Back to the Future

  • Review Date: October 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

Common Sense Media says

'80s time-travel favorite has laughs, romance, action.
  • Review Date: October 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 116 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Sends the message that bullies must be stood up to and that intelligence, courage, and integrity ultimately win out over brute strength and intimidation. Also, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything, and creativity and imagination are qualities to be admired and nurtured.

Positive role models

Marty is smart, likeable, courageous, and a terrific problem-solver (despite periodic self-confidence issues). Faced with seeming insurmountable obstacles, he rises to every occasion. Doc Brown is shown to be ingenious as well as eccentric. A weak-willed, put-upon high school student (and later father) is shown the way to self-respect, courage, and success. The bad guys are clearly in the wrong.


In an early scene, an attack by a squad of terrorists includes automatic weapon fire and what appears to be a significant fatal shooting. Other sequences include suspenseful car and skateboard chases, a character threatened by a shotgun, some perilous scenes involving a tall clock tower, and punches thrown between high school kids. Bullying, a significant theme, occurs on numerous occasions. The bully initiates an exaggerated, off-camera assault on a high school girl, but she's never really in danger.


A few kisses and embraces; some flirting. Teenage crushes are a key part of the story, with hero Marty becoming the object of affection of the girl who will grow up to become his mother. While perched in a tree, a boy spies through a girl’s window.


Occasional swearing includes "damn," "butthead," "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "son-of-a-bitch," "hell," "bastards," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). In the 1950s-set scenes, a few racial epithets are used by the bad guys, including "Irish bug" and "spook," and a mayor is referred to as "colored."


Many products are prominently displayed and mentioned in dialogue. Pepsi products are featured throughout. Other brands identified include Toyota, Calvin Klein, Texaco, Burger King, Bud Light, Miller beer, JVC, Panasonic, KalKan and Milkbone dogfood, Zale's, Yamaha, Popov, Maxwell House, J.C. Penney, and dozens more. A DeLorean car plays a very significant role.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In one scene, two underage teens briefly experiment with a small bottle of whiskey and a cigarette. Adults drink beer and vodka at dinner. A drunk man sleeps on a park bench. Reference to "reefer."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this family time-travel favorite includes sequences that place the hero and his friends in physical jeopardy: a gunfight in which a sympathetic character is thought to be killed, a van chasing a teen on a skateboard, several episodes of bullying, and more. The violence is exaggerated and closer in tone to cartoon jeopardy than real danger, but some kids will no doubt find it tense. Several scenes show the hero's discomfort when the girl who will eventually be his mother tries to entice him with kisses and embraces; there's also implied unwanted sex, but nothing serious happens. Strong language includes a couple memorable uses of "s--t," as well as "bastards," "damn," "a--hole," and a couple of racial slurs in the 1950s-set scenes. It's worth noting that this is the movie that alerted the public to the concept of product placement, with controversy arising from the near-constant visuals of Pepsi products and other brands.

Parents say

What's the story?

Brimming with lighthearted energy, BACK TO THE FUTURE mixes science fiction with romantic comedy for a classic 1980s blockbuster. To avoid being shot by terrorists, teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back to the 1950s via a DeLorean time machine invented by his friend/mentor Emmett "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd), a lovable, wide-eyed, wild-haired stork of a mad scientist. Marty quickly gets more than he bargained for, accidentally interfering with the courtship of his own parents. He must aid his father in standing up to Biff (Thomas F. Wilson), the town bully, to get the attention of Marty's mother, to ensure his own future existence.

Is it any good?


The film remains light and breezy, never taking time travel too seriously. And both romance and science defer to adventure. That said, the sci-fi subplot never disappears for more than a scene or two. Marty's friendship with Doc is at heart of the film, and it keeps the mid-section from becoming just another romantic comedy.

Adult viewers may find that the film milks anachronisms for one joke too many, but kids are likely to get as much of a kick out of the dated clothing, music, and slang of 1980s as Marty gets out of the lack of TV reruns and Tab soda in '50s. It should come as little surprise that Steven Spielberg executive produced Back to the Future. Like so many of his films, it manages to blend heady science-fiction, humor, adventure, and romance while retaining an exuberance and a sense of wonder familiar to anyone under the age of 12.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays bullying. Have you ever encountered a situation like that, either directly or online?

  • What do Marty and George learn during the movie? How can people defend themselves without resorting to violence?

  • Talk about your own family history -- as in when Mom met Dad.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 3, 1985
DVD release date:January 25, 2005
Cast:Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox
Director:Robert Zemeckis
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of Back to the Future was written by

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  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Written byAnonymous September 23, 2014

Back to the Future review

========================================================= Sex/Nudity: Marty's girlfriend, Jennifer, asks him if his mom knows about them going to the lake together (implying that there might be some fooling around between them). A movie marquee shows the title "Orgy American Style," and is seen in the background of a shot, though it is blurred and hard to notice. An XXX cinema is seen briefly. Marty finds George (as a teen) high in a tree spying with binoculars watching Lorraine undress (she's seen in her bra and slip). Lorraine has "the hots" for Marty (in a 1950's way) and tells him that she's never seen underwear like he's wearing. Biff sits behind Lorraine in the cafeteria and paws at her saying, "You know you want it. You know you want me to give it to you." She then smacks him and says, "I'm not that kind of girl." He replies, "Maybe you are and you don't know it yet." She then slaps him. Marty tells George about his plan to get him to rescue Lorraine from Marty's staged advances. After he tells George that nice girls get upset when guys try to take advantage of them, George asks, "You mean you're going to touch her on her..." but he doesn't finish the question. Later in a parked car with Marty, Lorraine tells him that she likes to park and that it's not her first time. Biff tries to sexually assault Lorraine, but is stopped by George. Lorraine shows some cleavage in her low-cut dance dress. 2/10. ========================================================= Violence: Marty is blown across the room by the output of a large speaker. Several terrorists show up and shoot Doc Brown with a machine gun and then chase Marty and shoot at him as well and crash their van into a small building. Marty crashes the Delorean into a barn and then runs over a tree as he flees from a farmer who fires a shotgun at him (thinking he's a space alien). Marty is hit by a car and knocked unconscious. Lorraine smacks Biff for pawing at her. Biff and Marty push each other in the cafeteria and get ready to punch one another, but they're stopped. Marty trips Biff, slugs him, and then knocks down his cohorts and races outside. He accidentally knocks over several people as Biff and the others chase him. They drive through some park hedges and throw bottles and cans at him. They then try to ram him (on his skateboard) into a truck but end up crashing into it themselves. Biff pulls Marty from a parked car and then starts to paw Lorraine while the other guys punch Marty in the gut and take him away. George tries to throw a punch at Biff who deflects it and bends George's arm behind him. Lorraine tries to help, but Biff pushes her to the ground by her face. George then gets mad, winds up a punch, and knocks Biff out. George pushes another student to the dance floor after he rudely cuts in on a dance with Lorraine. 5/10. ========================================================= Blood/Gore: A musician has a slightly bloody bandage on his hand. Doc has a bandage on his head and for a brief moment you can see some blood. A car crashes into a truck of manure and one character spits a bit of manure out. 3/10. ========================================================= Profanity: At least 5 "s" words (1 of which is 4 said at the same time), 12 damns, 8 hells, 3 asses (1 used with "hole"), 3 S.O.B.'s, and 6 uses each of "Oh my God," and "Jesus," 4 uses of "G-damn," 2 uses each of "Jesus Christ" and "My God," and 1 use each of "God" and "Oh God" as exclamations. 5/10. ========================================================= Alcohol/Drugs: As an adult, Biff grabs a beer out of the fridge. As an adult, Lorraine pours vodka into whatever she's drinking. Lorraine's father has a beer on the table at dinner. Lorraine takes a swig of alcohol from a flask and tells Marty that "Everybody's who anybody drinks." Marty takes it from her (commenting on how it might lead to future drinking problems) and then absentmindedly takes a swig himself. Biff's gang drink beer. One of Biff's cohorts tells some musicians that they "don't want to mess with no reefer addicts," and, although smoke comes from their car, there's no indication that it's marijuana. A drunk man on a park bench holds a bottle of liquor. Doc grabs a beer can from the trash and pours the remaining liquid into his time machine for fuel. 3/10. ========================================================= Smoking: Lorraine briefly lights up a cigarette in a car. Some musicians get out of a smokey car. Some students smoke outside a dance. 2/10. ========================================================= Back to the Future is one of the best films ever made, and probably the best time-travel movie ever made. I definitely recommend you watch it. I give it 9/10. =========================================================
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byAmymom June 22, 2009
Your ratings were misleading. As to sexual content, there were scenes involving a boy looking through binoculars at a girl while she was undressing in her room!, a scene where a boy was about to sexually assault a girl in a car and numerous allusions to sex. This should have rated at least a 3 on your little icons. The violence that was most disturbing involved a boy shoving the girl (hard) who he had attempted to sexually assault. That is not "flirting and kissing". The language was also much worse than your review lead me to believe.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educator and Parent of a 6 year old Written bykurtray February 4, 2009

PG-13, definitely

I agree whole-heartedly with other recent reviewers who were caught off-guard by the language, violence and adult themes. This was one of my favorite movies when it was released in the 80's. I was cringing as I watched it with my 6 and 9 year-olds... and my disapproving wife! We had to turn it off.
Parent of a 9 year old Written byHTPaul April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

Warning if language is important

Although they don't drop the f-bomb, there is near constant swearing. From the humorous "Damn, where is that boy. Damn! Damn Damn." To several bastards, a car full of "S---" (prior to slaming into a manure truck), you're going to see some serious shit (prior to going 88 miles per hour), to "Not where the hell is it - when the hell is it" to "Do you think I should swear? Yes, damnit, George, swear" Great movie, but I just don't understand how this was rated "Not an issue" under language for eight-year-olds. The reliability of this site is in question.


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