Top 9 ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy Questions Left Unanswered


As you’re probably aware by now, since you have some sort of internet access, today at 4:29pm Pacific Time, Marty McFly – along with Doc Brown, Jennifer Parker, and Einstein – is scheduled to arrive from 1985. He may be a bit disappointed not to find flying cars or kids with hoverboards, but maybe smartphones will help make up for the missing technology.

I like the Back to the Future trilogy as much as most other people who grew up in the ’80s – which is to say, a lot – but any movies that feature time travel are going to have paradoxes and other unanswerable questions. And the Back to the Future movies have more than most. Here’s my personal top nine, in no particular order:

1. Why does 2015 not change around Marty and Doc when Old Biff goes back in time to give his younger self the Sports Almanac? If Old Biff doing that created a new timeline, and they stayed in the original one, then how did they end up in the other one when they went back to 1985? If they can switch timelines, then how does Doc know that going forward to 2015 again won’t switch them back again?

2. We know that, despite his initial reluctance, Doc Brown taped the note Marty gave him back together and read it. So the Doc Brown we see at the end of the first movie knows that, if the timeline goes as it originally did, he’s going to be killed by terrorists on the night Marty goes back in time, and he knows what date that is. And the only thing he can think of to do is wear a bulletproof vest? He’s astonishingly lucky they didn’t shoot him in the head (not to mention that, even wearing a bulletproof vest, getting shot that many times in the torso with a submachine gun would probably cause broken ribs and internal bleeding). Why not set a trap for the terrorists? Or even, just maybe, don’t steal the plutonium from the terrorists in the first place.

3. What about the alternate Marty from the end of the first film? You know, the one who grew up with the confident dad and the loving, supportive family, and who knows Biff only as the goofy guy who washes the family’s cars. What happens when ?he? goes back in time? Did Doc give him a list of things he had to do in 1955 so the timeline worked out the way it should – including getting hit by his grandfather’s car and making out with his mother? Or does he go back and encounter the original Marty, the same way the original Marty does in part II? How does that affect the happenings in the past? And what happens if/when that Marty gets back to 1985? Does another Marty go back? Will Hill Valley of November 1955 be overrun with duplicates of Marty McFly?

4. Why does Doc get so angry with Marty about the Sports Almanac? In the first film, when he says he’s going to the future (before he gets shot) he mentions finding out who won the next 25 World Series, and pats the pocket where he put a notepad. So he ?wasn’t planning to use that knowledge for personal gain? Yeah, right.

5. When Doc Brown accidentally went back to 1885, then sealed up the DeLorean in the mine so his 1955 self and Marty could find it, he surely would have drained the gas tank. When you know you’re leaving a car for 70 years, that seems pretty obvious – so what did he do with the gas? He didn’t keep it in case it might come in handy? Seems unlikely for a guy who built a giant machine to make ice.

6. Remember the Indians and the cavalry? Marty runs from the bear in the cave in the same direction they were going, when he falls down a hill into the fence at his great-great-grandfather’s farm. How did the Indians and the cavalry not overrun and destroy the farm?

7. What changed in Marty’s mind between the first and second films (which aren’t supposed to have any time between them at all) to prompt his inability to handle being called cowardly? There’s not even a hint of that character flaw in the first film, but it’s suddenly a huge plot point in the second (and again in the third).

8. Why does Marty’s great-great-grandmother on his father’s side look just like his mother? … OK, I know the answer to this one, because the filmmakers have discussed it. They wanted Lea Thompson in Part III, and they wanted to continue the running gag of Marty waking up thinking he was dreaming. I suppose it’s also possible that George McFly and Lorraine Baines were distant cousins and just didn’t know it.

9. When the train hits and destroys the DeLorean at the end of the third movie, how is it such a minor event? I know DeLoreans weren’t exactly the most robust of cars, but this one had a ton of extras added, including a miniature fusion reactor. But it just falls apart, and the train doesn’t even slow down.

Of course there are plenty more questions where those came from. What’s your favorite? Leave a comment.

Image: Universal Studios.

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