How Back to the Future influenced the Movies and Pop culture of the 21st Century

How Back to the Future influenced the Movies and Pop culture of the 21st Century

How Back to the Future influenced the Movies and Pop culture of the 21st Century

30 years after its premiere, it's as good time as any to remember one of best franchises of the last few decades.

"Great Scott!" were the last words of Doc Emett Brown before fainting at the end of possibly one of the best cliffhangers in movie history in the last 30 years. Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg gave us a new take on time travel movies and by doing so, unleashing a cultural change in movies and television that lives to this day.

Time travel, of course, was not a new concept for storytelling in 1985 by any stretch of the imagination. H.G. Wells told the story of a scientist that dreamed about breaking the limits of time 90 years before that, and 14 years before him, writer Edward Page Mitchell coined the concept of using a machine to make the trip. 

Bob Gale, however, is said to have taken inspiration from a look at his father's yearbook and dreaming about meeting him when he was younger. The basic idea, later formed along with Zemeckis, was having the characters travel inside a refrigerator using the energy of a nuclear blast. To movie fans, this concept might sound familiar as it holds remarkable similarities to a scene that happened much later in a different movie. It was when Harrison Ford's character tried to save himself from an instant death in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", a film directed by Spielberg, who also produced all three of the BTTF movies. 

Even if it was just inspired by the sole concept of meeting your younger parents, you can see the influence of similar stories from other media in the famous trilogy. One that stands out in particular is a popular British TV show called Doctor Who created in 1963. Several fans have pointed out across the internet the similarities between the two, including the premise of an eccentric, genius old doctor traveling alongside a curious and young companion, going on adventures in the future and the past inside a machine that was more than met the eye.

After his successful release in 1985 with $210.61 million in North America and $173.2 million in foreign countries and having very positive reviews, the sequels were guaranteed. 

To know how much the trilogy affected culture from the late 80's to the mid 90's, you have to understand the variety of entertainment that the kids that became the anxious adults of today had at hand by then. No internet, No YouTube. Those superhero movies we like so much now? Nope. There was the great Christopher Reeve playing Superman and after that, thank goodness for Michael Keaton's Batman. That was pretty much it. Star Wars, Stark Trek and Ghostbusters were fortunately already around. 

And beyond that, of course, the Cop movies. In all of it's wild diversity: Buddy cop, Corrupt cop, Western cop, Secret cop, Robo cop, and yes, even Time cop. If there is an specific type of policeman in this world, I assure you, there's a VHS movie about it.

Back To The Future had us dreaming about what the future might hold. A sense of wonder and imagination in a time when the best cellphone in the market had a voicemail as an special feature. Could cars fly? Could we have a 3D Hologram Projector? A lot of us even got pranked with Zemeckis' comment about the hoverboard being already invented by the time of the movie's release, oh don't get me started on that one. 

After talking to several people that like me lived and thrived through those times, I asked them the influence these films in particular had on each one of them. Some told me it made them interested in science and books, others tell me it made them focus on comicbooks, or that it made them want to watch new shows like X-Files and Sliders for a chance to see something unusual and weird. Others told me that Jurassic Park was a bigger deal for them. No matter the differences, there was one thing all the answers seemed to have in common: "It was rare to see a big budget production that focused on a story like that".

Was the story of Marty McFly the sole reason of the success of Sci-Fi in Movies and Television in the late 90's and 2000's? Of course not. But it played a big part for production companies to start to question if the spandex and space stories actually had an audience.

Nowadays though, a lot of members of the industry are coming out saying that it's a terrible time for movies, arguing there's no longer a creative and crafted process put into it, and that everything is just the same over and over. There might be some truth in that statement, but you can't deny there are options for every audience like never before. 

What the future might really hold in the next 30 years? Forget the hoverboard, where are those clothes that dry while you're still wearing them? Those things would pay themselves.

 

What do you guys think? What did you personally enjoy watching in 80's and 90's? How did that inspire you?


- Daniel Piedra.
Twitter @IamDanielPiedra and @NationstoneFilm
Nationstone.com

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