Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis topped his breakaway hit Romancing the Stone with Back to the Future, a joyous comedy with a dazzling hook: what would it be like to meet your parents in their youth? Billed as a special-effects comedy, the imaginative film (the top box-office smash of 1985) has staying power because of the heart behind Zemeckis and Bob Gale's script. High schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, during the height of his TV success) is catapulted back to the '50s where he sees his parents in their teens, and accidentally changes the history of how Mom and Dad met. Filled with the humorous ideology of the '50s, filtered through the knowledge of the '80s (actor Ronald Reagan is president, ha!), the film comes off as a Twilight Zone episode written by Preston Sturges. Filled with memorable effects and two wonderfully off-key, perfectly cast performances: Christopher Lloyd as the crazy scientist who builds the time machine (a DeLorean luxury car) and Crispin Glover as Marty's geeky dad. --Doug Thomas
Critics and audiences didn't seem too happy with Back to the Future, Part II, the inventive, perhaps too clever sequel. Director Zemeckis and cast bent over backwards to add layers of time-travel complication, and while it surely exercises the brain it isn't necessarily funny in the same way that its predecessor was. It's well worth a visit, though, just to appreciate the imagination that went into it, particularly in a finale that has Marty watching his own actions from the first film. --Tom Keogh
Shot back-to-back with the second chapter in the trilogy, Back to the Future, Part III is less hectic than that film and has the same sweet spirit of the first, albeit in a whole new setting. This time, Marty ends up in the Old West of 1885, trying to prevent the death of mad scientist Christopher Lloyd at the hands of gunman Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson, who had a recurring role as the bully Biff). Director Zemeckis successfully blends exciting special effects with the traditions of a Western and comes up with something original and fun. --Tom Keogh
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