I love grudge matches! I’ve already pitted The Lost World: Jurassic Park against Jurassic Park III, as well as Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom against Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and now, I’m going to pit Back To The Future 2 against Back To The Future 3! Ain’t I a stinker?
Because, like the two Jurassic Park sequels as well as the two (okay, three) Indiana Jones sequels, I think that when it comes to Back to the Future, most people would say that the first movie is the best in the series. But that’s most people. My personal favorite is actually the black sheep of the series, Back to the Future III (I just like westerns). That said, I can still be a fair judge, so I’m going to look through a number of different categories to decide which Back To The Future is the better sequel, Part II, or Part III. And yes, I know. This is heavy.
Both sequels deal with time travel, but which sequel has the better story?
Back To The Future II’s Story
Back To The Future II’s story is all over the place. But in a good way! It all centers around a sports almanac and the rise of Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson). What follows is Marty (Michael J. Fox) taking a trip to the far-off future (2015!), and then to an altered present (1985) and then finally to the past again (the events in the first movie in 1955). Honestly, with so much going on, you’d think it would be incomprehensible, but it’s actually relatively easy to follow and really fun. That said…it’s still kind of a mess.
Back To The Future III’s Story
Back To The Future III is actually a western, since Marty has to go back in time to 1885 to rescue Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) before he gets murdered by Biff’s great-grandfather. Everything turns out alright in the end, but Doc falls in love in the past, which creates a whole different set of problems that are kind of unique for the series. Overall, it’s a much more straightforward story than its predecessor, so it’s easier to follow.
The Story Victor: Back To The Future III
I might catch some heat for this, but besides the futuristic stuff in Part II, the rest of the BTTF 2’s story is a little too busy for my taste. Also, if you don’t like BTTF 3, then you probably aren’t all that fond of westerns. The story around all that western stuff, though, is really good, especially since there’s a lot more Marty and Doc interactions in this sequel.
A lot of the same characters appear in both sequels, but which movie uses them more effectively?
Back to the Future II’s Characters
While Marty is still as cool as ever, and I do love future Doc Brown, Back to the Future II is the Biff show through and through. We get to see him at all different stages of his life, and since Biff is probably my favorite character in the entire series, I bet you can already guess which sequel is my favorite when it comes to characters. I mean, you’d have to be a real butthead if you don’t like Biff Tannen.
Back To The Future III’s Characters
Again, a lot of the characters in II make their way in III, just ancestral versions. We get Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen, Maggie McFly (Lea Thompson) as well as others. But one character who is new to the series—and who kind of sucks—is Clara Clayton, played by Mary Steenburgen. She’s Doc’s love interest, and while I do like her since she’s her own woman and doesn’t need a man, I feel like some of the plot centered around her sinks the whole movie. So, there’s that.
The Character Victor: Back To The Future II
I just love Biff, so no contest with this one. Back to the Future 2 wins.
The settings play a huge part in both sequels. But which movie has the more memorable time and place(s)?
Back To The Future II’s Setting
Back To The Future II takes place in different time periods in Hill Valley. We get the seedy 1985 Hill Valley, we get the future Hill Valley, with hoverboards and self-lacing sneakers, and we get the past Hill Valley from the first movie. All of them are distinct, but they’re more like snippets. And while they’re all cohesive, they kind of all feel separate, too.
Back To The Future III’s Setting
Back To The Future III takes place in 1885, and it stays consistent throughout. Some people hate this setting, but again, I think that’s more of a hatred for westerns than anything else.
The Setting Victor: Back To The Future III
I might be biased with this since I love westerns, but I think I only like aspects of the three settings in BTTF 2, while I like all of the settings in BTTF 3.
The Time Travel
Time travel plays a huge role in both movies. But, which story makes it more interesting?
Back To The Future II’s Time Travel
Okay…so Marty goes into the future and buys an almanac, but he leaves it behind and future Biff picks it up. Biff then steals the time machine to go to the past to give his younger self the almanac. He also kills Marty’s father, forces Marty’s mom to marry him, and then Marty goes back to 1955, and…you know what. It makes a lot more sense when you just watch the movie. But it’s one of those, “Wait, what’s happening again?” kind of time travel films.
Back To The Future III’s Time Travel
Back To The Future III’s time travel is relatively simple. Marty goes back to the past to save his friend. The cool part, though, is that the DeLorean breaks down so it can’t reach 88 mph to time travel. So, they have to get the DeLorean in front of a train to push the car to that speed so Marty can get back home. I mean, as far as time travel stories are concerned, I get it. It makes sense.
The Time Travel Victor: Back To The Future III
When it comes to time travel movies, I prefer when the time travel doesn’t get in the way of the plot, so Back to the Future 3 wins.
Connection to The First Movie
Every sequel should connect to what came before it, so which movie connects best to the first movie?
Back To The Future II’s Connection To The Original
Back to the Future 2 literally recreates scenes from the first film, so I don’t know how you could connect anymore than that.
Back To The Future III’s Connection To The Original
Back to the Future 3 connects in subtle ways and acts as a nice bookend to the series. Still, its setting makes it far and away the oddball movie of the series.
The Connection To The First Movie Victor: Back To The Future II
Both films connect well to the original, but Back to the Future 2 connects better.
Back To The Future II Vs. Back To The Future III: Which Movie Wins?
I know it’s cooler to like Back to the Future 2, but Back to the Future 3 is the better sequel. And, don’t just take my word for it, either. Critically, BTTF 3 has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than BTTF 2. Though, their audience scores are flip-flopped, so maybe I’m just viewing BTTF 3 from a more critical lens than most fans. Whatever the reason, BTTF 3 comes out as the better sequel. What do you think? Sound off in the poll or the comments section down below about which sequel you prefer!