The three Back to the Future movies are easily the best-known time travel stories ever told. Audiences won’t be forgetting Avengers: Endgame any time soon, but Back to the Future will always be the movie that made audiences across the world believe in time travel and root for a protagonist who just wanted to set the timeline straight and ensure that he would be born. The culture clash of an 80s kid in various equally-distinct different time periods is just the comedic cherry on top.
The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of the few Hollywood franchises yet to be ruined with a reboot. Director Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale have always maintained that as long as they’re still alive and kicking, they won’t allow a greedy corporate mentality to tarnish Back to the Future’s legacy with a reboot, remake, or a cash-in sequel. As a result, the best Back to the Future quotes remain as pristine as they were when they were first put out into the world almost 40 years ago.
15 “This Is Heavy!”
Marty (Michael J. Fox) says, “This is heavy,” a bunch of times throughout the trilogy. Whenever he’s stunned or confused – which, in this three-part tale of time travel gone awry, is quite often – he uses his catchphrase. At one point, Doc (Christopher Lloyd) asks him about the turn of phrase: “There’s that word again, ‘heavy.’ Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” It’s one of those great Back to the Future quotes that revolve around dated slang but still feel timeless decades later.
A Universal executive who didn’t like the title Back to the Future tried to change it to Spaceman from Pluto and he wanted them to change the dialogue in the scene where Marty talks to George (Crispin Glover) in a radiation suit in the middle of the night to reflect this. Steven Spielberg was horrified by the title suggestion and took care of it by complimenting the executive on his “joke,” leaving him so embarrassed that he never brought it up again. The mish-mash of Star Wars and Star Trek references in this iconic Back to the Future quote remained unspoiled like the title and the rest is history.
13 “I Hate Manure!”
Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) ends up covered in manure as he chases Marty through the streets of Hill Valley several times. The first time is as Biff and his friends try to run him down in Biff’s car. Marty lets his skateboard roll under the car and climbs over the top of it, allowing him to get clear of the car, which is careening towards a truck full of manure. The manure pours out into Biff’s car and buries Biff and his friends. This is such a classic Back to the Future quote because Biff, in any of his incarnations, says this every time that he gets his mouthful of manure as a comeuppance.
12 “Jesus, Didn’t That Guy Ever Have Hair?”
In 1985, Marty is given a hard time at school by his teacher Mr. Strickland (James Tolkan). Strickland is always busting Marty’s chops about not paying attention to his teachers or showing up to class on time. When he travels back to 1955 and goes to the school to make sure his parents go to the dance together, he sees a younger Mr. Strickland, who looks almost exactly the same all the way back then. Marty cracks, “Jesus, didn’t that guy ever have hair?” and it’s an unforgettable Back to the Future quote.
11 “1.21 Gigawatts!?!”
Doc Emmett Brown
When Marty arrives in 1955, he wastes no time tracking down a young Doc Brown to help him fix the time machine and return to the present day. At first, Doc is skeptical that the teenage boy who showed up on his doorstep is actually from the future, but as Marty explains the flux capacitor, Doc realizes he’s telling the truth. When Marty tells Doc that the DeLorean time machine requires 1.21 gigawatts of power to operate, Doc is horrified: “1.21 gigawatts!?!” It’s Lloyd’s delivery of the line that really makes it one of the best Back to the Future quotes, with him leaping into a characteristically animated response.
10 “If My Calculations Are Correct, When This Baby Hits 88 Miles Per Hour, You’re Gonna See Some Serious S***.”
Doc Emmett Brown
Wild-eyed scientist characters were quite commonplace in movies before Back to the Future, but Christopher Lloyd was the first to play an eccentric scientist who didn’t take everything so seriously as seen when Dr. Emmett Brown describes his first experiment involving time travel as “some serious s***.” The best Back to the Future quotes are the ones that match the excitement of the movie’s action sequences and thrilling music. The audience is about to see the time machine in action for the first time when he says this line, and it still has the power to give goosebumps in anticipation even today.
9 “Why Don’t You Make Like A Tree And Get Outta Here?”
One of the main character traits of Biff Tannen is that he gets idioms wrong. Instead of “Make like a tree and leave,” he says, “Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?” In Back to the Future Part II, the older version of Biff eventually corrects his past self: “It’s ‘leave,’ you idiot! ‘Make like a tree and leave!’ You sound like a damn fool when you say it wrong!” Though, throughout the years, Biff’s original version of the phrase has endured as one of the most memorable Back to the Future quotes.
8 “Who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis?”
Doc Emmett Brown
When Marty claims to be from 1985, 1955 Doc asks him, “Tell me, Future Boy, who’s President of the United States in 1985?” Marty says, “Ronald Reagan,” and Doc laughs, “Ronald Reagan? The actor? Ha! Then who’s Vice President, Jerry Lewis? I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady. And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury!” Many of the best Back to the Future quotes poked fun at the absurdity of 80s culture as well as 50s living. Lloyd completely sells the incredulity in Doc’s voice when he imagines this scenario, emphasizing the overall absurdity of then-contemporary life.
7 “I Guess You Guys Aren’t Ready For That Yet. But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It.”
Back to the Future set the template for time travel comedies. One thing that was in Back to the Future and has been in almost every time travel comedy made since then is the scene where we see the setup for something in the present day. At the end of Back to the Future, Marty plays Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and gets a little carried away with his guitar solo, adding a little too much 80s rock into the song. He then brushes off his overenthusiasm with his iconic Back to the Future quote.
6 “Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.”
Back to the Future Part III sees Marty and Doc stuck in the Old West and Marty has no real understanding of that era other than the pop culture of his own time that’s based on it. So, when he’s asked for his name, Marty says, “Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.” It’s a similar gag to how everyone in 1955 knew him as Calvin Klein, but it also feeds into another reference that’s set up in the previous film. During the climax of Part III, Marty steals an idea from Eastwood’s famous Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars, with the scene he takes the idea from playing on Biff’s TV in Part II.
5 “Roads? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads.”
Doc Emmett Brown
This famous Back to the Future quote is the final line of the original movie and set up an enormous amount of excitement for a sequel back when the film was first released. As Doc prepares to Marty and Jennifer off on another time-travel adventure, Marty is concerned that the road they’re on isn’t long enough to allow the time machine to get up to the requisite 88 miles per hour needed to engage the flux capacitor. Doc then explains that roads are no longer an issue and before the audience even has time to consider what he could mean by that, he reveals that the time machine can fly.
4 “Nobody Calls Me Chicken.”
Every character has their Achilles’ heel, and Marty McFly’s is that as soon as someone calls him a “chicken,” he can’t back down. Even if he knows in his heart of hearts that the best thing for the fabric of the space-time continuum is for him to walk away from a situation, he simply can’t do it if someone calls him a “chicken.” Suffice it to say, Marty’s verbal Kryptonite gets both himself and Doc into quite a lot of sticky situations over the course of the three movies. But of course, Marty always manages to pull everything together and fix the timeline.
3 “It’s Your Kids, Marty! Something’s Gotta Be Done About Your Kids!”
Doc Emmett Brown
Just when the audience thinks the high-stakes adventuring of Back to the Future is all over, the movie dishes out one final salvo of surprises when Doc Brown arrives at Marty’s driveway in the time machine, itching to get him back into more paradox-inducing high jinks. However, part of the reason that it works and doesn’t feel forced is that Doc gives Marty a very reasonable explanation for needing his help. Fans wouldn’t find out what it was that had gone with Marty’s kids until the beginning of Part II, but this Back to the Future quote stimulated their imaginations, which is one of the movie’s greatest qualities.
2 “Great Scott!”
Doc Emmett Brown
Before he played Doc Brown in Back to the Future, Christopher Lloyd had become a star from appearing on the sitcom Taxi and from playing supporting characters in movies like the critically acclaimed masterpiece One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. However, it was the role of Doc Brown that would come to truly define him as an actor. His performance is sometimes cartoonish, but there’s also a healthy balance of genuine emotion. Lloyd is a brilliant actor who has played a wide range of characters, but there’s still no line of dialogue he’s ever uttered that will be as memorable as Doc’s favorite exclamation “Great Scott!”
1 “Wait A Minute, Doc. Are You Telling Me You Built A Time Machine… Out Of A DeLorean?”
In Back to the Future, there’s great writing, great acting, great directing, great editing, great special effects, and great story structure – but none of them matter more than the sense of wonder that the film is able to instill in the audience out of such familiar scenarios and cultural iconography. That sense of wonder is created the second Marty McFly says, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine…out of a DeLorean?” Transforming the often-joked-about car into something entirely new. The time machine was famously a refrigerator in an earlier draft of Back to the Future, and it just wouldn’t have been the same.