Saturday, January 21, 2012

Scene Stealer: Back to the Future

When Doc Brown reveals the souped up time traveling Delorean with the licence plate "OUTATIME," the suspense and excitement is palpable. Still after dozens of screenings, Back to the Future excites, amuses and delights. It's a brilliant film where no scene is wasted or unnecessary. Every scene succeeds in advancing the story and every little detail matters because it's been thoroughly thought through.

Traveling 30 years back in time, Marty McFly encounters his parents as teenagers, when his mother was a naïve, love-struck girl and his father was a timid geek bullied by an obnoxious oaf named Biff. Marty's got his hands full in the future as he has to deal with the teenage version of his mother who's got the hots for him, and trying to run interference for his father who's being bullied mercilessly and simply takes it.

After witnessing his father take it on the chin yet again by Biff, Marty intervenes by first tripping Biff and then punching him out. Marty then hightails it out of the diner to escape the wrath of Biff and his gang who are in mad pursuit. What ensues is one of the most memorable moments in this definitive 80s classic - the skateboard chase scene.

The scene is exciting and very funny thanks to sight gags and clever one-liners. Marty creates a makeshift skateboard from a young boy's scooter to evade Biff and his gang who start by chasing him on foot. Biff et al wind up pursuing Marty in their car after Marty hangs off the back of a pickup truck. With sparks flying out from beneath the skateboard's wheels, Marty avoids crashing into open car doors, jumps over curbs and flies right smack into pedestrians on the sidewalk. Even though I know the scene by heart, it isn't any less thrilling, and the payoff remains as funny as ever.

Marty winds up holding on to the front of Biff’s car as it careens towards a manure truck parked at the end of the road. In a great manoever, Marty jumps up onto the car’s hood, climbs over Biff and his gang, and jumps off the back of the car and onto the skateboard which rolled under the car and through to the other side. So stunned is Biff that, with his neck craned to watch Marty, he slams straight into the manure truck. “Shit!” they all scream, as the load topples and covers them whole. It’s a hilarious moment and it’s the perfect line uttered at just the right moment since they’re now covered in it. It also establishes the rivalry between Marty/his father and Biff, which is the source of many more fantastic and funny scenes throughout the rest of the series. This scene, itself, is referenced again in the next two installments of the series, but with a twist. Remember the hover board?


  1. Yeah, I thought the hover board was an obvious attempt to recreate the joy of the scene from the first film, but that they fell short. I loved the reaction of the little kid when Marty handed the remains of his scooter back to him, too.

  2. A wonderful scene in my favourite movie of all time. It's like you wrote this post just for me. Love it.

  3. Andrew10:18 pm

    Thanks for reminding me about this scene. It's one that I loved as an impressionable youngster and still love today.

    I keep seeing Hot Tub Time Machine on t.v. and I laugh every time I see the elder McFly in that movie too.

  4. Great scene, great movie! And Biff is one of my favourite movie 'villains' of all time! Fantastic performance from Thomas F. Wilson across the trilogy!

  5. @Chip Lary - Agreed. The hover board scene is fun, and an obvious take on the skateboard chase scene in the first film. Because the initial scene is so good, the hover board scene was destined to pale in comparison, but I think it's a fun "futuristic" take on the great original. The kid's reaction is priceless. The first film is filled with so many great moments like that.

    @Corey Atad - It's one of my favourite films too. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

    @Andrew - It's a film that many of us impressionable youngsters loved then and still love today. Crispin Glover's an interesting actor who's played some interesting roles. His character in Hot Tub Time Machine is one of the best things about that film.

    @Pete - I hadn't considered that, but you're right. Biff is a great villain and Thomas F. Wilson was awesome as Biff.


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