- "1952?? This is 1952?!? Holy Shit!! You know what this means? I've gone back in time 30 years! 30 goddamn years!!! I haven't even been born yet!"
- —Marty McFly, noticing a calendar while at Wilson's Cafe
The first draft screenplay of Back to the Future was written in 1980 by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It was very different from the final movie version. It should be noted that the time machine was not conceived to be the DeLorean time machine, as the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 did not appear on roads until the next year.
- The first draft opens similarly to the opening of the Back to the Future novelization, with an appearance by Mr. Arky.
- Doc is here known as "Professor Emmett L. Brown". Marty however calls him "Prof" instead of "Doc".
- Marty wanted to use the time machine for financial gain, as he attempts in Back to the Future Part II.
- Biff Tannen exists in this draft.
- Wilson's Cafe would later separate to become Goldie Wilson and Lou's Cafe.
- The present is 1982, not 1985.
- Hill Valley does not exist (i.e. it is never named), only a place described as a "small Midwestern town".
- The time machine resembles a refrigerator, and is powered by the "Power Converter". (This idea was dropped because of the fear that children would imitate what they saw and lock themselves inside refrigerators.)
- Professor Brown lives in an abandoned Orpheum theater.
- Professor Brown has a monkey named Shemp.
- Marty's girlfriend is Suzy Parker.
- Marty is a streetwise video pirate alongside being an aspiring musician. (The studio had refused to make a film where the hero was a video pirate.)
- Marty's mother is Eileen Baines and lives in the same house as Marty in 1952.
- Government agents shoot Professor Brown.
- Instead of capturing Emmett's demise via a JVC camcorder, an audio tape recorder is used (granted home video cameras were in short supply in 1980).
- Marty travels back to March 11, 1952.
- Marty's alias is "Marty Lewis", perhaps a reference to Huey Lewis.
- Brown got his 'revelation' when on a party a girl hit him on the head with a bottle.
- Biff's catch phrase is "A-hole" instead of "butthead".
- The dance is named "Springtime in Paris" instead of "Enchantment Under the Sea".
- The all-black band is Lester Moon and the Midnighters.
- The song that George and "Eileen" have their first kiss with is "Turn Back the Hands of Time", though Marty still plays "Johnny B. Goode" afterward, albeit with a segue into "Rock Around the Clock".
- George and Eileen meet in the high school cafeteria where he attempts to ask her out. He spills creamed corn.
- The way Marty returns to 1982 is via a nuclear test in Nevada. (It was considered too expensive to go on location.)
- When Marty returns to 1982, he discovers that his father has become a boxer.
- Marty has an unnamed elder brother who has left home but he does not have a sister.
Behind the scenes
- In a question and answer session at USC, Zemeckis and Gale stated that they had more than 40 rejection letters from studios that had considered and turned down the script.
- Because it took four years to get the film made, the script was revised several times, and the story and screenplay perfected to become the number one film of 1985.
- Back to the Future is one of the few films where early drafts of scripts are available for study, warts and all. The original first draft can be viewed at BttF.com, in that Gale and Zemeckis authorized to be imaged and made available online.
- The government agents who shot Professor Brown in the original script are called Reese and Foley. They appear in Back to the Future II as the two officers in 2015 who take Jennifer home.