Happy 25th Anniversary, Back to the Future! Know Your Dates With This Helpful Trilogy Timeline

Today is the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future. Sort of. I know, I know -- you're thinking, Didn't we just go through this back in July on Twitter? Wasn't it all a hoax? Well, yes and no. That's the problem with Back to the Future trilogy: There are so many dates involved with the three films -- as well as so many claims of what turn out to be false prophesies -- that it can all get a bit confusing. This calls for a timeline.

It's true that today is neither the day Doc, Marty, Jennifer and Einstein traveled to the future (that was Oct. 21, 2015) nor the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future's release in theaters -- that was July 3, 1985. What today represents is the 25th anniversary of the day -- Oct. 25, 1985 -- that Doc Brown asks Marty McFly to meet him at 1:15 A.M. the next morning at the Twin Pines Mall. At this meeting, Doc reveals the time-traveling DeLorean to Marty and his intentions to use it to travel 25 years into the future. That would have happened early tomorrow morning, on Oct. 26, a little after 1:22 A.M. If, that is, Doc had not been rudely interrupted by terrorists and gunned down. Brown never even gets a chance to enter the date, which is why Marty winds up in 1955.

Dates!! So many dates! With the trilogy's Blu-ray series debuting this week -- and in an effort to avoid unfortunate false memes like we experienced back in July -- here's a comprehensive account of every day visited* in the three Back to the Future films. It was as good an excuse as any to rewatch the movies again:

[*Listed chronologically as they occur in the films.]

· Oct. 25, 1985: This is the date on which the original Back to the Future film opens.

back_future_clocks_250.jpg· Oct. 26, 1985: The first leap in time only involves Doc's dog, Einstein, traveling one minute ahead, from 1:21 AM on that date until 1:22 AM. Doc intends to travel to Oct. 26, 2010, but is gunned down before he gets the chance.

· Nov. 5, 1955: Marty jumps in the DeLorean and travels back to this date -- the date Doc first envisioned the flux capacitor -- that Doc Brown had set it to when he was demonstrating how the time machine worked. Marty spends one week in 1955, returning to the future on Nov. 12, 1955 at 10:04 PM.

· Oct. 26, 1985: Marty, with the help of young Doc and a lightning strike, returns to the date he left, at 1:24 AM.

· Oct. 21, 2015: Doc warns Marty that there are a few problems with his kids, so they must go to the future to correct a situation. Of note: The film Jaws 19 plays at the local movie theater (or "holomax") -- so the Jaws people only have to release 15 more Jaws films in the next five years for this to come to fruition. And the Chicago Cubs (ha!) sweep Miami, whose logo is not a marlin but an alligator swinging a bat, to win the World Series. Not, as rumors persist, an actual prediction of either of the Florida Marlins' World Series victories.

· Nov. 12, 1955: An old Biff Tannen, mortal enemy to the McFlys, steals the DeLorean to take the 1950-2000 Sports Almanac -- that Marty bought for himself but Doc forbid -- to his younger self in 1955.

Universal Shares 100 Factoids For its 100th Anniversary
(see Factoid #9 about the DeLorean)

· Oct. 21, 2015: Biff, after delivering the almanac to his younger self, returns the DeLorean to the date he found it.

· Oct. 26, 1985: Marty, Doc and Jennifer return to 1985 to continue their lives. But, because of Biff's new wealth due to his uncanny ability to predict the outcomes of sporting events, it's a completely different 1985 than the one they left during the first scene of the film.

· Nov. 12, 1955: Before they make this jump to prevent Biff from delivering the almanac, the dashboard flashes January 1, 1885. Apparently there's a glitch, Doc mentions, "I gotta fix that thing."

· Jan. 1, 1885: After confiscating the almanac, the DeLorean, with only Doc in it, is struck by lightning. Sending him back to 1885.

· Sept. 2, 1885: At the start of the third film, Marty uses the DeLorean that's been in hidden for the last 70 years to travel back to the Old West to rescue Doc.

· Oct. 27, 1985: Marty returns to 1985. Only two days after the original film started (yes, somehow, Michael J. Fox looks five years older). Later, on that same day, Doc, with his new wife and kids (Jules and Verne, clever) travel to 1985 on a time-traveling locomotive.

· The last date unknown, but sometime before 1985: After Doc says his goodbyes to Marty, he leaps through time again. Marty asks Doc if he's going back to the future. Doc replies, "Nope, already been there."


  • Scraps says:

    "Young Doc". HA!! I love how 1955 Doc and 1985 Doc have exactly no difference in their physical appearance. What's great about this? The movie still works!! How many film makers today would spend eons on CGI effects to turn Christopher Lloyd into a strapping man in his 30s? At the end of the day Hollywood, we don't care about the visuals as much as you think we do.

  • Sarah says:

    God I love Back to the Future. And I love you guys for writing this timeline. This totally brightened my afternoon. Scraps, one of my favorite parts of the original BTTF is when 1955 Doc is watching the video of an unchanged 1985 Doc and he exclaims, "I look like an old man!"

  • Kristen says:

    I take major offense to the Chicago Cubs jab.

  • Riopato says:

    If old future Tannen went back to 1955 to give teen Tannen the almanac. How was it possible for old Tannen to be able to return to his timeline and not end up in the alternate timeline. Or was it that the alternate timeline has 2 old Tannens (1 rich and 1 poor) and the part where the grandparents came to visit Marty's family never happened when poor old Tannen returned. Is 2015 the year when that paradox crushes the universe? or was everything fixed just right by the end of the 2nd film?

    • Jordan says:

      In a deleted scene, poor old Tannen slowly and painfully disappears after returning to 2015... Kind of like how Marty has his family photo in Part I slowly disappearing, it takes a little while for changed past events to catch up to, and change, current (future) events. So by hopping in the time machine, he still had enough time to make it back to the unchanged 2015, before the changed past changed the future. I think that's about right. ...maybe?

  • anon says:

    Actually, before leaving 1955 (at 10:04 pm Nov. 12th), he decides to change the time of arrival in 1985 from 1:24 am to an earlier time in order to warn Doc about the terrorists. He says "10 minutes ought to do it", implying that he arrives at 1:14 am on Oct. 26th.
    Gah, I love these movies too much...

  • Anon says:

    This timeline is retarded. Marty went back to 1985 10 minutes EARLY to warn doc about the terrorists. Epic fail.

  • Mike Ryan says:

    Thanks for this great commentary, but, yes that was accounted for. Epic comment fail? (do people still use the word fail?)

  • Mike Ryan says:

    1:24 is the time that Marty goes back to after he adjusts for 10 minutes. I even double checked.

  • Great Scott!! The Delorian is for sale!!
    the Flex Capacitor comes with it!!

    • Nite says:

      ONE of the cars is for sale. There were several. One, in fact, is owned by a friend of mine complete with all the gear, and is leased out by him for display.

  • CarrieTown says:

    In the movie novella (what? you are allowed to be a geek in 1988, when you are in 8th grade), anyway, in the book, once old Biff returns to 2015, he has created a paradox and is in the process of disappearing. That is why he has difficulty getting out of the DeLorian subsequently breaking his cane, and is why he is seen staggering out of frame.
    Or, as Austin Powers said, "It's best not to think too hard about this."

    • joe says:

      I thought the answer was that eventually Lorraine shots him in the alternative timeline after all the abuse and hence causing him to no longer exist. The bigger question; Where was Doc’s time machine in 1885?

      • Emre says:

        He buried it for Marty to find in 1955. If they had used the buried one instead of the one Marty came with, then Marty wouldn't be able to find it in 1955.

  • Rachel says:

    Back the future is one of the most incredible movies created. I love all three movies, especially part 2 but no movie can top what Steven Speilberg created here. I can still watch this movie over & over again and never get tired of it...I love this and Happy 25th.

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  • EZ-SEEK says:

    You forgetting a date, or maybe poverty, you tell me: After Marty got back after traveling across what was going to be the old Clayton Ravine, but was instead the "Client Eastwood Ravine" Marty jumps out before a southbound train hits the DeLorean, but as he looks at the rubble it showed a date Sept something. Was this simply the return date winking out? It could be the day we wake up and God returns us home, because allot of songs are about September Morning. Also September is my Birth month. 911 happen just before my birthday.

  • EZ-SEEK says:

    You forgetting a date, or maybe not, you tell me: After Marty got back after traveling across what was going to be the old Clayton Ravine, but was instead the "Client Eastwood Ravine" Marty jumps out before a southbound train hits the DeLorean, but as he looks at the rubble it showed a date Sept something. Was this simply the return date winking out? It could be the day we wake up and God returns us home, because allot of songs are about September Morning. Also September is my Birth month. 911 happen just before my birthday.