Back to the Future

Movie review by Elliot Panek, Common Sense Media
Back to the Future Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 10+

'80s time-travel favorite; some violence, bullying, cursing.

PG 1985 116 minutes

Parents say

age 11+

Based on 143 reviews

Kids say

age 10+

Based on 317 reviews

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Community Reviews

age 14+

Really problematic. Be ready to talk about the way the movie treats women.

I liked this movie when I was a child. It makes me sad for myself and other little kids who had to accept (or try to ignore) so many depressing messages because they were normalized; if we wanted to enjoy a fun movie, we had to swallow the rest. The issue isn't that women have bad experiences in the movie. It's that the movie has a world view in which these things are not seen as a problem. And in which women are not treated as three-dimensional human beings. Marty's first comment upon meeting his Mom in the past, where she is a teenager? "Mom (disbelievingly) . . . you're thin." Really?! If you watched this before you likely remember that one of the major problems of the movie is that the main character, Marty, proves irresistibly attractive to his mother. If she falls for Marty and can't be made to switch her interest to his father, Marty will cease to exist. A funny premise with lots of opportunity for comedy, right? The problem is the way the movie handles this dilemma. Marty's poor mom has to be made to fall in love Marty's dad, who unfortunately is a cowardly, creepy Peeping Tom. Marty decides that the only way he can shake her and transfer her affection to his father is to resort to feigning a sexual assault. Think about that: why on earth is that the plan he settles on? Is there no other way - a way not involving sexual assault, maybe? - in which his father can impress/attract his mother? So Marty is going to take her out, get her alone, initiate sex and refuse to take no for an answer. So he's going to terrorize her for a little while until his future Dad can show up and pretend to rescue her. This is just a disgusting set-up, but the movie treats it like a lighthearted, madcap plan. In the end, Marty succeeds. His parents wind up together. Doc succeeds and proves that time travel is real. Even Marty's father succeeds in overcoming his fear of the bully who plagued him, and this leads to a more prosperous future in which he has a nicer car, bigger home, and a thinner wife. (That's right, Marty's success leads to his father's success, which in turn leads to his mother being thinner in the future! That was her entire story arc.) I could go on. Racist stereotypes abound. In another unbelievably weird move, the movie seems to suggest that Marty actually inspired the success of future black musicians and a local black politician. And there's much, much more. It all comes down to this, simply: Nobody really matters much, has anything much to say for themselves, develops in any way, or has any real agency in the movie, except for the white males.
14 people found this helpful.
age 13+

Casually presented Sexual Assault - Parents Beware

Like others I have great memories of this film from my childhood. Re-watching it with my 11 year old, I was horrified that a major plot point is that Marty's plan is to assault his young mother in the car to such a point that there is a struggle, at which George would come in and save the day. Weird and gross on multiple levels. Worse, when Marty (thankfully) doesn't go through with this plan, Bif and his goons get rid of Marty, and Bif gets in the car and does to proceed to sexually assault her, which we can tell by Bif stating what he's about to do, the shaking car, and signs of Lorraine struggling. It's all fairly shocking, and it's presented so casually that the point has nothing to do with Lorraine, it's all about giving George an opportunity to prove his manliness. The fact that Lorraine is being held in a car and groped without her consent isn't even given a casual mention. Also requiring explanation are that George McFly is a "peeping Tom", which is gross and makes it hard to like him as a hero, and that Bif says sexually threatening things to Lorraine in the cafeteria. I really regret showing this to my 11-year old. It provided an opportunity to talk about sexual assault, but that really wasn't what I was going for when I said "hey let's watch this fun movie with cool gadgets."

This title has:

Too much sex
4 people found this helpful.

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