10 Reasons Back To The Future Never Improved On The First Movie

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Summary

  • Back to the Future Part 2 and Part 3 didn’t live up to the success of the first film, with lower box office numbers.
  • The sequels lost the generational nostalgia that made the first film relatable to both young and older audiences.
  • The sequels diverged from the original film’s genre, with Part 2 taking a darker turn and Part 3 leaning into a Western theme, potentially alienating certain viewers.

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The first Back to the Future movie is regarded as a better success than its sequels, and there are several fundamental reasons why. Though the trilogy as a whole has aged well, the box office and critic reviews of Back to the Future Part 2 and Back to the Future Part 3 reveal that they weren’t so well received upon their release. This came down to the elements of the first film that were lost in the following two, from the general feel and genre to the nostalgic perspective of decades past.

Back to the Future is a cult classic and was a pretty instant hit when it was released in theaters in 1985. Its domestic gross is $211 million, which is impressive considering its $19 million budget. Unfortunately, its sequel, Back to the Future Part 2 didn’t perform as well and grossed only $118 million (and had a much higher budget of $40 million). Then, Back to the FuturePart 3 did even worse, only bringing in $88 million gross. Of course, Back to the Future is still a massively successful franchise, but it can’t be denied that the sequels simply didn’t add up to the first. When looking closely at the films, there are a few clear reasons why.

10 Back To The Future Sequels Lacked The First Movie’s Generational Nostalgia

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Part of what made the first Back to the Future movie so successful was the way it was relatable for multiple generations. Marty McFly appealed to younger audiences of the 1980s with his language, music, and overall style—so teens and young adults had plenty to enjoy. Then, their parents could get in on the fun as well, watching an 80s teen go back to their heyday in the 1950s. It was the blending of these two eras that made the film such a success. Though Back to the Future Part 2 and 3 included the time travel elements, they saw eras that were less enjoyable to audiences of the time.

RELATED: Why Back To The Future Has Aged So Well (When So Many Scenes Haven’t)

9 Back To The Future Part 2 Took The Plot In A Darker Direction

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Back to the Future started out light, airy, and fun. However, Part 2 took a dark turn, with Marty accidentally changing the timeline and turning 1985 into a dystopian future. The scenes in 2015 were a decent amount of fun (though the McFly family failures were a little frustrating to watch), but this was quickly wiped away with the reveal that Marty’s mom was in a highly disturbing marriage with Biff and that the entire community had been demolished to accommodate the villain’s success. Sure, Marty set everything right, but the film’s mood was just too different from its predecessor.

8 The Back To The Future Sequels Jumped Genres

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Doc and Marty heading back to 1885 in Back to the Future Part 3 was a lot of fun, but it hardly seemed like the same genre as the first film. Westerns have a specific audience and they aren’t likely to be the same as those watching a science fiction flick. This could be why the theatrical turnout for Part 3 was significantly lower than the franchise’s first film. Add in the dark plot of Back to the Future Part 2, and it seems the franchise has three films with different genres likely to please only one group of viewers at a time.

7 The First Back To The Future Plot Was Simpler (Unlike The Sequels)

Marty McFly playing the guitar Back to the Future

Things can get pretty complicated when getting time travel involved, and Back to the Future did a great job at keeping it simple. Sure, it doesn’t entirely make sense that Marty’s image would disappear from a picture if he didn’t get his parents to meet, but since the film established and stuck to this rule, it was easy to accept. From beginning to end, the characters’ objectives were clear, the plot was fun and easy to follow, and the solutions made sense and didn’t take much justification. This was not the case with the Back to the Future sequels, which saw Marty and Doc running all over the place, solving the problems they were making as they went.

6 Back To The Future Sequels Began To Break Their Own Time Travel Rules

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Back to the Future Part 2 quickly threw the first film’s premise out the window. The film demonstrated how changing the past would change whatever future the individual would travel to—like how Marty changing how his parents met made them more successful in 1985. However, Back to the Future Part 2 adjusted this whenever it was convenient for the sequel’s plot. For example, when old Biff went back to 1955 and gave his younger self the sports almanac, he should have returned to a different 2015. This and other changes to the rules of time travel created several plot holes within the Back to the Future franchise, which is frustrating considering the first film was relatively clean.

5 Back To The Future 2 & 3 Depended On Each Other Too Much

Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly in the Back to the Future Trilogy

Just as Back to the Future had a pleasantly simple premise, it wrapped itself up perfectly. This wasn’t true for the sequels, which ended with cliffhangers and depended on the previous films to make any sort of sense. Though this is typically how sequels work today, it could be detrimental to a film franchise in the 1980s. Home video wasn’t quite so readily available, so whether someone went to theaters to watch a sequel depended on whether they had gone to theaters to see the previous movie. It’s possible that Back to the Future Part 2 and Back to the Future Part 3 had lower opening box office numbers since it was harder to jump into the middle of the franchise without being lost.

4 It Was Uncommon For 1980s Sequels To Improve On The Original

The 2020s have been the era of sequels and remakes, with some of the biggest box office hits being sequels like Avatar: The Way of Water and Spider-Man: No Way Home. This was an extremely rare occurrence in the 1980s. Typically, sequels were lower-budget versions of a successful first film and a studio’s way of grabbing at all the money they possibly could. Though this wasn’t necessarily the case for the Back to the Future franchise, audiences would be naturally distrustful of sequels. It’s why Marty’s story and other 1980s movie franchises have done better in the age of streaming than during their initial releases.

3 Back To The Future Part 2 Missed The Love Story (Then Part 3 Overdid It)

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The first Back to the Future movie had several layers of romance. On one hand, Marty was eager throughout to make it back to his girlfriend, Jennifer. Then, there was the romance between Marty’s parents, which he had come to see through a different light (after being a part of its inception). The love stories made sense for the plot and weren’t layered too thick. Unfortuantely, Part 2 threw this out the window, with Jennifer and Marty’s chemistry taken down to almost nothing. Then, in Back to the Future Part 3, the focus was entirely on Doc’s romance with Clara—something that quickly became more annoying than entertaining.

2 Back To The Future Part 2 Demanded More Special Effects

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Since the first Back to the Future movie saw Marty return to a “simpler” time, there was no need for much work in special effects. Sure, the McFlys wore heavy aging-up makeup in 1985, but since most of the film took place in 1955, where the characters matched the actors’ ages, it worked fine. In Back to the Future Part 2, however, the need for more special effects was baked right into the plot. The film needed to demonstrate the advanced technology of 2015, but doing this with 1980s CGI wasn’t believable (especially now). Then, the aging-up makeup for Michael J. Fox and the other young actors was positively a mess.

RELATED: Why A Back To The Future Reboot Should Absolutely Never Happen

1 Back To The Future Wasn’t A Planned Trilogy (& You Can Tell)

Back to the Future Trilogy in Theaters Fall 2015 (1)

The first Back to the Future movie was initially meant to be a standalone film. The ending sequence in which Doc came back from the future with a flying DeLorean was only supposed to be a comical way to end the movie, not a cliffhanger to segue into a sequel. Of course, there are many wonderful things about Back to the Future Part 2 and Back to the Future Part 3, and it’s hard to imagine a world in which Doc and Marty’s story isn’t part of a trilogy. However, the fact that there wasn’t a larger plan in place for the first film is evident when considering the various plot holes and continuity errors. Perhaps if a trilogy had been written beforehand, the Back to the Future sequels would have performed as well as the first film.