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 140 reviews

Kids say

age 10+

Based on 306 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.
4 people found this helpful.
age 12+

Best Trilogy Ever!!!!!!!!!!!

I was in the eighth grade (1985) when I went to the movies to see bttf part 1 with my friends- I was in awe the whole time. But, obviously there's going to be smoking, drinking, and cursing, and mild sex in this movie. It is about 1955, afterall. You other parents are just bubble-parents, not letting your children watch anything until their 30. All three of my children have watched all back to the future movies and their nine, twelve and sixteen. They all enjoyed it. You other parents are just overreacting, acting as if children don't already know what drinking and smoking is. I'm a huge back to the future fan, and so is my husband. Our dog is even named Einstein after Doc's dog in bttf. I think it's a great family movie to watch.

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