Back to the Future’s Iconic Clock Tower Scene Revisited

Revisiting the iconic clock tower sequence in the timeless classic, Back to the Future.

Of every beloved film from the 1980’s, there are perhaps none more beloved by my inner-child than 1985’s Back To The Future. The film was written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis- Zemeckis also being the film’s director. While we can look back on Robert Zemeckis’ career today and see a wide variety of quality across his filmography, at the time Back To The Future was being made there was no one better for the massive undertaking of bringing this sci-fi adventure movie to audiences.

Of course, the making of this film was riddled with re-writes, re-shoots, and even massive recasting. Famously, Eric Stoltz was cast in the role of the film’s main character- Marty McFly. Through filming, Stoltz turned in a darker and more moody performance that lacked the youthful charm that Zemeckis was looking for. This led to Stoltz being fired from the film mid-way through filming and the studio bringing in Michel J. Fox to replace him. At the time, Fox was working on the sitcom Family Ties which he was contractually committed to. He was able to film his scenes on Family Ties during the day, while filming his scenes as Marty at night. Among this juicy fact, there is all sorts of interesting trivia and behind-the-scenes details that help the film the pop culture icon that it is today. 

Specifically, today we’re going to break down the famous clocktower scene where Doc Brown and Marty are making their final attempt to power up their time-traveling Delorean and send Marty back to the future. The scene was shot on the back lot at Universal Studios with the clocktower becoming a mainstay in the back lot. The tower itself has survived years of weathering and sun damage as-well-as three (yes, THREE) fires since it’s build in 1985. The part where Doc nearly falls off the tower still gets me to this day. And speaking of Doc Brown, what would this movie be without Christopher Lloyd as our non age-appropriate BFF to Marty. According to Lloyd, he based his performance on a blend of Albert Einstein and Leopold Stokowski- and I think it’s safe to say the look and wardrobe of the character is also based on those two.

And of course, this scene cannot be mentioned without the mention of the iconic Delorean. John Delorean was nearly out of business when this movie was being made and the car was chosen specifically for its “futuristic” aesthetic. Similar to how Risky Business saved Ray Ban sunglasses, this movie spiked interest in Delorean Motor Company- so much so that John Delorean himself wrote a thank you letter expressing his gratitude for the car’s appearance in the movie.

So, fasten your seatbelt and get yourself up to 88 miles-per-hour and join us for today’s episode of Scene Breakdown where we revisit this iconic scene and talk about all the dirty details that make it such an important moment in cinematic history.

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