- "He [Marty] looked at the array of switches and dials on the console [of the DeLorean time machine] with frightening bewilderment. What was the secret? A button? Something in the nature of a digital code? His eyes flew back and forth, trying to locate the solution to the mystery. / When he finally solved the problem, it was so simple he almost laughed. There, on the steering column, just like any other ordinary unsophisticated car, was an ignition switch and a key. / "I'll be damned!" Marty muttered. "
- —From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, pages 65 and 66)
The DeLorean key was an object essential to activating the DeLorean time machine.
The key was used to open and lock the car's gull-wing doors, as well as switching on the ignition and starting the DeLorean time machine.
The first time the keys were seen was when Marty McFly escaped in the DeLorean in 1985; the keys were later seen in 1955 when the DeLorean's engine dies and Marty tries to start the DeLorean. The keys then appeared one last time just before the Libyans drive past Marty.
In 1845, the keys played an important role when Dr. Emmett Brown entrusted a pocket watch and the key to the DeLorean to his son Jules. A young pickpocket then stole the keys, which had a pocket watch attached to it. Jules and his brother Verne then pursued the thief but were caught by Murdock, the Fagin-like leader of the pickpockets, and forced to join the group.
In 1991, the keys usually resided on Doc's bedside table along with a few of his many clocks. The keys were taken by Jules Brown so they could go back to August 5, 1926, and prevent an accident, to eliminate Emmett's fear of fishing.
- The DeLorean key itself is rarely seen on-screen in the movies.
- The appearance of the key changes almost every time it is seen.
- There is another key attached in Back to the Future: The Game and Back to the Future: The Animated Series. It is unknown what this unlocks but it possibly opens the door to Dr. Emmett Brown's garage.
- In Back to the Future: The Game, the key had a New Deal Used Cars fob attached.
- In the movies, the keys also had a label containing Doc's name and the address to his garage attached to it. Along with the label, there are also other multiple keys attached to the main car keychain. It is unknown what any of these keys open.
- The key in the ignition switch of the DeLorean time machine in the movies is unlike the ordinary key to a DeLorean DMC-12. It is unclear why, but the key is a replacement Taylor/Volvo key.
- In the animated series episode "Einstein's Adventure", the main key in the ignition has the appearance of an ordinary DeLorean key and also has another key attached to it.
- The keys in Back to the Future: The Game should have the appearance of those from the Back to the Future trilogy, since the DeLorean time machine from the game is a temporal duplicate DeLorean, meaning the keys should have been temporally duplicated as well — unless the keys were changed in 2015.
Behind the scenes
- The key to the original Back to the Future Part III Desert DeLorean was unfortunately lost which meant the movie crew couldn't get the gull-wing doors open.
- After The filming of Back to the Future, the original on-screen plutonium-powered DeLorean was left on the backlot of Universal Studios with the keys still in the car. The keys left in the car are also different to the ones seen in the movie.
- Every appearance of the DeLorean time machine.
- Back to the Future
- Back to the Future novelization (see quote above)
- Back to the Future Part III novelization
- Back to the Future: The Ride
- Back to the Future: The Animated Series
- Batter Up (mentioned only)
- "Dickens of a Christmas"
- "A Friend In Deed" (live-action segment)
- Back to the Future: The Game
- "Einstein's Adventure"