Back to the Future Part III

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Back to the Future Part III is a 1990 American science fiction western film and the third/final instalment of the Back to the Future trilogy. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Thomas F. Wilson, and Lea Thompson. The film takes place immediately after the events of Back to the Future Part II. While stranded in 1955 during his time travel adventures, Marty McFly (Fox) discovers that his friend Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown (Lloyd), trapped in 1885, was killed by Biff Tannen's great-grandfather Buford. Marty decides to travel to 1885 to rescue Doc.

Back to the Future Part III was filmed in California and Arizona, and was produced on a $40 million budget back-to-back with Back to the Future Part IIPart III was released in the United States on May 25, 1990, six months after the previous installment. Part III received generally positive reviews from critics and, although it was the lowest-grossing of the series' three films, it was still a commercial success, earning $244.5 million worldwide against a budget of $40 million, making it the sixth-highest-grossing film of 1990.


  • When filming the scene where Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen tries to lynch Marty, Michael J. Fox was accidentally hanged, rendering him unconscious for a short time. He records this in his autobiography "Lucky Man" (2002).
  • Clint Eastwood was asked for permission about his name being used for Marty in the film. He consented and was said to be tickled by the homage.
  • When Doc and Marty are at the drive-in preparing the DeLorean for the trip to 1885, Marty mentions Clint Eastwood and Doc replies, "Clint who?" In this shot, there is a movie poster on the drive-in's wall showcasing Revenge of the Creature (1955) and Tarantula (1955), containing some of the first film appearances of a young, then-unknown Eastwood. Marty even looks to and briefly points to the poster as he says to Doc, "That's right, you haven't heard of him yet."
  • According to the book "Billy Gibbons: Rock & Roll Gearhead", ZZ Top was hanging around the set, and was asked to be the town band. During one take, the camera broke. While waiting for the camera to be repaired, Michael J. Fox asked if they would play "Hey Good Lookin'" which they did. Afterwards, more requests were played. Two hours later, someone inquired if the camera had been repaired. Robert Zemeckis replied that it had been fixed for quite a while, he just didn't want to stop the party that had evolved.
  • Marty uses a "Frisbie's" pie plate to knock a gun out of Mad Dog's hand. In 1871, the Frisbie Pie Company started in Connecticut. Their pie pans were thrown on the campus of Yale, and this eventually lead to the invention of Frisbees.
  • The 1885 time setting was partly due to a suggestion by Michael J. Fox, who had commented to producers how he always thought it would be fun to act in a Western.
  • Tom Wilson, who plays Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, performed all of his horse riding stunts himself. He also did the trick where he lassoes Marty just before he meets Doc in 1885.
  • The three old timers in the saloon were played by Dub Taylor, Pat Buttram, and Harry Carey Jr., who played sidekicks, town drunks, and colorful townsfolk in hundreds of westerns and television shows.
  • Michael J. Fox compared the filming of all three movies to "being back in school", as it seemed like someone was always teaching him something for the films. During the course of filming the trilogy, Fox was taught how to play a guitar, how to ride a horse, and how to shoot a gun.
  • Actor and former President Ronald Reagan was originally approached to play the part of Mayor Hubert because of his fondness for the first film in the trilogy. He reluctantly turned down the role, and the part went to Hugh Gillin instead. Had Reagan appeared, it would have marked his first appearance in a film in nearly 30 years.
  • The character of Clara Clayton is in reference to Clara Clemens, Samuel Clemens' (Mark Twain's) daughter. Clara Clemens went on a sleigh ride with her future husband, Ossip Gabrilowitsch, the horse took fright from a wind-swept newspaper and bolted while Gabrilowitsch lost control. At the top of a hill, next to a fifty foot drop, the sleigh overturned, throwing Clemens out. Gabrilowitsch leaped to the ground and caught the horse by the head, stopping it as it was about to plunge over the bank, dragging Clemens with her dress caught in a runner.
  • In 2011, the DeLorean with the white-walled 1950s wheels was finally restored after a good six to seven year period, by Back to the Future enthusiast, Joe Walser. His team cleaned up both this version of the DeLorean, as well as the original DeLorean used for production of all three films.
  • The first scene in this movie, where Marty goes back to the future in the time machine, powered by a bolt of lightning striking the clock tower, appears in all three films.
  • For Back to the Future Part II (1989) and this film, two years were spent building the sets and completing the scripts. They were filmed back-to-back over eleven months, in order to take advantage of Michael J. Fox's extended break from Family Ties (1982), which was coming to the end of its run. While Part III was being filmed, Part II was being edited.
  • The part of Seamus McFly was originally written for Crispin Glover.
  • The saloon in 1885 Hill Valley is in the same location as Lou's Café in 1955, the gym in 1985, and the Cafe 80's in 2015.
  • A horse dealership in 1885 is owned by the Statlers. In Back to the Future (1985) there is an ad on the radio for "Statler Toyota" in 1985. In 1955, "Statler Motors Studebaker" is visible near the town theater.
  • Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis figured that for this movie, they had already done all that they could with Marty's family, so the focus of the film was shifted to Doc Brown.
  • The location of 1885 Hill Valley was the same one used for Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider (1985). Ironically, that film was knocked off the number one slot at the box office in 1985 by....Back to the Future (1985).
  • From the outset, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale were adamant that Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990) be released within six months of each other. This was so that audiences wouldn't have to wait too long in between installments.
  • The name on the manure wagon in 1885 reads "A. Jones". In Back to the Future (1985), the name on the manure truck from 1955 read "D. Jones".
  • FRANCHISE TRADEMARK: In every film, Marty is knocked out. He always wakes up and says "Mom?", Lea Thompson is always present, she tells him to "be still now", and tells him for exactly how long he's been out cold.
  • On November 7, 2010 the DeLorean used during filming was put back on the exact set of tracks used for the vehicle's final scene for part of the week-long celebration of the 25th anniversary.
  • In the first movie, Doc tells Marty that he was inspired to create the flux capacitor after hitting his head on the bathroom sink while trying to hang a clock over his toilet. In this movie, when Doc freaks out after seeing Marty in his house and runs into the bathroom, you can just see the clock hanging above the toilet, on which he slipped.
  • The death of Michael J. Fox's father delayed filming for two weeks.
  • Clara can be seen behind Marty and Doc while looking at the map at the train station.
  • For approximately three weeks, Robert Zemeckis would fly to Los Angeles after his day's filming of the train climax of this movie to approve the sound dub that Bob Gale had been supervising of Back to the Future Part II (1989). He would then get up at 4:30 a.m. the next day to fly back to the northern California set to continue with his filming for that day.
  • One of the DeLoreans used in the filming of this movie was on display at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii until the restaurant's closure in 2010. It was suspended from the ceiling and hung upside down to give restaurant patrons a better view of the vehicle from above.
  • In the dedication to the Clock Tower scene, the fireworks ignited are the exact same pattern as when the lightning struck the tower in the first movie.
  • This film marks the only time in the trilogy when Doc Brown exchanges dialogue with a member of the Tannen family. He had previously "interacted" with Biff in the alternate 1985 in Back to the Future Part II (1989) by knocking him down on the roof of Biff's Pleasure Palace with the opening gull-wing DeLorean door.
  • The role of Clara Clayton was written specifically for Mary Steenburgen.
  • The scene where Marty and Jennifer kiss on the porch was the only scene shot while Back to the Future Part II (1989) was being made.
  • The photographer at the festival is the film's director of photography, Dean Cundey.
  • In the "Making of" DVD, producer and screenwriter Bob Gale describes the character of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen as "Biff's worst intentions realized".
  • There exists enough clues in all three movies to reconstruct the travels of the DeLorean precisely (to within a few minutes at worst, except 2015 Biff's arrival in 1955 and Doc's personal travels). There are a few interesting things to note: Not counting the time Doc traveled by himself, the DeLorean spent nearly seventy-one years (on its own time scale) from its first time travel to its destruction. By the time Marty made his ultimate return to 1985, he was approximately fourteen days, three hours, and twenty-seven minutes older than he should have been; Jennifer, on the other hand, is seven hours and twenty-six minutes younger than she should have been. Another interesting conclusion is a point of contention. There are two theories, one of which drops the last item. On November 12, 1955, between the time Biff arrived (or 6 a.m., whichever came later) and 6:38 p.m. (the time he left), there were four DeLoreans present in Hill Valley (ordered from its point of view): (1) The instance when Marty was trapped in 1955 in the first movie. (2) The instance when Biff came to 1955 to give himself the almanac. (3) The instance when Marty and Doc came back to 1955 to take the almanac back. (4) The instance when it was waiting in the abandoned mine. Those who do not agree with (4) argue that according to the "ripple effect" timeline as presented in the films, there wouldn't be a DeLorean hidden by Doc in the mine until later that evening, when the lightning blast would accidentally send Doc back to 1885, thereby altering the timeline. It is *entirely true* that *we* do not ever witness a moment in the films where all four instances coexist, but the text "ordered from its point of view" above should hint at a solution. Once the DeLorean is in 1885, consider what it would detect (if it were in a position to witness the comings and goings of its former selves): over seventy years of peace, then (1) arrives, then (2) and (3) arrive in some order; (2) then leaves at 6:38 p.m., (3) leaves around 10 p.m., and (1) leaves at 10:04 p.m. (4) itself leaves soon after that. If we grant that all three of those instances (1-3) continue to exist in the "final" timeline, then there should be no problem accepting this theory. Still not convinced? Consider the one hundred-year gap near the end of this movie, when Marty takes the DeLorean on its final journey. Seventy years into it, for a few hours, there are four instances of the car.
  • FRANCHISE TRADEMARK: In each film in the trilogy, Tom Wilson ends up covered in manure.
  • Early in 2008, several directors, including Steven Spielberg, voted on an attraction room for Universal Hollywood, that would contain rare and old costumes and props. Two of the items pulled out from storage vaults were the miniatures of Doc's time travel train and the railroad version of the DeLorean. The full sized version of the time train can be seen at Universal Studios Orlando.
  • This is the only film in the trilogy where Marty and Doc Brown exchange catchphrases. Marty says "Great Scott!" and Doc Brown replies "Yeah, this is heavy" while talking about the tombstone photo.
  • Michael Winslow ("Jones" of Police Academy fame) performed the sound effects of Michael J. Fox's feet during the break dancing sequence. He received a "Special Thanks" credit.
  • If you start this movie after the lightning rod is hit on the 1955 clock tower, at the end of the second movie, as Doc then reconnects the wire, it will play seamlessly from the second to the start of this movie.
  • In the 1880s, the fastest steam locomotive in active service was the Eight Wheeler Steam Engine (wheel configuration 4-4-0) with a top speed of forty-five miles per hour. Thus, Marty and Doc Brown were faced with the task of doubling the speed of the fastest steam engine then in existence.
  • Before the new courthouse clock is reset to 8:00 ready for its official 8:00 start, it can be seen behind Doc and Marty when they are looking at the map of the ravine where it reads 10:04, the precise time in the future it is destined to stop.
  • The town was in Chinese Camp, California, and was, in an eerily fitting way, destroyed by lightning in 1996.
  • The clock for the Hill Valley Clock Tower can be seen in the background being unloaded from the train as Doc and Marty talk to the conductor about the train's speed. The same clock can be seen being unloaded in the Clint Eastwood film Pale Rider (1985).
  • It's believed that Doc's kiss with Clara marks Christopher Lloyd's first kissing scene in his movie career, but actually he had an on-screen kissing scene with Lesley Ann Warren in Clue (1985).
  • Tom Wilson based his characterization of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen on Lee Marvin's Liberty Valance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).
  • According to the clock behind them, Doc and Marty have their picture taken at 8:08 p.m. This is possibly a reference to the eighty-eight miles per hour speed the DeLorean must reach before it can travel through time.
  • At the end of the film, Doc Brown's wardrobe is inspired by Professor Marvel's in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Writer/producer Bob Gale owns two pieces of the destroyed DeLorean: the time circuit display and a table lamp made out of Mr. Fusion by special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri.
  • Each of Needles' henchmen comes from one of the other gangs in the trilogy. J.J. Cohen played Skinhead in Biff's gang in Back to the Future (1985) and Back to the Future Part II (1989). Ricky Dean Logan played Data in Griff's gang in Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Christopher Wynne played an unnamed member of Buford's gang in this film. Cohen appears in all three movies.
  • The bandanna Doc Brown is wearing is made from the shirt he wore in Back to the Future Part II (1989).
  • Mary Steenburgen's children were the ones who persuaded her to be in the film.
  • The location shoot was so dusty that many of the crew took to wearing paint masks.
  • In the course of the year that it took to film Back to the Future Part II (1989) and this movie, Michael J. Fox lost his father, but gained a son.
  • A bottle of Tabasco sauce is visible in the saloon during the "wake-up juice" scene. It has a design consistent with the time period.
  • The film is the final chapter of the Back to the Future trilogy. However, an animated television series based on the trilogy premiered on September 14, 1991, and it ran for two seasons. The series took place after this movie, and it depicted the further adventures of Marty, Doc, Clara, their sons Jules and Verne, their family dog Einstein. The DeLorean time machine is rebuilt, and is now voice-activated. In 2016, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd unofficially return in their roles for a Back to the Future Part IV trailer, which was a parody of the trilogy, and the trailer saw Marty and Doc embarking on one last adventure. However, Doc inventing a time travel machine out of a steam train hinted at a possible second trilogy or spin-off. But, due to Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's Disease, Fox returning as Marty is doubtful.
  • Doc Brown states his German ancestors' surname was "von Braun". This is a reference to Wernher von Braun, one of Germany's leading rocket scientists, who was taken to America following World War II, and assisted greatly in the NASA program.
  • It is estimated that Universal saved between $10 and $15 million by filming Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990) concurrently.
  • FRANCHISE TRADEMARK: The song "The Power of Love" is played during the second scene of the trilogy, and the second-last scene of the trilogy.
  • In some shots for the scene where Marty is dragged by the horse, Michael J. Fox was actually being dragged by the "Benny the Cab" go-kart from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).
  • Before sending Marty back to 1885, Doc mentions that he uses the drive-in theater so Marty doesn't run into a tree that existed in the past. In Back to the Future (1985), one of the first things Marty does in 1955 is run into farmer Peabody's pine tree that existed in the past.
  • In 1976, Matt Clark played Kelly the bartender in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), serving Josey Wales. Here, Clark plays Chester the bartender serving "Clint Eastwood" (Marty McFly).
  • The writing on the picture Doc gives Marty reads "To Marty - Partners in time - September 5, 1885" .
  • When Doc shoots the hanging rope, it is a nod to the film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), in which Clint Eastwood's character shoots the rope from which Tuco is hanging.
  • Mary Steenburgen, who plays Clara Clayton Brown, and Jules Verne, for whom her characters sons Jules Brown and Verne Brown are named, share a birthday.
  • The second and third Back to the Future movies were shot consecutively over the course of eleven months (with a three week break between Back to the Future Part II (1989) and this movie).
  • The twinkly piano cue, used at the start of the main title theme of this film is an homage by Alan Silvestri to the George Pal movie, H.G. Wells' The Time Machine (1960). An almost identical twinkly piano or harpsichord motif can be heard at the start of a track called "Fear", used in the original Russell Garcia score from the 1960 classic.
  • The Colt salesman tells Marty that the shooting game is so easy a baby can do it. In Back to the Future Part II (1989), the kids in the Cafe 80's make fun of a shooting arcade game saying it's like a baby's toy.
  • First movie to use Universal's new 75th anniversary opening studio logo. The logo ran until 1997.
  • Sixth-highest-grossing film of 1990.
  • This was the only installment of the trilogy to not be released in the 1980s.
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