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Back to the Future Part III

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Title: Back to the Future Part III  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Back to the Future, Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future Part II, Flea (musician), Jeffrey Weissman
Collection: 1990 Films, 1990S Science Fiction Films, 1990S Western (Genre) Films, Amblin Entertainment Films, American Films, American Sequel Films, American Teen Comedy Films, Back to the Future Films, Film Scores by Alan Silvestri, Films Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Films Set in 1885, Films Set in 1955, Films Set in 1985, Films Set in California, Films Set in the 1880S, Films Shot in Arizona, Films Shot in Los Angeles, California, Films Shot in Utah, Rail Transport Films, Science Fiction Adventure Films, Science Fiction Westerns, Screenplays by Bob Gale, Screenplays by Robert Zemeckis, Sequel Films, Time Travel Films, Universal Pictures Films, Western (Genre) Comedy Films
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Back to the Future Part III

Back to the Future Part III
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Neil Canton
Bob Gale
Screenplay by Bob Gale
Story by Robert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Starring Michael J. Fox
Christopher Lloyd
Mary Steenburgen
Thomas F. Wilson
Lea Thompson
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Harry Keramidas
Arthur Schmidt
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • May 25, 1990 (1990-05-25)
Running time 118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $244.5 million

Back to the Future Part III is a 1990 American comic science fiction Western film. It is the third and final installment 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 II. Part 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. This was the first film to use the early 1990s Universal Pictures logo for the company's 75th anniversary.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Release and reception 4
    • Critical reaction 4.1
    • Accolades 4.2
  • Video and computer games 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


On November 12, 1955, Marty McFly discovers that his friend, Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown, had become trapped in 1885. Marty, with the 1955 Doc, uses the information in Doc's 1885 letter to locate and repair the DeLorean. He spots a tombstone with Doc's name, dated six days after the letter. Learning that Doc was killed by Biff Tannen's great-grandfather, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, Marty travels back to 1885 to save Doc.

Having arrived on September 2, 1885, in the middle of a United States Cavalry pursuit of Indians, the DeLorean's fuel line is torn, forcing Marty to hide the car in a cave and walk to Hill Valley. He meets his Irish-born great-great-grandparents, Seamus and Maggie McFly, and runs afoul of Buford and his gang. Buford tries to hang Marty, but Doc saves him. Doc agrees to leave 1885, but because the DeLorean is out of gasoline, they are unable to accelerate the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour.

Doc devises a scheme to use a locomotive to push the DeLorean up to speed. Doc and Marty explore the rail spur they intend to use and spot an out-of-control horse-drawn wagon. Doc saves the passenger, Clara Clayton, and the two fall in love. Buford tries to kill Doc at a town festival, but Marty saves him. Buford goads Marty into a showdown in two days' time. In the photograph of Doc's tombstone, Doc's name has disappeared, but the date on the tombstone remains unchanged. Doc warns that Marty might be killed by Buford.

The night before their departure, Marty and Doc place the DeLorean onto the rail spur. At Clara's house, Doc tells her he is from the future, but she believes it is an excuse to end their relationship and angrily dismisses him. Distraught, Doc returns to the town saloon for a binge, but Marty rides to the saloon and convinces Doc to leave with him. Doc drinks a single shot of whiskey and passes out instantly. Buford arrives early and calls out Marty, but Marty refuses to duel. Doc revives after drinking the bartender's special "Wake-Up Juice" and tries fleeing with Marty, but Buford's gang captures Doc, forcing Marty to duel. During a fistfight, Buford destroys the tombstone, is knocked unconscious, then arrested for an earlier robbery. Marty and Doc depart to "borrow" the locomotive.

As Clara is leaving on the train, she overhears a salesman discussing a man he met in the saloon, despondent about his recent breakup. Realizing the man is Doc, Clara applies the emergency brake and runs back to town. She discovers Doc's model of the time machine and rides after him. Doc and Marty, having stolen the train at gunpoint, begin pushing the DeLorean along the spur line, attempting to get it up to 88 miles per hour. Clara boards the locomotive while Doc climbs towards the DeLorean. Doc encourages Clara to join him. As she climbs to Doc, Clara falls and hangs by her dress. Marty passes the hoverboard to Doc, who saves Clara. They coast away from the train as the DeLorean disappears to 1985, while the locomotive falls off the unfinished bridge.

Marty arrives on October 27, 1985, escaping the powerless DeLorean before it is destroyed by an oncoming freight train. He discovers that everything has returned to the improved timeline. He finds Jennifer sleeping on her front porch and uses the lessons he learned in 1885 to avoid being goaded into a street race with Needles, avoiding an automobile accident. Jennifer opens the fax message she kept from 2015 and watches as the message regarding Marty being fired is erased.

Marty takes Jennifer to the time machine wreckage. A locomotive equipped with a flux capacitor appears, manned by Doc, Clara, and their two adopted children Jules and Verne. Doc gives Marty a photo of the two of them by the clockworks at the 1885 festival. Jennifer asks about the fax, and Doc tells them it means that the future has not been written yet. Doc’s train converts into an aerial craft and disappears into an unknown time.



One of the DeLorean vehicles used in the film

The origins of the western theme for Back to the Future Part III lie in the production of the original film. During filming for the original, director Robert Zemeckis asked Michael J. Fox what time period he would like to see. Fox replied that he wanted to visit the Old West and meet cowboys. Zemeckis and writer/producer Bob Gale were intrigued by the idea, but held it off until Part III.[1] Rather than use existing sets, the filmmakers built 1885 Hill Valley from scratch.[1] The western scenes were filmed on location in Monument Valley.[2] Some of the location shooting for 1885 Hill Valley was done in Jamestown, California, and on a purpose-built set at the Red Hills Ranch, near Sonora, California.[2] Some of the train scenes were filmed at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park,[3] a heritage line in Jamestown. Whereas the original film played to a more materialistic idea of success, Zemeckis considered Part III more of a "human journey" with spiritual overtones.[4]

The shooting of the Back to the Future sequels, which were shot back-to-back throughout 1989, reunited much of the crew of the original.[4] The films were shot over the course of 11 months, save for a three-week hiatus between filming of Parts II and III. The most grueling part was editing Part II while filming Part III, and Zemeckis bore the brunt of the process over a three-week period. While Zemeckis was shooting most of the train sequences in Sonora, Gale was in Los Angeles supervising the final dub of Part II.[4] Zemeckis would wrap photography and board a private plane to Burbank, where Gale and engineers would greet him on the dubbing stage with dinner. He would oversee the reels completed that day and make changes where needed.[4] Afterwards, he would retire to the Sheraton Universal Hotel for the night. The following morning, Zemeckis would drive to the Burbank Airport, board a flight back to the set in Northern California, and continue to shoot the film.[4]

Although the schedule for most of the personnel involved was grueling, the actors found the remote location for Part III relaxing compared to shooting its predecessor.[4] Rather than continue to explore Marty McFly's extended family, the writers gave the spotlight to Doc Brown.

The role of Clara Clayton was written with Mary Steenburgen in mind. When she received the script, however, she was reluctant to commit to the film until her kids, who loved the original, hounded her.[4] Lloyd shared his first on-screen kiss with Steenburgen in Part III.[4] The Hill Valley Festival Dance scene proved to be the most dangerous for Lloyd and Steenburgen. Overzealous dancing left Steenburgen with a torn ligament in her foot.[1]

The film also starred veteran western film actors Pat Buttram, Harry Carey, Jr., and Dub Taylor, as three "saloon old timers".[5] Buttram was also known to younger audiences for his extensive voice work, particularly as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the animated version of Robin Hood.[6] The inclusion of these noticeable western actors was promoted in several documentaries about the film as well as the behind-the-scenes documentary of the DVD and in one of the actor's obituary.[7] The old west style music performed in the film was further played by rock band ZZ Top.

Shooting a film set in the Old West was appealing to the stuntmen, who were all experienced horse riders. "We had every great stuntman in Hollywood wanting to work on Part III," recalled Gale in 2002.[4] Thomas F. Wilson chose to perform his own stunts and spent a great deal of time learning to ride a horse and throw his lariat. Filming was halted when Michael J. Fox's father died and when his son was born.[1]

Alan Silvestri, through his longtime collaboration with Robert Zemeckis, returned to compose the score for Back to the Future Part III. Rather than dictate how the music should sound, Zemeckis directed Silvestri as he would an actor, seeking to evoke emotion and treating every piece of music like a character.[4] The photography in Part III was a "dream" for cinematographer Dean Cundey, who agreed with much of the crew in his excitement to shoot a western. The filmmakers sought a bright, colorful picture for each scene, with a hint of sepia tone in certain shots.[4] Zemeckis wished to create a spectacular climax to the film. He coordinated the actors, a live steam train, pyrotechnics and special effects, and countless technicians all at once.[4]

Release and reception

The film grossed $23 million in its first weekend of U.S. release and $87.6 million altogether in U.S. box office receipts (or about $152.4 million when adjusted for inflation[8] as of January 2011) – $243 million worldwide.[9][10][11] On December 17, 2002, Universal Pictures released Back to the Future Part III in a boxed set with the first two films on DVD and VHS. In the DVD widescreen edition, there was a framing flaw that Universal has since corrected, available in sets manufactured after February 21, 2003.[12]

Critical reaction

Back to the Future Part III received generally positive reviews from film critics. The review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 73% approval rating, based on 41 reviews.[13]



In 1990, the film won a Saturn Award for Best Music for Alan Silvestri and a Best Supporting Actor award for Thomas F. Wilson.[17] In 2003, it received an AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award for Best Special Edition of the Year, an award based on consumer online voting.[18]

Video and computer games

LJN released an NES game titled Back to the Future Part II & III, a sequel to their game based on the first film. An arcade Back to the Future Part III game was also released that would eventually be ported to several home video game systems, including the Sega Genesis.


  1. ^ a b c d Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis, et al. (2002). Back to the Future Part III. Special Features: The Making of Back to the Future Part III (DVD). Universal Studios Home Entertainment. 
  2. ^ a b Back to the Future 2002 DVD Feature: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale Q&A recorded at the University of Southern California
  3. ^ "Railtown 1897 State Historic Park Film Credits". Retrieved October 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis, et al. (2002). Back to the Future Part III. Special Features: Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three (DVD). Universal Studios Home Entertainment. 
  5. ^ [1] "Bury my Heart in Hill Valley", Retrieved 22Feb14
  6. ^ [2] Behind the Voice Actors - Pat Buttram
  7. ^ [3] Harry Carey obituary
  8. ^ "$87,666,629.00 in 1990 had the same buying power as $152,376,558.90 in 2011.". January 7, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  9. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (May 30, 1990). Back to Future III' a Fast Draw Against 'Fire Birds' Movies: Memorial weekend opening is no contest. `Future III' takes $23.7 million, while `Birds' takes $6.3 million."'".  
  10. ^ "Box Office History for Back to the Future Movies". The Numbers. Retrieved November 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ "`Recall' Totally Outdistances `Future' in Box-Office Race Movies: Schwarzenegger's sci-fi flick opens with $25.5 million. But it only just edges the `Turtles' ' $25.3-million record.". The Los Angeles Times. March 15, 1993. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Framing Flaws and Back to the Future Replacement DVDs". May 19, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Back to the Future Part III".  
  14. ^ Newman, Kim. "Back To The Future: Part III". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 25, 1990). "Back to the Future Part III review".  
  16. ^ Canby, Vincent (May 25, 1990). "A Trilogy Whose Future Has Passed". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Past Saturn Awards".  
  18. ^ "Back to the Future awards".  

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