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Back to the Future

10. Back to the Future
Robert Zemeckis, 1985
Screenplay by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd & Lea Thompson

"Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"

Do I really need to explain the virtues of Back to the freakin' Future? Alright, for the uninitiated, if there are still any of you out there: Whip-smart. Imaginative. Compelling characters. And above all, a veritable CRAPLOAD of fun. Take the very first couple of scenes right off the bat, we have an exploding amplifier and skateboarding to the nostalgic strains of Huey Lewis and News' The Power of Love. And that's far from my favourite sequence in the film.

One of the film's greatest strengths is that it's just smart enough in how it deals with time travel. Zemeckis and Gale made it complex enough for us to suspend our disbelief, but they never get bogged down in details; they make it the setup, not the star of the show. Maybe it's a strained comparison, but the recent Looper did exactly the same thing Bruce Willis' character remarking, 'I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws'. The same sort of ethos is clearly in the fabric of Back to the Future.

"If my calculations are correct, when this baby
hits 88 miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious s**t."

It's the characters and the way they're brought to life by the cast that really makes this film, though. Everybody raves, and rightly so, about Christopher Lloyd's madcap portrayal of Emmett "Doc" Brown everything about it screams "mad professor" but he also brings buckets of heart to the role. Michael J. Fox is on fine form as the now iconic Marty McFly, a character of unlikely complexity. The support, in the form of Lea Thompson, the perfectly eccentric Crispin Glover and Tom Wilson are all spot on as well. I think the producers assembled pretty much the perfect cast, at the perfect time, for the perfect project.

Which brings me, finally, to my favourite moment. Marty's rendition of Chuck Berry's legendary Johnny B. Goode has become iconic in its own right and has been referenced countless times in pop culture. It also contains just one of many examples of the movie's razor-sharp wit and fantastic imagination I think the much-quoted moment when "Marvin" calls up an alternate-reality, inspiration-deprived Chuck Berry is a stroke of genius. The sequence is a wonderful, supremely entertaining snippet, my personal highlight of a film full of them.

Back to the Future has rightly become a cultural touchstone, a shining example of how good old-fashioned Hollywood storytelling can produce magnificently entertaining, smart and funny movies, without pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Now that you know #10, feel free to try and predict the rest. I'd love to know how predictable (or not) I am.