The success of Back to the Future in 1985 came as something of a surprise. The film had been a pretty troubled production, particularly since the lead actor had to be replaced a few weeks into shooting. As the movie neared its release date, the low expectations started to be replaced by extremely positive reviews. Once it opened, positive word of mouth propelled it to become the year’s top grossing film and it remains a true enduring classic from that era.
Several careers were boosted dramatically by the film. Robert Zemeckis instantly became an A-list director and Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd both were transitioned from TV stars to movie stars. The film also firmly established Steven Spielberg’s credibility and marketability as a producer on films he didn’t direct. The film also became an important franchise for Universal, eventually spawning two sequels, an animated TV series, an attraction at the Universal Studios theme parks, and various merchandise tie-ins.
Alan Silvestri’s career as a film composer also received a major boost from the film’s success. He had previously had success as a composer for TV (particularly scoring many episodes of CHiPs) and had collaborated with Zemeckis for the first time on the previous year’s hit Romancing the Stone, but Back to the Future was the first time he really achieved widespread attention and acclaim.
Even though the soundtrack album only had a small portion of his score (the whole score wouldn’t come out until nearly 25 years later), the main theme quickly became extremely recognizable and the sequels both received score-only soundtracks. After Back to the Future, Silvestri has continued to work regularly on major film projects right up to the present, including every subsequent film that Robert Zemeckis has directed.
My collection includes the original song soundtrack that was released in 1985, the complete score collection released in 2009, both of the sequel soundtracks, and a Varese Sarabande re-recording of music from all three films. After the break, I will discuss each of the albums in some detail.