The Back to the Future trilogy is one of my top three favorite movie trilogies ever, and it’s really for one simple reason: the first movie is my favorite film of all time. The two sequels could have been absolute travesties, and this would still be a good trilogy overall given how amazing the first movie is. But really, parts two and three are just two more fun time travel adventures starring the characters you grew to love in the first movie. This trilogy is also the first of three trilogies in which the studios decided that after one successful movie, they would just make two sequels back-to-back and release them within a year of each other (the other two being The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean trilogies). This formula has proven to not be very rewarding, as in all three cases the third movie ended up making significantly less money than the second movie. As a result, no other trilogies have used this formula.
But as for Back to the Future, I don’t think I really need to go over the first movie, because honestly, if you’ve never seen it, I would say your top priority right now is to watch it as soon as humanly possible. There’s not a single movie in the world I would recommend higher than it. And then while you’re at it, go ahead and watch the two sequels. They’re not as good as the first movie (not even close, really), but they’re very imaginative and work great as supplements to the first movie. In a way that might make the trilogy seem weaker overall, given how my criteria for a great trilogy is that it should have some sort of overarching story, and these are more like three separate adventures that happen to the characters over a couple weeks of their lives. But the third movie does finish things off in a nice way, and there are things built up in the first and second movies that pay off in the third (for example, Marty flying off the handle any time someone calls him chicken) so I’d say the trilogy work pretty well as a single story told in three movies.
As far as the movies individually, I’ve found it funny in the past when I try to show people the first movie when they’ve never seen it before. They’re always apprehensive about it because, based on the title alone, they think it’s gonna be some cheesy sci-fi film from the 80s (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Then they watch it and realize just how wrong they were. There’s actually very little science fiction stuff in the movie, none of it takes place in the future, and it’s really just an amazing story about a teenager meeting his parents when they were teenagers. All the characters are loveable (even the antagonist, Biff) and every scene manages to be special in some way or another. I really can’t find any fault with the movie, and I could watch it a thousand times without getting sick of it. I mean really, is there anyone out there who doesn’t at least like Back to the Future?
But then we get to Part II, and things go south. Now, make no mistake, Back to the Future Part II is a good movie, and definitely deserves to be watched after the first part. But man, it’s pretty soulless compared to its predecessor. I feel like Part II is exactly the movie people feared the first movie would be. It is a cheesy 80s sci-fi movie, it does take place partially in the future (the worst segment of the series), the plot consists mainly of a bunch of crazy time travel shenanigans (“We have to travel to this time period to fix things so that that time period doesn’t become the other time period”), and overall the characters take a back seat to the action and zaniness. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also very segmented and it doesn’t have much of a heart. It’s cool to see what they thought 2015 was going to be like (although two years from now this movie will be laughable), it was crazy to see an alternate timeline where the villain has won, and it’s pretty impressive that they went back into the events of the first movie for the climax. So I suppose I’ll just say Part II is something of a mixed bag.
Part III, on the other hand, was great. I know some people scoff at this one, but that’s mainly just because it’s a western. It doesn’t follow the typical trilogy trope that says that the third movie must be a grand epic with a war that settles some great conflict. Then again, that wasn’t really a trope yet back in 1990. No, Part III is content to just sit back and relax after the craziness that was Part II. It’s just a straight up western starring the characters we loved from the first movie. It has fun putting Marty, a boy from the 1980s, in a time period he’s not comfortable with, it builds to an exciting climax, and every scene has something special about it. Hey, just like the first movie! Though Part III is still significantly weaker that Part I, it’s a big step up from Part II. It realizes that what we loved about the first movie wasn’t the crazy science fiction time travel stuff, but rather the story and the characters.
I suppose the filmmakers went into production of parts two and three not entirely sure which element of the first movie made it so successful, and so because both sequels were being made simultaneously, they decided to focus each of the two movies on one element; Part II on the crazy time travel stuff, Part III on the heart and characters. For that reason, I can’t fault Part II too much. It’s a fun movie, as are the other two. This is a great trilogy to watch in a marathon, whether one a night for three nights, or all three in one day. They’re all so enjoyable to watch, despite the sequels’ faults, and because the first movie is my favorite of all time, the Back to the Future trilogy is my third favorite trilogy ever.