We talk a lot about shared universes in film. It’s one of the most exciting exercises to try and link up various films together in a timeline or a universe. We hear of the big ones like the Tarantinoverse and the View Askewniverse, but we never hear about the Back to the Future Universe. Now, if you’re thinking that this has anything to do with BTTF‘s twisted timeline or the paradoxes, it doesn’t. This is all about films that connect directly to Back to the Future. We want to show how the Back to the Future franchise may actually be the hub or the connective tissue that links these 15 different films together.
So, what do we mean by connected? Well, we are considering every moment that an object or a character from one film appears in another film. This is a necessary link because it tells us that the films are close to each other in proximity. Some characters appear in multiple films played by different actors, but we aren’t counting those because the connections might never end. Some directors like to connect their films into one universe, and the Back to the Future universe benefits from that. Still, there are 15 films on this list and two thirds are directed by different directors, so there are plenty of people and moving parts involved. Is this intentional? No. Does that matter? No. BTTF fans know just how important this film franchise is, but we could have never expected it to be the center of such a massive universe. This is a universe that goes far beyond what we’ve outlined here, but we just wanted to show the most concrete examples. Here are 15 Films That No One Expected to Exist in the ‘Back to the Future’ Universe.
15. The Polar Express
Some naysayers like to write off the connection between The Polar Express and Back to the Future as nothing more than Easter eggs in two Robert Zemeckis films, but that’s baloney. Not only do we see evidence that Lone Pine Mall exists in The Polar Express world (seen in a photograph), but we’re willing to bet that the train, The Polar Express, is the same train as the one in Back to the Future III. Sure, there’s been some adjustments made to it, but the thing has a flux capacitor. Besides, the last time we saw Doc Brown, he was on a train that could travel through time. They have to be the same trains. There are several other references that don’t really amount to much, but if both Lone Pine Mall and the flux capacitor both exist in The Polar Express world, then The Polar Express is part of the Back to the Future Universe. Take that to the bank.
14. Blade Runner
In Back to the Future II, we got of glimpse of the then-future year of 2015. Zemeckis was smart not to make that future so radically different from our own in case he was caught looking silly when the future actually came and it was underwhelming (at least in terms of flying cars). Well, the future came and it wasn’t so far off. Sure, even BTTF‘s future was a bit far-fetched, but it wasn’t bad compared to Blade Runner. In Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, the year was 2019 so things could still change. But it’s unlikely that we develop replicants in the next couple of years. Nope. Even though we’re not there yet, we can safely say that that film’s projection of the future will miss the mark. Still, it’s an incredible film and has created some really iconic imagery, perhaps none more memorable than the cars, Spinners. In what many argue was just a homage to Blade Runner (or trying to save on costs), Zemeckis placed a few Spinners in Back to the Future II. Though this connection can be debated, including those cars in the world, it unintentionally joined the two film worlds together. If you’re trying to place the Spinners, we see one parked in a driveway and another parked on the street, visible during the hoverboard chase scene.
13. Alien & Prometheus
If Back to the Future and Blade Runner are linked, we know at least two other members of the universe as well—Prometheus and Alien. Although these are two separate films, they’re part of the same franchise so we’ll treat them as the same instead of counting each film separately. That would feel like cheating to boost the number of films. Long before Prometheus was released, people assumed that Alien and Blade Runner were in the same universe. Well, Prometheus came out and confirmed that assumption by suggesting that the Replicants in Blade Runner were essentially an early variation of the androids from Alien, or at least an inspiration. We also learned that the Weyland Corp. from Alien was built in the wake of the Tyrell Corporation’s mistakes in Blade Runner. Obviously, these films also have the Ridley Scott connection, so it’s a straightforward link.
12. Predator II
Maybe the most obvious connection on this list is between the Alien and Predator franchises. Everyone knows that AVP brought these two film franchises together officially, but many forget that Predator II was actually the first film to connect these worlds together (technically the comics did it first). At the end of Predator II, the main character enters the trophy room of the Predator ship and discovers a collection of skulls from its various kills. One of the most identifiable skulls is that of a xenomorph, the aliens from the Alien franchise. This means that Predators have encountered xenomorphs before, which also means that they exist alongside Back to the Future as well.
Technically, the connections we’re using here are from the television show, Firefly, but the show also had a film, Serenity, which works as well since they both exist in the same universe. In the very first episode of Firefly, we catch a glimpse of a familiar name and logo. During a fight scene in which Mal is using a turret, the HUD of this weapon displays a Weyland-Yutani logo. If you’ve already forgotten, Weyland-Yutani is the company from Alien and Prometheus. We also hear Weyland-Yutani’s slogan, “building better worlds,” at one point. The creator of Firefly and Serenity, Joss Whedon is a massive Alien fan and even tried his hand (unsuccessfully) to pen an Alien script at one point, so it makes sense that he would piggyback on this universe. He probably didn’t expect to ever be connected to BTTF though.
Soldier is a film that had all the promise in the world, but it never amounted to much. That being said, it’s a very large player in the BTTF universe. The truth behind the connection is that David Webb Peoples was the screenwriter for both Blade Runner and Soldier. It’s because of him that Soldier is connected to Blade Runner and the larger universe, specifically in the mention that Kurt Russell‘s character fought in the battles of Tannhauser Gate and Shoulder of Orion, two locations mentioned in Blade Runner, and that he was also trained in weaponry used in Alien. Like Back to the Future, Soldier also has a Spinner show up in one scene, though this one is not in working condition. Soldier is also an important film for our next entry.
9. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Even though Soldier is connected to several different films, its greatest claim to fame in terms of this list is that it brings Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan into the universe. In Soldier, again seen in Kurt Russell’s file, we see the locations “Nibian Moon” and “Antares Maelstrom.” These are both from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. There’s nothing that helps form a cinematic universe like a tangible location to hang your hat on, so this is a great discovery. This would also imply that all of the Star Trek franchise films are part of the BTTF world, but that’ll be an entirely different piece if and when we attempt to expand this universe.
8. A Million Ways To Die In The West
Seth MacFarlane‘s wild west story has probably already been forgotten by most people. It was an alright film. There was nothing particularly memorable about it, but it wasn’t a total disaster. There were a few scenes that come to mind when looking back though, and two of them have to do with this universe. One had to do directly with Doc Brown. That’s right. If you haven’t seen the film or have forgotten about it, MacFarlane’s character stumbles in on Doc Brown while he’s working on the DeLorean. It’s a pretty comical encounter because MacFarlane reacts like we imagine someone would react in the old west if they walked in on that strange man and machine. Obviously, we’re to assume that this encounter takes place during Back to the Future III, which then places these two films next to each other in the universe. There’s another famous film character that appears in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Our next entry.
7. Django Unchained
Throughout A Million Ways to Die in the West, there’s a shooting contest game unlike the one in Back to the Future. This game has a large part to play in the main storyline. Well, at the end of the film, a new challenger comes in to test his shooting ability in the game, Django. It’s here that Django Unchained reveals itself as another film in the BTTF universe. Clearly, anytime a Quentin Tarantino movie is in your universe, there’s going to be others that connect as well. While we acknowledge the connections between the multiple sections of the Tarantinoverse and the cigarettes and burgers that connect basically all of the films, we’ll only focus on a couple links with true tangible connections.
Before we delve too deeply into the Tarantinoverse, one interesting connection that Tarantino himself dropped on the world is that Django is an ancestor of John Shaft from the Shaft films. To nail down this link, Tarantino named Django’s wife Broomhilda Von Shaft. Tarantino explained the relation in this way, “Her and Django will eventually have a baby, and then that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby … and one of these days, John Shaft will be born.” Magic! Some people have dismissed this link as nothing more than a joke, but we feel pretty good about it.
5. Kill Bill II
When it comes to connecting to Django Unchained to the rest of the universe, the big film is Kill Bill II. The reason these films are connected, for the uninitiated, is because Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) is buried alive in the grave of Christoph Waltz‘ wife from Django Unchained. Seriously. The grave that she’s put in is marked as the “Paula Schultz.” Waltz’ character is named Dr. King Schultz and we know he had a wife. Does this seem far-fetched? Well, Tarantino did confirm this connection if that kind of thing matters to you. Kill Bill also has the appearance of the famous Tarantino characters Earl McGraw and his son, Edgar. Earl and Edgar are the two cops investigating the Two Pines Chapel massacre that Beatrix was targeted in. This is important because these men are the key to a larger universe connection.
4. From Dusk Till Dawn
The first time we ever met one of the McGraws was in From Dusk Till Dawn. In this film, we only met Earl. Later in the sequel, we would meet his son, Edgar. But back then, it was just Earl and Earl didn’t last long. Very early into his first film appearance, Earl was shot in the head. So you’re wondering how he survived? Well, apparently, these films in the Tarantinoverse are just movies within movies. In other words, Earl is just a character in a movie, whereas the guys from Inglourious Basterds are in the “realer than real” Tarantinoverse. Interestingly, the McGraws are the only characters that we’ve ever seen travel between these two Tarantinoverses. Our next entry is the film that they traveled to.
3. Grindhouse Films
The two Grindhouse films, Planet Terror and Death Proof, are great films to just turn on and turn off your brain. We’re excited that the McGraw family made an appearance in these films because we want them to be part of the universe. Truth be told, they are a lot more central to these films than just making “an appearance.” In both films, the McGraws play large roles in the stories and we meet more members of their family, including Earl’s daughter, Dakota, and his wife, Ramona. The Grindhouse double feature is also important for bringing us Machete for the first time. Even though we only see Machete as a fake movie trailer in the film, it hints at a larger connection, one that would be explored later. This connection alone is not good enough to suggest that these films are in the same universe. If anything, it makes the connection more complicated and doubtful.
As we explained, Machete is linked to this universe. But it’s done so in a unique way, at least in terms of this list. The connection comes in a deleted scene. Typically, we wouldn’t want to accept a deleted scene because some deleted scenes are filmed for fun and are fully intended to be deleted. This scene, however, was cut for time. The scene in question has Edgar McGraw kissing Sartana’s sister from Machete. Even though Tarantino has said that the McGraws can travel between real and fake universes, we can only accept what our eyes tell us. In this BTTF universe, it’s the McGraw brothers who are the most important in relation to Tarantino’s films.
1. Spy Kids
One of the best things about the McGraws being able to move between the two distinct Tarantinoverses, is not that we get Machete. To be honest, we’re more excited about the Spy Kids connection. In case you were unaware, the kids’ uncle in Spy Kids is none other than Machete himself. That means that in a weird, twisted, and almost backward kind of way, Spy Kids and Back to the Future are in the same universe. Maybe even weirder, Spy Kids and Alien are in the same universe. Really, Spy Kids with any of the films on this list seems odd. That’s why we were so excited to see this connection become a thing. Happy trails travelers.