Five Fan Theories That Explain The Events Of 'Back To The Future'

I was browsing Reddit the other day when I happened upon a fascinating AskReddit thread, which posed the question: "How do Marty McFly's parents not realize that they gave birth to their friend from the 50's who mysteriously disappeared?" It's a question that's always vexed me as well. I mean, Calvin Klein made such a dramatic impact on the McFly's lives, you'd think they'd have recognized their second son, Marty, was growing up to be this dude, no?

Well, maybe they did. The thread spawned some pretty fascinating discussion. I've excerpted some of the best responses below the jump, but make sure to check out the whole thread.

Reddit user rildchaper9988 chimes in with an obvious, but astute, observation:

A person's looks can be distorted by memories, so even though he's the same person, they may not remember him looking like that. Also Marty didnt always look like that. He was born looking very different and grew up to look the way he does. So when he turned 18 or whatever his parents wouldnt just be like "holy shit, it's Calvin!" In reality, they'd probably just think of it as a weird co-winky-dink.

Reddit user BPJordan suggests the following:

I'm way too late to get an answer that will get upvoted, but I've always thought George remembered Marty and his mysterious disappearance and realizes his similarities to Marty. So what explains his casual acceptance of all of it? George McFly fundamentally believes that aliens interfered in his life in order to bring him and Loraine together.

The prom where he knocks out Biff and falls in love with his wife is obviously the most pivotal event in his life. His experiences with the young Marty are so memorable to him that he even adopts his own son's sayings, "If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything." But the rest of the story makes no sense if you've been thinking about if for years.

Where did Calvin come from? Where did he go? Who was he? Why was he wearing a life preserver? None of these things make much sense in isolation, but when you put everything that was Calvin Klein/Marty McFly together it starts to make a sort of creepy Nostradamus-like effect. Remember the scene where Marty wakes up his father dressed in the radiation suit and threatens him to comply with the plan? This is a small part of the movie, but I can't imagine there would be a day that went by where George McFly didn't think about it.

What would happen in a few years when there was a popular science fiction villain named Darth Vader and also Star Trek that had a planet Vulcan? George McFly would see it and think that the entirety of pop culture had been infiltrated by extraterrestrials. How the fuck else could they have had knowledge of popular science fiction years before it was thought up on Earth?

Why isn't he surprised when he has a kid that eventually looks like Marty? Well, that guy was attempting to get him to be with Lorraine at the exact same time the alien visited him. Eventually he'd put two and two together. The Marty at that time was either a time traveller or an alien. This would also be confirmed at the end when Marty tells them not to be as angry at him for setting fire to the rug when he was 9. The moment that Marty set fire to that rug George McFly would have seen this like a confirmation of a prophecy.

I've become even more convinced of this because of George McFly's book. If you look closely at it near the end of the movie, it's called "A Match Made in Space." The cover features a boy who looks like George about to kiss a girl that looks like Lorraine being brought together by an alien wearing a suit. I've always thought that George McFly's book is just a re-telling of the whole film. George McFly wrote this book which is to him a non-fiction account of what happened to him, but to the world is a science fiction masterpiece by a little known author.

This would be even further evidence by the fact that Old Man Peabody probably would have eventually told everyone in town that some alien had knocked down one of his pine trees and ruined his barn. Then he had to take a shot at it. To George, these rumors would only reinforce his own perception that the Marty he met in his youth was just a shape-shifting alien who was on a mission to make sure George married Lorraine.

TL;DR – George McFly thinks Marty is Jesus.

User mrthedon has a slight spin on this theory:

You're wrong. They do know. They've known a long time – well, at least George has.

Back in 1976 when George arrived home to find Lorraine screaming and the kids running around all freaked out because the living room rug had burst into flames, he was furious. After he heroically puts out the fire, Marty starts crying and apologizing and saying it was an accident. Just as George is getting ready to kick some ass, he remembers something a good friend told him long ago:

"If you guys ever have kids and one of them when he's eight years old, accidentally sets fire to the living room rug, be easy on him."

Ever get that feeling that something is just too crazy to be a coincidence? Well, George did, and pardoned Marty, saying that he was just glad everyone was OK. Yeah, it was pretty strange, but he shook it off and dismissed it. Until...

... 1977. George McFly is a huge fan of sci-fi, so you KNOW he was at the Star Wars premiere. Imagine his shock when none other than DARTH FUCKING VADER appeared on the big screen! That's right, the same Darth Vader who back in 1955...

"... came down from planet Vulcan. And he told me that if I didn't take Loraine, that he'd melt my brain."

Wait a second... the planet Vulcan? Darth Vader isn't from Vulcan. Vulcan isn't even in the Star Wars universe – it's in the Star Trek universe, which, HOLD ON... how did Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan threaten him in 1955 when they hadn't even been made up yet? THIS IS HEAVY. George was pretty freaked out, but he didn't put all the pieces together until a few years later.

One night George was sitting in his chair trying to read his copy of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" when Marty suddenly started blasting one of his favorite songs on the stereo – Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". Marty – who had finally started looking more and more like George's good buddy from 1955... His good buddy from 1955 who was also named Marty... who played that same song at his high school dance years before it was released... "HOLY SHIT 1955 MARTY IS ACTUALLY MY FUTURE SON WHO WENT BACK IN TIME TO HOOK ME UP WITH HIS MOTHER!!!"

It was all clear to George now! Everything made sense!! He was so, so very proud of his boy, yet he knew he wouldn't be able to tell him so for many years, because George knew that nobody should know too much about his own density.

If he told Marty that he knew what he knew before Marty had a chance to go back in time, the result could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe. Granted, that's the worse case scenario. The destruction might, in fact, be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy... BUT STILL – he couldn't risk it.

And now you know... "the rest of the story!"

User Luciuspecker has perhaps the darkest take of all:

Marty's father always suspected his wife of cheating, but loved her too much to call her on it. Later he couldn't help but notice the striking similarities between his son and their old week-long pal "Calvin Klein." The resemblance ate him more as the years went by and he could tell that she had ran into Calvin at some point. Along with his penis. She had often swooned over his amazing guitar solo while reminiscing of high school. But he swallowed the suspicion-laced pain for the good of his family. And three weeks after the events of Back to the Future 3 he also swallowed a bottle of pain-killers and a liter of cheap scotch, unable to live with Calvin's son looking at him across the table every morning.'

And finally, a bonus theory by JakeDDrake, in response to "Why the f*ck would the McFly's hire a guy who pretty much attempted to rape Loraine to detail their car?"

It bugs me when people assume that George hired Biff as his own personal assistant. Why would you ever do that with someone who tried to rape your wife?

I bet any amount of money that Biff's personality being subservient is because Biff was not expecting to work for George McFly that day. I mean, if we take into account your narrative (which seems like a very likely scenario), Biff would be working as a detailer, and get hired out by his employer to go to an all-too-familiar residence. So to stall another ass-kicking, Biff gets started on a whole load of ass-kissing. This would also explain George's somewhat dickish remarks to Biff during the last scene. He's simply reminding Biff about who's in charge.

Again, given that this town has only one highschool, it's safe to say that all of the people here know each other, hear the news about people's lives, etc. So Biff's been in the loop in regards to how awesome Lorraine and George McFly's life has been. He probably runs into their kids often enough, maybe while he's working at the main car-wash/ gas station, perhaps at the same Texaco that shows up in 1955 and 2015. This is why he's familiar with Marty, and knows well enough about him, and probably the other siblings.

[edit: Turns out Biff was self-employed. No biggie, it just means that George probably did it with full malicious intent, as a sort of "hey, it's that douche I knocked out in high school, I'm going to hire him to humiliate him" thing. Which makes you question exactly how much of a jerk George McFly's turned into.]

I just like to assume that Biff's being there on that specific day was more of a coincidence than anything else, and he had not been employed by George for very long. That'd just be weird. He also wasn't quite as subservient as we thought. I mean, think about it. In 2015, Biff's an old (but angry and devious) coot of a man. It's fair to say that he never was a sniffling sycophant, but held a lot of his anger in over the years, making him grow more bitter and impotent with rage. If he were truly broken of spirit, he never would have taken that copy of Gray's Sports Almanac to the past to put himself back into a dominant position. He also wouldn't have given a reason for his Past self to grow up to become the man who kills George McFly, by telling him of his future before his confidence is shaken. After all, Biff is a dick, but he'd never been shown to have murderous tendencies. So Old Biff probably explained to Young Biff what would happen, that it's probably inevitable, but with the power of that book, he can simply bide his time, build up a lot of wealth, and then have George killed.


Discuss: How do you explain the crazy coincidences of Back to the Future?