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Back to the Future Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    So what we have in the middle of Back to the Future, this seeming kids' movie full of screeching cars, special effects and lightning storms, is nothing less than an adult reverie. And if families could be persuaded to see this film together, it might touch off a long night of sharing between parents and children. [03 July 1985]

  • 40

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Sheila Benson

    It's big, cartoonish and empty, with an interesting premise that is underdeveloped and overproduced. [3 July 1975, p.Calendar 6]

  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The movie, in fact, resembles Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" more than other, conventional time-travel movies.

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  • 90

    out of 100


    Performances by the earnest Fox, the lunatic Lloyd, the deceptively passionate Lea Thompson, and, particularly, the bumbling-to-confident Glover, who runs away with the picture, merrily keep the ship sailing.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The New York Times Janet Maslin

    Mr. Zemeckis is able both to keep the story moving and to keep it from going too far. He handles Back to the Future with the kind of inventiveness that indicates he will be spinning funny, whimsical tall tales for a long time to come.

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  • See all Back to the Future reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 8+

'80s time-travel favorite has laughs, romance, action.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this family time-travel favorite includes sequences that place the hero and his friends in physical jeopardy: a gunfight in which a sympathetic character is thought to be killed, a van chasing a teen on a skateboard, several episodes of bullying, and more. The violence is exaggerated and closer in tone to cartoon jeopardy than real danger, but some kids will no doubt find it tense. Several scenes show the hero's discomfort when the girl who will eventually be his mother tries to entice him with kisses and embraces; there's also implied unwanted sex, but nothing serious happens. Strong language includes a couple memorable uses of "s--t," as well as "bastards," "damn," "a--hole," and a couple of racial slurs in the 1950s-set scenes. It's worth noting that this is the movie that alerted the public to the concept of product placement, with controversy arising from the near-constant visuals of Pepsi products and other brands.

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays bullying. Have you ever encountered a situation like that, either directly or online?
  • What do Marty and George learn during the movie? How can people defend themselves without resorting to violence?
  • Talk about your own family history -- as in when Mom met Dad.

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true1

    Educational value: Kids will learn a bit about culture in both 1955 and 1985.

  • message true3

    Messages: The movie sends the message that bullies must be stood up to and that intelligence, courage, and integrity win out over brute strength and intimidation. Also, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything, and creativity and imagination are qualities to be admired and nurtured.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Marty is smart, likeable, courageous, and a terrific problem-solver (despite periodic self-confidence issues). Faced with seeming insurmountable obstacles, he rises to every occasion. His scientist mentor is shown to be ingenious as well as eccentric. A weak-willed, put-upon high school student (and later father) is shown the way to self-respect, courage, and success. The bad guys are clearly in the wrong.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence and scariness: In an early scene, an attack by a squad of terrorists includes automatic weapon fire and what appears to be a significant fatal shooting. Other sequences include suspenseful car and skateboard chases, a character threatened by a shotgun, some perilous scenes involving a tall clock tower, and punches thrown between high school kids. Bullying, a significant theme, occurs on numerous occasions. The bully initiates an exaggerated, off-camera assault on a high school girl, but she is never really in danger.

  • sex false1

    Sexy stuff: A few kisses and embraces; some flirting. Teenage crushes are a key part of the story, with hero Marty becoming the object of affection of the girl who will grow up to become his mother. While perched in a tree, a boy spies through a girl’s window.

  • language false3

    Language: Occasional swearing includes "damn," "butthead," "s--t," "ass," "a--hole," "son-of-a-bitch," "hell," "bastards," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). In the 1950s-set scenes, a few racial epithets are used by the bad guys, including "Irish bug" and "spook," and a mayor is referred to as "colored."

  • consumerism false4

    Consumerism: Many products are prominently displayed and mentioned in dialogue. Pepsi products are featured throughout. Other brands identified include Toyota, Calvin Klein, Texaco, Burger King, Bud Light, Miller beer, JVC, Panasonic, KalKan and Milkbone dogfood, Zale's, Yamaha, Popov, Maxwell House, J.C. Penney, and dozens more. A DeLorean car plays a very significant role.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: In one scene, two underage teens briefly experiment with a small bottle of whiskey and a cigarette. Adults drink beer and vodka at dinner. A drunk man sleeps on a park bench. Reference to "reefer."