"Back To The Future" was a massive hit upon its release in 1985. It became the highest grossing film of that year, won an Academy Award and spawned two sequels as well as an animated TV series. The story of accidental time traveler Marty McFly and his eccentric scientist friend "Doc" Brown also turned stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd into two of the biggest box office draws of the '80s. In honor of the sci-fi hit's 35th anniversary on July 3, 2020, join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at how the lives of the cast have changed…
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Michael J. Fox headlined the film as Marty McFly, the teen hero who accidentally travels from 1985 back to 1955, meets his future parents and unwittingly becomes the object of his own mother's affection.
Michael J. Fox was already a major TV star when he was cast in "Back to the Future" thanks to the hit sitcom "Family Ties," which aired from 1982 to 1989 and earned him three Emmy Awards. Following the "Back to the Future" trilogy, the Canadian actor starred in hits like 1987's "Teen Wolf," 1987's "The Secret of My Success" and 1991's "Doc Hollywood." Michael was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at 29 in 1991 but continued acting, taking smaller roles in '90s successes like "The American President" in 1995 and "Mars Attacks!" in 1996. He then made a return to TV with the hit sitcom "Spin City" in 1996 before going public with this health battles. As symptoms worsened, Michael moved into voiceover work in projects like the "Stuart Little" franchise and Disney's "Atlantis: The Lost Empire." The acclaimed actor has continued acting on TV with notable guest roles on "Rescue Me" and "The Good Wife" and even headlined his own short-lived sitcom on NBC in 2013. He has written three books and become an advocate for Parkinson's research toward finding a cure, even founding the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Michael met wife Tracy Pollan on the set of "Family Ties." The pair married in 1988 and now have 4 children.
Christopher Lloyd played the eccentric Emmett "Doc" Brown, the man responsible for inventing the first time machine out of a DeLorean sports car. Doc has to help Marty return to 1985 before he changes history forever.
Christopher Lloyd was already a veteran character actor when he took on the "Back to the Future" trilogy — he'd started his career in 1961. He began acting on stage in the '60s and '70s before making his big screen debut in 1975's "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." He rose to fame for his work on the hit sitcom "Taxi" in the late '70s, which garnered him two Emmys. Christopher kept up his run of hits with "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" in 1984, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in 1988 and "The Addams Family" films in the '90s. The acclaimed actor even reprised his work as Doc in the "Back to the Future" TV series. Since then, Christopher has taken on numerous smaller roles both on the big screen and television, appearing on recent TV hits like "The Big Bang Theory," "NCIS" and "A.P. Bio." He has also taken on more voice work in projects like "Anastasia" in 1997, "Hey Arnold!: The Movie" in 2002 and "Granite Falls" in 2014. Christopher has been married five times, most recently tying the knot with real estate agent Lisa Loiacono in 2016. He has one son from a previous marriage.
Lea Thompson was the film's female lead. She played Lorraine Baines-McFly, Marty's mom who develops a crush on her own son without realizing it after he travels back in time in an effort to save her marriage to his father.
Lorraine in "Back to the Future" was a breakout role for Lea Thompson, who was better known at the time for more teen-oriented flicks like 1983's "All the Right Moves," 1984's "Red Dawn" and 1987's "Some Kind of Wonderful." Before pursuing acting, Lea was a member of the American Ballet Theatre as a teen. In the '90s, she took parts in big screen remakes "Dennis the Menace" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" in 1993 and "The Little Rascals" in 1994. She then found success on the small screen as the star of the NBC sitcom "Caroline in the City" from 1995 to 1999. After a break from acting, Lea went on to star in several Broadway plays before landing a major role on the ABC Family hit "Switched at Birth" from 2011 to 2017. She also competed on the 19th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2014, finishing sixth. Lea was most recently seen in the Netflix teen favorite "Sierra Burgess Is a Loser" and directed episodes of CW hits "Katy Keene" and "Stargirl" in 2020. She married her "Some Kind of Wonderful" director Howard Deutch in 1989. They have two daughters: actress, musician and filmmaker Madelyn Deutch and "The Politician" and "The Set-Up" star Zoey Deutch.
Thomas F. Wilson took on villain duties as Biff Tannen, the local bully who antagonizes both McFly men while trying to win the heart of Lorraine McFly for himself.
The "Back to the Future" franchise would be nothing without Thomas F. Wilson, who went on to star in all three feature films, the animated TV series and the theme park ride and even lent his chops to the video games developed off the films' success. Since then, Thomas has become a voiceover veteran with roles on "Batman: The Animated Series," "Gargoyles" and "Spongebob Squarepants." He has also continued work on TV favorites like "Freaks and Geeks" in 1999, "Big Love" in 2010 and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" since 2019. The veteran podcaster and comedian has also found success on YouTube, with his vlogging channel amassing more than 31,000 subscribers. He and wife Caroline, whom he married the same year "Back to the Future" came out, share four children.
Crispin Glover played George McFly, Marty's brainy but picked-on father who Marty has to set up with his mother when he travels back in time to ensure he's actually born.
Crispin Glover, who's become a veteran character actor in the years since "Back to the Future" was released, sparked controversy — and a legal fight — when he decided not to reprise his role as George McFly in the sequels. A new actor was made up to look like Crispin and was mixed in with archive footage of Crispin without his permission, so he sued the film's producers and was awarded $1 million. Since then, Crispin has become known for his consistently eccentric roles in films like "The Doors" in 1991, the "Charlie's Angels" films in the early 2000s and "Willard" in 2003. More recently, he appeared in 2010's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Hot Tub Machine" and on the TV series "American Gods." Crispin — who keeps his love life private and splits his time between his Los Angeles home and a chateau in the Czech Republic that he restored to serve as a filming location for his personal projects — also released an album in 1989 and has written more than 15 books.
Claudia Wells portrayed Marty's high school sweetheart Jennifer Parker in the first film in the "Back to the Future" franchise.
After the success of "Back to the Future," Claudia Wells put her career on hold to take care of her mother, who was battling cancer at the time, and did not return as Jennifer Parker in the sequels (she was replaced by Elisabeth Shue). Around the time of the original film, Claudia also starred in the short-lived TV adaptation of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," which would mark her final on-screen role until 1996. In the '90s, she opened men's resale clothing boutique Armani Wells, which she still manages in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles. Claudia also returned to acting in 2011 with an appearance on the TV hit "The Mentalist" and reprised her role as Jennifer in the "Back to the Future" video game. The Malaysia-born actress has one son.
Billy Zane's first on-screen role was in "Back to the Future." He played Match (left), one of Biff's bully cronies.
Shortly after "Back to the Future," Billy Zane had roles in 1986's "Critters" and on '80s TV hits like "Murder, She Wrote" and "Matlock." Billy then returned as Match in both "Back to the Future" sequels. In the '90s, the Chicago-born actor had notable TV parts in "Twin Peaks" and "Tales From the Crypt" before landing big screen roles in "Tombstone" in 1993 and "The Phantom" in 1996. Billy is still best known for his seminal role in 1997's "Titanic" – he played Caledon Hockley, the villainous millionaire who dared to keep Rose and Jack apart. His eclectic resume since includes the "Zoolander" films, the Sundance staple "The Believer" in 2001, TV's "Charmed" in 2005, video game "Kingdom Hearts" in 2002 and even a stint in "Chicago" on Broadway. Billy and Australian actress Lisa Collins divorced in the mid-'90s and he's been engaged to model Candice Neil since 2013. The pair have two children.
James Tolkan starred as Gerald Strickland, Marty's strict principal at Hill Valley High School who won't cut the rebellious student any slack.
James Tolkan continued as Mr. Strickland in both "Back to the Future" sequels. James was a veteran character actor by the time he signed on to the franchise, with his first role coming in the TV series "Naked City" in 1960. He previously starred in 1979's "The Amityville Horror" and 1983's "WarGames" before landing the role of Strickland, which he also reprised for the animated TV series based on the films. He's just as well-known for his work as the no-nonsense commanding officer opposite Tom Cruise in the 1986 classic "Top Gun." In the '90s, he took small parts on TV hits like "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "The Wonder Year" and "Early Edition." The retired actor was most recently seen in the Kurt Russell western "Bone Tomahawk" in 2015. He married Parmelee Welles in 1971.
Elisabeth Shue took over the role of Jennifer Parker in the "Back to the Future" sequels. While the actress isn't in the original film, Elisabeth is fairly synonymous with the franchise.
Elisabeth Shue was already a box office draw when she replaced Claudia Wells in both "Back to the Future" sequels, having gained success with hits like "The Karate Kid" in 1984, "Adventures in Babysitting" in 1987 and "Cocktail" in 1988. She followed the "Back to the Future" films with successes like 1991's "Soapdish," 2000's "Hollow Man" and 1995's "Leaving Las Vegas," which earned her an Academy Award nomination. The Delaware-born actress joined the TV hit "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" in 2012, replacing series regular Marg Helgenberger as the female lead, and remained to the show's end in 2015. Elisabeth was most recently seen in the 2017 biopic "Battle of the Sexes" and on Amazon's superhero series "The Boys." She'll next star alongside Tom Hanks in the Apple+ war drama "Greyhound." She married film director Davis Guggenheim in 1994. The pair have three children.
Another alum of the "Back to the Future" franchise is Mary Steenburgen. She only appeared in the third film, but her role as Doc Brown's wife, Clara Clayton, is pivotal to the series.
Mary Steenburgen was already an Academy Award-winning actress before signing on to "Back to the Future Part III," having won a best supporting actress trophy for her work in 1980's "Melvin and Howard." She was also known for hits like "Ragtime" in 1981 and "Parenthood" in 1989. After "Back to the Future," Mary's run of theatrical hits continued with 1993's "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," 2003's "Elf," 2008's "Step Brothers," 2009's "The Proposal" and, more recently, the 2018 ensemble comedy "Book Club." The veteran songwriter also composed music for the acclaimed indie flick "Wild Rose" in 2019. She's also been a TV staple in recent years thanks to her work on shows including "Orange Is the New Black," "The Last Man on Earth" and "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist." The humanitarian has two children with ex-husband Malcolm McDowell and has been married to actor Ted Danson, whom she met on the set of 1994's "Pontiac Moon," since 1995.