Back to the Future‘s unprecedented success left an eternal imprint on the face of Hollywood — a legacy that thrives more than thirty years after the first installment. Back to the Future influenced multiple film genres, including sci-fi, adventure, and fantasy, making it one of the few movies that actively reconfigured the relationship between cinema and its audience.
The narrative is densely packed with references to every timeline covered in the trilogy, which partly explains Back to the Future‘s timeless charm. What makes the movie truly universal, however, is the sparkling script: witty banter, spot-on comebacks, genre puns, perfectly timed spoonerisms, and, in Biff Tannen’s case, indecipherable threats.
Updated on May 12th, 2023:The Back to the Future trilogy remains as iconic today as they were nearly forty years ago. In fact, the titular characters in Rick & Morty have been partially based on Doc and Marty. This franchise has become a permanent pop-cultural benchmark, and contains some of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. As such, we’ve updated this list with some more relevant information regarding the best quotes in Back to the Future.
10 “Doc, You’re My Only Hope.”
Trapped in 1955, makes his way to Doc Brown’s sprawling estate and introduces himself, only to be rebuffed by the incredulous scientist. Marty eventually convinces him of the situation, but Doc is unable to propose a solution because there is no power source in the fifties capable of producing 1.21 gigawatts of energy.
Marty shows Doc a love note written by Jennifer, stating that she’s the reason he needs to get back home. His plea for help possibly alludes to Leia Organa’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977), although this remains unconfirmed.
9 “Last Night, Darth Vader Came Down From Planet Vulcan And Told Me That If I Didn’t Take Lorraine Out… That He’d Melt My Brain.”
Marty realizes that the chain of fate linking his parents together is broken when his grandpa hits him with a car instead of his father. In order to ensure his future existence, Marty attempts to convince George to take Lorraine to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, the supposed location of their first kiss.
Unfortunately, George dismisses the idea that someone like Lorraine would be interested in him, and tells his son that he would rather be watching his “favorite television program, Science Fiction Theater.” Marty terrifies George into submission by donning his neon-yellow radiation suit and pretending to be “Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan” — two iconic sci-fi references for the price of one.
8 “The Appropriate Question Is: ‘When The Hell Are They?'”
Marty has no idea that Doc had already discovered time travel, and is naturally horrified when the DeLorean containing Einstein vanishes into thin air. Marty fervently asks if the adorable sheepdog has been disintegrated, but Doc confirms that “the molecular structure of both Einstein and the car are completely intact.“
Marty then wonders where the two of them disappeared — Doc corrects his query, stating that “the appropriate question is: ‘When the hell are they?’” This is the point of no return for Back to the Future and one of the most significant quotes in the trilogy.
7 “Doc, You Don’t Just Walk Into A Store And Buy Plutonium!”
Marty is as excited as Doc about the latter’s latest invention, but incorrectly assumes that the DeLorean “run[s] on regular unleaded gasoline.” Doc declares that a device this powerful “needs something with a little more kick: plutonium,” shocking his young comrade.
Marty is aware that radioactive reactor fuels are impossible to access without wading through reams of red tape and bureaucratic procedures, which is why he sarcastically mentions that one doesn’t “just walk into a store and buy plutonium.” Lighthearted moments like these are the lifeblood of Back to the Future.
6 “Jesus, George, It Was A Wonder I Was Even Born.”
Marty offers his father a few tips on how to pick up women, but George is far too clueless to come up with anything on his own. Marty is irritated beyond imagination and speculates on the improbability of his own existence given his father’s borderline childish levels of inexperience.
Refusing to give up hope, Marty instructs George to tell Lorraine “that she’s the most beautiful girl [he’s] ever seen,” because “girls like that stuff.” George then proceeds to take notes, frustrating Marty even further.
5 “Lorraine. My Density Has Brought Me To You.”
George, egged on by Marty, plucks up the courage to ask Lorraine out at Lou’s Cafe, a popular Hill Valley diner that Biff Tannen had earlier warned George not to enter. George attempts to woo his crush by using one of Marty’s pick-up lines, but adorably goofs up on the delivery.
He tells Lorraine that his “density has brought [him] to [her],” a hilarious spoonerism that perfectly characterizes George’s lack of social clout and overt timidity. Unfortunately, Lorraine is distracted when her dreamy ‘Calvin Klein’ picks a fight with Biff.
4 “Marty, Don’t Be Such A Square. Everybody Who’s Anybody Drinks.”
The Lorraine in 1985 is depicted as extremely prudish, often lecturing her children “about how she never did that kind of stuff when she was a kid.” Marty even suspects that his mother “was born a nun.” 1955 Lorraine turns out to be the diametric opposite — smoking cigarettes and stealing alcohol without a care in the world.
Marty tries to stop her drinking, claiming that she “might regret it later in life,” but Lorraine scoffs at the suggestion and basically calls her son “a square” who “sound[s] just like [her] mother.” Children realizing that their parents were once exactly like them is one of the core themes of Back to the Future.
3 “I Guess You Guys Aren’t Ready For That Yet. But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It.”
The most powerful scene in Back to the Future is arguably where Marty plays the guitar on stage while his parents kiss for the first time. Following the success of his mission, Marty decides to have a little fun with the crowd and starts playing a heavy riff on Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll classic, Johnny B. Goode.
The song is an instant hit, at least until Marty loses himself to the music and deviates into thrash metal, a genre that’s too advanced for the 1950s aesthetic. After he regains his bearings, Marty ruefully admits that the crowd might not be “ready for that yet, but [their] kids are gonna love it.“
2 “Why Don’t You Make Like A Tree And Get Outta Here?”
Biff Tannen’s two most iconic quotes are “I hate manure!” and “Why don’t you make like a tree and get out of here?” Although the latter sounds like meaningless gibberish in the first movie, the sequel reveals that it’s supposed to be “Why don’t you make like a tree and leave?“, a reference to trees shedding their leaves during fall.
However, Biff’s original threat is far funnier because it highlights his intrinsic foolishness and defines him as an abject nincompoop who only succeeds because he’s fortunate enough to meet his future self.
1 “Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads.”
Back to the Future ends on a delightful note — Marty is safe and sound back in 1985, but more importantly, his family life is vastly improved as a result of his timeline-meddling. Just before he can savor his newfound freedom and “take the new truck for a spin” with Jennifer, Doc bursts out of nowhere and insists that both of them need to follow him to the future.
Marty asks Doc to reverse the DeLorean as his cul-de-sac doesn’t “have enough road to get up to 88” miles per hour. Doc glibly responds with “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” and promptly transforms the DeLorean into a flying car that blazes straight through the theater/television screen.
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