Back to the Future is a classic film that is still a favorite of millions of people today, myself included. This classic tells the story of Marty, a high school kid from 1985, who accidentally travels back to 1955 and has to make sure that his parents get together to save his very existence. With such a fun plot and a strong legacy, many describe Back to the Future as the perfect time travel movie — but is it really?
Even the best films have faults that we tend to overlook. Some of these faults are obvious, while others are just the minor details that slightly diminish our love of the film. Back to the Future may be one of my favorite movies, but it’s not the dictionary definition of perfect. Here are eight plot holes and details that will make you rethink everything you think you know about Back to the Future.
1. How Did Doc And Marty Know The Exact Second Lightning Would Hit The Clock Tower?The key element Marty needs to travel back to the future is the lightning strike on the clock tower. It is this bolt of lightning that gives the DeLorean the necessary 1.21 Gigawatts that it needs to travel 30 years forward in time. That is all fine and dandy, but how did they know the exact second when the lightning would hit the clock tower?
Sure, Marty had conveniently brought a pamphlet with him from the future, saying “Clock Stopped at 10:04” — this explains how they knew the very minute lightning would strike. But unless the pamphlet stated the second the clock tower was hit (and if so, why?!), there would have been no way for Doc and Marty to know. There is no second hand on the clock tower to show the exact moment it stopped. If anything, it appears that Marty traveling back in time via lightning was just a shot in the dark, with a 1 in 60 chance of success — not great odds, especially considering the pair were so confident about their plan.
2. Why Didn’t Marty Show Up Earlier To Save Doc?
Shortly before Marty travels back to the future, he realizes that if he shows up a bit earlier in 1985, he will have enough time to save Doc. This is actually a genius plan. So how much earlier does Marty decide to show up? An hour? Three hours? A day? No, Marty decides that 10 minutes is enough to travel multiple miles to get to Doc before the Libyans, completely ignoring the issues this would cause — especially since there would be two Martys there at the same time.
This detail always bugs me. Marty had no plan for if something went wrong (like the DeLorean not starting for the third time that week). I mean, I knew that Marty was not the brightest movie hero ever, but he seriously needs to be brighter than that.
3. Marty Would’ve Known It Was 8:25 Because He Is Wearing A WatchLet’s jump on back to the very beginning of the movie. The opening scene of Back to the Future shows a giant clock experiment at Doc Brown’s lab, with Marty stepping in after a moment or two. Later in the scene, Marty gets a call from Doc, that ends with this classic bit of dialogue:
“Doc wait a minute, are you telling me it’s 8:25?”
“Damn, I’m late for school!”
This was a classic moment that helped set up the rest of the movie… but it overlooks one important detail. Marty is wearing a watch. So not only would Marty have been able to identify that it was indeed 8:25, despite what the other clocks said, but he also would’ve known he was late before showing up at Doc Brown’s lab. Sure, the clocks may have thrown him off, but by the time he showed up at the lab, he was already 20 minutes late. Marty clearly had no excuse for being tardy, or not knowing the time. Details matter, people.
4. It Would Have Been Physically Impossible For Doc To Get In The DeLorean While It Was In The TruckWe first meet Doc as he reverses the DeLorean out of the back of a large truck and then steps out of it. It is a truly epic scene, with plenty of mist billowing around, to help introduce one of the main characters of the movie. There’s just one major issue with this grandiose moment.
If you look at the interior of the truck that Doc is pulling out of, you’ll begin to notice that it would have been physically impossible for Doc to squeeze into the DeLorean, considering that the doors of the DeLorean go up rather than swing to the side. Unless Doc drove the DeLorean into the truck just to pull it back out when Marty arrived, there is no possible explanation for how Doc got in there.
5. There Was Absolutely No Reason Whatsoever For Marty Starting To Fade Away
During the Under the Sea dance, we see a terrifying moment where George and Lorraine are separated, and Marty begins to fade away because his parents will not be able to get that kiss in. This is after another classmate pushes George away from Lorraine, making himself her dance partner instead. Fortunately, George decides to confront the man who stole his girl from him and give her one epic smooch, securing Marty’s existence. This is an amazing and suspenseful moment for the movie, but logically, it makes no sense.
As the movie progressed, Marty’s siblings in his picture faded away because they no longer existed in the current timeline without that extra push from an external force. This force is Marty, as he is not from that timeline and is the only person who would be able to change things for the better. However, during that final moment before George and Lorraine kiss, Marty did nothing to help. There was no external force to push George and Lorraine to kiss; their kiss was already pre-destined in the timeline. So why then did Marty start to fade away? Why didn’t the picture of Marty and his siblings go back to normal earlier, when Marty had finished helping George? As fitting as it was for Marty to fade away right before the kiss in terms of story structure, it made no logical sense. It could have all been fixed had Marty given George a look to go save Lorraine, but we didn’t even get that.
6. Doc Traveled Through Time At About 28 mph … Not 88After Doc drops Marty off at his house, back in good ol’ 1985, Doc says he is going to travel 30 years into the future. As Marty walks toward his house, he watches Doc drive down the road, and then lights flash to signify that Doc has traveled through time. This was a fitting farewell to the mentor of the film — except for the fact that it was impossible.
Throughout the rest of the movie, it was pounded into our heads that you need to be moving 88 mph in order to travel through time. It was very clear during this scene that Doc was not travelling 88 mph; it was more around 28 mph. Marty ends up acknowledging the impossibility of this at the end of the movie when he points out there’s not enough road for them to reach 88, to which Doc replies, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Well, clearly something is off, because Doc just traveled back in time on that very road about five minutes earlier in the movie. Can we forgive the plot hole, because it gave us one of the most of iconic lines in cinematic history? I’ll let you decide.
7. Why Don’t Marty’s Parents Recognize Him?
Marty played a big part in George and Lorraine’s lives even before he was born, by bringing the two of them together. From their point of view, Marty is the man solely responsible for bringing them together. So how come they do not recognize any similarities between Marty from 1955, and Marty from 1985?
The thing is, George knew that Lorraine had a thing for 1955 Marty. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that his son is a time traveler, I find it a lot more likely that George would’ve jumped to the conclusion that his wife had an affair with her old high school crush. I wasn’t the only one who thought of this; check out the above clip from Family Guy that points out the same thing.
8. The Circumstances Of Marty’s Life Are Still Exactly The SameThis is a major issue with the ending of the film. There were a lot of alternate endings that direct Robert Zemeckis threw around, and in the end, he chose to go down the cheesy route with a happy ending where everyone (except for Biff) is better off. Marty’s parents are now rich, his siblings are successful, Biff works for George, Marty has his dream car, and Lorraine likes Marty’s girlfriend. Sounds perfect, right?
The only issue here is that, despite all of these positive changes, the circumstances of Marty’s life are still exactly the same. Though the McFlys are now a lot richer, they still live in the same house — a house that was supposed to make the family look poor at the beginning of the movie. Marty still has the same girlfriend, and is still planning on going camping the exact day in both timelines. Marty’s siblings still live with him and his parents, despite them being successful now. And he is still best friends with Doc Brown. It is just very convenient that, even though things have radically changed for all of the characters, everything is still exactly the same. In terms of time travel, it doesn’t make much sense. But at the same time, I love that it’s a happy ending for everyone (again, except for Biff), so I won’t complain too much.
No film is without flaws. Even classics like Jaws and Star Wars have their problems, but they are still beloved. Back to the Future is no exception.
It becomes second nature to overlook the flaws in a great movie because of how stellar the rest of the movie is, and this is certainly the case with Back to the Future. Zemeckis’s masterpiece is so fantastic that we are able to overlook the convenient plot holes, like Doc seemingly driving in and out of a truck for no reason. Whether it’s the famous skateboarding scene or Michael J. Fox lip syncing to Johnny B. Goode, this movie is undoubtedly a beautiful work of art. It’s not flawless, but it’s pretty damn close, at least in my opinion.
Do these plot holes ruin ‘Back to the Future’ for you? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!
[Top Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]