The Art of the Title
Textual Analysis of the Back to the Future Opening
(1985, Robert Zemicks)
The genre of the film is comedy, due to the extensive clock
collection in the room and how there are some clocks, which are
humorous, like the cat and owl clock. All the clocks, have the
same time, which is 5 minutes to 8:00. The clocks makes clear
sense considering the title and context of the film, which is time
Not knowing who’s clock collection this is and what purpose they
serve. However, we do know that the character who owns them
has a novelty for clocks and time, which references to the
owner’s obsession of time travel (Doc).
We are given some background information from the telecaster
and the presenter about plutonium theft from Libyans, which
becomes key info in the film. This gives the audience knowledge
that this is important. When the teenage boy plays the guitar and
the speakers blow him away, it gives a comedic effect .
The writer and director’s names are the first credit seen on the
screen, which are Robert Zemecks and Steven Spielberg. When
these credits are shown, the ticking of a clock is in the
background. They are credited as ‘Steven Spielberg presents’
and ‘A Robert Zemecks film’
The main title with the film’s name, Back to the Future is shown
in its creative font. The main title slides on to the screen. There
suddenly begins two ticking noises, which indicates that there is
more than one clock. The opening mainly consists of the
extensive clock collection.
The credits are shown in all caps and white to make it clear to
read. As well, the first people credited after the main title are the
lead actors and supporting roles. Then songs used in the film
are credited. Editors, photographers, producers and executive
producers are mentioned after the actors.
The production company shown in Back to the Future is
Universal Pictures. It is the sole production company with an
ident that is featured in the film.
The colour scheme used in the opening of the film is a mixture,
since some of the clocks featured have vibrant colours.
Whereas the wallpaper of the room is plain brown and looks
dull, which makes some the clocks stand out. Besides, the
colour choice the clocks which are brown and tan are still the
centre of the audience’s attention.
The period of the film is in the 1980s, as we can see from the
way the teenage boy is dressed, the technology appliances and
the newscasters reporter. The way these 1980’s appliances are
shown in the film, shows to the audience the comedic side of the
The main prop used set the opening scene of Back to the
Future, is the use of the extensive clock collection. This makes
the audience feel submerged in the mind of the film. Another
prop used is the teenage boy and the speaker explosion which
At the beginning there is a slow swooping camera shot which
displays the collection of clocks, slowly moving to the right, to
show to the audience all the clocks in the room. As well, other
objects shown in the slow swooping shot are appliances and
key information to the film, such as the news reporter on the
television. The camera focuses on the television and zooms in,
which gives the audience the hint that this is important.
The camera then focuses on the teenage boy’s feet as he
moves around the room. This gives the effect commonly used in
Spielberg’s films where in the opening scene we don’t see the
main character’s face. This makes the audience wonder the
teenage boy looks like.
When the teenage boy kicks his skateboard, the camera follows
the it with a tracking shot. When he is adjusting the amps on the
speaker, the camera is very zoomed in on his hands. When he
lifts the guitar pick to the air, there is a close-up shot as it
In the opening scene of Back to the Future, a lot of key
information is shown to the audience that will be important later
in the film. For example, the theft of plutonium by the Libyans is
crucial information in the film. The clocks makes clear sense
considering the title and context of the film, which is time travel.
As well, the teenage boy who walks in and begins to play the
guitar is the film’s main protagonist. His guitar skills shown in
the opening are used throughout the film’s narrative.