Back to the Future Fan Theory Suggests the Trilogy is an Elaborate Chiasmus

YouTube / YouTube

Great Scott! Millions of moviegoers consider Back to the Future to be one of the most entertaining film trilogies of all time. With that many fans yearning for hoverboards and flux capacitors, it's a given that more than a few bizarre fan theories are bound to pop up—like the one that claims Doc Brown was suicidal. But one intricate idea, known as "The Lockard Theory," suggests that the Back to the Future trilogy is actually an extremely complex story, and one that's told in perfect symmetry.

Netflix released a YouTube video that gives a brief overview of the theory, which originated with writer Robert Lockard. The basic idea is that the trilogy is presented as a chiasmus, a literary device that emphasizes the symmetrical structure of a narrative, which is told and then repeated in reverse order—like the narrative version of a palindrome. (See: John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" quote for one of the most famous examples of a chiasmus.)

For example: The original Back to the Future starts with Marty McFly getting blown away by a giant guitar amp and then talking to Doc on the phone, while Back to the Future Part III ends with Marty and Jennifer getting blown away by Doc's new time machine, then speaking with Doc for the last time.

The entire trilogy plays out until the turning point of the story—which is in the middle of the alternate timeline in Part II, when Marty gets kicked out of his old house and is nearly killed in a gun fight—and then mirrors itself. He then meets with Doc, who explains the alternate 1985 timeline. (See, we told you it was elaborate.)

The Netflix video below gives an overview of the "Lockard Theory." For a more in-depth explanation, visit Lockard's website, where he actually breaks down the trilogy to match up each scene with its perfect counterpart. This is heavy!