It has been 35 years since Back to the Future premiered in theaters and 30 years since the final film Back to the Future: Part III last graced fans as Doc Brown’s flying, time-traveling locomotive blasted its way through the screens. In the time since fans of the classic time travel film trilogy have always asked, will there be more? A Back to the Future, Part IV? Sadly, time and time again (no pun intended), the answer from the films’ creators has always been no.
The director of the trilogy, Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale are quite adamant about not continuing the further adventures of Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown. As far as they are concerned, the trilogy was perfect, ended on a great note (which it did) and there was not a need to revisit the time traveling duo. The feeling was, what else could Marty and Emmett do?
With a time traveling DeLorean, there are plenty of stories left! Alas, the DeLorean was destroyed at the end of Back to the Future, Part III, but wait! Doc Brown, thought to have been stranded in Hill Valley in 1885, was able to build a time machine out of a locomotive. Back to the Future: The Animated Series, which aired for two seasons after the trilogy concluded gave fans a glimpse of more time traveling hijinks with Marty and Doc. The DeLorean was rebuilt and used, as well as the time locomotive, to travel to different time periods, where they often wound up encountering some kind of Biff Tannen ancestor. So, we had that nugget. Plus, Christopher Lloyed reprised his role of Doc Brown in the show’s live-action segments, and Thomas F. Wilson and Mary Steenburgen returned to play Biff Tannen (or his ancestor) and Clara Brown. respectively.
More than anyone else, Lloyd has kept the torch burning for Back to the Future with his reprisals in the following years. Not only did he play Doc Brown in the animated series, but he was a prominent character in the simulator attraction Back to the Future: The Ride at the Universal Studios theme parks. Wilson even returned as Biff Tannen in the attraction as the villain you had to chase in your own modified DeLorean. It seriously is a crime that Universal Studios closed the attraction and has not tried to build a new ride since that film has stood the test of time and is still popular.
More recently, Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox reunited to play the iconic characters in a comedic segment in Jimmy Kimmel Live back in 2015, which was quite funny as the actual year 2015 they visited differed from what the year they knew in Back to the Future, Part II, which boasted flying cars and floating hoverboards.
As an answer to that conundrum, included with the Back to the Future trilogy Blu-ray set was a short film “Doc Brown Saves the World!”, which was directed by Zemeckis and featured Lloyd in a solo performance as Doc Brown. He appeared with the DeLorean and revealed that in the future, Griff Tannen (Biff’s grandson) accidently causes a nuclear disaster and Doc traced the cause of the calamity to the nifty inventions shown in Back to the Future, Part II. He then went back in time to prevent the invention of these items, such as the hoverboard and Mr. Fusion. Too bad!
On a serious note, Lloyd has expressed a willingness for a Back to the Future, Part IV, prefacing that it would have to be great concept. However, aside from the filmmakers’ refusal to do a followup another impediment is that Michael J. Fox suffers from Parkinson’s Disease cannot undertake a physically demanding role since Marty was so active throughout the films. He semi-retired from acting and it is unlikely he would return to play Marty McFly in a film. But doing a new film would not be impossible. Fox still acts in guest spots and is doing well. Meanwhile, despite being in his 80s, Lloyd still has a lot of spunk and vigor. His recent appearances as Doc Brown still has the same manic energy, which endeared the character to movie audiences.
Given their ages and health, it is doubtful Fox and Lloyd would be the main stars of a Back to the Future, Part IV. They can still, and must appear, in the fourth film, but they would not be the lead characters. More likely a hypothetical sequel would be about their children as they pick up the time traveling torch. This was set up in the end of Back to the Future, Part III and the animated series with Brown’s children Jules and Verne being introduced. In fact, many episodes of the animated show had them as the lead characters (it was a show aimed at children, after all). The only thing to explain is why Marty’s children do not look like Michael J. Fox (he portrayed his teenage children in Back to the Future, Part II). That would be as simple as having the offspring being Marty’s grandchildren or just have it that since Marty changed his timeline at the end of the third film, the children he and Jennifer had were different.
Another way to go is to forego a fourth film and create a reboot with new actors. There was a famous Deepfake video segment that came out last year that recast Marty McFly and Doc Brown with Tom Holland and Robert Downey, Jr. It was uncanny how smoothly the two actors could play the famous roles. This showed that a new version of the film with new actors can be just as enjoyable as the original. There have been so many successful remakes or reboots throughout the decades, and the refusal at this point to revisit Back to the Future seems a bit obtuse. Granted, we can understand the hesitancy of Zemeckis and Gale to not revisit Hill Valley. They have a right to feel protective with their creation and unfortunately, no fourth film or reboot will be made as long as they are alive. Universal Studios can just go over their heads and greenlight a new film, but it seems as if the film studio will respect the filmmakers’ wishes.
For the time being we will just have to be content with the classics that redefined time travel films. It is remarkable and a testament to the skills of everyone involved with the films that they are still entertaining and timeless. Besides, we will always have the three Back to the Future films to cherish and who knows? If they could bring back Star Wars and other supposedly concluded film franchises, then a Back to the Future, Part IV is possible some time in the future.