1985 was a fine year for Hollywood. Icons fell under the stampede for sequels while future classics were created. It’s time to look back.
In the coming weeks the HeyUGuys team will focus on some of best from ’85, exploring their legacy and capturing something of their enduring essence.
We’ve already watched a boxer win the Cold War, shone a light on an oft-forgotten Disney outing, hung out in a pool with Steve Guttenberg, endured bad Bond, enjoyed a Cruise Curry, drew First Blood for second time, reunited with The Brat Pack, got a keg of beer with a wolf, learned to hate vacation, today it’s all about getting up to speed…
The story of a 17 year old teenager who travels back in time to save his scientist friend only to then be forced into making sure his parents fall in love to secure his own future is arguably the most enduring film of 1985. Back to the Future smashed it at the box office, hit a home run with the critics and went on to become a cinematic landmark, entertaining people for decades to follow.
It’s difficult to imagine the 1980s without Back to the Future, the film was a cultural phenomenon, becoming the highest grossing film of 1985 and going on to become one of the most iconic movies of the decade. However the film suffered a turbulent ride in the years before it finally hit the big screen, so much so that it, like Marty McFly, almost never existed at all.
The script, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale was rejected by several studios, including Disney who claimed they couldn’t promote a film which had such a strange relationship between a son and his mother and Columbia, who said that it wasn’t ‘sexy enough.’
Back to the Future owes an awful lot to the success of Zemeckis’ 1984 film Romancing the Stone. The box office success of the movie managed to convince Universal Studios (and Steven Spielberg) that Back to the Future was worth investing in, finally giving the film a studio and a release year of 1985- four years after the script had been finished.
The troubles didn’t stop there as Spielberg and Zemeckis began to encounter a lot of issues with the casting. Michael J Fox was always first choice to play Marty Mcfly, however due to a scheduling conflict with the TV show Family Ties, which Fox was starring in at the time, he initially had to turn it down. So Zemeckis and Spielberg cast Eric Stoltz in the role. Four weeks into filming however it was decided that Stoltz wasn’t suited to the role and they decided to wait for Fox to finish up his work with Family Ties instead. Unlike Fox Christopher Lloyd was not in fact first choice to take on the role of Doc Brown, that honour fell to John Lithgow. However Lithgow turned down the role and Lloyd was offered it. He too, however, also turned it down initially until he had read the script and was given the ok to improvise some of his lines.
The biggest drama to rise out of the production was caused by the actor Crispin Glover, who plays Marty’s dad, George Mcfly, in the film. Glover had issues with the way they film ended, believing that it was a cop-out and that it highlighted superficial needs. Glover was recast for the second film.
When it opened Back to the Future became a commercial and critical success, spending 11 weeks at the top of the US box office and going on to become the highest grossing film of 1985. Writer Bob Gale attributed part of the film’s box office success was word of mouth- the film took more in its second weekend than it did in its first, a rare occurrence in Hollywood.
Critically the film was just as successful, and viewed by many critics as one of the best films of the year. Upon its release the film was greeted with mass critical approval, with Roger Ebert drawing comparisons to the work of Frank Capra, most notably It’s a Wonderful Life. The film has since gone on to find its place on many ‘best of’ lists and in 2010 the AFI placed it at number 10 on their list of greatest sci-fi movies of all time. It also holds 96% approval rate of review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.
Very few films have managed the cultural impact that Back to the Future has. It became a quintessential 80s movie and it continues to inspire a whole new generation of film lovers. Thanks to its box office success the film was given two sequels, which whilst be both being a step down in quality made a killing at the box office, pushing the trilogies taking over the $1 Billion mark.
Despite this enduring success Back to the Future has managed to avoid falling foul of a remake. Director Robert Zemeckis is adamant that he would never allow it, something which pleases fans the world over. However this year we will see a new take on the story- the film is to be adapted into a musical for the London West-End, fans can rest easy however as original writers Zemeckis and Bob Gale have returned to pen the script, and original composer Alan Silvestri has written new music.
The film has become an essential part of the tapestry of popular culture with everything from The Simpsons and American Dad to the British rock bands Busted and McFly (named after Marty) making references and paying tribute. Marty’s skateboarding exploits are also held in high esteem in the skateboarding world, with many professional skaters claiming to have been inspired by Marty and his board. It was Fox’s natural ability on a board that allegedly sold Zemeckis on him as an actor and made him hell bent on getting him into the film.
Very few films have remained as popular as Back to the Future and 30 years on it is a genuine knock out. Its infectious tone and underlying oedipal themes still make it one of the most fun watches possible and I, like many, will always manage to make time for Marty and Doc every so often.
Read on about other classmates from 1985…
Most Likely to ruin Europe for good:
Most Likely to Win in the End:
Most Likely to get your Man in Motion:
Most Likely to make an inappropriate joke while arching an eyebrow: