Why One Back To The Future Writer Wanted Universal To ‘Destroy’ Censored Version Of Sequel

Christopher Lloyd as Emmett Brown and Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1984)

Back to the Future is a timeless (no pun intended) film trilogy that many moviegoers have a soft spot for. As such, some fans probably weren’t too happy when Netflix released a version of Back to the Future Part II that censored a scene in the film.

The Back to the Future Part II scene, in question, is the sequence in which Marty McFly attempts to snatch the sports almanac from Principal Strickland’s office. And as you might remember, when he does grab the book, he finds that it’s only Biff’s dirty magazine. In the Netflix version, the magazine cover is poorly edited out. Fans were quick to notice the change and point it out on social media. Now, it would appear that franchise scribe Bob Gale also had a problem with this altered version and has even gone as far as to tell Universal Pictures to dispose of it.

Bob Gale explained that both he and director Robert Zemeckis had no idea this version of the film existed. According to the writer, it was made because a country took issue with the magazine cover. Because Gale couldn’t (and doesn’t) blame Netflix for this cut of the movie, he went to Universal to make his feelings known:

Apparently, this was a foreign version which neither director Robert Zemeckis nor I even knew existed, for some country that had a problem with the Oh La La magazine cover. I asked that the studio destroy this version. FYI, Netflix does not edit films — they only run the versions that are supplied to them. So they're blameless. You can direct your ire at Universal, but I think they will be a lot more careful in the future — and with 'the future.'

During his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Gale stressed that Netflix was not to blame for this version being released. He also sounds relieved that the original cut of the film is now running on the streaming service:

The blame is on Universal who somehow furnished Netflix an edited version of the movie. I learned about it some ten days ago from an eagle-eyed fan, and had the studio rectify the error. The version now running is the uncensored, unedited, original version.

Censoring films has been a common practice in the entertainment industry, but one could argue that it’s only increased with the rise of streaming services. Disney+ has been particularly active when it comes to this practice. The streamer has already made changes to several films in its library, ranging from Lilo & Stitch to Splash.

While some edits can be helpful, others can sometimes hinder the experience for the viewer, and that seems to have been how Bob Gale felt about the change to Back to the Future Part II. It may be disappointing that it happened in the first place but, on the bright side, Universal seems to have been swift in rectifying its decision.

The Back to the Future trilogy is now available to stream on Netflix.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.