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© 2001-2024


Back To the Future: Part I - The Structure


[The introduction of TIME, the antagonist.]

There is the sound of clocks ticking. The room is filled with clocks. They are all set to 7:50 AM. There is one clock that has a man hanging on the arm.

[This foreshadows Doc on the Tower. Strong Time Motif with the first images.]

A Newspaper clipping: Hill Valley Telegraph



Photos of Thomas Edition and Ben Franklin hang on the wall.

[Images of inventors who researched electricity establishes the importance electric power plays in the story. This is the technique of revealing the personality of a character by displaying the objects in his living environment. This helps, but characters are best revealed through their actions under conflict and the values that they uphold under stress.]

An alarm clock rings. This activates the radio. An announcer's voice comes on for a Toyota commercial on the radio, "Won't find a better car at a better price!" A coffee machine is activated, but there's no coffee pot in place. Water, therefore pours down onto a hot plate and sizzles.

[Everything appears to be automated, but things aren't functioning properly. This reveals the mind of an incompetent inventor, and generates humor.]

A TV News Commentator speaks on the TV Monitor. "In other news, officials at the Pacific Nuclear Research Facility have denied the rumor that the case of MISSING PLUTONIUM was in fact stolen from their vault two weeks ago. A Libyan Terrorist Group has claimed responsibility for the alleged theft, however..."


"...officials now attribute the discrepancy to a simple clerical error. The FBI..." as the sound fades out.

[This sets up the antagonists of the subplot: Libyan Terrorists, who are almost as effective as Nazis in presenting the audience with a group of villains that they are preconditioned to hate. This makes the filmmakers work easier in manipulating the audience's emotions. The subplot concerns the killing of Doc by the Libyans.]

[This also sets up the concrete object that protagonist and antagonist of the subplot will be fighting over: The box of plutonium.]

[The structure of the shots reveal an economy of images. There isn't any waste. Each image communicates information which is significant for the story.]

Burnt toast pops up and down in the toaster. A buzzer goes off, and activates a mechanical dog-food opening device. It picks up a can of KAL KAN, turns it over, and dumps it on top of existing dog food in the dog bowl that has the name "EINSTEIN" written on it. A mechanical arm then drops the empty can into a garbage disposal.

[More scientific images of Einstein and automated devices. But again, something is wrong. The owner has a dog as a pet, so this makes him endearing to the audience. He's either absent minded or incompetent, or away on more important business, for the room appears neglected for several days. A lot of information has been revealed through the use of nonverbal or subliminal methods.]

The door opens. A voice calls out, "Hey Doc!" There are shots of a skateboard, a doormat, then a key dropped to the ground and covered with the doormat.

[The face of the character is not revealed. This again focuses the audiences attention on the screen with the hope of seeing what this character looks like. They also are confronted with a puzzle. Where is the owner of this house, and why are all these machines not working properly? They are also amused and feel superior to the incompetence of the inventions. The fact that the character who opened the door knows that the key is under the mat, establishes that he's a trusted friend of the owner. He also knows the name of the owner's dog. The character is shot from the knees down, to maintain the audience's interest.]

"Hello, anybody home? Einstein, come here boy. What's going on?

Oh God, oh jeezz, disgusting."

He kicks the skateboard, which rolls across the floor and under the table where it bumps into a yellow box labeled "PLUTONIUM-HANDLE WITH CARE."

[Yellow, of course, signifying caution. But here is the concrete object, or at least the box in which it was contained. The owner of the house is now connected with the stolen Plutonium.]

A hand places a key into a machine, turns the key, then a green light comes on. Fingers adjust switches. The primary power indicator shifts towards maximum. The hand turns on another switch. The overdrive control is set to maximum, sound vibration to 100, as the needle indicators switch to maximum.

[These shots continue to draw the audiences attention into the story by engaging them to think about what is occurring. The filmmaker puzzles them, and challenges them to discover what is actually taking place.]

The hand puts a metal jack into a machine, then the other jack into the base of the guitar. Fingers turn the switch on the guitar up to maximum voltage. The hand takes hold of a pick.

The audience still has not seen the face of the protagonist. The camera pulls back to reveal a massive speaker, then a young man dressed in blue jeans, wearing sunglasses, with a guitar in hand, still with his back to the camera as he stands facing the speaker. For a moment he holds the pick in hand, then he strikes a chord on his guitar. The speaker explodes and blows the protagonist up into the air and across the room. He lands in a pile of boxes and then smashes into a bookcase, which tumbles over on top of him. The shelves dump all their contents onto the protagonist.

[Humor is generated by the unexpected massive overreaction to striking a chord. This contains an element of truth, as the youth would go for a massive power sound. The topper is that after everything has fallen down on him, he is hit again by another pile of papers.]

The audience finally sees the protagonist's face as he takes off his mirror sun glasses. It's Michael J. Fox as Marty.

"Woah...Rock and Roll."

Across the room from him is the blown out giant speaker. Suddenly the phone rings. He searches under the boxes until he finds the phone. It's Doc Brown. He wants Marty to meet him at the Twin Falls Mall at 1:15 tonight. The dog, Einstein, is with him. Doc tells Marty not to hook up to the amplifier. There's a slight possibility of an overload."

[The humor is generated because the precautionary message arrives too late, after the damage has already been done. The normal pattern is to give precautionary advice before the condition occurs.]

Suddenly, all the clocks go off together, creating a major racket. They all indicate 8:00. Doc asks if those are his clocks he hears, and Marty says yes, it's 8:00. Doc responds that they are all 25 minutes slow. Marty realizes he is late for school, and slams down the phone. The background music increases in volume. Marty runs past the "PLUTONIUM-HANDLE WITH CARE" box under the table, then out of the room.

[In the opening scene both the antagonist and protagonist are introduced along with electrical power. Marty cannot control the power (the amplifier explodes) and he is beaten by time (he's late for school). These will be the critical factors of the climax scene.]


Marty jumps onto his skate board, rides past the Burger King, grabs onto the back of a pickup, and is pulled down the street, accompanied to the music of "THE POWER OF LOVE."

[Marty displays skills that will later help him escape from Biff: his agility and balance on high speed chases.]

Marty is pulled into the downtown area, where he switches from the pickup to a jeep. He rides past a window of women doing exercises, and waves to them. He next rides past a sign stating "HILL VALLEY" and a van with a poster of a black man running for Mayor of Hill Valley.

[This is a transition scene that also contains exposition: Marty is well liked in the community (women wave at him), the name of the town (HILL VALLEY) and the setup for Goldie running for Mayor, which will be used when Marty returns to the past. Again, this is an example of the economy of visual design and creative exposition.]


Marty rides up to the front entrance on the skateboard. He picks up the board, then runs up the stairs. He meets his girlfriend, Jennifer, on the stairs. She tells Marty not to go this way, that Strictland, the principal, is looking for him. If he's caught, this will be four tardies in a row.

[Strictland' name reveals his basic character. The fact that Marty has been late four times in a row reveals a fact about his character. Both bits of exposition are delivered by characters under stress.]

[This scene also introduces Jennifer, Marty's love interest. In most traditional stories both the protagonist and antagonist fight over the love interest, with the protagonist usually having possession of her in the third act before the climax scene. Considering that TIME is the antagonist in this story, this structure is maintained, since TIME holds Jennifer in the future while Marty is locked in the past. Marty must break through TIME'S "grip" in order to get back to the future, and Jennifer.]


Jennifer looks around the corner of an empty hallway. Marty protests that this time it wasn't his fault. Doc had "set all his clocks twenty-five minutes slow."

Strictland, a bald mean-spirited principal, grabs Marty by the collar. He gives him a tardy slip and warns him to stay away from Doc Brown, who he characterizes as a real "nut case." He then humiliates Strictland in front of Jennifer. He says Marty is a "slacker," just like his father before him. He also tells him not the bother having his band audition for the dance.

"Why even bother, McFly? You don't have a chance. You're too much like your old man. No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley." "Yeah, well history is going to change," responds Marty as he goes nose-to-nose with Strictland.

[This is a humiliation scene which is designed to create audience empathy for Marty. Here a strict disciplinarian goes overboard to humiliate Marty with comments about his father in front of Marty's girlfriend. Yet, in the end Marty does stand up for himself and his family. This stance increases the audience's empathy for Marty.]


Auditions are taking place. Marty, with guitar in hand, climbs up to the stage. He's followed by the other members of his band. In the middle of the gym sit the four faculty members who are evaluating the bands. The band begins to play some loud rock and roll. Jennifer watches from the sidelines. The four stonefaced judges listen to the band. Then the judge wearing eyeglasses picks up the microphone and dismisses the band because they are too loud. Both Marty and Jennifer are disappointed.

[Audience empathy is again generated for Marty by this rejection. The audience knew he wanted to play at the dance in order to be somebody, to bring dignity to his family name. Being a rock-and-roll musician is his dream.]


Marty and Jennifer walk down the street. A white van drives by. It has a poster of a black Mayor running for re-election. A loudspeaker calls out: "Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson. Progress is his middle name."

[This is a "setup" which will "payoff" when Marty meets Goldie in the past.]

Marty expresses his fear of rejection, then says he's starting to sound like his old man.

[This is another technique for generating audience empathy. Have the protagonist reveal what he fears most. Marty also characterizes his father as one who's afraid of failure.]

"Come on, he's not that bad," says Jennifer. "At least he's letting you borrow the car tomorrow night."

[This sets up the audience's expectations about the car and the importance it has for Marty and Jennifer.]

An old woman approaches them and hands out a petition to save the Clock Tower. Marty sees a 4X4 truck drive by and expresses his desire to own one.

[The truck is another dream object for Marty. Both objectives are status symbols: the applause of the crowd and a new truck. The truck will bring him freedom, power, and make him more attractive to the opposite sex.]

Jennifer and Marty fantasize about taking the truck up to the lake. Jennifer asks Marty if he told his Mom about the two of them going camping tomorrow night. Marty says no, she would freak out and he'd get a lecture about how she never did that when she was a kid.

[This is a "setup" to intentionally mislead the audience about Marty's mother. Later both Marty and the audience find out how different his mother really was when she was young.]

They start to kiss, but then a woman places a collection can in front of their faces and shakes it. "Save the Clock Tower, save the Clock Tower. Mayor Wilson is sponsoring an initiative to save that clock. Thirty years ago lightning struck the clock tower and it hasn't worked since. We at the Hill Valley Preservation Society think that it should be preserved exactly the way it is, as part of our history and heritage." Marty gives her a quarter, and she hands him a blue sheet of paper containing information about saving the Clock Tower.

[There is an economy of information presented in this scene. Almost every word is essential to the story. First, we have exposition on the history of the Clock Tower. Second, the flyer will be used by Marty in 1955 to help him get back to the future. The exposition was presented in a novel way, instead of just lecturing the audience about the historical facts. It is presented when the audience was focused on Marty and Jennifer about to kiss. Neither of these setups were "telegraphed" to be important at the time the information was presented. On the contrary, they are introduced as insignificant compared to the main action of the scene.]

As they start to kiss, a brown car pulls up to the curb and beeps its horn. Jennifer's father calls out to her. Before she leaves she writes her number on the flyer about the Clock Tower. She then kisses him goodbye as the music of "THE POWER OF LOVE" plays over the soundtrack. Marty reads the back of the flyer, on which is written "I LOVE YOU! 555-4823," Marty places it into the inside pocket of his jacket.

[This is the setup of an important prop that will serve an essential role later in the story. Jennifer signing it provides the emotional justification for Marty to keep it with him instead of throwing it away as a worthless piece of paper.]

Marty takes his skateboard, places it on the ground, then hitches a ride on the back of a police car.

[A humorous conclusion to the scene. He's clever enough to outwit the police.]


Marty, pulled by a pickup truck, lets go and skateboards into the entrance of a residential development park, past a sign stating "LYON ESTATES." He skates down the street, then stops in front of a house. A tow truck is backing a banged up white car into the driveway. Marty becomes upset.

[This is the first major obstacle to his objective of camping at the lake with Jennifer.]


Marty's father, George, is arguing with Biff, who blames George for the accident because he didn't tell Biff the car had a blind spot.

[Humor is generated because cars don't have "blind spots" and instead of taking responsibility for his actions and apologizing, Biff is blaming the accident on George.]

Marty watches as Biff refuses to have his insurance pay for the damage. Instead he wants George to pay for his cleaning bill because he spilt beer on his jacket during the accident. Marty's father holds onto his nervous stomach, and finds it difficult to confront Biff, as Marty stands by and witnesses this humiliation.

[The audience laughs because the bully avoids responsibility for the accident by placing the blame on the innocent, who can't adequately defend himself. Besides that, Biff adds insult to injury, by making Marty's father pay the cleaning bill for his suit on which he spilt beer. We laugh at the self-serving hypocrisy of Biff.]

Biff demands his reports for work. When George says that they aren't finished, Biff grabs George by the tie and knocks his knuckles on his head. George promises to deliver the report in the morning. Biff then opens the refrigerator and takes out a can of beer. Biff sees Marty staring at him. "What are you looking at, Butt Head? Say hello to your mom for me."

[This is the introduction of the subplot. Marty's father is the protagonist of the subplot and Biff is the antagonist of the subplot. The subplot is the story of George McFly's transformation from a wimp.]

George apologizes to Marty for not standing up to Biff. Marty is upset because he needed the car for tomorrow.

[Marty gains the audience's empathy, because he has such a weakling for a father, and the car that he needed is damaged. Now he can't go up to the lake with Jennifer.]


Marty's father fills his bowl with peanut brittle as Mart watches him with disgust. Marty's brother wears a McDonald's uniform. Behind him on the television set plays "The Honeymooners." The father and brother watch Gleason on the TV and laugh at his antics. Marty's mother, drinking liquor, walks in from the kitchen and announces that they'll have to eat the birthday cake themselves because Uncle Joey didn't make parole again. On the cake is a picture of a cage door opening with bird flying out, with the words "WELCOME HOME, UNCLE JOEY" written on it.

[This is a set up for a joke back in 1955 when Marty sees baby Joey in his crib.]

The family interacts through conversation. Marty's sister complains about being his answering service. His mother doesn't like Jennifer because she calls him up. When she was young she never called boys or sat in parked cars with them.

[This is a setup to have the audience expect certain behavior from Marty's mother when she was young. The surprise payoff will come when Marty and his mother meet in 1955. The filmmaker intentionally misleads the audience.]

[The relationships between members of Marty's family are revealed There's not one that he can be proud of: a wimp for a father, a lush for a mother, a nerd brother and an unattractive sister. All of these characters will be transformed because of Marty's actions in the past.]

When the sister complains that she'll never meet anyone, Loraine responds that it'll just happen, like the way she met George. Lorraine's father had hit George with a car while he was "bird watching" in the middle of the street. The mother takes another drink. The sister complains that she has heard this story a million times. Loraine had felt sorry for George and decided to go to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. George kissed Loraine for the first time on that dance floor, and it was then that Loraine realized she was going to spend the rest of her life with him. George laughs at a funny scene on the TV. He's a 45 year old nerd, and the rest of the family is embarrassed. Loraine takes another drink.

[Every bit of dialogue is essential to setting up some aspect of the story. Exposition about the way parents got together establishes the audience's expectations. But as the story unfolds the audience will be continuously surprised because events will not occur the way anticipated. This exposition also supplies the plan of action and the set of subobjectives that Marty must accomplish in order to get his parents together and to save his life both in the past and in the future.]

[The basic character flaw that Marty must overcome is his constant lateness. Like Jones' fear of snakes in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Marty must overcome this before he can achieve his primary objective: to get back to the future.]


Clock ticks away. 12:27, 12:28, as Marty sleeps in his bed. Suddenly his phone rings. He picks it up. It's Doc Brown, asking if he had fallen asleep.

[Again emphasizing Marty's trait of being late.]

Doc had forgotten his video camera and wants Marty to pick it up on the way to the mall.

[The audience still hasn't seen the face of Doc Brown. Like in so many of the other films, this delaying tactic keeps the audience in suspense: they want to know what this other character looks like.]


Marty rides his skateboard down a road, past a sign stating: "TWIN PINES MALL" with a clock indicating 1:16 AM. A white van is parked in the middle of the mall's parking lot. On the side of the van is printed "DR. E. BROWN ENTERPRISES." A large fluffy dog sits on the ground and looks into the back of the van. Marty walks down the embankment and approaches the dog, "Einstein."

[The setting of this scene is in a suburban mall: a contemporary "everyman" environment. This could be the start of an adventure for any young American man.]

Sounds come out of the back of the van as smoke and steam rises from inside. The metal doors on the back of the van open downward. Then, amidst the smoke, a high-powered turbo-car rolls down the ramp. It's a silver Delorean, any young man's fantasy. The side door opens up, and a wild-eyed mad scientist, DOC, gets out. He has white frizzy hair, a crazed stare, a pencil in his mouth and a metal pad in hand. He hugs Marty. Marty starts rolling the tape as the Doc records his message.

[This is an example of exposition done creatively. Doc videotapes his plans for posterity.]

Einstein jumps into the DeLorean. He's wearing a large clock around his neck. Doc tightens the seat-belt around him, as Marty records this with the video camera. Einstein and Doc's clocks are synchronized to 1:19. Doc closes the car door with Einstein sitting in the drivers seat. He then activates a remote control device. The car quickly backs up with Einstein still sitting in the drivers seat.

[Humor is generated by the incongruity of a complacent dog driving a Delorean.]

The car reaches the far side of the parking lot, then spins around.Doc pulls Marty with him into the center of the parking lot. "If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're going to see some serious shit," says Doc.

Doc has a black three-triangle symbol on the back of his shirt. This is the same danger symbol that was on the plutonium box. The indicator on the remote control is set to 00. Doc then revs the car up. It's back tires spin, while he holds back the brakes. The speed meter indicates 23, 24, then 37, 40, 56, 58, then 65. At 65 mph Doc releases the brakes, and the car speeds forward towards him and Marty. The indicator lights up at 76.8, 80.9, 87. When it hits 88.0 light beams shoot down from the car's roof and creates a flashing mass of light in front of the speeding vehicle. The car continues to speed towards Marty and Doc. White light floods them, then suddenly the car disappears within a puff of white smoke. It leaves a trail of flames that track up the middle of the road between Marty and Doc's legs. They spin around as they search for the vanished car. Doc is overjoyed and jumps up and down. The car's license plate spins on the ground in between the trail of flames.

[A "timelock" is created here because the audience has been setup to expect something amazing to happen when the car hits 88 mph. This creates tension. The jeopardy in the scene consists of Marty and Doc standing in the path of the speeding car. If Doc is wrong, they will be killed.]

"A temporal displacement occurred at exactly 1:28 AM and 0 seconds," says Doc as he speaks into the camera. Marty picks up the license plate, then quickly drops it because it is hot. Marty is upset. He believes that Einstein has been disintegrated. Doc explains that Einstein has just become the world's first time traveler. Doc sent him one minute into the future. Doc's wristwatch timer beeps, and he looks down at his watch. Doc pushes Marty aside just as the speeding car materializes and skids to a sliding stop. Doc and Marty approach the smoking car, which is steaming from the cold. Steam flows out from the rear exhaust system. Doc grabs the door handle, then shakes his hand in pain because it is extremely cold. Doc then kicks open the door with his foot. Einstein is fine as he sits and pants in the drivers seat, Einstein's clock indicates 1:20 while Doc's watch has 1:21. Doc releases the seat belt and Einstein jumps out of the car and runs into the van. He's fine and completely unaware that anything happened. For him, the trip was instantaneous.

[This is the first of three major instances of time-travel. The first time, with Einstein, everything goes smoothly. This way the audience clearly understands the process under humorous conditions (Einstein goes for the ride). The second instance will be under terrifying conditions, as Marty escapes from the Libyans. When this happens, the audience can just concentrate on the action and not be concerned with understanding how time-travel is possible. The third time occurs when Marty tries to get back to the future. Here the excitement will be generated by both the timelock (lightning striking the clocktower) and the car stalling.]


Doc explains how the time travel mechanism works. He punches in November 5, 1955, a red letter day in the history of science: the day Doc Brown invented time-travel. He tells Marty about how he fell and hit his head in the bathroom. When he came to he had a picture in his head of the Flux-Capacitor, which makes time-travel possible.

[Not only is this a bit of exposition, it's also the setup of information that Marty will use to get Doc to believe him when he's in the past. This method of setups uses seemingly inconsequential statements that contain information that becomes critical in a later part of the story.]

Nov 5,1955 was thirty years ago. Doc reminisces that this was all farm land as far as the eye could see. Old man Peabody who had a crazy idea about breeding pine trees, owned all of this.

[This is another bit of exposition that will be used to orient the audience when Marty travels through time and ends up in Peabody's barn.]

When Marty asks if the car runs on gasoline, Doc explains that it needs plutonium. The car is electrical, but needs a nuclear reaction to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.

[Again, the exposition recorded on tape later becomes critical to the story.]

Doc explains that he got the plutonium from a group of Libyan Nationalist who wanted him to build them a bomb. He took their plutonium and substituted a bomb filled with pin ball machine parts. Marty puts on a radiation suit as Doc opens a case to reveal some plutonium canisters. He takes one vessel filled with liquid and places it into the car's engine. He then steps back and takes off his protective white clothing. Doc puts the empty canister back into the yellow plutonium trunk. He then heads for the car, but suddenly stops, because he forgot his underwear.

[Humor is generated by a scientist going on a major scientific journey worrying about his underwear. This is inappropriate behavior. He should be concerned with more advanced scientific matters. This humanizes the situation and brings things back to a more mundane level, where the audience can identify with Doc.]

Doc explains that he's going twenty-five years into the future in order to see the progress of Mankind. He'll also be able to see who wins the next twenty-five World Series.

[Humor is generated here by the incongruity of Doc's self-interest about World Series games while embarking on a great scientific expedition.]

Doc is about to leave but remembers he forgot to bring the extra plutonium he will need to get back.

[This is an important setup. This lack of the extra plutonium causes many of Marty's problems when he's in the past.]

Einstein barks from within the van. A blue-white van approaches from the distance. Doc panics because the Libyans have found him.

[In 1985, Libyan Terrorists were almost as good as Nazis as a group acceptable for the audience to hate.]

A Libyan with machine gun in hand stands up through the roof of a van as it speeds into the parking lot. The Libyan fires his machine gun at Doc and hits the van behind him. The Libyan van pulls up in front of Doc and the Libyan with a machine gun fires at him. Bullets rip into Doc's chest, as he falls down to the ground. "NO!!! BASTARDS!!!" shouts Marty.

Marty stands out in the open as the Libyan points the gun at him and fires. Marty quickly ducks behind a truck for protection. The van drives around to the other side. Marty is now trapped in an open space with no protection. He shuts his eyes and prepares to die. The Libyan pulls the trigger, but his gun jams. He curses the gun. Marty then runs and dives into the DeLorean. The Libyan tries to drive forward, but the van stalls.

Marty sees Doc's body under his white van, then starts up the DeLorean. He drives forward, followed by the Libyan van, with the Libyan continuing to fire at him.

[This is a standard car chase scene, with protagonist in jeopardy.]

Marty accelerates the car past 70 mph to 85 mph. But when he shifts into a higher gear, the gage drops back down to 40 mph. The Libyans continue to follow and fire at him. Finally the Libyan reaches down and comes back up with a rocket launcher. He takes aim at the DeLorean. Marty watches this in his rear view mirror. Marty then accelerates the car and pulls away from the van. The gauge indicates 85 mph, then it hits 88 mph and there is a flash of bright light that fills the screen.

[This is the INCITING EVENT for BACK TO THE FUTURE. Circumstances beyond his control put Marty into a situation where there is no turning back. He has lost his world, his home, and the woman he loved. After this he must move forward, overcoming obstacles to achieve his primary objective, which is to get "back to the future."]

[This is the end of the first act. The antagonist (TIME) has defeated and captured the protagonist. It has placed him in the prison of "the past" from which he must escape.]


The DeLorean speeds through a farm field and runs into a scarecrow, which is then knocked onto the windshield. Marty sees the face of the scarecrow and screams with fright. The hood of the yellow radiation suit that he is wearing falls over his head as the DeLorean crashes through a barn's doors. Smoke and dust shoot out through the barn's roof. Lights turn on in a window of the farm house, then on the porch, and living room. The front door opens and the family comes running out.

[This is a transition scene. Marty arrives in the future.]


The barn door opens. The farmer with lantern in hand, followed by his wife and two children, enter the barn. They see the DeLorean. They wonder what it is. The farmer thinks it's an airplane without wings. The young boy hands his father a comic book entitled "TALES FROM SPACE" that has a picture of a metallic space ship on the cover.

The side door of the DeLorean slowly opens up, and Marty, completely covered from head to foot in the yellow radiation suit, steps out. The farmer and his family all scream and run out of the barn, as Marty trips over a bundle of hay. Marty pulls back his hood and opens the barn door.

[Humor is generated when characters misinterpret a situation.]

Suddenly a shot rings out and hits the door behind him. The farmer, with shotgun blazing, runs towards the barn. Marty falls back into the barn. "It's already mutating into human form. Shoot it," shouts the boy. The farmer fires a third shot into the door.

[Marty is in jeopardy. This has become a life and death situation.]

Suddenly the DeLorean burst out of the barn, spins around the family, runs through a fence and over a pine tree, then past a mailbox which has the name "PEABODY" written on it. The farmer once again lifts up his gun and shoots at the car. This time he destroys his mailbox. "You space killed a pine!" screams the farmer.

[The audience laughs at the dumb farmer who, because of his stupidity and fears, destroys his own property.]


Marty drives down the road onto a highway as the sun rises. He talks to himself as he drives, trying to persuade himself that it's all a dream. Suddenly Marty slams on the brakes. He stops in the middle of the road, where he is surrounded by wide-open fields. This is the entrance to LYON ESTATES. The two stone slabs stand at the entrance, but there are no homes, just open fields with a tractor constructing a road. Marty, still in his yellow radiation suit, runs up to a bill- board that advertises the future community of LYON ESTATES.

[Marty is in a state of confusion, which generates audience empathy.]

A red car drives up the road. Inside are an old man and woman. Marty runs up to the driver's side. Marty pleads with them to help him. The old woman screams from terror and forces the man to drive on.

[Marty is left on his own in this "new world." No one will help him. This generates more audience empathy for him.]

Marty jumps back into the DeLorean and looks at the dashboard. The lights on the clock flash "NOV 05 1955." Marty tries to start up the car, but it won't turn over. The plutonium indicator flashes "EMPTY." Marty takes off his yellow suit, then pushes the DeLorean behind the billboard. He then walks down the road, past a sign stating "HILL VALLEY-2 MILES."

[Marty's primary objective is to get back to the future. His first major obstacle is that the car is out of fuel. His first subobjective is to get fuel for the car.]


The music to "MR. SANDMAN" plays in the town square as Marty turns the corner. There is a movie poster of Barbara Stanwick and Ronald Reagan in "CATTLE QUEEN," any seat $.50. Marty is overwhelmed by the changes in the town. Awestruck, he walks backwards into the street. A car almost hits him. All the cars are of early 1950 models. Across the street a red car pulls up to a Texaco Gas Station and four attendants run out to service the car. One washes the windows, another pumps air into the tires, a third pumps gas, and a fourth changes the oil.

[The joke is that no one would ever get such service today. This is no longer a normal pattern of behavior.]

Marty walks backwards into the center of the park beneath the Clock Tower. The clock chimes, indicating that the tower is working. He walks past the "WELCOME TO HILL VALLEY" sign. "If you believe in progress, re-elect Mayor Red Thomas-Progress is his middle name," blasts a speaker from a black car that has red and white banners flying from it.

[This is an establishment scene. It shows the audience Marty's new location by having him once again walk through the park where he and Jennifer planned their lake outing. But, some things have changed since it is now 1955.]

A man walks by and drops a newspaper into a trash basket. Marty pulls it out and reads the headlines: "SATURDAY NOVEMBER 5,1955" He believes he's in a dream. He sees a telephone booth and crosses the street. He runs into a Diner, decorated in 1955 decor. A sign states "COFFEE-$.05." The owner behind the counter looks him over, and asks if he jumped ship. He interprets Marty's jacket as a life-preserver. Marty just wants to use the pay phone.

[The owner's comment about Marty's jacket generates humor because it's a misinterpretation of the situation.]


Marty fingers through a phone book until he finds the name "BROWN, EMMET." Marty dials the number from the phone booth, as the owner walks by and stares at him. This makes Marty nervous. No one answers the phone at the Brown residence. Marty tears the page from the phone book, then walks back to the counter.

[Marty's sub-objective becomes further clarified: he must get Doc Brown to provide fuel for the car. Marty needs fuel, but the car doesn't run on gas. The only person who can provide him with the needed fuel is Doc Brown.]

Marty has a humorous dialogue with the owner in which he tries to order something to drink.

[The jokes are based on a misunderstanding of words. The soft drink products that Marty orders (such as Tab and Pepsi Free) didn't exist in 1955.]

The door swings opens and a young Biff enters the dinner. "Hey, McFly," yells Biff. Both Marty, and his young father George, who is sitting next to him, turn around. Marty's mouth drops when he sees his father. Biff torments George in a scene which is structurally almost identical to the early scene between Biff and George. This time they discuss homework instead of business reports. Biff knocks him on the head, which reinforces the pattern of their relationship.

[This generates humor because it's a variation on a pattern already established.]

Marty, in shock, stares at Biff and George. "What are you looking at, butthead?" Biff asks Marty.

[Repeat of the same structure in the relationship between George McFly and Biff, when they were in high school. Again, Biff is the bully. This is the subplot, where George is the protagonist. This bullying creates audience empathy for George and hatred for Biff.]

George then turns back to his food as Marty, in complete shock, continues to stare at him. Finally, George slams down the spoon and turns to Marty. "What?" says George. A young black waiter walks up to George and asks why he lets those boys push him around. George replies that they are bigger than him. Goldie says that he has to have some respect for himself. Goldie plans to make something out of himself. Marty interjects that one day Goldie's going to be Mayor.

[The audience laughs because they know that this will happen, whereas the owner of the store believes it could never take place. They laugh at his prejudice and stupidity.]

Marty suddenly notices that his father has left. He sees George riding away on a bike. Marty runs after him.

[A surprising turn of events: Marty meets his father. Now all the setups presented during the earlier exposition scenes will begin to payoff. Nothing happens the way that the audience expects things to happen in the first meeting of George and Lorraine. This will generate a lot of humor.]


Marty stops as he looks for his father. He runs up the sidewalk, then stops when he sees George's bike parked against the side of a tree. A branch falls to the ground. Marty looks up to see his father stretched out on a limb with binoculars in hand as he watches a girl undressing in the second floor window of a house across the street. The girl is wearing only a white bra and panties. "He's a Peeping Tom," Marty says to himself with disappointment.

[At dinner Marty's mother told the children that their father was out birdwatching when he got hit by the car. The audience feels morally superior, and they laugh at George, for what he's doing is definitely not socially accepted behavior.]

George then slips, rolls off the tree limb, and falls onto the street in front of an oncoming car. Marty jumps into the street and pushes George away. Marty's hit by the car instead. He falls and knocks his head against the ground.

[This is the event that may alter the course of his life. The audience has empathy for Marty because he saved George from the car. Now they are also concerned for him because he's hurt.]

The driver runs to Marty. George sits up, then runs to his bike and rides away. The driver yells to his wife for help.


Marty lies asleep in bed. It's dark in the room. Suddenly, he wakes up, and calls out for his mother. A voice in the dark tells him to relax. A hand wipes his head with a towel. Marty tells her he's had a terrible nightmare, dreaming that he went back in time. The voice tells him he's safe now here in 1955. The voice turns on the lights and reveals herself to be Marty's mom, Lorraine, at age sixteen. Marty is shocked. She has undressed him and placed his pants on her "hope chest." She calls him Calvin, then comments that she's never seen purple underwear before. When Marty asks her why she calls him Calvin, Lorraine responds, "That's your name, isn't it? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear."

[Humor is generated by Lorraine's misunderstanding and inappropriate use of the name Calvin Klein. Her sexual advances also is inappropriate behavior since Lorraine is Marty's mother. Laughter allows the audience to release tension upon seeing this socially taboo behavior.]

Lorraine's mother calls up from below. Lorraine jumps off the bed and tells Marty to quickly put on his pants. She throws his pants at him as she runs out of the room. His legs get caught in the pants and he falls forward onto the floor.


Lorraine's mother, followed by Lorraine and Marty, walk down the stairs. She misinterprets his jacket for a life-preserver and asks how long he's been a sailor.

[Another joke produced by misunderstanding. While the mother's comments are appropriate from her historical perspective, they are inappropriate from Marty's point of view.]

Lorraine's mother introduces Marty to Sam, the father, who is fixing the new television set. She then introduces Marty to Lorraine's brothers and sisters, including little Rickey-Joey in the play-pen. Marty leans down to the baby in the playpen, then whispers, "You're my uncle Joey?" "Better get used to these bars, kid." Lorraine's mother responds "Yeah, Joey just loves being in his playpen. He cries whenever we take him out, so we just leave him in there all the time."

[This is the joke that was set up earlier when Lorraine brought out the cake for Marty's Uncle Joey. The laugh is generated by the audience's surprise and Marty's truthful comments.]

They sit down for dinner. Sam pushes the TV in front of the table so they can watch Jackie Gleason while they eat. Lorraine is infatuated with Marty. When Marty tells Lorraine that he has two TV sets, Lorraine's mother responds with, "Nobody has two television sets."

[Another joke is generated by a truth spoken within one context being inappropriate to another context.]

The family watches the Gleason Show on the television set. Marty says that he's seen this show before. Lorraine's brother questions him by saying that this is a brand new show. Marty responds that this show is a rerun. "What's a rerun?" asks the brother. "You'll find out," replies Marty.

[The audience shares in understanding the truthfulness of Marty's statement, even though the other characters don't. This is a variation on laughter generated by stupidity, as is the following interchange.]

"You know," says the mother, "you look so familiar to me. Do I know your mother?" asks Lorraine's mother. Marty looks at Lorraine, then says "Yeah, I think maybe you do."

[Audience laughs because, along with Marty, they know much more about the situation than the mother.]

Lorraine's mother wants to call Marty's mom, but Marty says that she can't because nobody's home, yet. He asks if they know where Riverside Drive is? Sam says it's on the other side of town, a block past Maple. East end of town." Marty says, "That's John F. Kennedy Drive." "Who the hell is John F. Kennedy?" asks the father.

[Again, laughter is generated because only a stupid person would not know who J.F.K. was. Everyone is expected to know this. This is the surprise. But then a second laugh comes because it makes sense that Sam wouldn't know this, living in a different historical context.]

Lorraine wants Marty to spend the night. He could sleep in her room, says Lorraine as she puts her hand on Marty's knee. He jumps up, says goodbye, then leaves.

[Again laughter is generated by the inappropriate sexual advances of a mother towards her son, and the embarrassing position in which Marty finds himself, since he knows the true relationship, even if Lorraine doesn't.]

Lorraine's mother says Marty's a very strange young man. Lorraine's father replies: "He's an idiot. It comes from upbringing. His parents were probably idiots, too. Lorraine, you have a kid who acts that way, I'll disown you." Lorraine's face is filled with love.

[The audience laughs because the father unconsciously characterizes his own family as idiots. He is mistaken about the situation, and the audience knows this. If he knew the truth, his comments would not be appropriate.]

[Lorraine and her family have become an obstacle from which Marty must escape. His objective is to find Doc so he can get back to the future.]


Marty searches for Doc Brown's house. The address 1640 is lit up. Marty walks up the driveway, then knocks on the front door. Dr. Brown opens the door, but only partially. He looks out at Marty, then slams the door shut. Marty again approaches the door. This time the Doctor swings it open. Doc is wearing a strange contraption on his head. A metal strainer with wires running through it. Doc grabs Marty by the jacket and pulls him into the house. He tells him not to say a word.

[Marty has found Doc. Now, he must persuade Doc to believe he is from the future and then to help him get back. This structure is that of a series of sub-objectives to a primary objective.]


Doc disconnects a dog from his mind reading machine. "I don't want to know your name. I don't want to know anything about you. Don't tell me anything," says Doc as he turns on some switches. Doc licks the surface of a plunger and places it on Marty's forehead. "I'm going to read your thoughts."

[Doc is characterized as the traditional mad scientist. The joke is that he's incompetent: his science doesn't work. Marty's major obstacle in this scene is that Doc wont listen to him, and when he does listen, he won't believe him.]

All his responses are wrong after stating that Marty came here from a great distance. Marty does not want Doc to buy a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post, nor does he want him to make a donation to the Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary. Marty pulls the plug from his forehead. "Doc, I'm from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985." Doc embraces Marty and smiles. "Do you know what this means? It means that this damn thing doesn't work at all. Damn!!!"

[Humor is generated by Doc's inappropriate actions to the situation. Doc seems to smile lovingly and hug Marty, then surprises the audience by truthfully admitting that his system doesn't work.]

"You've got to help me," says Marty. "You're the only one who knows how your time machine works."

"Time machine," says Doc, holding onto his head. "I haven't invented any time machine."

[Marty must persuade Doc that he really is from the future.]

Marty takes out his wallet. He shows Doc his driver's license which expires in 1987, and a picture of his brother and sister. On his sister's sweatshirt is written "Class of 1984" Doc responds with "A pretty mediocre photographic fakery. They cut off your brothers hair."

[This photo becomes a visual prop which indicates the life and death status of Marty, similar in function to the flowers in E.T.]

Doc still doesn't believe Marty. He asks him who's President of the United States in 1985?"

"Ronald Reagan," replies Marty.

"Ronald Reagan? The actor! Huh! Then who's Vice-President? Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman's the First Lady?" Doc runs out of the room with blueprints under his arms.

[The structure of this joke consists of a statement which is true within one context being absurd within another context, with both contexts being valid. This produces tension in the audience which is released through laughter when they accept the limited legitimacy of both perspectives.]


Doc runs down a hill and Marty runs after him. "I suppose Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury," says Doc as he runs into a small cottage. Doc runs into the cottage and slams the door in Marty's face.

[From Doc's point of view, this statement is a legitimate inference if Marty's statements are assumed to be true. Yet the audience laughs because it is absurd.]

[Marty is failing in his objective. He cannot get Doc to believe him. His frustration and desperation creates empathy for him in the audience, because they know he is telling the truth.]

"No, wait Doc. The bruise, the bruise on your head. I know how that happened. You told me the whole story. You were standing on your toilet and you were hanging a clock and you fell and you hit your head on the sink and that's when you came up with the idea for the flux-capacitor, which is what makes Time-Travel possible," says Marty as he collapses against the door from exhaustion.

Doc suddenly opens the door and stares at Marty with amazement.

[Marty has finally broken through!]


It's a foggy night as Marty and Doc drive up to the spot where Marty hid the DeLorean. With a flashlight drawn, they approach Marty's car. Doc holds out a picture of the flux-capacitor after he fell off the toilet. Marty opens the car door to reveal the real instrument. Doc falls down to his knees, overjoyed that finally something that he has invented works. Doc wants to get the car back to his lab so that he can help Marty get home.

[Marty has successfully accomplished his sub-objective: to get Doc to help him get home.]


Marty connects the VCR camera to the TV Monitor, and the tape begins to play. Doc and Marty watch the monitor. They listen to the part where Doc says he needs 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to run the car. Doc pulls on his hair, then runs out of the room. Marty follows him asking "What the hell is a gigawatt?"

[Major obstacle: can't generate the fuel needed to get back home.]


Doc looks at a picture of Tom Edison, and asks how he can generate that kind of power. He doesn't believe it can be done. Marty says that all they need is a little plutonium. Doc tells Marty he's stuck. Marty is upset. He can't be stuck in 1955. He's got a life and a beautiful girlfriend back in 1985. Marty takes the "SAVE THE CLOCK" flier out of his jacket to show Doc what Jennifer wrote to him. "Doc, you're my only hope," says Marty.

[Marty's hopeless situation gains him sympathy from the audience.]

Doc says the only power source capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning, but you never know when or where it's going to strike.

[This is the payoff to the setting up of the flier as a prop in the earlier part of the movie.]

Marty hands Doc the flyer which states that a bolt of lightning is going to strike the tower, exactly 10:04 PM next Saturday night. Doc says that if they could somehow harness this lightning, channel it into the flux-capacitor, it just might work.

[The new sub-objective: They must harness the power from a bolt of lightning that will hit the Clock Tower on Saturday at 10:04. This will be his only chance to get back home to the one he loves. A TIMELOCK has been established.]

Marty is relieved. He feels he can hang out until Saturday. Doc tells Marty that anything he did could have serious repercussions on future events. Marty tells Doc that he bumped into his parents today. Doc demands to see the photo of Marty with his brother and sister. Marty gives Doc the photo and he holds it up to the light. The brother's head has disappeared. "His head's gone. It's like he's been erased," says Marty. "Erased from existence!" says Doc.

[Marty now is in jeopardy because on his interaction with his parents. Not only must he get back to the future to save his life, but he must also undo the damage he's done. This is his new sub-objective, and is the basis of the subplot to get his parents together. His existence depends on it.]


Marty and Doc walk towards his High School. "Whoa, they really cleaned this place up. It looks brand new," says Marty.

[The joke is based on a Marty's incorrect statement. The school actually is brand new.]

"Now remember, according to my theory, you interfered with your parents first meeting. If they don't meet, they won't fall in love, they won't get married, and they won't have kids. That's why your older brother is disappearing from the photograph, your sister will follow, and unless you repair the damage, you'll be next."

[This vital exposition is presented so that the audience will under- stand the life and death significance of Marty's objective to get his parents together.]

"That sounds pretty heavy," says Marty.

"Weight has nothing to do with it," says Doc.

[Humor is generated by Doc misunderstanding words out of his "historical" context.]


Marty, with a pained expression on his face, points out his father to Doc. George walks down the hallway with sign stating "KICK ME" taped onto his back. He's being kicked in the rear by the other boys as he walks down the hallway. "Maybe you were adopted," says Doc. The boys continue to kick George until he drops his books. Strictland walks up to George and calls him a slacker.

[The humor is generated by the repetition of a pattern that the audience viewed earlier in the film. The variation being that this time George is being reprimanded instead of Marty.]

Marty approaches his father and tells him that there is somebody I'd like you to meet. Doc watches them as he steps in front of a poster on the wall advertising "ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA - SATURDAY NIGHT"

[To increase the complications in a story, you increase the amount of obstacles and conflicts within the timelock period. On Saturday night, the lightning will strike, but also on Saturday night, George and Lorraine must have their first kiss. Marty's two sub-objectives run parallel and must be completely almost simultaneously. For if one fails, he will never come into existence, and if the other fails, he will never get home to the one he loves. The protagonist is giving an impossible set of tasks to perform by a given deadline.]

Marty introduces George to Lorraine, but she's more interested in him. George, ignored, wanders off down the hallway. When the bell rings, the other girls rush Lorraine away. Doc comments that the situation is more serious than he thought for Lorraine is "amorously infatuated with Marty instead of George."

"Whoa, wait a minute Doc. Are you saying that my mother has got the hots for me!" replies Marty. "Precisely!"

The audience laughs because Marty finds himself in an unacceptable social situation.]

Next there is a repetition of the "heavy" joke.

Doc tells Marty that the only way that we are going to get those two to mate is if they are alone together. They have to get Marty's father and mother to interact at some sort of social situation. Marty and Doc stop under the "ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA" sign. They see the sign and Marty says his parents were supposed to go to this and kiss for the first time.

[A new sub-objective is set: Marty must get George and Lorraine to kiss at the ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA dance. It's important to realize that the original exposition for this setup was introduced in a causal way: during a dinner conversation. At that time it established a pattern of expectations in the audience about George and Lorraine's relationship. The rest of the story will reveal surprising deviations from this pattern which will generate humor.]


George is writing in a notebook as Marty sits down. Marty mentions Lorraine, who sits at a nearby table with a girlfriend. George looks over at Lorraine, but then continues with his writing. When Marty asks what he's writing, George says "science-fiction stories about visitors coming down to earth from the planets."

Marty is surprised. He didn't know that his father did anything creative. George refuses to allow Marty to look at his stories. He never lets anyone read them, because he's afraid of rejection.

[Poignant scene in which Marty comes to have a deeper understanding of his father. This creates audience empathy for both George and Marty since they both share the fear of rejection. Marty interacts with his parents and get to know them as real people with hopes and fears of their own.]

Marty tries to persuade George that Lorraine really likes him, and that she wants him to ask her to the Enchantment Under The Sea dance. He should go and ask her now. George is afraid of rejection, and he also thinks that she may want to go with someone else. George points to Biff who is annoying Lorraine by touching her body.

Biff is sexually harassing Lorraine. She slaps him. Marty jumps in as he grabs Biff by the shirt and pulls him up from the table. "So what's it to you, butthead?" says Biff as he pushes Marty. Marty then pushes back. Biff pushes again and they get ready to slug it out when Strictland walks over. Biff sees him and stops. Biff then lets go of Marty and walks away.

[Biff is definitely the antagonist of this subplot, and the major obstacle to Marty's sub-objective of getting George and Lorraine to kiss at the dance. He is not the antagonist of the main story. That is TIME, which Marty must confront in the climax scene in order to get back to the future, his primary objective.]

A paper plane flies by Strictland's nose. He turns and searchs for the person who threw it, thereby avoiding a confrontation with Marty.

[For then Strictland would have to ask questions like who is Marty and why is he in the school?]

Marty turns and looks for George, who's nowhere to be found.

[His sub-objective is to get George to ask Lorraine to the dance. He failed in this scene. Now, he must try again in the next.]


Marty runs down the street after George. He tries to get him to ask Lorraine to the dance. George says he'll miss his favorite television show: Science Fiction Theater. George is adamant, as he says, "Look, I'm just not ready to ask Lorraine out to the dance, and not you, or anyone else on this planet, is going to make me change my mind."

George runs into his house and slams shut the door. Marty takes the photo out of his pocket. His brother is vanishing. All that's left of his brother's image are his knees and feet.

[This introduces jeopardy into the scene, and reminds the audience that it's a life and death situation. Marty is frustrated because he still hasn't accomplished his objective. His obstacle in this scene is George's stubbornness.]

"Science-Fiction Theater", says Marty to himself.

[This thought provides the motivation for the actions in the next scene, where the objective is still to get George to ask Lorraine to the dance.]


[This is an establishing shot of George's house.]


The room is dark, but a clock indicates 1:20 AM. George is asleep in his bed. Next to his pillow is a copy of a FANTASTIC STORY book. Hands appear, and place headphones over George's ears. A cassette player is in one hand, then a cassette is place inside the player. It's a Van Halen tape. A button is pushed and music blasts out. George sits up in pain, shrieking as he grabs hold of his ears.

Marty stands at the foot of George's bed wearing his yellow radio- active suit with the hood pulled down over his face as he activates the cassette player. He stops the music, and tells George that he's Darth Vadar an extra-terrestrial from the planet Vulcan. George glances at his Fantastic Stories magazine by the side of his bed.

[This is Marty's imaginative solution to overcome his major obstacle: George's stubbornness. Humor is generated by Marty's surprising attire and his mixing of references from STAR WARS and STAR TREK.]


[This scene validates that Marty has accomplished his objective. George wants to ask Lorraine to the dance.]

George runs across the street to Marty who stands in front of a coke machine. He wants to ask Lorraine out, but he doesn't know how. Marty is trying to twist open a bottle of Pepsi. George takes the bottle from him and opens it on the metal can opener that's on the vending machine.

[This produces laughter by showing Marty's incompetence, since twist tops not available in 1955.]

George tells Marty that last night Darth Vadar came down from the planet Vulcan and told him that if he didn't take Lorraine out, he would melt his brain. They approach the cafe window and see Lorraine sitting in a booth with her girlfriends. Marty tells George to go inside and invite her to the dance, but George protests that he doesn't know what to say.

[Marty's new obstacle is George's incompetence in dealing with women. If he can't overcome this, then George won't be able to get her to the dance.]

Marty finally says, "Look, tell her destiny has brought you together. Tell her that she is the most beautiful girl you have ever seen in the world." George writes this down, then enters the cafe.


As Marty and George enter, music is playing on the jukebox. Marty pushes George forward. George goes to the counter. He needs a stiff drink to build up his courage, so he orders a milk shake. George slams a coin down on the counter as Lou slides the choclate milk shake down towards him. George then gulps it down like it's hard liquor, in order to build up his courage. He then slams the glass down on the counter, and approaches Lorraine. He holds his notebook out in front of him as he tries to deliver the lines.

[Humor is generated since this is a deviation from a normal pattern of behavior: usually hard liquor is ordered to build up a man's courage.]

"Lorraine, my density has brought me to you," says George.

[Laughter is produced because he says the wrong word.]

He tries again, and tells her that he's her destiny. She swoons, but then Biff walks in Marty sees this and moans. "Hey, McFly, I thought I told you never to come in here. Well, this is going to cost you. How much money you got on you?" asks Biff.

[This situation in which Biff humiliates George in front of Lorraine generates empathy for George.]

As Biff walks towards George, Marty sticks his foot out and trips him. Biff falls on his face. He jumps up and confronts Marty. They stare at each other with hatred in their eyes.

"All right, Punk!" says Biff.

"Whoa Biff, what's that?" says Marty as he points towards the window.

When Biff turns to look, Marty punches him in the face, and knocks Biff onto the table. Marty then harges past Biff's three buddies and runs out of the cafe. "That's Calvin Klein. Oh my God, he's a dream," says Lorraine as she holds onto George.

[With this action Marty has gained the admiration of both Lorraine and the audience. The scene ends with the joke that Lorraine still doesn't know his real name.]

[Objective: George wants to persuade Lorraine to go to the dance with him. Obstacles: George is a bumbler and Biff interferes. Marty is forced to confront Biff. The scene climax occurs when Marty hits Biff. The resolution consists of Marty running out of the cafe followed by Biff and friends, which brings about the action of the next scene.]


Marty runs after a boy on a skatebox. He pulls him off the skatebox, then pulls the wooden crate off the skatebox so that he can use it as a skateboard. Marty promises to return it to the boy. Biff and his friends storm out of the cafe after Marty, as he skates down the side- walk. Biff and his friends run after Marty, as he skates away. Marty grabs on to the back of a pickup truck and rides away just before he is grabbed by Biff.

[A chase scene in which the protagonist is pursued. There are many obstacles that he must overcome and his life is in constant jeopardy.]


The crowd watches the action through the window. "He's an absolute dream," says Lorraine.

[Lorraine's reaction helps to determine the audience's reaction.]


Biff and friends jump into a car and drive after Marty. Biff drives up over the curb, into the park, and across the grass. Biff is furious as he drives the car right up behind Marty's legs. Marty swings to the side as Biff slaams into the back of the pickup. A driver opens the door to his car about fifty feet ahead. Marty screams, lets go of the pickup, jumps over the curb, lands on the sidewalk, and slams into a man and woman, knocking all three of them to the ground.

[This chase sequence is filled with jeopardy producing obstacles. This makes it exciting and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.]

Marty picks up the skateboard and continues to skate forward as Biff and his friends try to run him down. They ride into him. Marty turns and holds onto the front of the car for dear life. Biff speeds it for- ward, as Biff's friends throw bottles at him.

Marty jumps onto the hood of the car, over the seats, past Biff and friends, then off the back of the car and onto his skateboard, as Biff and friends turn around and stare at him in amazement, Biff then drives into the side of a truck filled with manure. "SHIIIITTTT!!!" they all yell in unison. The manure dumps down into the open black convertible and completely covers Biff and his friends.

[This is the type of climax that the audience loves best. The protagonist outwits his opposition in such a way that their own arrogance and recklessness damages them.]

Goldie, along with others from the cafe, run up to the truck. A sign on the truck states "D. JONES - MANURE HAULING -."

Marty returns the skateboard, as Biff, from under the pile of manure, stares at Marty with hate filled eyes promising revenge.

[This sets up the "obligatory scene" of the subplot: there will be another battle scene between Marty and Biff.]

A crowd gathers outside the cafe. The girls ask one another where Marty lives. Lorraine with love in her eyes, says "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."

[At this stage of the story, Marty still has not achieve his objective of getting Lorraine to go to the dance with George. On the contrary, things are now worse, because he has become her hero. Lorraine's new objective is to go to the dance with Marty.]


Marty walks in as Doc is playing back the videotape that contains scenes from 1985. He's viewing the section of the Libyans chasing him. Marty tries to explain what happened that night but Doc refuses to let him talk, saying that a man should not know too much about his own destiny, otherwise, he might endanger his own existence, just as Marty has to his.

[This is an obstacle that Marty must overcome in order to help save Doc's life: Doc's refusal to receive information about the future.]

Doc presents his plan to get Marty home. He shows him a model of the town square and the clock tower.

[Exposition of the plan of action follows. This sets up the audience's expectations, only to be later falsified in order to generate humor, suspense and excitement.]

They'll run electrical cable from the top of the Clock Tower down, suspending it over the street between two lampposts. They`ll also outfit the time vehicle with a big pole and hook, which runs directly into this flux-capacitor. At the calculated moment, Marty will start off, driving directly towards the cable, accelerating to 88 mph. At exactly 10:04 PM Saturday night, lightning will strike the Clock Tower electrifying the cable just as the connectivity hook makes contact, thereby sending 1.21 gigawatts into the flux capacitor, and sending Marty back into 1985.

Doc then demonstrates the plan of action on the model. The toy car proceeds down the street of the model, as Doc places the end of the cable onto the nail. Electricity flows down through the cable, hits the car and explodes. The car catches on fire, rolls off the table onto the floor, and into a pile of rags that burst into flames as Doc watches in horror. He grabs a fire-extinguisher and sprays out the flames.

[The humor generated by Doc's incompetence releases the tension and stress built up in the audience from listening to this exposition, but also focuses their attention on the danger inherent to the situation. If Doc is as incompetent as he seems, then he could get Marty killed since he'll be dealing with the power of a lightning bolt. This vividly establishes the jeopardy for Marty in the climax scene. It will be a life and death situation.]

Doc asks Marty if George will be taking Lorraine to the dance.

[This is the other life and death situation that Marty must overcome.]

Suddenly, there's a knock on the front door. Doc goes to the door and peeks through the curtain. It's Lorraine. They quickly throw a tarp over the Time Machine. Doc opens the door and Lorraine enters, and asks Marty to take her to the ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA dance on Saturday. Marty asks about George, but she thinks that a man should be strong so that he can stand up for himself and protect the woman he loves.

[This is a major obstacle to Marty: Lorraine, his mother, has fallen in love with him. His objective is still to get Lorraine and George together at the dance so they can kiss. Lorraine has provided Marty with the key: she'll only fall in love with a man who will fight for her. This is the trait Marty must instill in George.]

[This scene ends abruptly once it sets up the objective in the following scene: make George appear to be a fighter.]


Marty and George walk down an alley, with George carrying a basket of laundry in his arms. Marty has agreed to take Lorraine to the dance. "We've got to show her that you, George McFly, is a fighter. Someone who's going to stand up for her, who's going to protect her," says Marty. George says he has never picked a fight in his life, to which Marty explains that he's coming to the rescue.

They review the plan. Marty will be in the car with Lorraine. At 9:00 she's become angry with him because he'll start to take advantage of her. George holds a bra in his hand as he speaks. "Oh, you mean, you're going to touch her on her..." Marty takes the bra out of George's hands and throws it into the laundry basket.

[This is a crude visual representation of the meaning of the dialogue. This is an example of using a prop to convey unspoken information.]

Marty continues with the plan. At 9:00 George will approach the car, see them struggling, open the door, and deliver his line. George responds very dramatically. "Oh, ah...Hey you, get your damn hands off her! You really think that I ought to swear?"

[The audience laughs because the delivery is so inappropriate to his character. Even George admits this by wondering if he should swear.]

George is scared. Marty tells him that all it takes is a little self-confidence.

[This is the personal obstacle that George must overcome in order to achieve happiness: his lack of courage and self-confidence.]

[This scene presents the exposition of a plan. It sets up the audience's expectations, only to have them later be surprised by unexpected results. The story is kept interesting and unpredictable because the audience is constantly being mislead by the exposition.]

[Of course, many things will go wrong. Marty is replaced in the car by Biff. The "acting scene" gives place to the "real situation," and George must really confront Biff to save Lorraine. Put in the right situation, George does display courage, beat his opponent, and gain self-confidence.]


An electric cable flows from the Clock Tower down to the ground, and Marty and Doc prepare. Marty pulls the hood down on the convertible. Doc says he'll be sorry to see Marty go, since he's given Doc an objective to shoot for: the chance to travel through time.

Doc throws his rain coat to Marty, then pulls up the corner of the tarp to reveal the DeLorean.

[This positions a prop for later use when Marty places the note in the pocket of the jacket.]

Marty becomes upset because he knows that the Doc is going to die in 1985. He tries to talk to him about the future, but the Doc adamantly refuses to listen to him.

[Marty is blocked by this obstacle which prevents him from saving the life of a friend. This forces him to find a way around this obstacle in the next scene.]


Marty sits at a table by the window as he writes a letter to Doc. In it he tells him that the night Marty gets back to the future the Doc will be killed by terrorists. Marty wants him to take whatever precautions possible. On the envelop he writes "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 1985"

[Marty attempts to overcome Doc's intransigence with the hope that at least he'll open this note in 1985.]


Doc stands on a ladder fixing the electrical cable as a policeman walks by. When the policeman asks what he's doing, Doc tells him it's a weather experiment. The policeman looks at the time-travel machine covered by the tarp, and starts to poke under the tarp. Doc tells him not to touch it because it's some new specialized weather sensing equipment. The policeman asks to see the permit. Doc climbs down off the ladder, as Marty walks up to the Doc's coat which is lying on the car. He then places the envelop into the coat's pocket.

[Now things start to go "not as planned." The policeman is a major obstacle to their plan. He could stop everything. This increases tension and excitement in the audience. It also provides a diversion during which Marty can place the envelop into the coat's pocket. But at the end of this scene the confrontation with the policeman is unresolved, so the audience is left in suspense, which is where the filmmakers want them.]


Music is being played by a black band on stage. "MARVIN BERRY AND THE STARLIGHTERS" is written across the drum. "ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA" is written on a banner hanging over the stage. A crowd of students dance to the music. George dances alone next to the Neptune statue.

[This is an establishing scene used to reorient the audience to the other life and death situation that Marty must resolve.]


Marty and Lorraine drive up in the convertible. Marty asks Lorraine if she minds if they park, and she says it would be a great idea. She loves to park. Marty gulps with surprise.

[Humor is generated because this is not the mother the audience, expected. They have been mislead by the statements made by Marty's mother in 1985.]

Lorraine looks around, then opens up a bottle of liquor and takes a drink. Marty pulls the bottle of alcohol away from her. Marty then takes a gulp from the bottle, and spits it out as Lorraine lights up a cigarette.

[The audience laughs because Lorraine's actions are inappropriate to their expectations of her patterns of behavior.]


The black musicians stop playing, telling the crowd they are taking a break. George gulps down his drink as he looks at the clock. It's 9:00.

[This is the second timelock in the story. It is also used to create urgency and suspense in the scene. George runs out to fulfill his objective: to save Lorraine and win her love.]


Lorraine seductively takes off her jacket, which makes Marty nervous. He's now stuck in a situation where the roles have been reversed and he may have to make love to his mother.

[This produces a lot of nervous laughter within the audience, since Marty is locked into a taboo situation.]

Lorraine throws herself on him and kisses Marty passionately on the mouth. After a few moments she backs away. She senses that something is terribly wrong, for when she kisses him it feels like she's kissing her brother. Marty tells her it makes perfect sense to him.

[The audience enjoys scenes when they are in on a secret with one of the characters of which the other character is unaware.]

"Somebody's coming," says Lorraine.

[The audience expects this to be George.]

Suddenly the door opens up. Biff grabs Marty by the collar and pulls him out of the car. "You caused $300 bucks damage to my car you son of a bitch, and I'm going to take it out of your ass," Biff says as he throws Marty to his friends to hold.

[This unpredictable situation now places the protagonist in jeopardy.]

Lorraine leans over and shouts at Biff as she exposes her low cut dress and cleavage. Lorraine backs into the car as Biff jumps in after her. Biff's three friends continue to hold onto Marty, as he yells at Biff to let her go. Biff tells his friends to take Marty in back because this isn't a peep show.

[Biff is definitely the antagonist of the subplot. He creates the major obstacles and puts Marty, Lorraine and George in jeopardy.]

Biff slams the door shut, as one of his friends punches Marty in the stomach. They pick him up, carry him across the school yard, throwing him into the open trunk of the car. They then slam the trunk shut. A black musician gets out from the back seat of the car, and asks what they are doing to his car. "Hey, beat it spook. This don't concern you," answers one of Biff's friends. The doors open to the smoke filled car as four black musicians get out. They've all been smoking pot. Biff's friends decide not to start a fight with them. One of the musicians smacks a boy in the head, as Biff's friends run away.

Marty bangs on the inside of the car trunk and yells for help. One of the musicians tries to open the trunk, but the keys are locked inside.

[Marty's major obstacle is to get out of the trunk. His new objective is to save Lorraine from Biff. Time is still clicking away, with so many things to accomplish.]


George runs across the yard towards Marty's car. He saunters up to the car, opens the car, and points dramatically saying his rehearsed lines. "Hey, you, get your damn hands off...ahh." George sees Biff trying to rape Lorraine in the car. Lorraine pleads for his help, as Biff tells him to turn around and walk away. Biff refuses.

[This is the "obligatory confrontation scene" of the subplot: George versus Biff with the love interest, Lorraine, at stake.]

Biff gets out of the car. George tries to punch him in the stomach, but Biff grabs his hand. Biff then twists his arm behind his back. Lorraine screams that he's breaking his arm. Biff continues to twist his arm and brings George down to his knees.

[The scene is filled with jeopardy: rape for Lorraine and broken bones for George.]


Marvin Berry opens the trunk with a knife and cuts his hand in the process. Marty jumps out, throws the keys to a musician, then runs back to Lorraine.

[With the help of the musicians Marty has overcome this obstacle. As another example of the economy of story design, the action of Marvin cutting his hand is a setup that has as its payoff the fulfillment of Marty's dream: playing lead guitar at the school dance.]


Lorraine jumps on Biff's back and tries to pull him away from George. Biff puts his hand on Lorraine's face and pushes her onto the ground. Biff leers at his victims.

[This leering grin, like the mocking laughter of the Witch in the WIZARD OF OZ, locks the audience's empathy with George.]

Biff stands over Lorraine and laughs. George gains courage, makes a fist, then punches Biff in the face as hard as he can. The blow knocks Biff against the car, then onto the ground. Marty runs around the corner just in time to see Biff fall. George is overjoyed at the success he had in striking back.

"Are you okay?" George asks Lorraine.

Lorraine looks up to him with love and admiration on her face. She takes his hand as he offers to help her up.

Marty watches as George and Lorraine walk away from the car. Students run up to see the unconscious Biff lying on the ground, and stare at George with admiration.

[Scene Structure:

The crisis: George sees Biff attempting to rape Lorraine.

The confrontation: George won't leave, and tells Biff to let her go.

The climax: George and Biff fight. George knocks Biff out.

The resolution: George and Lorraine go into the dance together.]

[This is the climax of the subplot: George has beaten his antagonist.]

Marty then takes a photo put of his pocket. He sees that his sister is half vanished. He quickly runs through the crowd.

[Marty still must accomplish his objective: have George kiss Lorraine on the dance floor. His existence is at stake.]


Doc walks down the steps in front of the Clock Tower. He looks at his pocket watch, them up to the clock on the tower. They both indicate 9:30. Doc hears thunder, then says "The storm!"

[This scene reminds the audience that the timelock is still active. They wonder if Marty will get his parents to kiss, then get back to the tower in order to have his car refueled before 10:04. There is still so many things to accomplish in so short a time.]


Marty runs back up to the car. Marvin is having his hand bandaged. Marty wants them to go back inside and finish the dance. They say that Marvin can't play with his hands like that and the band can't play without him.

[Another major obstacle. The dance might end before his parents kiss. Again, this is a life and death situation for Marty.]

"Hey man, the dance is over, unless you know somebody else that can play the guitar," says a musician.

[Marty becomes the solution to this obstacle.]


There is a shot of a red guitar, then Marty playing it.

[Marty's dream comes true.]

Marvin, with bandaged hand, walks up to the microphone, and announces that the next song is for all the lovers in the audience. They then play "EARTH ANGEL," as George and Lorraine dance to the music.

Marty plays the guitar. On the stem of it he places the photo of himself with his brother and sister. Both the brother and sister have disappeared, and Marty is starting to fade away. He sweats, waiting for the kiss that will save his life.

[An original, unique, and extremely effective visual representation of Marty's life and death situation.]

Lorraine wants George to kiss her, but he is hesitant. Suddenly a young red-haired student breaks in and separates George and Lorraine.

[A new obstacle is introduced. There is nothing that Marty can do. It's all up to George.]

The red-haired boy starts to dance away with Lorraine, as Marty strikes a discordant chord on the guitar. He's dying on the stage, collapsing, as the red-haired boy dances Lorraine away from George.

Lorraine calls out Geroge's name, expressed in a dream-like echo- chamber effect, as the red-haired boy manhandles Lorraine. George, shy and timid, walks away. Marty continues to fade in the photo. He raises his hand to his face as he watches himself fade away. Both Lorraine and Marty call out for George. Finally, he comes back and pushes the red-haired boy onto the floor. He then takes Lorraine's face in his hands and kisses her.

Marty springs back to life, stands up, and continues to play the guitar. He quickly reappears in the photo, as do his sister and brother. George, with Lorraine in his arms, waves up to Marty. Marty waves back. The music ends, and the crowd applauds.

[Scene structure:

[Objective: George and Lorraine must kiss.

Concrete stake: Marty's life.

Major Obstacle: Red-haired boy who separates them.

Crisis: Red-haired boy interferes with dance, George walks away.

Confrontation: George comes back.

Climax: George pushes boy and kisses Lorraine.

Resolution: Marty and siblings come back to life.]

Marvin wants Marty to play another song. Marty plays "JOHNNY BE GOOD." A student on the dance floor asks George if he's ever considered running for class president. Behind stage, Marvin speaks on the phone. "Chuck, Chuck, it's Marvin. Your cousin, Marvin Berry. You know that new sound you're looking for? Well, listen to this."

[Laughter is generated because of the ridiculously absurd situation that Marty was the source of Chuck Berry's musical style. This is a surprising deviation from the standard historical account of which the audience is aware.]

Marty goes wild. He loses control and jumps all over the stage. He becomes "uncool" as he slides across the floor on his back. The band stops playing and the crowd stops dancing, as they all stare with utter amazement at Marty. Finally, Marty becomes aware of their reaction and says "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are going to love it."

[Marty, in his moment of glory, looks foolish. His public behavior is socially inappropriate for this historical period, but appropriate in the future. He knows that the joke is really on them because he's ahead of his time.]

[Marty has fulfilled his dream: to play in front of a live audience. They loved him. But then he experienced his worst fear: the audience rejected his best music. Yet, he survived the experience. Now he must accomplish his primary objective: to get back to the future.]


As Marty runs down the staircase he bumps into George and Lorraine. Lorraine wants to go home with George. Marty says great, and the experience has been educational. When Lorraine asks if she'll ever see him again, "I guarantee it," responds Marty.

[Marty discovers the real nature of his parents, while the audience laughs because they know the true significance of his statement.]

"Well, uh, good luck, you guys. Oh, one other thing, if you guys ever have kids, and one of them, when he's eight years old, accidentally sets fire to the living room rug, go easy on him, will you?" says Marty.

"Okay," says George.

Marty then turns and runs out.

"Marty, such a nice name," says Lorraine.

[This is the resolution of the subplot, and also the end of the second act. The plot twist, Marty's unexpected interference with the initial meeting of his mother, has been resolved. Now, he must get the fuel to return to the future.]

[Marty must now face his antagonist (TIME) who has possession both of his love interest (Jennifer), and the object he needs to get home (the 1.21 megawatts of energy which exists in only one moment of time).


[This is the beginning of the third act. The timelock is active and the suspense is high, because if Marty doesn't make it, he'll be stuck in the past forever. This is the one and only chance they have to generate 1.21 megawatts of electricity.]

The Clock Tower indicates 9:55. Doc looks at his wrist watch; nine minutes to go until 10:04 and lightning strikes. Suddenly, Marty drives up in the yellow car. As Marty jumps out, Doc runs up to him. Together they pull the tarp off the time machine.

"You're late. You have no concept of time," says Doc.

[This is Marty's fundamental weakness which he must overcome.]

Marty tells Doc that George laid out Biff with one punch. He never stood up to Biff in his life. Marty hands Doc the photo and Doc's eyes pop wide open. "Never?" says Doc.

[This sets up George's transformation in the future.]

Doc sets the destination time, which is exactly the same time that Marty left. He sets the clock for OCT 26 1985. He tells Marty he painted a white line on the street way over there. That's where Marty will start from. Doc calculated the precise distance taking into account the acceleration, speed, and wind resistance retroactive from the moment the lightning strikes... which will be exactly seven minutes and 22 seconds. When the alarm goes off, Marty should hit the gas. Doc winds up an old fashioned alarm clock and places it on the dashboard.

[This plan exposition sets up the audience's expectations.]

"Don't worry. As long as you hit that wire, with the connecting hook, at precisely 88 miles per hour, the instant the lightning strikes the tower...everything will be fine," says the Doc as he puts his hands in his pocket. Marty gets into the DeLorean. Doc pulls out the envelop and looks down at it. Thunder resounds in the sky.

Doc is upset that Marty has given him information about the future. He's afraid that the consequences could be disastrous. That's the risk you're going to have to take, because your life depends on it, replies Marty. Doc refuses to accept the responsibility, and tears apart the envelop.

[Doc's stubbornness is still the major obstacle that Marty must over- come to save his life.]

Marty shouts at Doc, who covers his ears. Suddenly, a tree branch falls on the wire and disconnects it from the tower. It's now 9:58. Doc puts the envelop back into his pocket and grabs a nearby rope.

[This is an example of a prop (the envelop) being set up now so that it will payoff later in helping to save Doc's life.]

[With six minutes to go, another obstacle appears. This is the method used to generate unbearable suspense. Everything goes wrong as time runs out. More and more unforeseen problems occur as the protagonist races towards the climax.]

He orders Marty to get the cable. Doc will throw the rope down to him from the top of the tower. Doc runs up the stairs as Marty grabs the cable. Doc then runs up the inside stairs to the tower. When he reaches the belfry, the clock strikes 9:59. Doc goes out onto the ledge and stands next to the gargoyle. He throws the rope down to Marty, who ties it around the cable. Doc shouts for Marty to hurry as the lightning flashes, the wind blows, and the thunder roars. Doc pulls the cable up to him.

From the ground Marty tries to tell Doc about the future, but Doc can't hear him because of the howling wind and the bell in the Clock Tower.

[Now, the new obstacles to Marty's objective of giving Doc the information that will save his live is the thunder storm and the bell which drowns out Marty's voice.]

The clock bell bongs, creating a deafening noise as Doc almost falls off the ledge. He clings on, swinging to and fro. He covers his ears as the metal bell is slammed by the metal hammer. Doc then waves Marty to leave. He tells Marty that he has less than four minutes left.

[Marty fails to achieve his objective. Time and noise have beaten him.]

Marty runs for the car. He slides across the hood, jumps into the drivers seat, slams shut the door, and drives away. Marty speeds down the street as Doc watches from the Clock Tower edge. The clock moves to 10:01.

[The timelock continues to tick away. Only three minutes left with still so many critical things left to do.]

Doc almost slips off the edge as he approaches the clock.

[Doc is in jeopardy. He has the audience's empathy because he's been so helpful to Marty. Marty is also in jeopardy, because the audience remembers that the car blew up and caught on fire in the model.]

Marty drives up to the white line marked "START HERE." He spins the car around. He jumps out of the car and pulls the cable bar off the side, then sticks it into the slot which connects it with the Flux-capacitor. Marty then jumps back into the car.

"Damn it, Doc, why did you have to tear up the letter?" Marty says to himself.

[This sets up the audience's expectations that the message never got through. This way they'll be pleasantly surprised later. This enables them to leave the theater feeling good, because a character for whom they had a lot of love didn't really die. It's the method of breaking the audience's heart so that you can make them feel great later. This technique is used in STAR WARS with Ben and in E.T.]

"If I only had more time...Wait a minute. I have a time machine. I have all the time I want. I'll just go back early and warn him. Okay, ten minutes ought to do it. Time circuits on, flux-capacitor fluxing... engine running..."

[Marty seems to figure out a new solution that will overcome the obstacle to his objective of saving Doc's life.]

Suddenly the car stalls. Marty desperately tries to restart the car.

[Another major obstacle occurs as the time continues ticking away.]


[More suspense is created by Doc's life and death situation.]

Doc, on the tower, inches across a narrow ledge in front of the clock. He reaches out to connect the cable, but it's too short. As he reaches out, the ledge crumbles beneath his feet. Doc screams as he starts to fall. He grabs hold of the clock arms, but drops the cable which then catches onto his pants cuff. The clock hand moves to 10:02.

[With two minutes to go, two more new obstacles arise: the ledge crumbles and Doc drops the cable. Both intensify his life and death situation. Time, the antagonist, is relentless.]


Marty is desperately trying to start the car. The control panel lights blink, but the car still won't start.

[Fast editing and intercutting between scenes is a standard technique in climax scenes. This increases the pace and quickens the rhythm, in order to work the audience into a frenzy of excitement for the final climax.]


Doc continues to hang from the ledge, as he reaches up for the cable. Finally, he gets it and holds on with both hands, as he also almost drops the cable by his foot. Doc finally grabs the other clock hand as he hangs above the ground.


Marty is still trying to start the car without success. He turns the key but nothing happens. The alarm clock on the dashboard goes off. He is supposed to start driving now, but the car still won't start. Marty slams his hands into the steering wheel, then desperately pleads with the car.

[The audience shares his desperation, for the moment for action has come and he no longer has the ability to move.]

Marty finally slams his head against the steering wheel and the car suddenly starts up. Amazed, Marty quickly stomps on the gas pedal and speeds down the road.

[Here is a case of using your head to solve your problems.]


Doc, still hanging from the tower, finally pulls himself back up onto the ledge. He tries to connect the cables, but the lengths are too short. They won't connect because the broken branch still weighs down the cable.

[Another new obstacle introduced with only seconds left.]

Marty speeds down the street.

Doc still tries to connect the cables. He pulls as hard as he can. He finally connects them, but the cable becomes disconnected on the ground. The Doc screams out of desperation.

Marty continues to speed forward. The speedometer hits 61 mph. Date indicates 1985 01 24.

Doc looks at the clock hand which moves forward another minute There is just one minute left before lightning strikes.

Marty continues to speed forward. The speedometer hits 75 mph.

Doc sees flashes of lightning above him. He sees Marty's car approaching on the street below. Then, with determination, Doc connects the cables.

[Doc's new obstacles are to get back on the ground and re-connect the cables, with only seconds left. This is an impossible task, which cases the audience's heart to sink. Their joy will then be greater when Marty and Doc succeed.]

Marty speeds forward.

[Marty's objective is to be exactly on time for the first time in his life. His life in the future depends on it.]

Doc wraps a cable loop around the clock hand as Marty continues to speed closer. Doc then grabs hold of the cable and slides down to the ground, where he falls on his back. He gets up and tries to remove the cable from the tree branch.

[Yet, another obstacle. The cable is stuck in the tree branch.]

Marty speeds forward. The speedometer moves from 86 to 87 to 88!

[This clues the audience that the climax is about to occur, even though Doc is not yet ready.]

Doc finally disconnects the cable from the branch, As Marty speeds towards the line he closes his eyes. The clock hand moves to 10:04. Lightning strikes the Clock Tower.

[The moment has arrived, and with it comes the power that will either save or destroy. The lives of both Doc and Marty are in grave danger.]

A burst of light fills the tower, as electrical energy speeds down the cable towards the ground. Doc watches this. He is finally able to connect the cables together just as electricity passes through his hands and knocks him to the ground. At that precise moment Marty's car passes under the wire. The electrical energy hits the car hook and flows into the flux-capacitor. The car suddenly disappears, leaving behind only flaming tracks on the street that stretch forward towards a movie theatre.

[This is the climax scene. Marty was not late. He has taken the power that he needed from this precise moment of time, and gone back into the future.]

Doc sits up and looks at the tracks. Electricity still singes the wires, as the car hook dangles from the wire crossing the street. Doc gets up, looks at the clock, at the wire across the road, and at the burning car tracks. He runs into the street, then stands in the middle of the tracks. He screams in triumph, as he runs forward with joy on his face. He looks up at the Clock Tower which indicates 10:04.

[Scene Structure:

Objective: Marty must get back to the future.

Concrete stake: To get the 1.21 gigawatts of power

Obstacles(DOC): Tree falls and disconnects cable. Cable too short. Pulling on cable disconnects it. Sound of bell is deafening. The ledge breaks apart. Possible electrocution from lightning.

Obstacles(Marty): Hitting the mark exactly at 10:04. The car stalls and won't restart.]


[The scenes that follow contain the resolution of the story.]

A helicopter flies over the tower as its floodlight shines through the park. A bum sleeps on the bench beneath newspapers, as he listens to a radio. Suddenly there's a bright flash and a loud noise. The bum on the bench jumps up with a bottle of wine in his hands, just in time to see Marty's car crash into the theater at the end of the street with TOWN ASSEMBLY OF CHRIST written on the marquee.

Marty backs the car out from the theater and drives it up the street. The car is smoking from the freezing cold. Marty opens the door and jumps out.

[Burning tire tracks and the smoking frozen car are two visualizations of information that the journey was a success.]

[Marty's primary objective has been accomplished. Now he seeks to save the life of his friend who helped him get back home.]

Marty says hello to Fred, the town drunk, notices that the digital clock on the Bank Building indicates 1:24, and is overjoyed that he still has time to save Doc. He jumps back into the car, tries to start it up, but the ignition won't turn over. Suddenly the Libyan's blue and white van drives past Marty and turns the corner. Marty leaves the car and runs down the street after them.

[Objective: Save Doc's life by warning him about the terrorists.

Timelock: Only minutes left before the terrorist's kill Doc.

Obstacle: The car stalls and won't restart.

Obstacle: The terrorists drive by in their van.

Obstacle: It's a long run to the Mall.]


Marty runs down the road towards the shopping mall, just in time to see the Libyans gun down Doc. Marty starts to cry out, but then hears his own voice scream. Marty watches himself in the yellow radiation suit as he runs away from the Libyans, gets into the Delorean, and drives off with the Libyans chasing after him in the van. The Delorean reaches 88 mph then vanishes as the Libyan van crashes into the Photo stand. Marty runs up to the Doc's body, sits down on the ground, and grieves.

Suddenly, Doc blinks his eyes, then slowly sits up. Marty turns to him. "You're alive?" says Marty. Doc tears open his white overall tops to reveal a bullet proof vest with several bullet slugs protruding from it. "Bullet proof vest! How did you know? I never got a chance to tell you," says Marty. Doc reaches into his vest pocket, and takes out Marty's note. He has scotch taped it back together.

"What about all that talk about screwing up future events and the space-time continuum?"

"Well, I figured, what the hell," said Doc.

[On bringing back a character the audience believed was dead: this is extremely effective if the audience had a lot of empathy for that character, and if the return is plausible. This gives the audience joy and happiness, in having a valuable friend returned to them. Besides Doc in BACK TO THE FUTURE, this occurs with Marion in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Obie Won Kenobe in STAR WARS (in this sense that his spirit survives and still has an influence on Luke), Dana and Louis in GHOSTBUSTERS, and E.T. (in which he was really only communicating while in a deep trance)].

[Marty was able to achieve his objective of saving Doc's life. This scene resolves their relationships.]


Doc drives the DeLorean into Marty's driveway. Marty gets out with his skateboard in hand. Doc will be traveling about thirty years into the future. Marty tells Doc to look him up in the future. They say goodbye. Marty closes the door, as Doc backs out of the driveway, pulls down the road, turns round, then vanishes in a loud flash as he burst into the future. Marty turns and enters his house.

[This is a transition scene. It's purpose is to get Marty home, and resolve Doc's future. It also sets up Doc's return]


The clock indicates 10:28 as the radio alarm goes off. "BACK IN TIME" plays on the radio as Marty sleeps in his bed. Marty gets up, looks around his room, where everything seems untouched, then says "What a nightmare."

[This is a establishing scene. Creates the expectation in the audience that everything is all right and that nothing vital has changed. This creates the conditions necessary for the surprise and humor that follows.]


[This resolves Marty's relationship with his mother, father, sister, brother and Biff.]

Marty walks down the hallway into the kitchen, but then does a quick doubletake. The living room furniture has been replaced. It is now very contemporary with subtle rich colors. His brother and sister are arguing at the breakfast table. Linda, his sister, now is popular and has several boys calling her. David, his brother, now wears a suit and has a job at an office.

Suddenly, Marty's mother and father enter carrying tennis rackets. George is wearing dark sun-glasses and is dressed in stylish clothes, as is the mother. Marty looks at them, then in shock falls off the stool onto the floor.

[Humor is generated because this new scene is a surprising reversal of the established family relationships.]

Lorraine informs Marty that Jennifer called, then goes on to tell him how much she likes Jennifer. "Aren't you going up to the lake tonight? You've been planing it for two weeks."

"Ma, we talked about this. How can I go to the lake. The car is wrecked," says Marty.

Both George and David are upset to hear that the car was wrecked. They open the front door to reveal Biff polishing the front of the BMW. George tells Biff to make sure that the car gets two coats of wax. Biff is obsequious in his responses to George.

[Again, the audience laughs at the reversal of the previous relation- ship pattern.]

Marty is amazed at the way his father stands up to Biff. This is a complete transformation of George's character.

[It's important to realize that Marty does not change. Things round him and the other characters all change. He remains the same. He's gone through a lot of situations, but nothing within his character has changed. His world is transformed, not him. He does understand his parents better, but that's about it. All the obstacles that he had to overcome were external.]

Lorraine sits on George's lap. Biff suddenly opens the door and rushes in with a package containing George's new book entitled "MATCH MADE IN SPACE." George's picture is on the back cover.

[George's childhood fantasy has been realized.]

Biff is very friendly to Marty (another reversal), and hands him keys to his freshly waxed vehicle.


[Resolution: Marty gets his dream car and dream girl]

Marty opens the garage door. Inside is his dream car, the black 4X4 Toyota jeep. Suddenly, Jennifer appears and says "How about a ride, Mister." Marty hugs her as George and Lorraine watch from the doorway.

[The story resolution has a happy ending. Marty has come back to a happy home: the home and parents that his actions have transformed. Marty didn't need to change: he was always perfect. A message that pleases the teenage audience. All conflict from the past and in the present is resolved. But what about their future?]


Suddenly, there's a loud noise and a flash of light as the DeLorean crashes into the driveway, knocking over a garbage can. Doc jumps out dressed in a futuristic orange and gold outfit, and with a silver visor across his eyes. Doc says that Marty has to come back to the future with him.

Doc goes to a garbage pail and takes out banana peels, egg shells and a Miller Beer can, which he'll use as fuel. He then opens a canister in the car labeled MR.FUSION, and dumps the garbage into it.

Marty wonders if they have "become assholes or something", and Doc tells them that it's their kids that are the problem. "Marty, something has got to be done about your kids."

[Their new objective is to deal with their kids, which is a clever way of saying that Marty and Jennifer get married, have children and almost live happily ever after.]

The DeLorean backs out of the driveway with Doc driving. Marty and Jennifer sit in the passenger's seat. The DeLorean backs down the street, then stops. Marty tells Doc to back up because they don't have enough road to get up to 88.

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads," says Doc as he steps on the gas pedal. The DeLorean vertically lifts up off the ground, the wheels bend up under the car's bottom, then the DeLorean zooms forward in a flash, makes wide turn, then blasts way towards the camera.

[The final image consists of a surprising deviation from the expected pattern on time-travel, which makes the audience smile.]

TO BE CONTINUED flares across the screen.

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In ZidZ II sieht sich Biff den Clint-Eastwood-Film "Für eine Handvoll Dollar" an. Dort benutzt Clint am Ende ein Stück Metall, um Ramons Schüsse abzuwehren. In ZidZ III nennt sich Marty Clint Eastwood und bewahrt sich ebenso mit einem Stück Metall vor dem erschossenwerden. (» Fotos)

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