Highly Recommended 4.5 Stars

To celebrate its 35th anniversary, Universal has released Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy on 4K UHD Blu-ray with greatly improved transfers and excitingly immersive Dolby Atmos mixes.

Back to the Future (1985)
Released: 03 Jul 1985
Rated: PG
Runtime: 116 min
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
Writer(s): Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Plot: Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the eccentric scientist Doc Brown.
IMDB rating: 8.5
MetaScore: 87

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG
Run Time: Back to the Future: 1 Hr. 56 Min., Back to the Future Part II: 1 Hr. 48 Min., Back to the Future Part III: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: 7-disc UHD "Discbook" packaging
Disc Type: UHD
Region: A
Release Date: 10/20/2020
MSRP: $55.98

The Production: 4/5

Back to the Future: 4.5 out of 5
Back to the Future, Part II: 4 out of 5
Back to the Future, Part III: 3.5 out of 5

The 1980s. A time of Reaganomics, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, the fall of communism, the rise of commercialism, the beginnings of the video revolution, and the birth of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Amblin produced some of the decade’s biggest and most memorable hit movies, such as GremlinsThe GooniesWho Framed Roger Rabbit, and Back to the Future.

Originally conceived as a stand-alone film by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Back to the Future is a highly entertaining time-travel fantasy where teenager Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is accidentally transported from 1985 to 1955, and through a mishap must get his parents to meet and fall in love, or else he will be erased from existence. The film is an excellent example (and lesson for budding filmmakers) on how to setup, deliver, and payoff sight gags and jokes (pay close attention to the opening title sequence), as well as the use of pop-culture references (designer underwear, Libyan terrorists, diet soda, etc.) that still manage to keep the film from becoming dated. Back to the Future also contains at least three career-defining roles in Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly, Christopher Lloyd’s eccentric Doc Brown, and Thomas F. Wilson’s dim-witted bully Biff Tannen. Although the cliffhanger ending was originally intended as a joke, the film’s success and continued popularity brought about the announcement of a sequel when Back to the Future was first released on VHS and Beta in the Spring of 1986, with the addition of the words To Be Continued prior to the closing credits.

In 1989, fans were excited to hear that not one, but two sequels were being produced, set to be released in November 1989 and May 1990. In an homage to the serials of the 1930s and 1940s, Back to the Future, Part II begins with the final scene from the first film, but with additional footage. Apparently, Biff witnessed Doc Brown, Marty, and Jennifer fly off into the sky in the time-travelling DeLorean just as it jumps into the future. When they arrive in 2015, Biff sees the DeLorean again, and after overhearing Doc Brown’s lecture to Marty for purchasing a Sports Almanac and how it could affect the space-time continuum, he steals the time machine and sets off a chain reaction that turns 1985 Hill Valley into a corrupt, polluted, and crime-ridden town controlled by Biff himself. Doc and Marty realize they must travel back to 1955 to stop Biff from using the Sports Almanac to build his future empire. Back to the Future, Part II is perhaps one of the most original sequels, by daring to revisit the first film from a different point of view. Bob Gale’s screenplay builds on what worked in the first film, adding in more pop-culture references and introducing gags that ultimately won’t pay off until the third installment. Director Robert Zemeckis keeps the pace brisk, but also brings a lot of the visual effects wizardry that Ken Ralston developed for Who Framed Roger Rabbit to not only allow an actor to be onscreen multiple times, but also interact within the frame. Part II ends with a cliffhanger, with the words To Be Concluded, but also a brief teaser trailer for Back to the Future, Part III.

The third installment opens with Marty stranded in 1955, receiving a letter from Doc Brown dated 1885, with instructions on where to find the DeLorean so he can return home to 1985. But Marty has other ideas, and instead time travels to 1885 to rescue Doc Brown from the old west and bring both of them back to 1985. Mary Steenburgen is sweet and enduring as Clara, Doc Brown’s love interest and Hill Valley’s school teacher, and is a welcome addition to the cast. At times, Back to the Future, Part III feels like an excuse by Gale and Zemeckis to make a western, the pacing is much slower than the previous films, and feels overly long. It is still an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the saga yet pales in comparison.

The Back to the Future series has had its own influences on pop-culture. The DeLorean is almost always associated with time travel, as is traveling at 88 miles per hour with a flux capacitor. A Season 3 episode of the television series Castle included references to the films. After 35 years, the films are just as popular as they were when they were first released.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

For the 35th anniversary, Universal has created new 4K scans for each film and the UHD release includes HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision high dynamic range. The results are simply spectacular, with each film looking better then it ever has, possibly including their original theatrical releases. The first film looks the best here, mostly because it contains the fewest number of visual effects shots and those employed optical printing, while the two sequels (especially Part II) utilized multiple exposure and bluescreen shots in which many were then composited digitally at a lower resolution (which was normal for the time). Detail is exceptional on all three (making some of those low-res effects shots stand out more), noticeable from the opening credits of the first film, where the various company logos of the devices are clearly legible (the General Electric coffee maker that has an Intermatic timer attached). While some may note a slightly darker picture, the previous Blu-ray and DVD releases appear overly bight in comparison. The use of HDR really helps give the image more depth, allowing for deeper blacks that provide great shadow details and brighter whites that also add depth particularly to the opening credit sequence on Part II as the camera flies through several patches of clouds. All three movies now look more film-like than on previous home video releases. Many of you are asking if the included Blu-rays are newly mastered or the same discs as previous editions. Although at first glance, both at the labels and content on the liner notes, you could easily think these are the same discs. I can safely say that they are not. All three discs share the newer menu design Universal uses on physical media, and these discs also share much of the same video qualities as the UHD discs, just a tad softer with less-impressive contrast and color, but a definite improvement over the 30th and 25th anniversary Blu-ray releases.

Audio: 5/5

The Back to the Future movies have never sounded better as they do on these Dolby Atmos mixes (which unfortunately are exclusive to the UHD versions, as the DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks were sadly carried over on the Blu-ray editions). This is evident during the opening title sequence of the first movie, as ticking clocks can be heard coming from all over the room, and those sounds move seamlessly as the camera pans across the menagerie of timepieces and machinery. This full immersion continues throughout the entire trilogy, with school bells seemingly chiming overhead, various guitar riffs during Huey Lewis’ Power of Love are more expansive, gun shots and explosions (particularly when the DeLorean time jumps) have more impact, the complete anarchy of downtown Hill Valley in “Biff-horrific” 1985 is even more out of control, not to mention other atmospheric effects in the Old West in Part III. The signature score by Alan Silvestri also has more depth, spreading the large orchestra all around you. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout.

Special Features: 4/5

Each movie disc on both UHD and Blu-ray contain the same features found on the movie discs from the 30th anniversary release. Notably missing are the Back to the Future: The Animated Series complete series DVDs and the 64-page Back to the Future: A Visual History softcover book from The Complete Adventures edition. All seven discs (3 UHD, 4 Blu-ray) are housed in Universal’s usual “discbook” packaging that I really wish the studio would stop using, as discs will either fall out or fall through (as they have in my Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection set) or are difficult to remove as they are in this set.

Back to the Future Disc (UHD and Blu-ray, except where noted)
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 10:45): with optional commentary by Bob Gale

Tales From “The Future:” In the Beginning… (1080p; 27:25)

Tales From “The Future:” Time to Go (1080p; 29:54)

Tales From “The Future:” Keeping Time (1080p; 5:44)

The Making of “Back to the Future” (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 14:28)

Making the Trilogy: Chapter One (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 15:30)

“Back to the Future” Night (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 27:11)

Michael J. Fox Q & A (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 10:16)

Original Makeup Tests upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 2:17)

Outtakes (1080p): Includes deleted scene She’s Cheating (1:08) and Outtakes (2:50)

Nuclear Test Site Sequence (1080p; 4:12): Storyboards with optional commentary by Bob Gale

Photo Galleries (1080p): Blu-ray only

Huey Lewis and the News Power of Love Music Video (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 6:27)

Theatrical Teaser Trailer (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:24)

Join Team Fox (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 6:04)

Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale

Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Back to the Future Part II Disc (UHD and Blu-ray, except where noted)
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 5:46): with optional commentary by Bob Gale

Tales From “The Future:” Time Flies (1080p; 28:36)

The Physics of “Back to the Future” with Dr. Michio Kaku (1080p; 8:24)

The Making of “Back to the Future Part II” (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 6:40)

Making the Trilogy: Chapter Two (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 15:30)

Outtakes (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 0:49)

Production Design (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 2:55)

Storyboarding (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:31)

Designing the DeLorean (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 3:32)

Designing Time Travel (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 2:41)

Hoverboard Test (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:05)

Evolution of Visual Effects Shots ( upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 5:42)

Photo Galleries (1080p): Blu-ray only

Theatrical Trailer (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 2:21)

Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale

Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Back to the Future Part III Disc (UHD and Blu-ray, except where noted)
Deleted Scene (1080p; 1:18): with optional commentary by Bob Gale

Tales From “The Future:” Third Time’s the Charm (1080p; 17:07)

Tales From “The Future:” The Test of Time (1080p; 16:59)

The Making of “Back to the Future Part III” (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 7:31)

Making the Trilogy: Chapter Three (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 16:19)

The Secrets of the “Back to the Future” Trilogy (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 20:40)

Outtakes (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:35)

Designing the Town of Hill Valley (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:08)

Designing the Campaign (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 1:17)

Photo Galleries (1080p): Blu-ray only

ZZ Top Doubleback Music Video (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 4:07)

FAQ’s About the Trilogy (2160p on UHD, 1080p on Blu-ray)

Theatrical Trailer (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 2:17)

“Back to the Future:” The Ride (upscaled 1080p on UHD, 480i on Blu-ray; 31:00)

Q&A Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis and Producer Bob Gale

Feature Commentary with Producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton

Bonus Disc (Blu-ray)
**NEW** The Hollywood Museum goes “Back to the Future” (1080p; 10:17): The old Max Factor Building in Hollywood has been transformed into a movie museum, and Bob Gale takes us on a tour of the museum’s Back to the Future exhibit.

**NEW** “Back to the Future: The Musical” Behind the Scenes: Cast and Creative Q&A (1080p; 28:15): Wes Butters of Hits Radio in Manchester moderates a Q&A session with Bob Gale, Christopher Lloyd, Musical Producer Colin Ingram, and cast members Olly Dobson (Marty McFly) and Roger Bart (Doc Brown).

**NEW** “Back to the Future: The Musical” Behind the Scenes: “Gotta Start Somewhere” Music Video (1080i; 2:33)

**NEW** “Back to the Future: The Musical” Behind the Scenes: “Put Your Mind To It” Music Video (1080i; 2:59)

**NEW** An Alternate Future: Lost Audition Tapes (1080p; 3:45): See auditions by Billy Zane and Peter DeLuise as Biff Tannen; Kyra Sedgewick as Jennifer Parker; C. Thomas Howell, Jon Cryer, ad Ben Stiller as Marty McFly.

**NEW** Could You Survive the Movies?: “Back to the Future” (1080p; 19:47): A special episode of the YouTube Original series explores some of the science from the original Back to the Future.

2015 Message From Doc Brown (1080p; 0:45)

Doc Brown Saves the World! (1080p; 9:38)

Outatime: Restoring the DeLorean (1080p; 22:00)

Looking Back to the Future (480i; 45:42)

“Back to the Future: The Animated Series” (480i): The premier episodes for seasons one and two are included – Brothers (23:24) and Mac the Black (23:08). Look for a special appearance by Bill Nye, the Science Guy at the end of both episodes.

2015 Commercials (1080p; 2:34): Trailer parody for Jaws 19 and a hoverboard commercial.

Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy of all three films (in UHD where available). On the reverse you will find a code to redeem for points or a free digital movie at Universal All-Access Rewards.

Overall: 4.5/5

Universal has done an excellent job with these new 4K transfers of the Back to the Future Trilogy, although I found it disappointing that the new Blu-ray discs did not have Dolby Atmos, and that the studio continues to use their “discbook” packaging for their multi-disc sets. Otherwise, this set is Highly Recommended.

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Todd Erwin

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Jake Lipson

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Thank you @Todd Erwin. I'm looking forward to getting my copy in the mail tomorrow.

Incidentally, the discbook packaging is a major part of the reason why I was willing to pay the significant premium for the steelbooks from Best Buy. Even though I don't expect to go 4K and could have saved a lot by just getting the new Blu-rays on their own, the extra security is important to me. They provide a way to get this set with secure packaging for the discs, but people will pay a lot more for it. Best Buy is charging $65 for that set. Here is the direct link in case anyone wants it.


I do like the steelbook artwork too, and if if I'm wrong and we go 4K, then I won't have to buy these again. But that possibility is so remote that I only do this for a handful of titles. BTTF is going to be worth it though.
 
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JackieT

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I just found my 25th anniversary blu discs that offered digital copies but it's from some defunct digital system that made you copy the disc from pc or something like that and then u could watch on a smartphone or tablet it says. Wish I could figure out how to convert them to digital.
 

Mark Booth

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Thanks, Todd! Damn, I'm going to have a tough time sleeping tonight knowing what is coming tomorrow. Like a kid on Christmas Eve!

IMHO, BTTF is the finest film trilogy ever made. I have individual films that I rate over BTTF but, when it comes to a trilogy, BTTF gets my vote. Yes, even over Star Wars or Indiana Jones.

Mark
 

Jake Lipson

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Wish I could figure out how to convert them to digital.

I'm not sure what you mean. They are already digital. They redeem directly at iTunes/Apple using their software.

If you want to get them into your Movies Anywhere account, redeem them at iTunes and then link iTunes with your Movies Anywhere account once that's done. It should then transfer to any other Movies Anywhere retailer(s) with which you have an account.
 

Sam Posten

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I'm not sure what you mean. They are already digital. They redeem directly at iTunes/Apple using their software.

If you want to get them into your Movies Anywhere account, redeem them at iTunes and then link iTunes with your Movies Anywhere account once that's done. It should then transfer to any other Movies Anywhere retailer(s) with which you have an account.

It's probably an XML disk. It's a dead format that required you to put the disk into a computer bluray reader to redeem. It was a monstrous pain in the ass and died a quick death.
 

JackieT

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Yes, it was like that. Needed a BD player in a laptop to convert to digital. I didn't even recognize the name of the company who created it. It was during the infancy of digital.
 

Jake Lipson

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It's probably an XML disk.

Right. I should have been more clear. I remember those (and I have also have that edition.). What I meant was that even though it was XML, it does redeem as a digital copy, so using Jackie's term, they shouldn't need to be "converted" to digital. It's annoying and made the case unnecessarily bulky because each film got its own separate digital copy disc in addition to the Blu-ray. But it did give you digital copies as it was advertised to do.
 

Osato

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Great review.

My iTunes versions of the films note that they have atmos.
 

Todd Erwin

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I just found my 25th anniversary blu discs that offered digital copies but it's from some defunct digital system that made you copy the disc from pc or something like that and then u could watch on a smartphone or tablet it says. Wish I could figure out how to convert them to digital.
It's probably an XML disk. It's a dead format that required you to put the disk into a computer bluray reader to redeem. It was a monstrous pain in the ass and died a quick death.
Yes, it was like that. Needed a BD player in a laptop to convert to digital. I didn't even recognize the name of the company who created it. It was during the infancy of digital.
Right. I should have been more clear. I remember those (and I have also have that edition.). What I meant was that even though it was XML, it does redeem as a digital copy, so using Jackie's term, they shouldn't need to be "converted" to digital. It's annoying and made the case unnecessarily bulky because each film got its own separate digital copy disc in addition to the Blu-ray. But it did give you digital copies as it was advertised to do.
I had that set, too, on DVD, and tried to redeem those codes a few years back, only to find that they had actually expired.

In addition to the painstaking process of having to decrypt the DVD-Rom that held the digital copy and keeping it on a hard drive, when Apple joined Movies Anywhere, those codes were redeemed through the MA system as SD, although a fluke allowed many of those codes to redeem as HD, until it was caught and stopped. MA made the wise decision to allow those codes to remain as HD, although in my case I did have one movie revert back to SD, I'm guessing during an audit at Apple. Apple refused to revert it back to HD, claiming it should never have been HD in the first place.
 

Jake Lipson

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That's ridiculous. It should at least give you more points than that because the price of these is substantially higher.

This is why I don't bother with rewards programs other than Disney. I did get a few free digital movies from Universal a while back when all you had to do is buy one disc to get a free movie. But now that you have to earn points to get free things, I'll pass. The only studio from which I consistently buy enough discs to build up enough points is Disney. I certainly will buy discs from other studios, but not often enough to keep track of it or make redeeming the points worthwhile.
 

Todd Erwin

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That's ridiculous. It should at least give you more points than that because the price of these is substantially higher.

This is why I don't bother with rewards programs other than Disney. I did get a few free digital movies from Universal a while back when all you had to do is buy one disc to get a free movie. But now that you have to earn points to get free things, I'll pass. The only studio from which I consistently buy enough discs to build up enough points is Disney. I certainly will buy discs from other studios, but not often enough to keep track of it or make redeeming the points worthwhile.
Technically, you still get a free movie when you buy new releases on Blu or UHD, usually either 1000 or 1200 points for redeeming the code with the free movie costing 1000 points.
 

DanH1972

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On BTTF 1, there appears to be a transfer glitch with chroma errors that lasts approx 10-15 minutes long in one section of the film... about the length of one reel of 35mm film. It's being reported on by the eagle eyes over at the Blu-ray forum.
 

Todd Erwin

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On BTTF 1, there appears to be a transfer glitch with chroma errors that lasts approx 10-15 minutes long in one section of the film... about the length of one reel of 35mm film. It's being reported on by the eagle eyes over at the Blu-ray forum.
Like any major catalog release, someone is bound to complain about something. In many cases, especially with a movie of this vintage, people tend to remember things differently, plus the fact that the previous Blu-ray releases contained much more DNR than these new transfers. It could be a settings issue, it could be bad memory, it could be something that was always there in the source but not visible until now.
 

Britton

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On BTTF 1, there appears to be a transfer glitch with chroma errors that lasts approx 10-15 minutes long in one section of the film... about the length of one reel of 35mm film. It's being reported on by the eagle eyes over at the Blu-ray forum.

I don’t have the disc but I pulled up the 4K version on Apple TV and yeah, I see what is being referred to. I go to Blu-ray.com a fair amount and I had a good idea about which member found it. His description is pretty spot on. The video in that portion of the movie does have sort of a smeary look like you’d see on analog video.

He did note it is present on the remastered Blu-ray as well, but it is not an issue with the Blu-ray released in 2010.

I am still waiting for my order from Target and I don’t plan to cancel. Hopefully someone lets Universal know and maybe there is a fix (assuming this was an error and not something baked into the source material), but I don’t consider this to be an error like the folded down mono track from Psycho.
 
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TallPaulInKy

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I just got an email about this Wal-Mart price drop on the new Trilogy. Blu Ray and digital code package.
Was $39.98
$27.99
Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy