Great Scott! How Accurately Back to the Future Part II Predicted the World We Live In

By Katie Hudson, Marine Biology, 2017

On Wednesday October 21, 2015, Marty McFly arrived from the distant past of 1985 to a world of flying cars, hoverboards, cyborgs, and dehydrated Pizza Hut pizza. The film Back to the Future Part II was released in 1989 as a sequel to the 1985 film, Back to the Future, and starred Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as a pair of time-travelers who are constantly trying to undo their actions that catastrophically alter past, future, and alternate timelines.

When the movie was being produced, writer and producer Bob Gale and director Robert Zemecki did not try to accurately predict the future. Instead, they strove to create a future that “audiences would want to visit.” While they missed iPhones, other smartphones, and social media, both Gale and Zemecki were still able to get some things right despite this approach to creating the film.

True hoverboards do not exist like the one that McFly sports throughout the film, but hoverboards with wheels have become an increasingly popular method of transportation, especially in cities and on college campuses. These hoverboards, or more accurately, balance boards, are manufactured by major companies like Segway and have become so popular in such a short time that cities and campuses have been scrambling to regulate them.

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Pieces of Back to the Future's vision of future communication proved accurate

Pieces of Back to the Future’s vision of future communication proved accurate[/caption]

The Future McFly house was home to many of these future technologies that were either spot-on or total flops. Among these technologies, Skype makes an appearance in the scene in which Future McFly is led into a scam that eventually results in him being fired by his boss in his living room moments later. There is a shout-out to the NSA in the same moment when it is revealed that Future McFly’s boss has been monitoring the call. Email, texting, and Facebook message replaced the multitude of fax machines scattered throughout the house as today’s fax machines are few and far between. In addition, Gale and Zemecki predicted the rise of phone/internet/cable mogul AT&T within the same scene.

The filmmakers also predicted the existence of Google Glass. The actual product, however, was not as popular or essential to future life as the movie made it out to be. Smart televisions were also present — Marty McFly Jr. used a voice-activated television similar to many of today’s smart televisions to watch nine programs at once — although whether it was connected to the internet (if the internet even existed in this alternate 2015 world), is still unknown.

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Pepsi caused a sensation by capitalizing on the film’s vision for the future of their product[/caption]

To mark the anniversary of McFly’s trip to the future, not only did film fanatics take to social media, but corporations also took advantage of the event. Nike revealed that it has a patent pending on a self-lacing shoe, like those seen in the film. Several Kickstarter campaigns went live promising real, hovering hoverboards like those used in the film. Pepsi released a limited batch of Pepsi Perfect, a drink seen in the film costing close to $50 a bottle. The limited edition bottles, which originally went for $20.15, sold out within minutes. Bottles like those used in the film can now go for as much as $300.

Despite the filmmakers’ desires to create a world they would like to see instead of one based on 1989 technology like polaroid cameras and the first Mac computer, Gale and Zemecki were able to accurately predict some variations of today’s technology. Now if only they were right about the Chicago Cubs sweeping this year’s World Series…

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