Thirty-five years ago today — July 3, 1985 — Back to the Future debuted. It took the “teen movie” genre to a whole other level: the high concept blockbuster.

And while we love it for all of the ingenious, inspired, rewarding details that come with that approach, the real magic of Back to the Future came down to one thing: the relationship between Marty & Doc.

It’s such a unique, bizarre notion to pair these two types together, let alone buy that they would have a special connection — and yet they do.

The heart of the whole thing, ultimately, isn’t Marty trying to save his family and himself; it’s the bond that he and Doc forge during this unexpected journey for them both. Back to the Future is about how these two very-different individuals each come to define themselves beyond what others have branded them as and (as a result) have dismissed them to be, how they need each other to do that, and what they come to mean to each other through that process.

For Marty and Doc, each in their own ways, it’s about determining whether they’re doomed to a destiny they can’t escape (for Marty, whether he’ll end up being a doormat like his old man, and Doc, if he’ll always languish without the appreciation and recognition he deserves) or if their fates can truly be determined by their choices, even in defiance of what “box” the world — and time — is trying to keep them in. (Indeed, this idea extends to Marty’s dad George, too, whether he’ll be bound to the tide of fate or determine it for himself.)

Honest-to-God, the whole sequence of events that kicks off the climax of the movie — from Marty writing the letter to warn Doc about the future, to how that handoff all goes awry just as their one shot to get Marty back to 1985 is dangerously jeopardized — is genuinely emotional and deeply affecting. (Alan Silvestri’s elegiac-then-urgent underscore sure helps). You feel the stakes not only of the circumstance but also of what’s at stake for these two people, their relationship, and their future.

That’s the heart and soul of Back to the Future. It’s a big reason why it still endures, and why it always will.

  • DOC: See you in about thirty years.
  • MARTY: I hope so…

Leave a Reply