Analysis of Back to the future

Summary The movie follows Marty, a high school student who gets detention but desperately wants to make it to an important band audition. He devises a plan to escape detention but chaos ensues. Marty manages to arrive just in time for his audition but is abruptly cut off by the dance committee. Marty's family discusses his detention and upcoming audition during dinner, and he witnesses a time travel experiment with Dr. Brown. Marty is chased by terrorists in a DeLorean time machine and ends up in 1955. He tries to find a way back to his own time while ensuring his parents meet and fall in love. With the help of Dr. Brown, Marty ultimately succeeds in bringing his parents together and securing his existence. The movie ends with Marty attending the school dance and realizing that his actions have changed the future. In the second part of the movie, tension arises when Doc hesitates to accept a letter from the future. Marty realizes his actions have changed the future and convinces a band to continue playing so his parents can fall in love. Marty witnesses Doc being shot but discovers he survived. They leave in the DeLorean as police sirens approach. Marty returns home to find his family's lives drastically changed. Lastly, Marty and Doc travel to the future to fix a problem with Marty's kids, despite his reluctance to leave his new girlfriend. They blast off in the DeLorean and disappear.


Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The overall story of the screenplay is engaging and keeps the audience invested. The plot is well-developed and follows a clear structure. The introduction of conflict and obstacles for the protagonist adds tension and creates a compelling narrative. The scenes are well-described and provide a good visual image for the reader. The dialogue between the characters is natural and helps reveal their personalities and motivations. The use of various locations adds depth to the story. The introduction of time travel in the later scenes adds an exciting element to the plot.
Suggestions: To improve the screenplay, consider adding more character development for Marty and exploring his internal struggles and motivations. This will help the audience connect with the protagonist on a deeper level. Additionally, further develop the relationship between Marty and his bandmates to enhance the emotional stakes of his audition. Consider adding more specific details about the band audition to make it more impactful. Lastly, consider adding more scenes that highlight Marty's journey and growth throughout the story.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Mr. Strickland

Mr. Strickland is a strict and authoritarian teacher who has a personal grudge against Marty and his family. He believes Marty is a slacker and doesn't apply himself.



Marty

Marty is a determined and quick-thinking protagonist. He is shown to be resourceful and focused on achieving his goals. He is also shown to care about his band and his relationship with Suzy. Marty is a talented musician who is facing obstacles in pursuing his passion. He is rebellious and determined to make it to his audition. A determined and resourceful teenager who is passionate about his music. He is willing to take risks to pursue his dreams. Determined and resourceful, Marty is willing to go to great lengths to make it to his band audition. He is frustrated with his father's inability to stand up to Biff. Marty is a determined and talented musician who is juggling school and his passion for music. Enthusiastic and curious teenager. Marty is a curious and adventurous teenager who becomes involved in the world of time travel. He is initially skeptical but soon embraces the excitement and danger of the situation. Marty is a resourceful and adventurous teenager who finds himself caught up in a dangerous chase and time travel experiment. Marty is an adventurous and determined teenager who becomes stuck in the past and must find a way to return to his own time. He is resourceful and quick-thinking. Curious and determined; searching for Dr. Brown. Curious and interested in his family history. Marty is a teenager who accidentally travels back in time. He is witty and resourceful, but also still adjusting to the strange new situation he finds himself in. Marty is a witty and resourceful teenager who is trying to find a way back to his own time. He is intrigued by the differences in technology and culture in 1955. Marty is resourceful and determined, constantly searching for a way back to his own time. Resourceful and determined, Marty is adapting to the challenges of being in 1955 and takes on the responsibility of fixing his parents' relationship. Marty is a resourceful and empathetic character who believes in George's potential and tries to help him overcome his fears. He is determined and willing to take risks to save his own existence. Resourceful and determined, Marty is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure his own existence and fix the future. Brave and quick-thinking teenager with a strong sense of determination. Marty is a determined and skeptical teenager who is trying to secure his own existence. He is initially doubtful of Brown's plan, but is willing to go along with it. Marty is a resourceful and quick-thinking teenager who is determined to ensure his own existence by fixing his parents' relationship. Marty is resourceful and determined to ensure his own existence by making sure his parents fall in love. Nervous and unsure of himself. Trying to navigate the expectations of a first date. A resourceful teenager who is determined to ensure his own existence by fixing his parents' relationship. Marty is a charismatic and talented teenager. He is initially nervous but gains confidence as the scene progresses. He cares deeply about his family and is determined to make sure his parents fall in love. Brave and resourceful, Marty is determined to set things right and return home. Marty is determined and resourceful, willing to do whatever it takes to get back to the future. Determined and resourceful, Marty is desperate to return to his own time. Brave and determined, willing to risk his life to save Doc Brown. Confused and overwhelmed by the changes he sees in his family. A young and adventurous teenager, who is deeply connected to his family and friends. He is willing to make sacrifices to fix the problems he has caused.



Lorraine

Lorraine is Marty's mother, who is overweight and bored with suburban life. She is nostalgic and has a romantic view of love.



George

George is Marty's father, who is absorbed in his work and not very present in the scene. He is nerdy and easily bullied, lacking self-confidence. George is a timid and self-doubting character who has a passion for writing but is afraid of rejection. He has low self-confidence and relies on Marty's encouragement to take action. He idolizes his father and struggles to live up to his expectations. Throughout the movie, George is a shy and timid teenager who lacks confidence but is willing to take Marty's advice to win over Lorraine and stand up for her. He is learning to stand up for himself and protect Lorraine. George starts the scene as a timid and nervous character but finds the courage to stand up to Biff. His action of knocking out Biff transforms him into a more confident and assertive person. He is initially timid and lacking self-confidence but finally stands up to Biff, impressing Lorraine and gaining newfound confidence. From Marty's perspective, he is portrayed as confident and successful, a changed man.



Dr. Brown

Dr. Brown is a brilliant and eccentric scientist who invents the DeLorean time machine. He is passionate about exploration and discovery, but also faces danger from his involvement with terrorists.



Biff

Biff is a tall and muscular teenager with a rugged appearance. He has a menacing, intimidating presence that instills fear in those around him. He is always seen wearing a leather jacket and has a distinctive sneer on his face. Biff has a rough, deep voice that matches his tough exterior. His movements are aggressive and confident, portraying his dominance over others. Biff's eyes hold a spark of malice and mischief, further emphasizing his antagonistic nature. Overall, he gives off an aura of trouble and danger.



Doc Brown

Doc Brown is a brilliant and eccentric scientist who has become a mentor and friend to Marty. He is quirky, genius, and willing to go to great lengths to protect the space-time continuum. Despite his eccentricity, Doc deeply cares about Marty and his family.



Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Mr. Strickland Mr. Strickland starts off as a strict and authoritarian teacher, holding a personal grudge against Marty and his family. He strongly believes that Marty is a slacker and lacks dedication. However, as the movie progresses, Mr. Strickland begins to witness Marty's passion for music and his growth as a musician. This challenges his initial perception of Marty, leading him to reconsider his harsh attitude. Eventually, Mr. Strickland recognizes Marty's talent and hard work, and in a surprising turn of events, becomes a supportive mentor figure for Marty and his band. The character arc is quite effective in showcasing Mr. Strickland's transformation from a strict antagonist to a supportive mentor. However, it could benefit from more internal conflict and exploration of Mr. Strickland's personal reasons for holding a grudge against Marty and his family.
To improve the character arc, consider incorporating flashback scenes or dialogue that reveal Mr. Strickland's past experiences with Marty's family, which shaped his negative attitude. This will provide a deeper understanding of his initial bias and lend more weight to his eventual change of heart. Additionally, adding moments of vulnerability for Mr. Strickland, where he questions his own teaching methods and rigid beliefs, will add complexity to his character and make his transformation more believable.
Marty Marty's character arc revolves around his determination to achieve his goals and the growth he experiences through his time travel adventure. At the beginning of the movie, Marty is a talented musician facing obstacles in pursuing his passion. He is rebellious and determined to make it to his audition, showcasing his determination and resourcefulness. As the plot progresses, Marty becomes involved in time travel and finds himself stuck in the past. This experience challenges him to adapt to new situations and overcome obstacles. Marty's character arc reaches its peak when he takes on the responsibility of fixing his parents' relationship in order to ensure his own existence. This showcases his growth from a self-centered teenager to a selfless individual willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. By the end of the movie, Marty has learned the importance of family and the value of taking risks to pursue his dreams. The character arc for Marty is well-developed and effectively showcases his growth throughout the story. The portrayal of his determination and resourcefulness is consistent and allows the audience to root for him. However, one minor critique is that Marty's transition from a rebellious teenager to a selfless individual could be further explored and emphasized. The shift feels slightly rushed and could benefit from more scenes that delve into Marty's internal struggle and development. Additionally, while Marty's passion for music is established, his journey as a musician could be further explored to add depth to his character.
To enhance Marty's character arc, it would be beneficial to include a few additional scenes that focus on his internal struggle and growth. This could include moments where Marty reflects on his past behavior and realizes the importance of his relationships and the impact he can make on others. Furthermore, showcasing more of Marty's journey as a musician and the challenges he faces in pursuing his passion would provide a deeper understanding of his character. This can be achieved through scenes that highlight his dedication to practicing, his interactions with fellow musicians, or even his struggles with stage fright. By strengthening these aspects, Marty's character arc will become even more compelling and impactful.
Lorraine Lorraine starts off as a bored and overweight housewife, longing for excitement and adventure. However, after Marty time travels to 1955 and interacts with her, Lorraine begins to fall for him. She becomes curious and flirtatious, finding a new zeal for life and taking risks. As she spends more time with Marty, she realizes that her attraction to him is misguided, as she actually craves a strong male figure in her life. Witnessing George's bravery in standing up to Biff, Lorraine becomes impressed and adoring of him. By the end of the movie, Lorraine transforms from a victim of Biff's harassment to a confident and hopeful young woman who stands up for herself and is excited about her future with George. The character arc for Lorraine is solid and effectively showcases her transformation throughout the screenplay. However, some aspects of her development could be further explored and expanded upon to enhance her journey.
To improve Lorraine's character arc, consider providing more scenes that delve into her discontentment with suburban life and her longing for something more. This will make her initial attraction towards Marty more believable and relatable. Additionally, explore Lorraine's relationship with her parents and how their influence may shape her romantic ideals. This will add depth to her nostalgic and romantic view of love. Lastly, while her transformation from a victim to a confident young woman is evident, focus on showcasing her personal growth and how she overcomes her insecurities throughout the movie.
George George begins as an insecure and timid character who lacks self-confidence. Throughout the movie, he experiences a transformation and learns to stand up for himself. With Marty's encouragement and guidance, George finds the courage to face his fears and take action. His turning point comes when he stands up to Biff, knocking him out and protecting Lorraine. This act gives George newfound confidence and assertiveness. By the end of the movie, George has become a more self-assured individual, leaving behind his shy demeanor and embracing his own potential as a writer. The character arc for George is well-developed and shows a clear transformation from timid to confident. However, it would benefit from further exploration of George's internal struggles and fears. While his idolization of his father and desire to live up to expectations is mentioned, it could be more deeply explored to enhance the emotional depth of his character arc.
To improve George's character arc, consider including scenes or moments that delve deeper into his internal conflicts and fears. Show more instances where George's lack of self-confidence hinders his progress or causes him to doubt himself. Additionally, explore his relationship with his father and how it shapes his aspirations and insecurities. This will give George's character arc more complexity and emotional resonance.
Dr. Brown Dr. Brown starts off as a skeptical and eccentric inventor who initially doubts Marty's claims. However, as he gets amazed by Marty's knowledge and the similarities between his invention and Marty's drawing, Dr. Brown becomes intrigued and starts to believe in the possibility of time travel. As the story progresses, he becomes more curious and fascinated by Marty's knowledge of the future, realizing the incredible possibilities it holds. He decides to take risks and change the future in order to protect Marty and ensure a better outcome. By the end of the movie, Dr. Brown learns to embrace his adventurous and curious nature, becoming even more eccentric and willing to take risks for the sake of exploration and discovery. The character arc of Dr. Brown is well-established and effectively portrays his transformation from a skeptical inventor to an adventurous risk-taker. However, it would benefit from further development and depth. Currently, the arc primarily revolves around Dr. Brown's reaction to Marty's claims and the realization of the possibilities of time travel. Adding more emotional depth to his character, such as exploring his personal motivations or fears, would allow for a more well-rounded and relatable arc.
To improve the character arc, consider delving deeper into Dr. Brown's backstory and personal motivations. What drives his passion for exploration and invention? Is there a specific event or experience that shaped his eccentric nature? Additionally, adding moments of vulnerability or internal conflict can create a more engaging arc. For example, Dr. Brown could struggle with the ethical implications of altering the future or face personal sacrifices for the greater good. By exploring these aspects, the character arc will become more compelling and emotionally resonant.
Biff Biff starts as a bully who takes advantage of George's vulnerability. He repeatedly bullies George and even attempts to start a fight with Marty. Throughout the movie, Biff evolves into a relentless antagonist, becoming fixated on tormenting Marty and making his life miserable. However, towards the end, Biff experiences a transformation. After a confrontation with Marty, he is humiliated and faces the consequences of his actions. This serves as a wake-up call for Biff, and he realizes the error of his ways. In the final act, Biff becomes surprisingly polite and eager to please, no longer the bully he used to be. He starts seeking approval from others and attempts to make amends for his past behavior, showing genuine remorse and regret. The character arc for Biff could be improved by providing more insight into his background and motivations. Understanding why he turned out to be a bully and what drives his relentless pursuit of Marty would add depth and complexity to his character. Additionally, Biff's transformation towards the end feels somewhat rushed and forced. It would be more effective if his change of heart was gradually built up throughout the movie, offering more believable character development.
To improve the character arc, consider incorporating flashbacks or dialogues that shed light on Biff's upbringing and the influences that molded him into a bully. This will allow the audience to empathize with his struggles and better understand his actions. Furthermore, show Biff's gradual realization of the consequences of his behavior by gradually integrating moments of reflection or small acts of kindness towards the end. Also, consider providing closure for Biff's redemption arc by having him reconcile with the characters he had previously bullied, further emphasizing his growth and transformation.
Doc Brown Throughout the screenplay, Doc Brown goes through a character arc where he starts as an eccentric scientist with a curiosity for time travel. He becomes torn between the potential dangers of altering the future and his insatiable curiosity. Initially, he is unwilling to accept information about the future, but as the story progresses, he realizes the importance of understanding the consequences of time travel. Eventually, he becomes more responsible and cautious, realizing that protecting the space-time continuum is crucial. This leads him to prioritize the safety of Marty and his family, showing a deep care and concern for their well-being. The character arc for Doc Brown is well-developed. However, it could benefit from more specific examples or scenes that showcase his internal struggle and growth. It would be helpful to see instances where Doc's curiosity clashes with his responsibility, highlighting the tension he experiences. Additionally, providing a clearer explanation of how his relationship with Marty influences his character arc would enhance the overall development.
Consider adding a scene where Doc Brown is faced with a difficult decision that tests his curiosity versus his responsibility. This could be a pivotal moment where he realizes the potential dangers and consequences of his actions. Additionally, explore deeper interactions between Doc and Marty, emphasizing how their bond strengthens and influences Doc's decision-making. This will give the audience a better understanding of the character's growth and transformation.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Pursuit of passionMarty's desire to pursue music and his audition for the guitar soloThe theme of the pursuit of passion is evident as Marty faces obstacles in his quest to pursue music. He goes to great lengths to escape detention and make it to his audition, highlighting his determination and dedication to his passion.
Time travel and its consequencesMarty's accidental time travel to 1955 and his efforts to return to his own timeThe theme of time travel and its consequences is prevalent throughout the screenplay. Marty's journey to the past creates numerous challenges that he must overcome in order to restore the timeline and ensure his own existence.
Identity and familyMarty's interactions with his past and future family membersThe theme of identity and family is explored as Marty navigates his relationships with his relatives in different time periods. He discovers the importance of his own existence and the impact his actions have on his family's history.
Courage and standing up for oneselfMarty encouraging George to stand up for himself and confront BiffThe theme of courage and standing up for oneself is evident as Marty empowers George to face his fears and stand up against Biff. This theme emphasizes the importance of self-confidence and taking action in the face of adversity.
Friendship and loyaltyMarty's friendship with Doc Brown and their collaboration to change the futureThe theme of friendship and loyalty is explored through Marty's relationship with Doc Brown. They work together to alter the future, relying on their trust and commitment to each other. This theme highlights the importance of strong bonds and support in achieving goals.
Acceptance and embracing changeMarty adapting to the differences in technology and culture in the pastThe theme of acceptance and embracing change is apparent as Marty adjusts to the differences in technology and culture when he travels to the past. He learns to navigate these changes and find ways to adapt, demonstrating the importance of flexibility and openness to new experiences.



Screenwriting Resources on Themes

Articles

Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals Marty's internal goals evolved from seeking personal enjoyment and rebellion to dealing with rejection, self-doubt, and the weight of responsibility for fixing the past and ensuring his own existence.
External Goals Marty's external goals evolved from escaping detention and borrowing a car to finding a way back to his own time period, warning Doc Brown, and saving his friend's life.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict revolves around themes of conformity versus rebellion, personal agency versus deterministic worldview, the ethics of time travel, and the balance between embracing the unknown and striving for safety and stability.


Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals contribute to his development by challenging his beliefs, values, and fears. Through his journey, Marty grows from a rebellious teenager to someone who takes on responsibility and understands the importance of preserving personal relationships and making selfless choices.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The goals and conflicts contribute to the narrative structure by driving the plot forward and creating tension and suspense. Marty's goals provide clear objectives for each scene and help propel the story towards its climax and resolution.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts deepen the thematic exploration of identity, self-discovery, family, friendship, personal agency, and the consequences of our actions. They highlight the importance of individual choices and the impact they can have on our lives and the lives of others.


Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict

Articles

Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?