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Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 science fiction adventure film and a sequel to the 1985 film Back to the Future. Like the previous film, it was directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Part II and the third installment of the trilogy, Back to the Future Part III, were filmed back-to-back, with some of the scenes of Parts II and III filmed concurrently, and released six months apart. Although released in 1989 and 1990, both films continued to portray 1985 as the present, due to them directly following the events of the first film.

Part II follows the continued adventures of Marty McFly and "Doc" Emmett Brown as they use their time-traveling DeLorean to travel into a retro-futuristic version of 2015, an alternative 1985 and the principal setting of the first film in 1955. The film ends with a cliffhanger that is resolved in Part III.


Continuing from the end of Back to the Future, "Doc" Brown (Lloyd) arrives in 1985 from the future and tells Marty McFly (Fox) and his girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Elisabeth Shue) that he needs their help to save their kids in the future. They depart in the flying DeLorean time machine as Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) witnesses the departure. In 2015, Doc electronically hypnotizes Jennifer and leaves her in an alley to keep her away from his plan. Meanwhile, Doc has Marty pose as his son, Marty McFly, Jr., to refuse a deal from Biff's grandson, Griff Tannen, which would result in the arrest of Marty Jr. and his sister Marlene. Marty refuses the deal, but Griff goads Marty into a fight; Marty escapes the fight and leads Griff and his gang on a hoverboard race across the courtyard square, ultimately resulting in Griff and his gang crashing through the courtyard windows and changing the future history. On his way back to meet with Doc, Marty purchases an almanac detailing results from major sporting events of the last half of the 20th century. Doc discovers the purchase and accuses Marty of trying to profit from time travel, but before Doc can dispose of the sports book, they are forced to follow the police who have found Jennifer and are taking her to her future home. Old Biff, overhearing the conversation and recalling the DeLorean from 1985, follows with the discarded book.

Jennifer wakes up in her future home and hides while the collected McFly family has dinner together. She overhears that Marty's life, as well as their life together, is less than they expected due to a car accident that Marty got in many years prior, after being challenged by his friend Needles. As she watches, older Marty is goaded in a shady business deal by Needles and is immediately fired from his job, as announced by numerous faxes (one copy which Jennifer keeps). While escaping the house, Jennifer meets her older self and faints; as Doc and Marty run to retrieve the younger Jennifer, Old Biff steals the DeLorean, travels time, and returns. Doc, Marty, and Jennifer return to 1985, unaware of Biff's actions, and leave Jennifer on the porch at her home.

Doc and Marty soon discover that this 1985 has changed dramatically, as Biff Tannen has become incredibly wealthy and converted Hill Valley into his own personal paradise. Biff has killed Marty's father, George, and has forced his mother Lorraine to marry him; Doc has been committed to an insane asylum. Doc finds evidence of the sports almanac and Biff's trip to the past in the DeLorean, and tells Marty he needs to learn when younger Biff received the almanac so they can go back and correct the timeline. Marty confronts Biff regarding the almanac; Biff explains that he received the book from an old guy on November 12, 1955, the same day as the lightning storm that struck the clock tower and the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance. Biff also reveals that the old man told him to watch for Marty or Doc looking for the book, and attempts to kill Marty. Doc is able to save Marty, and with new information, the two return to 1955.

Marty works undercover to trail Biff; he is present when Old Biff arrives to give Biff the book, but is unable to retrieve it. Marty is forced, with Doc's help, to try to get the book back during the dance, being careful to avoid undoing the events that he had already corrected in his previous trip. Eventually, Biff leaves the dance, and Doc and Marty follow him silently, Marty using the hoverboard while tethered to the flying DeLorean by a string of banners. Marty distracts Biff long enough to grab the book, causing Biff to, yet again, crash into a truckload of manure.

With the storm approaching, Doc is unable to set down the DeLorean, and instructs Marty over walkie-talkies to burn the almanac. Upon doing so, their evidence from 1985 returns to what they expect, and all appears to be well. However, as Marty watches, the DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears. Nearly immediately afterwards, a courier from Western Union arrives and gives Marty a 70-year old letter; Marty discovers the letter is from Doc, who ended up in 1885 after the lightning strike. Marty races back into town and finds the 1955 version of Doc, celebrating the success of having sent the earlier version of Marty back to 1985, and is shocked and faints when Marty approaches him. The film continues in Back to the Future: Part III


The characters of George McFly and Jennifer Parker were played by actors different from those of the original film, requiring some previous scenes to be reshot.


Zemeckis states that initially Back to the Future was not destined to have a sequel, but its huge box office success led to the conception of a second installment. At first Part II was to take place in 1967. "Mr. Fusion" was to be destroyed, and Marty and Doc Brown would have to fly the DeLorean over a Canyon.

A major stumbling block arose when negotiating Crispin Glover's fee for reprising the role of George McFly. When it became clear that he would not be returning, the role was rewritten so that he is dead when the action takes place in the alternative version of 1985.

The greatest challenge was the creation of the futuristic vision of Marty's home town in the year 2015.Production Designer Rick Carter wanted to create a very detailed image with a different tone than the movie Blade Runner, saying he wanted to get past the smoke and chrome. Rick Carter and his most talented men spent months plotting, planning and preparing Hill Valley's transformation into a city of the future.

When writing the script for Part II, writer and producer Bob Gale wanted to push the ideas of the first film further for humorous effect. Zemeckis admits he was somewhat concerned about portraying the future because of the risk of making wildly inaccurate predictions.


Replacement of Crispin Glover

As Bob Gale states in the DVD commentary, actor Crispin Glover was asked to reprise the role of George McFly in this film. Glover indicated interest, but demanded a salary the producers felt was unreasonable. Glover reportedly refused to budge, so he was dropped from the picture. Glover later insisted in a 1992 interview on The Howard Stern Show that he and Zemeckis had some "creative disagreements" over the character, and felt that the director simply wanted an actor who was more pliable. He also said that the salary offered was "really low" (reportedly around $50,000), and that he was certain they never really wanted him back.

In the BTTF FAQ, Gale and Zemeckis state that Glover was uninterested in doing the sequels and was asking for the same salary as Michael J. Fox, and therefore was written out of the story.

As a result, the filmmakers found inventive ways of avoiding showing the character's face in the movie, despite the fact that George McFly was in certain key scenes and dialogue. During all scenes in which the George McFly character appears in both this film and Back to the Future Part III, he is played by Jeffrey Weissman and seen wearing sunglasses, from the back, upside-down, or out of focus in the background. This was to preserve the George McFly character's continuity, despite being played by a different actor. However, producers also recycled footage from the original Back to the Future that included Crispin Glover's portrayal of George McFly. Glover sued Universal for compensation, on grounds that his contract for the first film did not allow subsequent uses of his portrayal of George McFly in new films. The day before the lawsuit went before a judge, Universal quietly settled the case, paying the actor an undisclosed sum. Glover would not reveal the amount during his Howard Stern Show appearance, but did suggest the real reason for the settlement was that Universal was reluctant to "open up their accounting books to the public" during the trial. The Screen Actors Guild later rewrote their rules regarding the derivative use of actors' works in films or TV series, setting terms under which to require the studios and networks to give payment and credit to the actors.

Replacement of Claudia Wells

McFly House
Claudia Wells, who had played Marty McFly's girlfriend Jennifer Parker in the original Back to the Future was to reprise her role, but turned it down due to her mother's ill health. The producers cast Elisabeth Shue instead, which required re-shooting the closing scenes of Back to the Future for the beginning of Back to the Future Part II.

It was nearly 10 years before Claudia Wells returned to Hollywood, with a starring role in the 1996 independent film Still Waters Burn. She is one of the few actors not to make an appearance during the 2002 "behind the scenes" documentaries on the Back to the Future trilogy documentaries on DVD.

All in all it took two years to finish the set building and the writing on the script before shooting could finally take place. During the shooting the appearance of the "aged" characters was a well-guarded secret. Their look was created using state of the art make-up techniques. Michael J. Fox describes the process as very time consuming, “it took over four hours although it could be worse”.

Rumors and urban legends

As a joke, Robert Zemeckis said during a television interview that the hoverboards (flying skateboards) used in the movie were real, yet not released to the public due to parental complaints regarding safety. A surprising number of people thought he was telling the truth and requested them at toy stores. In an interview, Thomas Wilson had said one of the most frequent questions he is asked are hoverboards real, to which he replied they were guided by invisible wires, along with being asked if he fell into actual manure (he did not; it was peat moss). After the release of Part III, Zemeckis had the opportunity to explain in another interview that all of the flying scenes were accomplished by a variety of special effects techniques. There was even a high demand for the Nike tennis shoes Marty wears with automatic shoe-laces, which fans thought to be real. Nike eventually released a teal version of their Hyperdunk Supreme shoes, which appear similar to Marty's shoes, in July 2008; fans dubbed them the Air McFly.

After the Florida Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, and again in 2003, when the Marlins defeated the Cubs in the NLCS (and subsequently defeating the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series), rumors circulated that the movie predicted the Series' results; however, this was not the case. In the film's future news broadcast, it is announced that the National League Chicago Cubs beat the American League team 'Miami Gators' based in Miamimarker, which has an alligator logo, in the 2015 World Series. Aside from the incorrect year, the mascot of the team mentioned does not match that of either current Florida-based team, the Florida Marlins or Tampa Bay Rays. At the time the movie was filmed, Florida did not have a Major League Baseball team of their own, but the Miami-based Marlins played their first season in 1993. The sight of a Miami-based baseball franchise may have been reference to the film Major League, which came out one year earlier, in which a baseball heiress conspires for her team to intentionally lose so she can move her franchise from Cleveland to Miami. In addition to foreseeing the birth of a Major League Baseball franchise in Florida, the film accurately predicted a number of technological and sociological changes, such as the rise of ubiquitous advertising, flat-screen TV sets and video games without hands (such as the Wii and Project Natal systems).

Robert Zemeckis also said in an interview that Marty and the Doc were originally going to travel back to 1967 rather than 1955 to recover the almanac from Biff, saying that this would allow the viewers to "see the hippies and lava lamps". This was later scrapped after it was decided that it would be too costly and time consuming to rearrange the set a fourth time to reflect a fifth decade.


Back to the Future Part II earned $27 million in its first weekend of U.S. release (November 22, 1989) and $118 million total US gross – $332 million worldwide. However, this was still short of the first film's gross, and the film experienced a drop of over 50% in its second weekend, a steep figure at the time. The same fate occurred in Part III, which Universal Pictures released only six months later. On December 17, 2002 the studio released all three movies in a three disc DVD and three tape VHS boxed set which sold extremely well when it was released, despite having widely discussed widescreen framing problems, which had led to an unpublicized product recall.

Home video release history

  • March 18, 1990 (VHS & Laserdisc)
  • July 4, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
  • December 8, 1991 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
  • March 23, 1995 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc)
  • June 7, 1998 (VHS, Compact Disc & Laserdisc - The Last release of CD & Laserdisc)
  • May 12, 1999 (DVD with Lucasfilm THX)
  • July 9, 2000 (VHS & DVD with Lucasfilm THX)
  • March 15, 2002 (VHS & DVD)
  • May 7, 2006 (VHS & DVD)


The movie won a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects for Ken Ralston (the special effects supervisor), a BAFTA Film Award for Ken Ralston, an internet-voted 2003 AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award for the trilogy DVDs, a Golden Screen, a Young Artist Award, and the Favorite Movie Actor (Fox) and Favorite Movie Actress (Thompson) at the 1990 Kids' Choice Awards. It was nominated in 1990 for an Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Most visual effects nominations were due to the development of a new computer-controlled camera system, called VistaGlide, which was invented specifically for this movie — it enables one actor to play two or even three characters in the same scene while the boundary between the sections of the split screen and the camera itself can be moving.

Back to the Future Part II ranks 498 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.

See also


  1. BTTF Frequently Asked Questions written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis
  2. Walk a Mile in McFly's Shoes
  3. Whirled Series: Did the 1989 film 'Back to the Future II' predict that the Florida Marlins would win the 1997 World Series?
  4. 11 Predictions That Back to the Future II Got Right

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