The time travel paradox of The Back to the Future films

05 March 2023
Ah, Back to the Future - a masterpiece of science fiction that captivates audiences to this day with its intricate plot and endearing characters. At the heart of the film lies the concept of time travel, a fascinating topic that has captured the imagination of storytellers for centuries. 

The movies follow the adventures of Marty McFly, a teenager who travels back in time to various periods in history to change the course of events. However, with time travel come various paradoxes that can cause confusion and make it difficult to understand the story's timeline. In this discussion, we'll explore the time travel paradoxes in each film and how they are resolved.

Like the Chemical Brothers, here we go:

Back to the Future (1985)

The first film in the trilogy introduces the audience to the concept of time travel through a DeLorean time machine. The main paradox in this film revolves around the relationship between Marty and his parents, George and Lorraine McFly. Marty travels back in time to 1955 and accidentally interrupts his parents' first meeting, causing a chain of events that could prevent his own existence. If his parents don't meet, they won't fall in love, and Marty won't be born.

To resolve this paradox, Marty must ensure that his parents meet and fall in love without interfering with the timeline. He succeeds in doing so, but in the process, he accidentally changes other events that could have long-term consequences. He helps his father stand up to his bully, Biff Tannen, but in doing so, he also changes the course of history, making his parents' lives very different from the way they were before. 

However, because he manages to restore the timeline and return to his own time, he avoids creating a paradox.

Or does he? At the end of the movie, Doc comes back in the Delorean, decreeing that Marty "has to go back to the future"...

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The second film in the trilogy takes us back to the future, but it's not the future that Marty left. 

This time, he travels to the year 2015, where he sees a future that's full of technological advancements, but also filled with danger. The main paradox in this film revolves around the "ripple effect" of time travel. Marty buys a sports almanac that lists the outcome of every major sports event from 1950 to 2000, intending to use it to become rich. 

However, the almanac falls into the hands of Biff Tannen, who travels back to 1955 and gives it to his younger self, creating an alternate timeline where Biff becomes wealthy and powerful.

To resolve this paradox, Marty and Doc Brown must travel back to 1955 and retrieve the almanac before Biff can get his hands on it.

However, they arrive in a different 1955, where the events of the first film have been altered, and Biff is now a wealthy and ruthless businessman. Marty must navigate this new timeline to ensure that the almanac is destroyed, and the timeline is restored to its original state. In the end, they manage to destroy the almanac, but not before Biff gets his hands on the DeLorean and travels back to 2015 to create a new alternate timeline.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

The final film in the trilogy takes us back to the Wild West, where Marty must once again prevent a paradox from occurring. 

The main paradox in this film revolves around Doc Brown's fate. After being struck by lightning in the previous film, Doc was transported to 1885, where he has been living for the past 70 years. Marty receives a letter from Doc in 1955, telling him that he's happy living in the past and asking him not to come and rescue him.

To resolve this paradox, Marty decides to travel back to 1885 and save Doc from a premature death. 

He must navigate the dangers of the Wild West, including gunfights and horseback chases, to find Doc and bring him back to the future. 

However, in doing so, Marty accidentally makes things worse by revealing to Doc that he will die in the future. This knowledge causes Doc to fall in love with a woman named Clara, and he decides to stay in the past with her. This decision creates a paradox because if Doc stays in the past, he won't be able to build the time machine, and Marty won't be able to travel back in time to save him.

To resolve this paradox, Marty helps Doc repair the DeLorean and convince Clara to leave with them to the future. However, they face many challenges along the way, including a confrontation with Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, the ancestor of Biff Tannen. In the end, they manage to get back to the future and prevent the paradox from occurring.

The Back to the Future Trilogy is an entertaining and thought-provoking exploration of time travel and its potential consequences. Each film presents a unique paradox that must be resolved to avoid creating a paradox. The films' resolutions are often complex, requiring Marty and Doc to navigate multiple timelines and alter the course of events to avoid causing a paradox. However, in the end, they manage to restore the timeline and return to their own time, avoiding creating a paradox. 

Kinda, we don't pretend to understand it really...


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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