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Will Back To The Future 4 Ever Happen?

Like the great Dr. Emmett Brown once said, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." But does that truth extend past the fourth wall of the Back to the Future franchise in which Doc Brown appears and apply to the long-burning desire for another flick?

When Back to the Future was released in July 1985, it became a certified pop culture smash. On a paltry budget of just $19 million, the Robert Zemeckis-directed time-travel adventure pic pulled in moviegoers by the millions, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year by ending its theatrical run with $381.1 million worldwide (about $914.2 million in 2020 money). Critics and audiences fell in love with the movie, which tells the story of 17-year-old Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his zany scientist friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as they travel 30 years back in time to the year 1955 — where Marty meets his parents, catches the attention of his own mother, and inadvertently messes with history.

Back to the Future's success led to two film sequels — but with fan culture being what it is, this wasn't enough to stop the clamoring for even more time-travel tomfoolery. Since the moment production wrapped on the third film in the trilogy, director Zemeckis, writer Bob Gale, and cast members have had to deal with fans asking if Back to the Future 4 will ever happen.

Christopher Lloyd has expressed interest in making a fourth Back to the Future movie

For quite a while, Doc Brown actor Christopher Lloyd readily and enthusiastically spoke about his hopes for a fourth Back to the Future film to come to fruition. He mentioned during Niagara Falls Comic Con in June 2019 that he felt Back to the Future 4 would best work if it did two things: addressed something important in our current culture, and managed to maintain the feeling of the first three films in the franchise. 

"I think somehow it needs to kind of convey a message about something that's important to everyone, universally, like climate change. Some way of incorporating whatever fever is going on at the moment into the film and keep the feeling of 1, 2, and 3," said Lloyd (via ComicBook.com). "That's a tricky, tricky deal. Because you don't want to do another one and disappoint. So I don't know. I'd be happy to, for myself. But we'll see."

He also praised Michael J. Fox, indicating how much respect he has for the actor and noting that Fox's battle with Parkinson's hasn't dampened his spirit. 

"He was who he was, I was who I am, and there was never any awkward anything. We just knew how to be our characters with each other, and it was very comfortable. He has a great sense of humor and intelligence. [...] His Parkinson's, he has it, but it's kind of, 'So what?' He just moves ahead. It's very cool," Lloyd said at the time. "A couple months ago, there was like a bunch of us, Tom Wilson and Lea Thompson [...] We had a panel with all of us, and Michael just goes forth and talks, breaks people up, so it's very cool."

By December 2019, Christopher Lloyd knew that Back to the Future 4 isn't happening

However, Lloyd's hopeful tone and mention that he didn't know what exactly would happen with a potential Back to the Future 4 changed by the end of 2019. In December of that year, at German Comic Con Dortmund, the actor said definitively that a fourth Back to the Future movie isn't happening — though he still shared an idea he had for another visit to the Back to the Future franchise: a crossover with the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty, the idea for which evolved from an animated Back to the Future parody entitled The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti.

"I think it's fabulous. I've watched it, I love the humor in it, I love the characters," Lloyd said of Rick and Morty (via ComicBook.com). "I've had a fantasy that they make another Back to the Future, Back to the Future 4. And Back to the Future 4 — it's not happening — but if it did, Back to the Future 4 collides with Rick and Morty. Someway, somewhere in another time zone, in another space zone."

Director Robert Zemeckis has always said Back to the Future 4 won't happen

While Lloyd remained enthusiastic about a possible Back to the Future 4 throughout the years, director Zemeckis has been firm from the beginning about such a project never happening. 

According to The Hollywood Reporter, both Zemeckis and Back to the Future scribe Bob Gale have it written in their original contracts with Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment that the two would have final say on any future Back to the Future films (even reboots and spin-offs) for as long as they're both living. What Zemeckis and Gale say goes — and Zemeckis has made it clear that another Back to the Future isn't going to become a reality. 

He told The Telegraph in 2015 when asked if he would ever sign over the rights for another Back to the Future movie (namely a remake), "I mean, to me, that's outrageous. Especially since it's a good movie. It's like saying, 'Let's remake Citizen Kane. Who are we going to get to play Kane?' What folly, what insanity is that? Why would anyone do that?"

Prior to that, at the 2008 Celebration Exotic Car Festival (via Slashfilm), Zemeckis told the crowd, "Let me answer one question before anyone asks it, which is, 'Is there ever [going to] be a Back to the Future part 4?' No. We've all seen sometimes where they make one too many sequels and you say, 'Maybe they shouldn't have done that.' I'm not going to name any names of movies, but you know what they are!"

Speaking with Italian outlet Bad Taste (via NME) in July 2018, Zemeckis reiterated in no uncertain terms, "There will never ever be, in the most absolute way, a Back to the Future 4. There will be no more Back to the Future."

Several months later, the filmmaker sat down for a conversation with Yahoo Movies UK, during which the interviewer asked if he was still "adamantly against" making a fourth Back to the Future. "Oh god, yes," said Zemeckis. 

They also asked Zemeckis for his opinion about Back to the Future topping a poll of films that audiences want additional installments of. He shared, "It confirms what we all know, but what I think the fans are really saying is that, 'We really like this movie, and if it were possible, I'd like more of it.' But they understand that it can't be done." 

Zemeckis also noted that, contrary to Lloyd's comments about the actor, Michael J. Fox "is not in the best of shape with his Parkinson's," and it wouldn't be right to make a movie with or without him."The idea of making another Back to the Future movie without Michael J. Fox, you know, that's like saying 'I'm going to cook you a steak dinner and I'm going to hold the beef.' You can't do that," Zemeckis said.

In 2020, Bob Gale explained why Back to the Future 4 is a terrible idea

The most recent development regarding a possible Back to the Future 4 came from Gale in February 2020 — and it's just as bleak as Zemeckis' past remarks. He told the BBC that studios try "all the time" to convince him and Zemeckis to make a fourth movie, but they've said time and time again that nothing will convince them to agree to the project. 

"We already made a lot of money. You know, you don't sell your kids into prostitution. It was the wrong thing to do. We put 'The End' at the end of part three," said Gale. "Plus, Michael J. Fox isn't in the shape to do a movie, and nobody wants to see Marty McFly having Parkinson's disease, and nobody wants to see another actor playing Marty McFly if it's supposed to be a continuation. We've already seen the Star Wars movies and Luke Skywalker is an old man. That can be a little bit painful, right?"

Gale continued, explaining that he and Zemeckis would never want to tarnish the legacy of the Back to the Future franchise or ruin anyone's memory of it by making another film. In order to create more Back to the Future content without any negative consequences, Gale scripted a Back to the Future musical instead.

"We learn from the fact that so many studios have gone back to the well on some of their franchise properties too many times, and the audiences are disappointed and say, 'Oh my God, they ruined my childhood.' We don't want to ruin anybody's childhood, and doing a musical was the perfect way to give the public more Back to the Future without messing up what has gone before," he said. 

Audiences will just have to be happy with the numerous non-film Back to the Future-related projects that have come out in the years since the last film's release. There has been Back to the Future: The Ride, a Back to the Future cartoon series (complete with spin-off comic books), Back to the Future: The Game, and a true comic book sequel series co-written by Gale. It looks like fans will have plenty of DeLorean-infused time travel hijinks for years to come. Great Scott!