Back to the Future movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Back to the Future filmed?

1985

About Back to the Future

With the introduction of several main characters who have richly explored backgrounds, viewers back in 1985 knew that Back to the Future would be an instant classic. Filled with hidden easter eggs in the film to memorable quotes strung throughout Back to the Future, it's no wonder that many come to revisit this gem of a movie.

Set in California, Back to the Future centers around teenager Marty McFly. Emmet “Doc” Brown, who is an eccentric scientist and Marty’s friend, asks to meet him at the parking lot of a mall. When Marty arrives, Doc unveils a time machine in the form of a modified DeLorean. The DeLorean is powered by plutonium, which was swindled from terrorists. After the terrorists gun Doc down, Marty flees in the DeLorean and inadvertently time travels back into the past after reaching the specified speed threshold for time travel, which is 88 miles per hour.

Marty finds himself back in 1955 and discovers that he lacks the plutonium to return to his time. With no other option, Marty looks for the younger version of Doc to fix his predicament and after finding him, he is told that the only way to get enough power for time travel is through a lightning bolt. Marty also finds the younger version of his parents and things start to get weird when his mom’s younger version finds herself infatuated with Marty instead of his dad, George.

With this, the future begins to alter and Marty fears that his existence will be in jeopardy if he doesn’t do something. Luckily, Marty manages to fix everything with his quick wit and meets up with Doc to calibrate the DeLorean to go back to 1985 when the original experiment took place. He comes back to a better future where the Doc isn’t dead, and his entire family is a successful bunch. With everything seemingly perfect in the finale, Doc reappears in the DeLorean and insists that Marty returns with him to the future to save their children from terrible fates.

City Locations

Arleta, Burbank, Chino, City of Industry, Newhall, Whittie, Pasadena

Location Types

American, House, Naturescapes, Gyms/Sports, Restaurant, Retail, Schools/Colleges, Studios

Location Styles

Classic Car, Dated/Retro, Parking Lot, Ranch Style, School, Sport Car

Back to the Future Locations

Back to the Future was shot entirely in the state of California. With most of the locations being close to each other, it's easy to see why Back to the Future’s shooting locations seem somewhat similar. However, with the Los Angeles area being so diverse, it was easy for the producers to find unique areas that could be used to film different parts of the movie.

Many of the locations centered around towns and city life meaning there was minimal need for outdoor locations, apart from the time travel scene where the DeLorean traveled back in time from 1985 to 1955. Throughout the film, a variety of houses were used to portray the different characters’ lifestyles and homes, which aided in their character profile and added to their personality. Perhaps on your next trip to Los Angeles, you can visit these Back to the Future locations!

Fun Fact:

Considering how successful Back to the Future was, its original script was rejected 44 times before it was finally green-lit.

Marty breaks Doc’s amplifier scene in Back to the Future

Parking lot, Burbank, California

The beginning of the film brings viewers into a disheveled garage, filled with all sorts of trash. The protagonist, Marty McFly walks towards an amplifier, turning knobs and flicking switches until everything is turned on and set to the max.

When the camera pans out, we can see that Marty has turned a massive 10-foot-tall speaker on and connected it to his electric guitar. With the impulse of a high schooler, Marty plays a note on his guitar and the speaker explodes with energy and sound, sending him flying back into the shelves that collapse. As Marty regains consciousness, the audience hears him say “Whoa! Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

This beginning scene of Back to the Future was shot in Burbank on an empty parking lot that was redesigned to look like a garage. The area where this scene was shot is easily accessible, and you can get to it by driving along North Victory Boulevard. What you find on the location is the iconic parking lot from the beginning of the film, as well as the Burger King that featured in the intro of Back to the Future. Be sure to visit one of the most recognized Back to the Future filming locations!

Marty arrives late to school scene in Back to the Future

Whittier High School, Whittier, California

With all the clocks set 25 minutes behind the actual time, Marty arrives late to school. As he sneakily tries to get into school with the help of his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, Mr. Strickland – a no-nonsense disciplinarian – stops Marty dead in his tracks and reprimands him for coming late to school.

He goes on to talk about Marty’s attitude and who he associates with, mentioning that, “This so-called Dr. Brown is dangerous. He’s a real nutcase. You hang around with him, you’re gonna end up in big trouble.”

This high school scene in Back to the Future was shot in Whittier High School, located in Whittier. The school is in a central location allowing you to reach it in many ways, one way is by traveling along Philadelphia Street and as a bonus, you get to see the front door where Jennifer greets Marty. Did you know Whittier High School was Richard Nixon’s alma mater?

Biff Tannen intimidates George McFly scene in Back to the Future

Roslyndale Avenue, Arleta, California

Marty McFly comes home to see a wrecked car outside, and an intimidating Biff Tanner, his father’s supervisor, berating George McFly for “loaning his car to him without letting him know that it had a blind spot.” Clearly, Biff is in the wrong, but due to George’s timid nature, Biff can take advantage of the situation. George replies in turn, “Now, Biff now, I never noticed that the car had any blind spot before when I would drive it.”

Marty McFly’s iconic home in Back to the Future is located in Arleta. The house which served as one of the filming locations of Back to the Future can be reached in a variety of ways. One way to get there through public transport is by taking the Number 166 bus down Osborne Street and then walking up Sunburst Street and then taking a left down Roslyndale Avenue.

Doc tests out the DeLorean scene in Back to the Future

Puente Hills Mall, City of Industry, California

Marty meets Doc at the Twin Pines parking lot. At first, he sees Einstein, Doc’s dog, and then Doc describes his magnificent plan to test out his theory of time travel in his souped-up DeLorean. Doc places Einstein inside the car and then remotely controls it to travel up to a speed of 88 miles per hour, the speed where the supposed temporal displacement is supposed to occur.

With Marty McFly filming all of this, he catches the car disappearing just before they get hit. To this, a triumphant Doc exclaims, “88 miles per hour!” indicating that was the correct speed at which temporal displacement takes place.

One of the funnier scenes in Back to the Future, the scene where Doc tests out the DeLorean, was shot in Industrial City at Puente Hills Mall. Puente Hills Mall is one of the larger malls in the area and is well known for Round 1, an amusement center. To get to Puente Hills Mall, drive along the Pomona Freeway and then take the exit that takes you down South Azusa Avenue. The mall offers a lot more than just the amusement center so feel free to explore so that you can find something you like!

The barn scene in Back to the Future

Golden Oak Ranch, Newhall, California

A 1985 Marty McFly travels back in time to 1955, where he crashes into the barn owned by the Peabodys. The noise awakens the family who cautiously approaches the mysterious sound. What comes out of the DeLorean is Marty in a hazmat suit, which looks somewhat like the flying saucer and alien that the farmer’s son has seen in his comic. He shows the picture to his father and as Marty exits the car to ask for help, the younger son exclaims, “It’s already mutated into human form! Shoot it!” to which his father does.

The Twin Pines Ranch is actually the Golden Oak Ranch, a ranch owned by Disney. Golden Oak Ranch was also a filming location for The Waltons and the original Parent Trap. To get to this ranch, drive along the Placerita Canyon Road which can be reached from the Antelope Valley Freeway. The ranch is relatively isolated so feel free to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature while reminiscing on the barn scene in Back to the Future.

Marty wakes up in Lorraine’s house scene in Back to the Future

Bushnell Avenue, South Pasadena, California

As Marty saves his father from an oncoming vehicle, he gets a concussion and wakes up in a darkened room with someone placing a cold compress on the bruise on his forehead. The voice reminds him of his mother and Marty asks, “Mom, is that you?” After coming to his senses and sitting up, he starts to mention how he had a horrible nightmare about going back in time, to which this mysterious woman says, “Well, you’re safe and sound now, back in good old 1955.” Apparently, Marty’s troubles have just begun and from this scene, it's clear that he has his work cut out for him if he wants to get back to 1985 in one piece.

The house that was used in this scene was supposed to show Marty’s mother’s original home. The house is located in South Pasadena, in Los Angeles County. There are several ways to get to this memorable location, one of them being public transportation. To get there via bus and a bit of walking, you can take either the Number 179 or 260 bus that goes down Huntington Drive and then walk down Bushnell Avenue to find the house that was used in the film.

Conclusion

Some will argue that Back to the Future is one of the best Sci-Fi movies of all time. With a richly designed world filled with characters that feel alive and relatable, Back to the Future draws audiences in, both new and old.

Although the film is categorized as a comedy, the core message of Back to the Future is a reminder to everyone that you are able to rewrite your future. The structure of Back to the Future is relatively basic but thanks to the movie’s setups, foreshadowing and minor details, Back to the Future has become a classic that’s definitely worth a rewatch or two.