3 Life Lessons from the Back to the Future Trilogy

Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle and have just woken up from a 30-year nap, you’re probably aware that today is Back To The Future Day!

For those of you non-fans, it’s the day that Doc, Marty, and Jennifer, Marty’s girlfriend, travel to in the distant future to save the next generation of the McFlys in the second installment of the Back to the Future Trilogy.

Today is that day and this post is being published at the exact moment that they arrive in the future: 4:20pm on October 21, 2015.


I’ve seen several discussion threads on Facebook on which of the films in the series is the best or which one is somebody’s favorite.

Everyone loves the first film, its memorable lines, clever opening scene, especially the part when Marty totally overloads and blows up that giant speaker.

And oh, yeah, the part where Marty travels to the 1950s and accidentally meets his parents and almost erases his very existence! (Spoiler alert! He untwists the pretzel of time long enough to get his parents to meet and fall in love.)

We may not have a time machine or a mad scientist to take us on an amazing ride, but Robert Zemeckis’ fantastic tale of this time travelling duo brings us these truths:

1. My actions have consequences

While I’m not a fan of the dystopian twist in the second film, I see its importance in the overall story. It raises the stakes for Marty, the hero. He learns that his time-travelling can not only drastically change his present, but they also have a grave effect on the future.

The film ends with the classic question every hero faces from William Wallace to Tommy Boy – “Do I have what it takes?” Can Marty carve out his own path, or is he doomed to follow in his father’s failure?

2. I am strong enough to resist negative influences

This brings us to the third film, which is admittedly a little corny in some scenes, but it’s probably my favorite in the series. In this film that Marty must decide – is he a man, or is he, as Buford Tannen puts it, “a yellow-bellied chicken?”

There’s a scene near the end of the film when Marty has to choose whether he will be swayed by bullies and peer pressure or if he can resolve to make the right choice no matter what people think.

I won’t give away the ending if you haven’t seen the film, but I will say that once he makes his decision, he immediately sees how much his choices impact, not just his future, but that of his future children.

3. I have what it takes

There’s an author from the turn of the last century who’s been growing on me lately. He wrote:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

In this tale Biff Tannen personified the dragon, but I think Marty’s real enemy was fear and the story wasn’t about the McFlys versus the Tannens. It was how Marty overcame fear and finally learned he had what it takes to forge his own path.

Even in this 1980’s cult classic, we learn that our quests can be won, and our dragons can be conquered.

What fairy tales inspire you to overcome the Biff Tannens in your life?

Let me know in the comments!

Also, check out my friend’s real-life encounter with a Biff Tannen.

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