Marty McFly doesn’t always drive. Oftentimes, he skateboards behind moving cars and trucks — hanging from their bumpers as he navigates the traffic. Back home, he discovers that Biff Tannen has wrecked the family car. Biff admits to drink driving, but blames Marty’s dad, George, for not having told him the car was faulty. Biff bullies his employee George and hits him in the face while Marty watches quietly in horror.
That evening, Marty meets up with inventor friend, Doc Brown, in the Twin Pines mall carpark. The Doc has turned a DeLorean car into a time machine. Marty films Einstein the dog successfully time-travelling, then resets everything so the Doc can go next. Since it requires a massive 1.21GW of power to move about through time, it runs on plutonium. Just as the Doc’s making a pioneering speech, some Libyans show up. The Doc stole their plutonium and they aren’t happy. They kill the Doc, then they go for Marty. He hurriedly gets in the DeLorean and — reaching the crucial eighty eight miles per hour — time travels himself.
It’s Saturday, November 5th 1955. Marty finds his dad, George, in a café being publicly humiliated by Biff even then. Soon after, Marty gets hit by a car meant to hit George. This was supposed to be the moment Marty’s parents met and fell in love. Now, Marty’s disrupted the spacetime continuum and his mom, Lorraine, has fallen in love with him instead. If he’s not careful, he’ll be erased from history.
Marty finds the 1955 version of the Doc, who’s pleased that the flux capacitor he imagined in the shower that very day actually works. With no plutonium, they need a bolt of lightning as fuel. Luckily, the Hill Valley clocktower is to be famously struck by lightning in a few days’ time. Until this storm, in case of ramifications, Marty is warned not to interact with anybody else. Tragically, of course, he’s now being stalked by his own future mom. Marty’s family photo shows his brother already fading away. Marty must get George and Lorraine back together or he’ll vanish completely.
At 10.04pm, lightning will strike the clocktower. The Doc and Marty will direct this power down to some cable connecting two lampposts in the street below. The car — with a special, metal conducting hook attached to the roof and moving at exactly 88mph — will channel the lightning into the flux capacitor and return Marty to 1985.
Marty wants George to rescue Lorraine from him while they’re “parking” together. In the staged event, George will throw open the door, overpower Marty and Lorraine will fall in love with George. The storm is the same night as the dance. Lorraine kisses Marty in the car, but it feels bizarrely incestuous. Then, randomly, Biff barges into the car instead of George. His friends remove Marty and lock him in the boot of another car. George hasn’t seen this, so he confidently opens the door, sees Biff instead and his confidence crumbles. Biff soon has George in a wristlock and Lorraine’s crying out for help. George finally grows angry and knocks out Biff himself.
Marty’s freed from the car by the band’s guitarist, who injures his hand in the process. Marty is desperate for this dance to go ahead, so he offers to play guitar in the man’s place. After a bumpy start, George dances with Lorraine and the people in Marty’s family photo all become more opaque again.
Marty meets up with the Doc to jump forward in time to 1985. The Doc finds Marty’s letter in his coat warning about the armed Libyans in 1985. He wants no part of it and tears it up. The storm causes connections to come loose. So, the Doc climbs up the tower to repair them.
Marty’s now accelerating to eighty eight miles per hour, as planned, headed for the lampposts. The Doc slides down the cable to reattach it again lower down. At 10.04pm, the lightning channels into the time machine and Marty leaves 1955: two flaming tyre tracks where the car once was. The Doc yells and jumps for joy.
A helicopter passes overhead. Some flashes indicate Marty’s return. He now has ten minutes in which to save the Doc’s life, but the car won’t start. He even sees the Libyans drive past en route to the Doc. Marty witnesses the Doc getting killed. When the smoke’s cleared, Marty approaches the Doc laying there, only to find that he’s wearing a bulletproof vest. In the end, he read Marty’s warning letter after all.
The Doc drops off Marty at home, then time travels himself. Marty’s now in what seems like an alternate reality, but it’s normal for everyone else. His brother’s wearing a suit and his sister Linda has loads of boyfriends calling. Marty can’t believe how good his parents look. Biff Tannen, thanks to the knock-out punch thirty years earlier, is waxing George McFly’s car. Then, George’s newly-published science fiction book arrives in the post. Marty is given the keys to his truck — also waxed by Biff. Marty is overjoyed when girlfriend Jennifer shows up.
There’s more flashing as the Doc reappears in the DeLorean this time with solid silver glasses. Given future modifications, any old food waste now acts as fuel. The Doc wants to bring Jennifer with him this time because there’s a problem with their kids. The car flies off and disappears in flashes.
Starring Michael J Fox. Christopher Lloyd. Lea Thompson. Rated PG. Dir Robert Zemeckis. Released in the UK 1985. Runtime 1hr 56mins.