Did Marty Die (Twice?) in Back to the Future? TikTok Fan Theory Makes a Compelling Case

It’s been almost 40 years, and we’re still talking about the Back to the Future trilogy (now available from Universal Pictures). Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s twisty time-travel adventure about an ordinary 1980s teenager who hops through time remains one of the most satisfying movie experiences for many, and it’s full of enough layers and unexpected swerves that we just keep going back for more. 

Of course, that kind of constant re-examination invites tons of speculation, which helps explain why fan theories centered on the trilogy continue to spread across the internet. And like all fan theories, some of them get really, really dark. 

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This week, TikTok user nyc_museum_of_illusions uploaded a brief video theorizing that Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) actually dies twice during his adventures, both times in Back to the Future Part II. The basis for the theory is two key scenes in which Marty is seemingly trapped in an unescapable situation, only to find Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) has emerged to save him at the last possible moment.

The first scene is set in 2015, and finds Marty attempting to escape an older Biff (Tom Wilson) on the roof of Biff’s casino. In this case, Marty’s basically prepared to die at Biff’s hands, then sees Doc hovering in the DeLorean just below the roofline and jumps off the building to safety. 

In the second scene, Marty’s back in 1955, trying to steal back the fateful sports almanac from a younger Biff, who’s chasing him in his car. Marty’s trying to get his hoverboard up to speed, but he’s stuck in a tunnel, and Biff is closing fast. That’s when Doc emerges at the end of the tunnel, dangling a streamer down from the hovering DeLorean for Marty to grab. The TikToker argues that in both cases, these last-minute rescues happen because Doc already knew that Marty would die in these moments if he didn’t save him, so he went back to the best possible moment for a dramatic rescue. That means, according to the theory, that in alternate versions of the timeline Marty did in fact die, prompting Doc to re-engineer events through time travel. 

Check out the fan theory that Marty McFly died (twice) in Back in to the Future II

There are, of course, some issues with this theory, including the possibility that preventing Marty’s death could create paradoxes. Plus, if Doc already knew the situations in which Marty would die, and he was going back and trying the same sequence of events again in order to prevent that death, why wouldn’t he just guide Marty to different approaches for the same task? It seems easier than showing up at the last second and hoping that Marty would move fast enough to save himself.

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It makes you wonder how many times Doc went back to save Marty on the casino roof, only to watch helplessly as the poor kid jumped off the building, missed the DeLorean completely, and plummeted to his death.

However you feel about this theory, you can always go watch Back to the Future Part II right now and figure things out for yourself.

Originally published Jun 14, 2023.