The Secret Connection Between Gremlins And Back To The Future

They're staples of 1980s cinema. Both are fantastic in the tales they tell, although one is far more frightening than the other. The two particular specimens in question are Robert Zemeckis' "Back to the Future" and Joe Dante's Christmas creature feature, "Gremlins." Both produced by Steven Spielberg and released only a year apart, these two iconic entries from Universal have stuck in moviegoers' minds for decades, standing out in their respective genres as must-see movies.

There is, however, a strong connection between these two that, if removed from either, would take crucial components out of their respective stories. It's not in the quotable lines or the characters that say them; it's one that, for some, could go easily unnoticed but has been right in front of them ever since the films were released. Would you like to hazard a guess, or would you like us to draw you a map?

The films share the same town, sort of

In the case of "Back to the Future," the location of Hill Valley is as much a character as Marty McFly or Biff Tannen. That iconic and broken clock tower and the nearby diner are crucial landmarks in one of the most memorable movies in history. This very town served as the same place overrun with Gremlins in Joe Dante's classic.

When you think about it, recycling a movie set just makes sense. Films are expensive enterprises; in the glory days of big studios, the film companies constructed and maintained stock scenery areas on their back lots — a western town, a city street, and so forth. Why re-create the wheel? As Mental Floss explains, that's what happened with "Gremlins" and "Back to the Future."

While not as integral to the story as it is in Zemeckis' sci-fi adventure, the quiet town of Kingston Falls, the setting for "Gremlins," was built on the Universal Studios lot in 1984. Dusted with snow in the mini-monster movie, the makeshift town was eventually transformed into the iconic Hill Valley for "Back to the Future," released a year later. It has some similar residents, with Frances Lee McCain, who played both Billy's mother, Lynn Peltzer ("Gremlins"), and Marty's grandmother, Stella Baines ("Back to the Future"). Don't think of it as cheap; think of it as thrifty. Some towns do just look the same, after all.