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Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 American comic science fiction film and the second installment of the Back to the Future trilogy. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who directed all three films, scripted by Bob Gale, and stars Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson. The plot picks up where the original film left off. After repairing the damage to history done by his previous time travel adventures, Marty McFly (Fox) and his friend Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown (Lloyd) travel to 2015 to prevent McFly's future son from ending up in jail. However, their presence allows Biff Tannen (Wilson) to steal Doc's DeLorean time machine and travel to 1955, where he alters history by making his younger self wealthy.

The film was produced on a $40 million budget and was filmed back-to-back with its sequel, Part III. Filming began in February 1989 after two years were spent building the sets and writing the script. It was one of the most ground-breaking projects for effects studio Industrial Light & Magic (ILM); in addition to digital compositing, ILM used the VistaGlide motion control camera system, which allowed an actor to portray multiple characters simultaneously on-screen without sacrificing camera movement. Two actors from the first film, Crispin Glover and Claudia Wells, did not return for the final two. Glover's character, George McFly, was not only minimized in the plot, but was obscured and recreated with another actor. Glover successfully sued both Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale, changing how producers can deal with the departure and replacement of actors in a role.

The film was released by Universal Pictures on 22 November 1989. It received generally favorable reviews, although not as strong as the first one, with criticism on the plot for being predictable and implausible, but still had praise for the visual effects, acting and humor. A commercial success, it grossed over $331 million worldwide, making it the third-highest-grossing film of the year.


On October 26, 1985, Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown arrives in his flying DeLorean time machine and persuades Marty McFly and his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, to come back to the future with him to help their future children. Biff Tannen witnesses their departure. They arrive on October 21, 2015, where Doc electronically hypnotizes Jennifer and leaves her asleep in an alley, explaining that she should not have too much knowledge of future events. He has Marty pose as his own son to refuse an offer to participate in a robbery with Biff's grandson, Griff.

Marty switches places with Marty Jr. and refuses Griff's offer, but Griff goads Marty into a fight. After Griff and his gang crash into the local courthouse, they are arrested, saving Marty's future children. Before rejoining Doc, Marty purchases Grays Sports Almanac, a book detailing the results of major sporting events from 1950 to 2000. Doc discovers it and warns Marty about attempting to profit from time travel, but before Doc can adequately dispose of it, they are interrupted by the police, who have found Jennifer incapacitated and are taking her to her 2015 home. They pursue, as does Biff, who has overheard their conversation.

Jennifer wakes up in her 2015 home and hides from the McFly family. She overhears that her future self's life with Marty is not what she expected, due to his involvement in an automobile accident. She sees him being goaded into a shady business deal by his coworker, Needles, causing him to be dismissed. Escaping the house, Jennifer encounters her 2015 self and they both faint. While Marty and Doc attend to her, Biff steals the time machine and uses it to travel back to 1955 and give the almanac to his younger self to get rich betting, then returns to 2015. Marty, Doc, and an unconscious Jennifer return to 1985, unaware of Biff's actions.

The 1985 to which they return has changed dramatically: Biff has become wealthy and corrupt, and has changed Hill Valley into a chaotic dystopia. Marty's father, George, was killed in 1973, and Biff has forced Marty's mother, Lorraine, to marry him. Doc has been committed to an insane asylum.

Doc and Marty find evidence that 2015 Biff used the time machine and deduce that he changed the past. Marty confronts 1985 Biff, who says he received the almanac on November 12, 1955, then reveals that it was he who shot George, as he prepares to shoot Marty. Doc arrives and incapacitates Biff, allowing him and Marty to flee to 1955.

Marty secretly follows 1955 Biff and witnesses him receive the almanac from his older self. Marty follows him to the high school's Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, being careful to avoid interrupting the events from his previous visit to it. Eventually, Biff leaves with the almanac with Doc and Marty in pursuit. In a roadway pursuit, Marty takes the almanac from Biff, who crashes his car once again into a manure truck as Doc and Marty fly away in the time machine.

With Doc hovering above in the time machine as a thunderstorm approaches, Marty burns the almanac on the ground and undoes Biff's damage to history. Before they can go back to the future, however, the time machine is struck by lightning and disappears. Suddenly, a courier from Western Union arrives and hands Marty a 70-year-old letter from Doc stating that he was sent back to 1885 by the lightning strike. Marty races back into town to find the 1955 Doc who, seconds earlier, has just helped the original Marty from his first time-travel incident go back to 1985. Doc is shocked by Marty's sudden reappearance and faints.



Director Robert Zemeckis said that, initially, a sequel was not planned for the first film, but its huge box office success led to the conception of a second installment. He later agreed to do a sequel, but only if Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd returned as well. With Fox and Lloyd confirmed, Zemeckis met with screenwriting partner Bob Gale to create a story for the sequel. Zemeckis and Gale would later regret that they ended the first one with Jennifer with Marty and Doc Brown in the car, because it required them to come up with a story that fit her in, rather than a whole new adventure.[1]

Gale wrote most of the first draft by himself, as Zemeckis was busy making Who Framed Roger Rabbit. At first, the film was to take place in 1967, but Zemeckis later stated that the time paradoxes of it provided a good opportunity to go back to 1955 and see the first one's events in a different light. While most of the original cast agreed to return, 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 George is dead when the action takes place in the alternative version of 1985.[1]

The greatest challenge was the creation of the futuristic vision of Marty's home town in 2015. Production designer Rick Carter wanted to create a very detailed image with a different tone from the film Blade Runner, wishing to get past the smoke and chrome. Carter and his most talented men spent months plotting, planning and preparing Hill Valley's transformation into a city of the future.[2] Visual effects art director John Bell stated they had no script to work with, only the indications that the setting would be 30 years into the future featuring "something called hoverboards".[3]

When writing the script for the film, Gale wanted to push the first one's ideas further for humorous effect. Zemeckis said he was somewhat concerned about portraying the future because of the risk of making wildly inaccurate predictions. According to Gale, they tried to make the future a nice place, "where what's wrong is due to who lives in the future as opposed to the technology" in contrast to the pessimistic, Orwellian future seen in most science fiction.[1] To keep production costs low and take advantage of an extended break Michael J. Fox had from Family Ties (which was ending its run when filming began), it was shot back-to-back with sequel Part III.[4]


It took two years to finish the set building and the writing on the script before shooting could finally begin. During the shooting, the creation of the appearance of the "aged" characters was a well-guarded secret, involving state-of-the-art make-up techniques. Michael J. Fox described the process as very time consuming. "It took over four hours, although it could be worse".[1] Principal photography began on 20 February 1989.[4] For a three-week period nearing the conclusion of the film, the crew split and, while most remained shooting Part III, a few, including writer-producer Gale, focused on finishing its predecessor. Zemeckis himself slept only a few hours per day, supervising both films, having to fly between Burbank, where it was being finished, and other locations in California for Part III.[5]

The film was 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 its most complex sequences, in which Michael J. Fox played three separate characters (Marty Sr., Marty Jr., and Marlene), 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 and Christopher Lloyd's characters encounter and interact with their younger counterparts.[1] It also includes a brief moment of computer-generated imagery in a holographic shark used to promote a fictional "Jaws 19", which wound up unaltered from the first test done by ILM's digital department because effects supervisor Ken Ralston "liked the fact that it was all messed up.”[3]

As the film neared release, sufficient footage of Part III had been shot to allow a trailer to be assembled. It was added at the conclusion of Part II, before the closing credits, as a reassurance to moviegoers that there was more to follow.[6]

Replacement of Crispin GloverEdit

Crispin Glover was asked to reprise the role of George McFly. He expressed interest, but could not come to an agreement with the producers regarding his salary. He 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.[6] Later, in an interview on The Opie and Anthony Show in 2013, he stated that the primary reason was a philosophical (and ethical) disagreement on the overall moral that the film was conveying.[7]

Rather than writing George McFly out of the film, Zemeckis used previously filmed footage of Glover from the first film as well as new footage of actor Jeffrey Weissman, who wore prosthetics including a false chin, nose, and cheekbones. Various techniques were used to obfuscate Weissman's appearance, such as placing him in the background rather than the foreground, having him wear sunglasses, and even hanging him upside down. Glover filed a lawsuit against the producers of the film on the grounds that they neither owned his likeness nor had permission to use it. As a result of this suit, 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.[8]

Replacement of Claudia WellsEdit


Claudia Wells, who had played Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the first film, was to reprise her role, but turned it down due to her mother's ill health. The producers cast Elisabeth Shue instead, which required reshooting the closing scenes of the first one for the beginning of Part II. The reshot sequence is a near shot-for-shot match with the original, with only minor differences: for example, Doc noticeably hesitates before reassuring Marty that his future self is fine – something he did not do in the first film.[9][10]

It was nearly ten 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, she is interviewed for the Tales from the Future documentaries in the trilogy's 25th anniversary issue on Blu-ray Disc in 2010. In 2011, she finally had the opportunity to reprise her role from the first film, 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.[11]

Hoverboard hoaxEdit

Robert Zemeckis said on the film's behind-the-scenes featurette that the hoverboards (flying skateboards) used in it were real, yet not released to the public, due to parental complaints regarding safety.[2] Footage of "real hoverboards" was also featured in the extras of a DVD release of the trilogy. A number of people thought Zemeckis was telling the truth and requested them at toy stores. In an interview, Thomas F. Wilson said one of the most frequent questions he was asked was if they are real.[12]

Depiction of the futureEdit

According to Zemeckis, the 2015 depicted in the film was not meant to be an accurate depiction of the future. "For me, filming the future scenes of the movie were the least enjoyable of making the whole trilogy, because I don't really like films that try and predict the future. The only one I've actually enjoyed were the ones done by Stanley Kubrick, and not even he predicted the PC when he made A Clockwork Orange. So, rather than trying to make a scientifically sound prediction that we were probably going to get wrong anyway, we figured, let's just make it funny." Despite this, the filmmakers did do some research into what scientists thought may occur in the year 2015.[13] Bob Gale said, "We knew we weren't going to have flying cars by the year 2015, but God we had to have those in our movie."[14]

However, the film did accurately predict a number of technological and sociological changes, such as the rise of ubiquitous cameras, the influence of Asian nations over the United States (though this was certainly already on the rise at the time of its release), flat panel television sets mounted on walls, the ability to watch six channels at once, Internet video chat systems such as Skype, increased use of plastic surgery,[15] head-mounted displays, and automated fueling systems.[16] The film 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).[15]

There was high demand for the Nike tennis shoes Marty wears with automatic shoelaces, which some fans thought to be real. They eventually released a real version of their Hyperdunk Supreme shoes, which appear similar to Marty's, in July 2008. Fans dubbed them the Air McFly.[17] In April 2009 they filed the patent for self-lacing shoes, and their design bears a resemblance to those worn by Marty in the film.[18] In 2010, an inspired fan named Blake Bevin created shoes that tie themselves.[19] In September 2011, they revealed that their MAG line of shoes would not feature the self-lacing feature shown in it.[20][21] Tinker Hatfield, a designer for them, indicated in 2014 that they would introduce shoes with power-lacing technology the following year, 2015.[22]

The concept of the hoverboard—a skateboard that can float off the ground—has been explored by various groups since the release of the film. Attempts similar to hoverboats, which blast air at the ground, have been shown possible.[23] The closest in concept to the film is considered the MagBoard, developed by researchers at the Paris Diderot University. It uses a large superconductor plate on the bottom cooled with liquid nitrogen as to achieve the Meissner effect and allow it to float over a special track; it was shown capable of carrying the weight of a human in its practical demonstration. However, the requirement to run the superconductor at higher, more ambient temperatures prevents this from becoming practical.[24][25] In March 2014, a company named HUVr Tech purportedly demonstrated a working one along with several celebrities including Lloyd, though this shortly was revealed as a hoax created by the website Funny or Die.[26]

A brief joke has the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series over a Miami team whose logo is an alligator, given both the long title drought of the Cubs and the fact that at the time, Florida had no Major League Baseball team. It has since gained two franchises, the Florida Marlins in 1993 and the Tampa Bay Rays in 1998.

On May 7, 2013, Terrafugia announced the TF-X, a plug-in hybrid tilt-rotor vehicle that would be the first fully autonomous flying car. It has a range of 500 miles per flight and batteries are rechargeable by the engine. Development of TF-X is expected to last 8–12 years, which means it will not come to market before 2021-2025.

At the 2014 Pioneers Festival at Wien (Austria) AeroMobil presented their version 3.0 of their flying car. The prototype was conceived as a vehicle that can be converted from an automobile to an aircraft. The version 2.5 proof-of-concept took 20 years to develop, and first flew in 2013. A prototype flying car was released in 2013, with a price tag of approximately $35,000 which is close to the "hover conversion" price of $39,999.95 as seen in the film.[27] The new version 3.0, presented 2014, flew in October.

The Xplorair PX200 is a French project of single-seater VTOL aircraft without rotating airfoil, relying on the Coandă effect and using an array of small jet engines called thermoreactors embedded within tiltwings' body. Announced in 2007, the project has been funded by the Government of France and is now supported by various aerospace firms. A full-scale drone is scheduled for flight at Paris Air Show 2017, followed by the commercialization of a single-seater flying car in the years after.

Release and receptionEdit

Box officeEdit

The film was released to theaters in North America on Wednesday, 22 November 1989, the day before Thanksgiving. It grossed a total of $27.8 million over Friday to Sunday, and $43 million across the five-day holiday opening. On the following weekend, it had a drop of 56 percent, earning $12.1 million, but remained at #1.[28] Its total gross was $118.5 million in the United States and $213 million overseas, for a total of $332 million worldwide, ranking as 1989's sixth-most successful film domestically and the third-most worldwide—behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Batman.[29] However, this was still short of the first film's gross. Part III, which Universal Pictures released only six months later, experienced a similar drop.

Critical responseEdit

The film received generally positive reviews from film critics. As of March 2012, it had a 64% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 42 reviews with an average rating of 6.1/10.[30]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars. Ebert criticized it for lacking the "genuine power of the original," but praised it for its slapstick humor and the hoverboard in its chase sequence.[31] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film is "ready for bigger and better things." Maslin later said that it "manages to be giddily and merrily mind-boggling, rather than confusing."[32]

Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader gave the film a negative review, criticizing Zemeckis and Gale for turning the characters into "strident geeks and make the frenetic action strictly formulaic." He believed that it contained "rampant misogyny," because the character of Jennifer Parker "is knocked unconscious early on so she won't interfere with the little-boy games." He cited, as well, Michael J. Fox dressing in drag.[33] Variety said, "[Director Robert] Zemeckis' fascination with having characters interact at different ages of their lives hurts it visually, and strains credibility past the breaking point, by forcing him to rely on some very cheesy makeup designs."[34]


The film won the Saturn Award for Best Special Effects and a BAFTA Film Award for Ken Ralston, the special effects supervisor, an Internet-voted 2003 AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award for the trilogy DVDs, a Golden Screen Award, a Young Artist Award, and the Blimp Awards for Favorite Movie Actor (Michael J. Fox), and Favorite Movie Actress (Lea Thompson) at the 1990 Kids' Choice Awards. It was nominated in 1990 for an Academy Award for Visual Effects (John Bell, Steve Gawley, Michael Lantieri and Ken Ralston).[35]

Most visual effects nominations were due to the development of a new computer-controlled camera system, called VistaGlide, which was invented specifically for the film – 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.

The film ranks 498 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[36]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on VHS and LaserDisc on 22 May 1990. Universal reissued it on VHS, LaserDisc, and compact disc in 1991, 1995, and 1998. On 17 December 2002, Universal released it on DVD in a boxed trilogy set, although widescreen framing problems led to a product recall.[37] The trilogy was released on Blu-ray Disc in October 2010.


The soundtrack was released under MCA, Inc. and Varèse Sarabande on 22 November 1989. AllMusic rated it four-and-a-half stars out of five.[38]

Unlike the previous soundtrack, it contains only a musical score by composer Alan Silvestri. None of the vocal songs featured throughout the film are featured.

Songs in the film not included on the soundtrack album:[39]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Script error
  2. 2.0 2.1 Script error
  3. 3.0 3.1 Schildhause, Chloe (2014-11-25). "‘Back To The Future II’s Art Director Tells Us How They Developed The Film’s Somewhat Misguided Predictions". Uproxx. Retrieved 2015-01-06. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Weinstein, Steve (February 4, 1989). "Back-to-Back Sequels for 'Back to Future'". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. Script error
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tales from the Future: Time Flies documentary, Back to the Future Trilogy Blu-ray, 2010
  7. ""Back To The Future" Conspiracies, Alternate Endings, & Lawsuits with Crispin Glover". YouTube. 6 June 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. 
  8. Script error
  9. "Back to the Future CED Web Page". Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  10. "Back to the Future – Comparison". YouTube. April 8, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2011. 
  11. 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 | Retrieved March 24, 2011.
  12. "Thomas F. Wilson's "Biff's Question Song"". YouTube. 27 September 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  13. Q&A Commentary with Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Back to the Future Part II Blu-Ray, 2010
  14. Tales from the Future: Time Flies, Back to the Future Part II Blu-Ray, 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 "11 Predictions That Back to the Future II Got Right". 
  16. "Dutch unveil robot to fill car gas tank". 4 February 2008. 
  19. O'Brien, Terrence (6 July 2010). "'Back to the Future' Inspired Shoes Really Tie Themselves". Retrieved November 28, 2010. 
  20. O'Neal, Sean (September 8, 2011). "Nike finally making Back to the Future II's self-lacing shoes for real". A.V. Club.,61480/. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  21. Chan, Casey (September 8, 2011). "The Nike Air Mag—AKA the Back to the Future Shoes—Are Real, and They’re Glorious". Gizmodo. Retrieved September 8, 2011. 
  22. Billington, James (February 17, 2014). "Nike is actually making Marty McFly’s self-lacing shoes". New York Post. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  23. Hanson, Kevin (April 18, 2013). "Why Don't We Have Hoverboards?". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  24. Oremus, Will (November 16, 2012). "Let’s Face It, We’re Never Getting Our Hoverboards". Slate. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  25. Solon, Olivia (October 27, 2011). "Video: French researchers build hoverboard". Wired UK. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  26. Aamoth, Doug (March 5, 2014). "Funny Or Die: Fake HUVr Hoverboard Video Was Our Fake". Time. Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  27. Flying cars on Gizmag
  28. "SHORT TAKES : 'Back to Future' Falls Off; Still Leads Box Office Pack". Los Angeles Times. December 4, 1989. 
  29. "Back to the Future Part II (1989)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. 
  30. "Back to the Future Part II". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  31. Ebert, Roger (November 22, 1989). "Back to the Future: Part II". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  32. Maslin, Janet (November 22, 1989). "Back to the Future II". The New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  33. Rosenbaum, Jonathan (November 22, 1989). "Back to the Future Part II". Chicago Reader. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  34. Variety Staff (November 22, 1989). "Back to the Future Part II". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  35. "The 62nd Academy Awards (1990) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AMPAS. Retrieved April 9, 2014. 
  36. "Empire: Features". Empire. Retrieved March 21, 2009. 
  37. "Description of DVD framing fiasco". Various. Archived from the original on February 11, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2007. 
  38. Back to the Future Part II at Allmusic
  39. Back to the Future Part II End Credits

External linksEdit

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