How a ‘Censored’ Version of Back to the Future Part II Made It to Netflix

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part II (1989).
Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future Part II (1989). / Universal Studios

This year marks the 35th anniversary of Back to the Future, the timeless sci-fi comedy classic about a teen named Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) who goes back to 1955 to make sure his parents fall in love. The film was a huge hit, with two sequels, Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, arriving back to back in 1989 and 1990.

All three films are currently streaming on Netflix, but fans may have noticed something amiss about Back to the Future Part II: It was briefly censored.

In the scene where Marty arrives in 2015 and finds a sports almanac, a provocative magazine titled Oh LaLa falls out from the dust jacket. In the Netflix version, the scene cuts away before the cover of the magazine is shown.

Because the film is rated PG, nothing on the cover could be construed as overly titillating. So what happened? Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter Bob Gale said that Universal mistakenly supplied Netflix with a censored version of the film that excised the Oh LaLa cover to be palatable for international distribution. Gale isn’t sure which country found the cover offensive, but said that the edit was made a long time ago without either his authorization or that of director Robert Zemeckis. He was alerted to the change when a fan wrote to say they had noticed and asked why it was made.

Gale said that the error has been corrected and that the version of Back to the Future Part II now streaming on Netflix is unedited.

[h/t Gizmodo]