By at least one measure — the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes — “Back to the Future Part III” is the least popular film in the trilogy. Its audience score is 78% on the site, compared to 94% for the original film and 85% for “Part II.”
Of course, 78% is still a good score, and “Part III” is still a good movie, a satisfying and at-times thrilling ending to the classic series starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as time-traveling buddies Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
“Back to the Future Part III” is currently streaming on Netflix. (It’s the only “Back to the Future” movie available on the service.) Here are a few reasons why it’s worth watching:
It’s easy to follow
At the least, it’s a simpler story than “Part II.” Have you ever tried to explain “Part II” to someone who has never seen it? “Well, Marty and Doc are from 1985, but they fly — yes, fly — into the future to 2015 to save Marty’s kids. Then they go back to 1985 … but it’s not the same 1985 that they remember. So then they travel back to 1955 …” Even Marty is confused in the middle of the movie, forcing Doc to have to explain the plot to him by drawing out the timeline.
By comparison, “Part III” is more straightforward. Marty travels to 1885 to save Doc — now a blacksmith in the Old West — from a fatal shooting at the hands of Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). No drawings necessary.
When Marty travels to 1885 in the DeLorean, the car’s fuel line accidentally rips. No gasoline means he and Doc have to get creative in order to get the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour so that they can return to 1985.
Doc comes up with the idea to hijack a train to push the DeLorean down a track that abruptly ends over a ravine. What results is the film’s climactic scene, which includes one of the most exciting moments in the entire series — a spectacular explosion, Doc and love interest Clara (more on her below) happily reuniting on a hoverboard, and Marty getting back his old life in 1985.
In 1885, Doc meets his “beloved” Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), a schoolteacher with whom it was love at first sight, with the two bonding over their love of science and Jules Verne. Though Doc chooses to follow his brain over his heart by ending things with Clara to return to 1985 (she didn’t believe his story about being from the future; it was a nasty breakup), Clara ultimately decides to follow her heart and chase down the aforementioned train.
Fast forward to the end of the movie, and Doc and Clara have two kids, named Jules and Verne, and a flying, time-traveling train. It’s a happy ending for Doc, who had earlier lamented the fact that he’d invented a time machine that had “caused nothing but disaster.”
You can’t have a “Back to the Future” movie without a Tannen crashing into manure. In “Part III” it’s “Mad Dog” Tannen, ancestor of 1955/1985/2015 pest Biff Tannen. “Mad Dog” loses a showdown to a quick-thinking Marty, who wears a makeshift bulletproof vest. A few punches and “Mad Dog” lands face-first into a cart filled with manure.
“Mad Dog” speaks for generations of the Tannen family when he says afterward, “I hate manure.”
Time travel, romance, an explosion and manure — what more could you want in a movie?