Back To The Future Ending Explained: If You Put Your Mind To It, You Can Accomplish Anything

"Back to the Future" is one of the greatest movies of all time. Since its release in 1985, the seminal sci-fi comedy from Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale has spawned two equally beloved sequels (even though the third one still doesn't get enough love), an animated series, a hit West End musical, volumes of comic books, one of the greatest theme park attractions of all time (RIP), and legions of fans that have cherished the tale of Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly for decades to the point of introducing it to their children and their children's children.

If you're an avid /Film reader, there's probably a very good chance that you are well acquainted with "Back to the Future" already. Although, it never hurts to revisit an old favorite from time to time. That's why we're heading back to 1955 with the DeLorean to take another look at its ending.

However, in case you haven't seen this enduring pop culture touchstone, now would be a good time to open a new window in your phone or computer, find it on Amazon Prime, Peacock, Vudu, or Google Play, and come back when the credits roll. Or, if you'd rather just crank this baby up to 88 miles per hour and keep reading, get ready for some serious sh*t. How's that for a spoiler warning?

Rhythmic Ceremonial Ritual

In "Back to the Future," 17-year-old Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) is accidentally sent back in time after his eccentric scientist friend Doc Brown (portrayed by the incomparable Christopher Lloyd) is gunned down by terrorists for stealing their plutonium to power his time-traveling DeLorean. After seeking the help of the younger Doc, Marty finds himself stuck in 1955 for a week until the famous Hill Valley Lightning Storm, which can provide a lightning bolt to produce the 1.21 gigawatts of power needed to jumpstart the time machine and send him back to the future.

This would be completely manageable if Marty hadn't accidentally stopped his parents from meeting and falling in love on his way to Doc's house. Now, McFly must play matchmaker with his teenaged parents so he doesn't accidentally erase himself and his siblings from the timeline. In order to do this, he has to make sure that his dad George McFly (who is a budding sci-fi writer and apparently a peeping tom) and his mom Lorraine Baines (who has fallen in love with her son from the future after her dad hit him with the car instead of her future husband) get together at the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance for their first kiss.

My Density Has Brought Me To You

With Marty accidentally stealing the affections of Lorraine, he comes up with a plan for George to win her over. First, he sneaks into George's room one night while dressed in a hazmat suit to scare his father into thinking that an alien wants him to romantically pursue Lorraine. Then, on the night of the dance, George will approach Marty's car and yank him off of Lorraine because he's being extremely inappropriate with her. Finally, George and Lorraine will dance in the gym and share their first kiss, launching them into their happily ever after. Well, some kind of "ever after" that might not be super happy, but it involves Marty still being alive in 1985.

All of this happens, but not in the way that Marty and George originally planned out. Instead of Marty being in the car, George finds bully Biff Tannen in the car with Lorraine instead of Marty. Seeing that she needs help, the young Daddy-O played by Crispin Glover overcomes his fear of Biff and punches him right in the face. With his newfound confidence, George also dispatches another jerk on the dance floor before passionately kissing Lorraine while Marty looks on from the stage as he plays with the band.

In the meantime, Doc Brown prepares the DeLorean and the clock tower to harness the energy from the lightning bolt to power the Flux Capacitor. Once things are wrapped up at the high school, Marty makes it to the town square with just enough time to successfully complete the experiment and return to 1985. (Seriously, this is one of the most thrilling scenes in all of cinematic history. Check it out in its entirety if you've never seen it because this brief paragraph and YouTube clips don't do it justice.)

The Power Of Love

Back in 1985, Marty finds that things have changed for the better. Not only did Doc Brown wear a life-saving bulletproof vest on the night that Marty travels back in time (warned by Marty in a letter that he at first refused to open), but no cars are totaled by Biff, and no weekend at the lake is ruined. All is well at the McFly house. Because George stood up to Biff in 1955, he used the confidence he gained from that experience and the encouraging words of Marty to pursue his dream of writing a science-fiction novel. It's not really explained what else George and Lorraine did in the 30 years since the dance to earn such a glow-up in their house and lives from the beginning of the movie, but the important thing is that they're happy. George is no longer a submissive coward succumbing to Biff's every demand. Lorraine isn't a pessimistic alcoholic. Marty's brother Dave has a higher paying job at an office instead of a fast food joint. Marty's sister Linda has a thriving social life and a mother that supports her and Marty's blossoming romances. And all of these changes can be traced back to one sentence: "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." Well, that sentence and Marty unintentionally changing the past in 1955.

But when you really think about it, that sentence is the center of "Back to the Future," both the first movie and the trilogy as a whole. Originally uttered by Doc Brown, Marty's girlfriend Jennifer reminds him of the phrase when he's feeling down about sending his band's demo tape to a record company after they were rejected by Huey Lewis at the Battle of the Bands. Then Marty brings it up when George is sharing his insecurities about anyone reading his stories. There's even a full circle moment of Marty sharing the mantra with 1955 Doc when he doubts that he discovered time travel in the future. 

At the very core of these movies is the act of building each other up and encouraging your loved ones to live their best lives. It's such a wholesome message that endures for audiences today and beyond. Whether it's writing science-fiction, playing music, or creating time machines, you can do it if you put your mind to it. And if you're worried about what the future holds for you and your dreams, it's never too late to change things up. Just remember what Doc Brown says in "Back to the Future Part III," "Your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one."