37 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Back to the Future

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Fans of pop culture have undoubtedly watched the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown countless times before. They’ve pored over each time Michael J. Fox’s quintessential 1980s teen travels back in time to 1955 in a souped-up DeLorean created by Christopher Lloyd’s bumbling mad scientist. They’ve memorized all the lines in director Robert Zemeckis and co-screenwriter Bob Gale’s indelible (and Academy Award-nominated) script. But they might not have noticed these tiny details, which you should look out for next time you watch Back to the Future. 

1. DOC BROWN’S CLOCKS ARE ALL PERFECTLY SYNCHRONIZED.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Look at the clocks in Doc Brown’s garage in the opening scene and you'll notice that they're all set 25 minutes behind. One of the clocks features a man hanging from its hands, an allusion to silent comedy star Harold Lloyd’s famous scene from the 1923 film Safety Last. It also foreshadows the later scene where Doc hangs from the Hill Valley clock tower in the same way. Unfortunately the similarities stop there: Christopher and Harold aren’t related.

2. STATLER TOYOTA IS A RUNNING GAG.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A radio ad in the opening scene mentions Statler Toyota, the car dealership with the Toyota 4x4 seen in 1985 Hill Valley's main square (in the improved 1985, Marty later owns the truck).

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

There's also a Statler dealership in every iteration of Hill Valley throughout the Back to the Future trilogy: Honest Joe Statler's Fine Horses in 1885, Statler Studebaker in 1955, and Statler Pontiac in 2015.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK GETS A NOD

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The sticker on the amp Marty plugs into in Doc’s garage says “CRM 114,” which is a nod to director Stanley Kubrick. In Kubrick's films, the CRM-114 Discriminator is a fictional radio device in Dr. Strangelove. It’s also the homophone "Serum 114," the experimental drug given to Alex (Malcolm McDowell) in A Clockwork Orange; and it’s the serial number of the Jupiter explorer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

4. MARTY’S INTO SOVIET ART.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The black and red badge Marty wears on his denim jacket says “Art in Revolution,” which was a Soviet art and design exhibition that was held at London’s Hayward Gallery from February to April in 1971.

5. ROBERT ZEMECKIS GAVE A NOD TO ONE OF HIS OTHER MOVIES.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

As Marty skitches on the fender of a Jeep in the town square, a sign reads “Used Cars,” which is the name of a 1980 movie directed by Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Gale.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The newscaster seen on the TV in the opening sequence is actress Deborah Harmon, who appeared in Used Cars.

6. MAYOR RED THOMAS FELL ON HARD TIMES.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty sees the tramp on the bench in 1985 he shouts out the name “Red,” which could indicate this character is Red Thomas, the mayor of Hill Valley in 1955.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The photo of Thomas on his 1955 reelection campaign is actually Back to the Future’s set decorator, Hal Gausman.

7. THE GUY WHO THINKS MARTY IS "TOO DARN LOUD" PROBABLY LOOKS FAMILIAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The school administrator with the megaphone who chides Marty’s band, The Pinheads, for being too loud is singer Huey Lewis in his first acting role. The scene had an added irony as Lewis made The Pinheads stop playing his own song, “Power of Love,” which appeared on the Back to the Future soundtrack.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty also has a poster for the Huey Lewis & the News album “Sports” in his bedroom, and when Marty wakes up after getting back to the future in the improved 1985, Lewis’s soundtrack song “Back in Time” plays on his alarm clock radio.

8. SOME CREW MEMBERS GOT BACKGROUND SHOUT-OUTS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty and Jennifer walk across the town square parking lot after his failed audition, a license plate on a green car in the background reads 'FOR MARY,' which is a nod to Mary Radford, the PA to the film’s second unit director Frank Marshall.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Another reference to one of the crew can be seen on a poster on the wall of the high school in 1955, which reads 'Ron Woodward for Senior Class President.' Ronald T. Woodward was the film’s key grip, and had previously worked with Zemeckis on Romancing the Stone.

9. HILL VALLEY’S DIRTY MOVIES STARRED A REAL LIFE BACK TO THE FUTURE ACTOR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Hill Valley’s Essex movie theater is playing the movie, Orgy American Style in 1985, and that isn’t just some set decoration. It’s a real 1973 pornographic film starring George 'Buck' Flower, the actor who plays Red in Back to the Future.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The Town Theatre, Hill Valley’s other cinema (which is turned into a church in 1985) is showing a 1954 Mickey Rooney film called The Atomic Kid in 1955—just before Marty goes back to the future.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

10. UNCLE ‘JAILBIRD’ JOEY IS USED TO BEING BEHIND BARS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Lorraine serves the family a cake for Marty’s unseen uncle Joey in 1985, which was supposed to celebrate his freedom from prison before he didn’t make parole.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Joey’s penchant for the slammer is brought up again when Marty sees baby Joey in 1955 when his mother says, “Joey just loves being in his playpen. He cries whenever we take him out so we just leave him in there all the time.”

11. THE MCFLYS LOVE MEATLOAF.


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty’s dinner when he arrives home in 1985 is the same dish Lorraine and her family eat when he meets them in 1955. Marty technically eats the same dinner two nights in a row in two different years. In early drafts of the script, Marty hated meatloaf.

12. LORRAINE LAYS OUT THE PLOT.

During the 1985 dinner, Lorraine essentially lays out the plot of the entire movie. Linda asks, “How am I supposed to ever meet anybody?” and Lorraine responds, “Well, it will just happen. Like the way I met your father.” Then Linda responds, “That was so stupid, Grandpa hit him with the car,” to which Lorraine says, “It was meant to be. Anyway, if Grandpa hadn't hit him, then none of you would have been born.”

Based on Marty’s time traveling, with his brother and sister disappearing from a photo he keeps in his pocket, this is exactly what he’s trying to fix.

13. THE MCFLYS ARE BIG FANS OF THE HONEYMOONERS.

The 1985 McFlys watch the same episode of The Honeymooners as the 1955 McFlys. The episode, entitled “The Man From Space,” foreshadows the moment when Marty dresses up to scare George into taking Lorraine out on a date. The episode actually aired on December 31, 1955, which is over a month after Marty travels to the past on November 5, 1955. Oops!

14. MARTY LOVES PEPSI FREE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The caffeine-free soft drink, which was phased out in real life in 1987, can be seen on Marty’s headboard when he wakes up late for Doc’s experiment, and he then tries to order one from the bewildered owner of Lou’s Cafe in 1955.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

He also has trouble opening an old-fashioned capped bottle of Pepsi at the Hill Valley gas station, but George helps him. It was likely that Marty would even have trouble opening a bottle in 1985—twist-off caps weren’t invented until 1988.

15. WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE MALL?

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty shows up to witness Doc’s science experiment at the Twin Pines Mall, but when he returns later after going back to the future, it’s the Lone Pine Mall. That’s because Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody’s dual pine trees on the 1955 farmland where the mall is located in 1985. In real life it’s actually Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California.

16. ZEMECKIS AND GALE MUST LOVE THE NUMBERS ONE AND 21.

When Einstein the dog is sent a minute into the future, his stopwatch indicates that one minute and 20 seconds has elapsed. Einstein also reappears at 1:21a.m. using the 1.21 gigawatts of energy from the Flux Capacitor.

17. DOC’S BUMPER STICKER IS PROPHETIC.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

It reads: "One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day," which is appropriate since the plot of the movie hinges on stolen plutonium that results in Doc's death. The nuclear reaction needed to generate 1.21 gigawatts really did ruin his day.

18. DOC DROPS A HINT FOR BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II.

During the experiment, Doc tells Marty, "I've always dreamed of seeing the future, looking beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind. I'll also be able to see who wins the next 25 World Series.”

This ends up being a plot point in the sequel when 1955 Biff strikes it rich with knowledge gained from the Grays Sports Almanac stolen from 2015.

19. DOC’S GUN LOOKS FAMILIAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The pearl-handled handgun Doc uses to try to shoot the Libyans in the mall parking lot is the same pistol he uses at the drive-in theater to time Marty’s trip to the old west in Back to the Future Part III. Maybe it jams because it’s a 30-year-old gun?

20. THERE'S A ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE HOMAGE.

His name isn’t said out loud, but Old Man Peabody’s son is credited as “Sherman,” a direct reference to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the time-traveling cartoon duo from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which first aired in 1959.

21. SHERMAN IS A FAN OF SOME CLASSIC COMIC BOOKS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The fictional Tales from Space comic book Sherman uses to explain the time machine to his father sports the logo of legendary Tales from the Crypt publisher EC Comics.

22. ROY’S RECORDS DID SOME TIME TRAVELING, TOO.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty drops in on 1955 Hill Valley he first sees Cattle Queen of Montana on the Essex theater marquee, a 1954 film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan—a great set-up to Doc’s befuddled reaction to the future president a few scenes later. Marty also spots Roy’s Records with four album advertisements in the window.

One is the 1954 reissue of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” but the other three are anachronisms: The Chordettes’s self-titled compilation wasn’t released until 1959, “Eydie in Dixieland” by Eydie Gorme wasn’t released until 1959, and “In the Land of Hi-Fi” by Patti Page wasn’t released until 1956.

23. HILL VALLEY’S PHONE BOOK NEEDS A COPY EDITOR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 1955 phone book spells Doc’s name wrong—it should be Emmett, not “Emmet.” At least they get his occupation right!

24. DOC BROWN LIVES IN AN ARTS AND CRAFTS MASTERPIECE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Doc’s original house at 1640 Riverside Drive (or John F. Kennedy Drive if it’s 1985) is actually a historic landmark in Pasadena, California called the Gamble House. Designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene for James Gamble of Procter and Gamble fame, it’s a prime example of the Arts and Crafts architectural movement made famous in the late 19th century.

25. DOC'S GARAGE IS OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A newspaper clipping in the opening scene says Doc’s mansion somehow mysteriously burned down and the surrounding land was sold off, which is why he’s resorted to living in the property’s old garage at 1646 John F. Kennedy Drive in 1985.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Later, Doc tells Marty, “It's taken me almost 30 years and my entire family fortune to realize the [time machine],” so we can infer that Doc, along with the proceeds from selling off the surrounding land, burned down his mansion to collect the insurance money to fund the creation of time machine.

26. DOC KEEPS HIS MENTORS CLOSE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The same framed photos of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Edison above Doc Brown’s mantel in 1955 can be seen above his bed in the retrofitted garage bungalow in 1985.

27. THAT FANTASTIC STORY IS REAL.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The issue of Fantastic Story Magazine we see next to a sleeping George when Marty wakes him up as Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan is genuine: It’s the Fall 1954 issue. It cost 25 cents. Marty’s yellow alien getup will eventually inspire the cover art character for George’s 1985 book, “A Match Made in Space.”

28. (EDWARD) VAN HALEN IS ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GUITAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The tape Marty uses to scare George is an actual uncredited solo by guitarist Eddie Van Halen. The band Van Halen wouldn’t allow their name or music to be used in the film (thus the added “Edward” on the label), but the guitarist allegedly gave Zemeckis an outtake to use from a song called “Donut City” he created for the score for the 1984 film The Wild Life.

29. BIFF AND HIS ANCESTORS ARE USED TO MANURE THROUGH THE AGES.

The Statlers aren’t the only multi-generational small  business owners in Hill Valley. Biff has run-ins with D. Jones Manure Hauling trucks in 1955 in the original movie and Part II, while Mad Dog Tannen falls into an A. Jones Manure Hauling truck in 1885 in Part III.

30. DOC NEVER BUILDS HIS MODELS TO SCALE.

When Doc runs Marty through his time machine plan with models in the garage in his 1955 garage laboratory, he says, “I didn't have time to build it to scale.” When Doc says the same line in Part III (with the same car toy model), Marty finishes his sentence by saying, “Yeah, I know, Doc. It’s not to scale.”

31. DOC’S INJURIES ARE IMPORTANT TO TIME TRAVEL.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The bandage on Doc’s forehead when Marty shows up to his house in 1955 is from his eureka moment of his idea of the Flux Capacitor when he fell and hit his head in the bathroom while hanging a clock. The toilet is later seen in Part II when Marty returns to 1955 for the second time.

32. DOC SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON HIS OTHER INVENTION THAT DIDN’T WORK.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The time machine wasn’t Doc’s only invention. Schematics for Doc’s faulty brainwave machine can be seen strewn across his house and garage. Marty later wears Doc’s brainwave machine in Part III.

33. THAT MAN ON THE BIKE MIGHT LOOK FAMILIAR.

'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The guy riding by Doc and Marty in 1955 as the former tells him not to tell him what happens in the future just before the lightning storm looks kind of like Doc...because he is Doc. This is 1985 Doc Brown who meets his younger self in Part II.

34. MARTY MIMICS MORE THAN JUST CHUCK BERRY AT THE ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA DANCE.

Marty essentially invents rock ‘n roll music by mimicking Chuck Berry to his fictional cousin, Marvin Berry. But he also shocks the teeny boppers of 1955 Hill Valley by kicking over the speakers as a homage to The Who’s Pete Townshend, and he also plays his guitar lying down like Angus Young of AC/DC.

35. SOMEONE REALLY NEEDS TO FIX THE DELOREAN’S STARTER.

When he gets to 1955, Marty has to get rid of the DeLorean because, as he tells Doc, “Something [was] wrong with the starter, so I hid it.” This explains why the DeLorean suddenly stops working just as he’s about to go back to the future in the climax of the movie.

36. MARTY REMEMBERS DOC’S BULLETPROOF VEST TRICK.

Doc reads Marty’s ripped-up note in 1955, knowing he’ll die in 1985 unless he wears a bulletproof vest against the Libyans. Doc’s life-saving vest maneuver foreshadows Marty’s own makeshift bulletproof vest (made out of an iron stove cover) in Part III.

37. THE CLOCKTOWER LEDGE IS A LITTLE WORSE FOR WEAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Doc does permanent damage to the clocktower ledge during the lightning storm in 1955, which wasn’t there in the initial 1985 timeline, but can be seen still damaged in the improved 1985 at the end of the movie.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the New Streaming Service

What will you binge-watch first?
What will you binge-watch first?
WarnerMedia

This week, WarnerMedia launched HBO Max, the long-awaited streaming platform that the company hopes can compete with the likes of Netflix and Disney+. But with HBO GO and HBO NOW already in existence, the addition of a third platform for HBO content has caused no small amount of confusion among both prospective customers and current HBO subscribers. Here are answers to all your burning questions about the buzzworthy new service.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is a direct-to-consumer streaming platform that you can download as an app or access through your cable or internet provider. Just like Apple has Apple TV+ and Amazon has Prime Video, WarnerMedia now has HBO Max.

How is HBO Max different from HBO NOW and HBO GO?

hbo max streaming platform
This user's viewing habits are eclectic, to say the least.
WarnerMedia

Before HBO Max, WarnerMedia had two different apps with the same library of HBO series and certain Warner Bros. films. HBO GO is for viewers who already pay for HBO through their cable TV provider, which is why you have to log in through your TV provider. HBO NOW is for independent subscribers who pay $15 a month for access to the same content. In other words, HBO GO is for customers with cable, and HBO NOW is for those without it.

Like HBO NOW, HBO Max is an independent subscription service that you don’t need a TV provider in order to access. The main difference comes down to content: While HBO NOW and HBO GO only include HBO series and some films, HBO Max offers tons of additional shows and films licensed from other distributors—plus new, exclusive originals (more on that in a minute).

How much does HBO Max cost, and how do I get it?

You can sign up for HBO Max here. Your first seven days will be free, and it will cost you $15 per month after that.

Do I already have access to HBO Max?

If you’re already an HBO NOW subscriber, your app should have automatically updated to the HBO Max app (if you don’t have automatic updates enabled, make sure to update it manually), and you can log into HBO Max using your existing HBO NOW credentials. Your recurring monthly payment of $15 will also now automatically start applying to HBO Max instead of HBO NOW.

If you watch HBO through your TV or mobile provider, there’s a good chance you can access HBO Max at no additional cost, too. Apple TV channels, AT&T TV, DIRECTV, Hulu, Spectrum, Verizon FIOS, Xfinity, and many other providers are included—you can see the full list here.

Which platforms will HBO Max be on?

You can stream HBO Max on your desktop on HBOMax.com, or you can download the app through the Apple app store, Google Play, or Samsung TV. You can also access HBO Max content on your TV through any of the providers listed here.

What's playing on HBO Max?

hbo max channel hubs
Elmo and James Dean in the same place, at last.
WarnerMedia

HBO Max boasts 10,000 hours of content that includes all HBO shows, many Warner Bros. films from the past century, new Max Original series, and other programs from CNN, Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, TCM, Adult Swim, and more.

To name a few highlights, the service currently offers all eight Harry Potter films, all 10 seasons of Friends, an exclusive selection of Studio Ghibli classics like Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) and Spirited Away (2002), and 2019’s Joker. The first few episodes of some highly-anticipated Max Originals are also available, including Anna Kendrick’s rom-com series Love Life, the voguing house reality competition Legendary, and Sesame Workshop's The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo (featuring guests Kacey Musgraves, John Mulaney, the Jonas Brothers, Lil Nas X, and more—so far).

Will I get to see the Friends Reunion?

Yes, the Friends reunion will definitely debut on HBO Max, but no air date has been confirmed yet. Production was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re tentatively hoping to film it sometime this summer. (But hey, at least you have access to all the other Friends episodes to help you pass the time.)