Back to the Future Part III

  • Review Date: April 14, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1990
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Wild West-themed final installment is fine for older tweens.
  • Review Date: April 14, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Release Year: 1990
  • Running Time: 118 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

One of the most important messages in this movie is letting go of words that rile you up -- not taking the bait when bullies try to demean you. It's good for kids to learn that words, although they hurt, don't need to catalyze you to do self-destructive things. Marty finally learns this lesson at the very end of the film. Doc's decision also shows that in the end he values love over all else.

Positive role models

In addition to Marty and Doc Brown, who always demonstrate the importance of loyalty, friendship, and trust, this trilogy installment benefits from the introduction to Clara, a sweet and kind teacher who falls in love with Doc Brown and stands up for herself against the town bullies.


Violence is all Wild West-style: there are barroom brawls, a shoot-out at dawn (well, 8 AM) and other old West violence, none of it particularly nasty. The Biff ancestor is aggressive and likes to push Marty and his ancestor around -- shooting at Marty's feet. When he first arrives in the Wild West, Marty encounters a group of horse-mounted Indians riding toward him with guns and arrows. In one brief scene, Marty is shown with a rope around his neck, as if he's about to be hanged -- until he's saved.


A couple of kisses but mostly there's a lot of longing looks between Doc and his love interest. In one scene a man makes a reference about what a woman "could do worth $80," which a child may not understand but clearly alludes to sex. Marty and his girlfriend Jennifer also exchange a couple of heated kisses.


Some stronger words than usually heard in PG movies: "bitch," "assh--e," and "s--t," as well as mild insults like "damn you to hell," "chicken," "yellow," "coward," "lily livered," "gutter trash," and more.


Marty wears Nike sneakers, the discontinued sports car the DeLorean is of central importance.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

There's drinking in the town saloon that is shown a few times. Only men are shown with drinks in hand.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this final installment in the Back to the Future trilogy is, like its predecessors, a PG film with a tad more language than usual. But there's actually slightly less innuendo and a lot less bully-related violence in this one than in Part II. The coarsest language includes "bitch," "assh--e," and "s--t," with several insults and synonyms for "coward" thrown in on a more regular basis. Although there's romance, it's very chaste except for two kisses and one off-color reference to what a woman could do that's worth $80 to settle a debt. All of the violence involves guns and fists, and in one brief scene it looks like Marty is going to be hanged, but no one dies, and it's all kept rather comical, even when a huge group of horse-mounted Indians are riding with guns and arrows. Unlike in the first two movies, in this one Doc Brown learns love is even more important than his rules for time travel.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Once again picking up right where Back to the Future Part II left off, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) gets a telegram from Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) explaining that he's stuck in the year 1885, but instructing him not to attempt time travel again. Marty discovers Doc's tombstone, and decides to disregard Doc's orders. Marty dresses up in a cowboy costume and slips into the DeLorean again, landing in the 19th century. He runs into his Irish ancestors (played by Fox himself, and Lea Thompson), and the town outlaw "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), who is Biff's ancestor. Marty finally reunites with Doc, and the two must find a way to refuel the time machine before Mad Dog kills Doc. Complicating matters is the arrival of open-minded schoolteacher Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), who winds up falling for Doc, and forcing Doc to rethink his stance on not changing the past.

Is it any good?


After the mildly disappointing Part II, it would seem that a Wild West-themed threequel would flounder under the weight of too much time-travel confusion and overall Marty and Doc fatigue. But somehow Robert Zemeckis, Fox, and Lloyd make the back-in-time gimmick work. The introduction of a love interest for Lloyd may not seem interesting to kid viewers, but as an adult viewing it through grown-up eyes, that subplot with Steenburgen is so much more appreciated. Doc was such a hermit outside of his connection with Marty, that it was a relief to see he could still have a chance at love -- especially with someone as patient and intelligent as Clara. So for the romantics at home, this installment is for you.

Humor-wise, there are plenty of in-jokes for those who've seen the first two films, like Marty's touchiness at being called "yellow." As Marty's rival, Wilson gets to unleash a whole new set of insults as he bullies everyone around him.  A heavily accented Thompson returns as Marty's relative, and Fox does double duty again as his own great-great-great grandfather, but the McFly kin has less to do in this one than in the first two; the final film really belongs to Lloyd. One of the funniest moments is the saloon scene where Marty does the moonwalk when he's being shot at; it may take some explaining if your kids don't understand the significance of Michael J. Fox's signature dance move, but it's funny even two decades later. The entire trilogy is still a must-see for parents who want to share a little bit of their own youth with the next generation, even if the children won't laugh quite as hard as you do at some parts.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Marty and Doc remain loyal friends in all three movies. How do they help each other in this installment? What challenges change from film to film, and what stays the same?

  • How did romance change Doc's ideas about time travel? Why does he decide that he's going to stay behind in the "past"?

  • What does Marty learn about not letting taunts like "are you chicken?" get to him? How can you apply that lesson in your own life?

  • If you've seen the first two films, which of the three is your favorite? Why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1990
DVD release date:September 12, 1991
Cast:Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Michael J. Fox
Director:Robert Zemeckis
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Science Fiction
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of Back to the Future Part III was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

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

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 16 years old Written byBranislavDJ January 16, 2011
I really like it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old February 19, 2011


Confusing if you have not seen the first and second.
Teen, 13 years old Written byJustino4 April 25, 2011

PG-13 Hands Down

This movie was made after PG-13 was invented so why didn't they rate this movie PG-13? There's harsh cussing, old western violence that is also harsh, some sexual jokes, and mild drinking. It should be rated PG-13 hands-down.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?


What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide