- "Nobody — calls me — chicken."
The slang term for a coward would cause Marty to overreact in his efforts to prove that he was not a chicken, usually resulting in trouble. The opposition tended to be a member of the Tannen family, but this Achilles' heel was known by other acquaintances of Marty, including Douglas J. Needles, and even a scene screen repairman.
While in 2015, Griff called Marty "chicken" (whom he believed to be Marty McFly, Jr.). This version came with chicken clucking sound effects added by the computerized breastplate worn by fellow gang member Data, while Griff extended his bat behind his back. Instead of walking out of Café 80's as he was supposed to, Marty stayed and challenged Griff to a fight. This resulted in a chase around Courthouse Square on hoverboards and, ultimately, to Griff and his gang being arrested.
Later that day, a 47-year-old Needles called Marty (also 47) "chicken" during a video telephone call when he refused to get involved in a shady deal. The middle-aged Marty unwisely went along with the illegal plan, which involved the use of his credit card, and was fired from his job at CusCo by his boss, Ito T. Fujitsu.
When facing Biff Tannen in 1955 for damaging his car, Marty started to walk away, having accomplished his mission of recovering Grays Sports Almanac. Biff called him "chicken", and Marty stopped. He was about to finish his sentence when he was hit in the face by the school gymnasium door that his other self had pushed open. Biff took back the almanac, and Marty had to recover it again. Because he and Doc were delayed in 1955, the DeLorean was struck by a lightning bolt, sending Doc back to 1885.
On the day of the duel, Marty faced the reality of death, and realized, for the first time, that what other people said didn't matter as much as he had feared. Though he still had to confront Buford in order to save Doc's life, Marty withdrew his gunbelt rather than having a shootout. Marty was shot by Buford anyway; but Marty had cleverly protected himself by wearing an iron stove plate underneath his poncho, much as Clint Eastwood had in A Fistful of Dollars, which he then used as a weapon.
When Marty returned to 1985, Needles put him up to a drag challenge between their two trucks. Needles taunted Marty with the insult "chicken", but for the first time, Marty didn't overreact. Instead, he put his Toyota Hilux 4X4 in reverse as Needles raced off in his Ford F-150, a decision that proved to be the correct choice. Marty and Jennifer watched as a Rolls-Royce emerged from a side street, narrowly missing Needles' truck, and where Marty's truck would have been. At that instant, the "YOU'RE FIRED!!!" text on the CusCo fax disappeared before Jennifer's eyes; regardless of what would happen to Marty in 2015, being fired from CusCo would not be one of the events.
In March, 1986, Douglas J. Needles arrived at Lee Bros. Towing & Repair in his Ford F-150 truck and challenged Marty in the towing service's truck to a race, the winner of which would take Doc's steam time car (which was still hooked up to the truck). Marty refused, so Needles attempted to goad Marty into racing by calling him "chicken" and making clucking sounds.
After arriving at El Kid in 1931, Marty is accused of hitting on a woman named Eunice, by her boyfriend Ernest Philpott. Wanting to annoy Ernest, Marty pretends he has an interest in her, and calls him "chicken".
Behind the scenes
- Marty's weakness was not evident in the first film. In his determination to reunite his parents in 1955, Marty didn't walk away from confrontations with Biff, though he did run away when the four member gang chased after him. In Part II, however, he was instructed to pose as Marty Jr. in 2015 just long enough to say that he was "out" of Griff's plans, and to walk away. When Griff used the insult "chicken", Marty's fear of being thought of as a coward caused him to depart from his plan. Marty's decision to run from Tannen gang members in various eras was a wise choice in each instance, but may have added to his insecurities about his courage.
- Back to the Future Part II (First appearance)
- Back to the Future Part II novelization
- Back to the Future Part III
- Back to the Future Part III novelization
- Back to the Future: The Animated Series
- Back to the Future: The Game
- Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines
- Back to the Future: Continuum Conundrum