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Back to the Future’s Opening Scene Foreshadows the Film’s Climactic End

Back to the Future largely elevates foreshadowing in the franchise’s films, and the earliest example happened seconds into the first film.

The Back to the Future franchise relies heavily on foreshadowing in its films as the tactic gives audiences a small glimpse into what’s to come later in the movie. This also adds to the re-watch quality of the series as fans can find many instances of foreshadowing that they previously didn’t recognize during the first, second or even third viewing. The earliest instance of the franchise’s foreshadowing was in the original Back to the Future film from 1985 which featured a moment only 58 seconds into the opening scene.

After the opening credits of Back to the Future, the camera pans across Doc Brown’s empty lab. One of the many timepieces cluttered on surfaces and hanging on walls features an image of a man hanging from the hands of the clock. Many viewers might not have noticed that small detail in the scene considering there are various clocks throughout the room, reminding audience members of sleepovers in their grandparents’ homes. There are also a variety of knick-knacks and machinery that rival Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

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The man hanging from the clock easily parallels the iconic scene later in Back to the Future when Doc Brown hangs from the clock tower at the end of the film. Although Doc Brown’s goal was to send Marty into the future at a specific time, the clock stopped at the time needed even though lightning struck a full 60 seconds later. This scene is crucial and sometimes heavily debated for Back to the Future fans as the validity of Doc Brown and Marty’s precision was in question. Putting all the fan theories aside, the foreshadowing of the critical moment is still relevant to the creators’ attention to detail in the film.

Robert Zemeckis co-wrote Back to the Future with Bob Gale in 1980 (inspired by real-life experiences), but they couldn’t find a studio willing to help bring the film to life. The idea was rejected over 40 times because it wasn’t considered raunchy enough to compete in the market at the time. After the major success of the film, it’s now considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time, taking its place in the National Film Registry thanks to the United States Library of Congress. Zemeckis studied at the USC film school and learned a lot about film, especially when it came to following essential rules to storytelling.

RELATED: How Old Is Marty McFly in Back to the Future?

Foreshadowing is one of the essential rules, and Zemeckis took the lesson well as it’s applied to every film he’s written or directed, including the Back to the Future trilogy. As Marty was zapped back into the future, he deals with some of Doc Brown’s other shenanigans before Doc races off into the future. Marty finds that his family is back to the way they were at the start of the film except they’re happier and more satisfied with the present life Marty helped them create. At the end of Back to the Future, Doc returns from the future to warn Marty he needs to travel forward in time to save his children, ramping audiences up for the second installment in the successful franchise.

Madison Diaz has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a minor in writing. Now, she’s in grad school, pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing. Her overall goal in life is to be a writer and eventually publish romance novels. She enjoys reading, writing, and casual gaming. She has a cute senior dog and a cool husband who loves talking with her about comics and wrestling.

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