'Back to the Future' Day: What's kept the movie series popular with fans

Movie fans are celebrating 'Back to the Future' Day on Oct. 21, the day in 2015 in which 'Back' characters arrive in what was then 'the future.' Has the first film's positive message kept the movie series popular with viewers for decades?

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment/AP
'Back to the Future' stars Christopher Lloyd (l.) and Michael J. Fox (r.).

The future is here – well, maybe not flying cars.

Today, movie fans are celebrating "Back to the Future" Day, pegged to the date on which “Back” characters Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) arrive in what was then “the future.” In the movie “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty, his time-traveling friend Doc, and Marty’s future wife, Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue), travel to the year 2015 in order to see what’s happening with Marty and Jennifer’s family. 

The “Back” series were big hits, with the first film, which was released in 1985 and centers on Marty time-traveling back to the 1950s and ensuring his parents get together, becoming the highest-grossing movie of the year. The next two movies didn’t equal the predecessor’s take at the box office, but still did fairly well.

Thirty years after the original movie’s release, various “Back” events and promotions that are going on include the transportation company Lyft using DeLoreans (the car used to create Doc’s time machine) for rides, the soda company Pepsi creating the Pepsi Perfect drink seen in “Back to the Future Part II,” and movie theaters across the country screening “Back to the Future” and “Back to the Future Part II.”

If various businesses are betting on the fact that fans will take them up on these offers, the affection for these movies must be pretty strong. What makes the “Back” series, in particular the first film, so beloved decades later? 

Actress Lea Thompson, who portrays Marty’s mother, discussed the appeal of the film and its positive message in an interview for the 25th anniversary of the first film, referencing the fact that the movie has Marty meet his parents when they were his own age and how Marty’s father, George (Crispin Glover), finally wins over his mother by defending her from bully Biff Tannen (Thomas Wilson).

“I think that’s maybe the reason people like to show it to their kids, because it is showing that a) your parents were once young and full of dreams and b) that little things that happen in your life – little moments of standing up for yourself can change your whole life,” she said. “Little moments do add up to big changes. That’s a very profound thing to learn.” 

Lloyd said he thinks the science fiction aspect of the film hooked people as well.

“Everybody dreams about time travel,” he said. 

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