rip it off. So, the joke reveals that Chuck Berry stole “Johnny B. Goode” from himself.
6 “Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.”
It’s been reported that the idea to set Back to the Future Part III in the Old West came from the set of the first movie. Between takes, director Robert Zemeckis asked Michael J. Fox what historical period he’d go to if he had a time machine, and Fox said he’d go to the Old West.
So, the third movie was written and shot as a western to realize that dream. Marty has nothing on his side in that era other than the pop culture of his own time that has been based on it. When he’s asked for his name, he says, “Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.”
5 “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
This line may have been parodied and homaged so many times at this point that it’s completely lost all impact and become sort of cheesy, but upon first viewing, it actually gets us very excited to see Robert Zemeckis’ vision of the future in Back to the Future Part II.
Obviously, the 2015 depicted in that movie was very different from the 2015 we all lived a few years ago, but it wasn’t a million miles away – and audiences in the ‘80s didn’t know that. As far as they knew, we would all be driving flying cars in 2015. That’s the magic of cinema.
4 “Nobody calls me chicken.”
Every character needs their Achilles’ heel, and Marty McFly’s is that as soon as someone calls him a “chicken,” he can’t back down. Even if he knows in his heart of hearts that the best thing for the fabric of the space-time continuum is for him to walk away from a situation, he simply can’t if someone calls him a “chicken.”
Suffice to say, Marty’s verbal Kryptonite gets both himself and Doc into quite a lot of sticky situations over the course of the three movies. But of course, Marty always manages to pull everything together and fix the timeline.
3 “It’s your kids, Marty! Something’s gotta be done about your kids!”
These days, every movie with a moderate budget or a popular source material ends with a sequel setup, because franchises are the big thing. That’s not what Back to the Future was all about. The ending was never about setting up a sequel.
It simply tells us that as long as there is a time machine and Doc can peek into the past or the future, there will always be something terrible that he and Marty need to fix – whether it’s a future tragedy they can see coming or something they messed up in the past. Still, there’s never been a more famous sequel setup than this.
2 “Great Scott!”
Before he played Doc Brown in Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd had become a star from appearing on the sitcom Taxi and playing supporting characters in movies like the critically acclaimed masterpiece One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. However, it was the role of Doc Brown that would come to truly define him as an actor.
His performance is rubbery and comical and cartoonish, but there’s also a healthy balance of emotion. Lloyd is a brilliant actor who has played a wide range of characters, but there’s still no line of dialogue he’s ever uttered that will be as memorable as “Great Scott!”
1 “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean?”
In Back to the Future, we have great writing, great acting, great directing, great editing, great special effects, great story structure – but despite all these things, none of them matter more than the sense of wonder that Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, and Steven Spielberg instilled into their audience.
The same goes for most Amblin movies of the ‘80s (the movies that inspired Stranger Things). That sense of wonder that we can only get from a trip to the movies is created the second Marty McFly says, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine...out of a DeLorean?”