My favourite film: Back to the Future Guardian UK Tom Lamont December 1, 2011 In halting instalments and on an endless loop, rewinding the decaying video as soon as the end credits rolled to start it immediately again, I watched Back to the Future every day before school between the ages of about eight and 11. I agree: I might have used the time to read all of Dickens, or practise free kicks, any number of healthier and more profitable ways to pass the abundant and unrepeatable hours of youth. But instead I gave my mornings to the rote-searing of Back to the Future on to my brain and, looking back, I'm not completely sad about that. There were worse films I could have fallen for (I was also quite keen on Three Ninja Kids at the time); there were few better. Plotted with watchmaker-precision by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, and directed by the latter, this 1985 release charts the escapades of time-travelling teenager Marty McFly (Michael J Fox). We meet him in a dense expositional block. Marty is a puzzle: short, immature, but brave; cool enough to pilot his skateboard on busy main roads yet apparently without friends of his own age, platonically attached instead to a white-haired scientist he knows as Doc (Christopher Lloyd). Marty has an apple-cheeked girlfriend (Claudia Wells), is a boyishly good-looking dude, but he comes from duff stock: mum Lorraine (Lea Thompson) is an alcoholic and dad George (Crispin Glover) is a weed, perpetually bullied by his former high-school tormentor, now boss, Biff (Thomas Wilson). Marty has ambitions – to become a rock star, to sleep with his girl, to own a comically muscular 4x4 truck – but these ambitions look to be forever frustrated by his being born to a family of losers. All this before a time machine comes into play (Gale and Zemeckis seasoned their opening 15 minutes with finer character detail than most blockbusters manage in 90; than the Transformers trilogy managed in 450; than Harry Potter managed in a tormenting 1,179). Doc, an inventor who has yet to invent "something that works", has at last come good, successfully modifying a DeLorean car so that, with a nuclear-powered battery and an LCD speedometer, it can crisscross the time stream when driven at a certain speed. Who knows why Gale and Zemeckis chose 88 miles an hour as that magic velocity? Who cares? It has been their gift to me, and I imagine to many others, that such a speed cannot ever be attained in a moving car without private, thrilling reminiscence. "Eighty eight miles per hoooooour!" – so the Doc wails when a moonlight demonstration of his invention goes well. But quickly things go wrong, and Marty ends up in the car, accidentally accelerated 30 years into the past. Marty is stuck in the 1950s, with no apparent means of getting back to the future – his car out of nuclear juice. This isn't even his main dilemma. He has bumped into his parents at high-school age, cutting a dash in their local hangouts and protecting his father from Biff's bullying attentions – but crucially, fatally, arousing the sexual interest of his mother in the process. Attraction that ought to have been aimed at the father is now redirected at the son, and before Marty can return to the present (in a thrilling set-piece involving wheelspins, lightning, and zip-chords) he has to make Mom fancy Dad a little more and himself a little less. Yuck? Somehow no, and the deftness with which the film-makers avoid the blatant thorns in this topic – teasing wit and adventure from a threatened Oedipal dilemma, playing incest lightly – is astonishing, and probably Back to the Future's crowning achievement. Marty's illicit involvement in his parents' courtship finally adds such spice to their union that having returned to the present, he finds they are sexier, happier, more successful people. Very little of this occurred to me when I was a child. The cool car, the skateboarding, and the scenes involving electric guitars saw to that. But when the film was reissued in cinemas last autumn, I was curious to see it on the big screen. I hadn't watched the whole thing for at least a decade, but still knew most of the dialogue, even found myself mouthing along to some of the sound effects, and I was able to commune with the film in a way that I haven't before or since, appreciating every working part: the apparent throwaway lines that quietly pay off; the absurd ambition of act three's triple climax that is a peer-shaming success (hiya, Peter Jackson); even the fact, lost on me before, that the very last scene in which Marty and his girlfriend are whisked off to the future by the Doc was not an intentional lay-up for a sequel but a gag – one the filmmakers must have come to rue when their movie became a mega-hit and they had to shoehorn a second instalment into their own jokey premise. I now had a dual vantage as both that devoted kid on the carpet, misty with hero-worship for Marty, and as an adult with cheeks puffed out at the immensity of Gale and Zemeckis's achievement. It was clear to me that in the interim years I hadn't again seen a film quite so complete, so economical – just perfect.