Bob Gale Explains That the Plot Hole in ‘Back to the Future’ Isn’t One

Back to the Future is such a cultural milestone that it’s still totally ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist today despite being 35 years old. Back to the Future came out so long ago that we’re already past the future Marty went to in the second movie and if it came out today, Marty’s trip back to when his parents were teenagers would take him to 1990, five years after the movie came out.

But still, I’d wager your first thought when you see a DeLorean is “time machine.”

Everyone was talking about Back to the Future today because James Gunn described it as a “perfect film,” one with no flaws or mistakes.

Gunn pointed out, in that very tweet, the thing that people have been calling a plot hole for years; the parents don’t notice Marty looks just like their friend Calvin Klein from high school.

In light of the ensuing Twitter argument, Bob Gale, the writer of Back to the Future, wrote to The Hollywood Reporter to explain why this isn’t, in fact, a plot hole.

Gale, the screenwriter for Back to the Future, settled the debate once and for all on Wednesday, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Bear in mind that George and Lorraine only knew Marty/Calvin for six days when they were 17, and they did not even see him every one of those six days. So, many years later, they still might remember that interesting kid who got them together on their first date.”

He continued, “But I would ask anyone to think back on their own high school days and ask themselves how well they remember a kid who might have been at their school for even a semester. Or someone you went out with just one time. If you had no photo reference, after 25 years, you’d probably have just a hazy recollection.”

Concluded Gale, “So Lorraine and George might think it funny that they once actually met someone named Calvin Klein, and even if they thought their son at age 16 or 17 had some resemblance to him, it wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d bet most of us could look thru our high school yearbooks and find photos of our teen-aged classmates that bear some resemblance to our children.”

Yeah, it’s basically the same conclusion anyone would have gotten to had they thought about it. I haven’t been out of high school for nearly as long as Marty’s parents and I can’t even remember how one the girls I dated spelled her name, much less remember the face of someone I met like, three times. We, the audience, saw Marty leave his parents in 1955 and then pop into the kitchen in 1985 a few minutes later. For the characters in the film, 30 years had passed and they watched Marty grow up in those years.

And come to think of it, the movie wouldn’t make sense if it happened today and Marty’s past was 1990 because Doc Brown would be able to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity needed to power the flux capacitor without a lightning strike. Also, no one would let Michael J Fox drive today.

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3 years ago

Yeah, I’ve had the same thought about other movies where someone shows up where he shouldn’t because of time travel or returning from the dead as a vampire or whatever. Even if you noticed a resemblance, you’d probably brush it off. Like, my father died a few years ago. If I saw someone walking down the street who looked exactly like him, I really doubt I’d say, “Zounds! My father has come back from the dead!” More likely I’d say something like, “Huh, that guy looks a little like my father.” I saw a movie once where a queen wanted… Read more »

3 years ago

I always thought that crashing the locomotive in the third movie was a really big plot hole. That surely messed up the timeline. It was also unnecessary. While they blew up the engine in the Delorean, it could have been fixed, and with Tannen in jail, there was no rush to leave. Doc’s comment about no gas being available wasn’t right. It was out there as a byproduct of petroleum. Besides, with the Mr. Fusion available Doc could have built an electric motor to power the car.