The movies: Original > Part III > Part II.
Not very hard. The first had so much fun packed into it. And it set the parameters for the second and third. Indeed, the best parts of the second are mostly those that are detailing events of the first from a different angle. The second had the darkest stuff--dead dad, mom in a horrible Sansa-like marriage, Hill Valley becoming Atlantic City, etc. The third made fun of lots of old west tropes. So, the ranking is easy, but let's break it down anyway:
Cast: Well, the cast was mostly the same throughout, but the third movie added not just the incredibly delightful Mary Steenburgen (who is especially wonderful when she is aflutter) but also a bunch of the old dudes from the old westerns. They hung out entirely in the bar, and added much spice and comedy. No such additions in the second movie.
Versions of Marty's Relatives:
- The first had both nerdy George and melting Lorraine, plus their less successful and more successful versions in the 1985's to start and finish the movie. Same for his siblings (did they have names in the first movie, only noticed in the second). So, this is the best.
- The second had what? Defeated Lorraine in the new 1985. Not much else.
- The third had Irish McFlys with Michael J. and Lea doing fun Irish accents. And Seamus gave great advice, making a huge difference on Marty's choices both in 1885 and then back in 1985. So, clearly second best.
- The first was chock full of humor throughout.
- The second? Not so much, as it was dire and desperate. Not much joy except in the final confrontation with Biff. The funniest part was actually how bad Marty is as a private investigator as he trailed Biff in the most obvious way--how come elder Biff didn't spot him?
- So much goodness. The Doc/Clara romance was not just sweet, but funny. You even get a bit of Michael J. Buttcheeks!
- The first set the pattern for the rest--chase scenes involving skate/hoverboards; the desperate effort to get up to 88 mph in time for lightning, etc.
- This is the best part of the second movie: the effort by Marty to steal the almanac with the use of a hoverboard. Indeed, that this movie introduced the hoverboard has been its biggest contribution not just to the next movie but to our popular imagination.
- The train sequence is just one of several good action sequences, but is the most suspenseful of them all. We always know that Marty is getting back to 1985, but we didn't know whether Doc would
Some common themes/gags across the movie:
- Doc is careless with women.... at least Marty's women, as he is pretty willing to leave Jennifer pretty much anywhere: an alley, a front porch, whatever.
- The obsession with Marty's chicken problem is only a second and third movie thing. No one calls him chicken in the first.
- Concussions! How many times is Marty knocked out over the course of the movies? And, yes, in each movie, after he wakes up with a different version of his mom. But he had a few more knockout blows besides that, so at least three concussions in a week or two? Wow.
- Doc's overly detailed models are never "to scale."
- Rape. The three movies have that in common as well. I discussed how rapey the original was, but then we have Lorraine married to Biff in the second movie due to coercion. In the third, Maddog Bufford Tannen, Biff's ancestor, coerces the lovely Clara. Yuck. And, yes, it is strange that the local rape attempter is employed by Marty's family thirty years later. One would think that they would never have anything to do with him after what he started doing on the night of the Enchanted under the Sea dance.
- Why does elder Biff's cabbie have a parrot?
- What does Marty wear two ties?
- Nixon gets five terms? How does Marty's shenanigans get Nixon five terms?
- Pretty sure the frisbie pie company didn't exist in 1885 even if it was the source of the throwing disks that have become my obsession. Still, this is the second time Marty displays some ultimate skilz as he threw a disk to block Biff's shot in alt-1985.
- I loved the white sidewalls on the Delorean that Doc had to put on in 1955 after the car had been in a cave since 1885.
What are the key lessons? Well, the one that got played up the most is not to overreact when someone questions your manhood--when someone calls you chicken. But the good news is that there was a bigger lesson:
"Your future hasn't been written yet .... Your future is whatever you make it so make it a good one."Nice way to end a trilogy and to end this post.