On the face of it, Doc Emmett Brown and Marty McFly seem to have very little in common.

Marty is active in after school activities, has a beautiful girlfriend and his family, friends and educators all seem to dislike Doc Brown.

Can anybody shed any light on why a seventeen year old boy's best friend would be an elderly nuclear scientist who has been shunned by the respectable scientific community? In a nutshell, how did they meet and why is he still friends with the Doc?

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  • 13
    I don't have enough for a proper answer, but this smells like a genre trope of sorts. The adventurous boy who is friends with an outcast adult, the formula might be something like that. If I check TV Tropes though, I'll soon discover that it's 10am and I won't have went to bed and will be late for work.
    – John O
    Feb 21, 2014 at 5:05
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    You'll need to see this trailer. It will explain everything. youtube.com/watch?v=8uwuLxrv8jY ;)
    – Mr Lister
    Feb 21, 2014 at 6:41
  • How is this opinion based, its a question on the origins of their friendship not on which movie is coolest Feb 21, 2014 at 13:58
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    Is the answer "libyans!!!"?
    – Valorum
    Feb 21, 2014 at 19:18
  • I've actually got an "in-universe" answer for this one. I'll wait to see if anyone else nominates the (revised) question for reopening
    – Valorum
    Feb 21, 2014 at 19:19

4 Answers 4


They're partners in crime

In the original draft for BTTF, Marty and Doc Brown are running a "bootleg video operation". Marty is the distributor and manufacturer (making the videos and selling them at school) and Doc Brown is providing the finance and equipment which in turn is paying for his inventing.

PROF. BROWN : But no! 33 years of dedication and research, and all I've got to show for it is a bootleg video operation!

MARTY : That reminds me, if we could scrape up enough for a 35 film chain, I've got a connection with a projectionist in a first run house---we could be sellin' new movies on the street before they're even in the theater.

Later, we see...

'Marty is among a group of kids, surreptitiously exchanging video tapes for cash'

And after he returns to the lab...

'Marty puts a big wad of cash into a cigar box on the bench, then walks over to another area of the lab.'

  • 2
    New question will they remake back to the future Feb 23, 2014 at 15:47
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    According to Zemeckis; "There’s no Back To The Future IV and there shouldn’t be a Back To The Future IV. I don’t think there should ever be a fourth sequel to anything. Three is a dramatic number. It’s a three-act structure. Four is even. Four is boring." Whether they'll reboot it is a different matter. My guess is that if they offer him enough money, he'll happily sh*t all over the memory of his film just like everyone else in Hollywood does...
    – Valorum
    Feb 23, 2014 at 15:48
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    Easy... i was joking i would have put this as an actual question if i was partly serious and of course their going to remake it in like 5-20 years Feb 23, 2014 at 16:28
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    I kinda wish they would remake it next year, so they could go back 30 years to 1985, where the original is showing in cinemas.
    – yatima2975
    Mar 3, 2014 at 11:11
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    Wait a minute... recording & selling VHS tapes during the 80's was a crime? Crap. I mean... good to know.
    – Omegacron
    Dec 16, 2014 at 22:48

Quite simply, the basis for their friendship is that Marty thinks Doc is cool, and Doc loves that someone thinks he's cool.

Co-Creator Bob Gale explains the backstory:

Okay, from the horse’s mouth (yes, I’m the horse — er, co-writer, co-creator): We never explained it in the movie. But the history of the characters that Bob Zemeckis and I created is this…

For years, Marty was told that Doc Brown was dangerous, a crackpot, a lunatic. So, being a red-blooded American teenage boy, age 13 or 14, he decided to find out just why this guy was so dangerous. Marty snuck into Doc’s lab, and was fascinated by all the cool stuff that was there. when Doc found him there, he was delighted to find that Marty thought he was cool and accepted him for what he was. Both of them were the black sheep in their respective environments. Doc gave Marty a part-time job to help with experiments, tend to the lab, tend to the dog, etc.

And that’s the origin of their relationship.

— Bob Gale

  • 1
    Excellent answer. It doesn't really address the (criminal) nature of their relationship in the early script drafts but it does directly answer the question asked.
    – Valorum
    Mar 30, 2014 at 17:08
  • Wasn't there some (indirect) reference to the video bootlegging in the opening sequence of the first movie? Like, in the camera pan across doc's lab, I think that there were a bunch of stacks of VHS tapes. So, the plot elements were removed, but they still used the props? Dec 17, 2015 at 17:32
  • Yes, but since we see Doc filming his experiments, it can be handwaved away that the tapes are just filled with old experiments.
    – phantom42
    Dec 17, 2015 at 17:48

Lets start with the easy fact that Marty McFly is a teenager. If his teachers dislike Doc Brown, this is a good enough reason for Marty to continue being friends with him, just to be anti-authoritarian.

At the beginning of the first movie, Marty isn't that popular. His dad is a loser, his uncle is in prison, his mother is an alcoholic (Lorraine is drinking vodka liberally at the start), his adult brother lives at home and works in fast food, and he's in an unpopular band that didn't finish one song in a battle of the bands try-out. At some point Marty probably just met Doc who is also an outsider in Hill Valley and sprung up a friendship with him.

But lastly, Back to the Future plays hard and fast with causality. Why is Marty friends with Doc, well because Doc met Marty in 1955, who helped him pioneer his flux capacitor.

In original 1955, did the Doc know that the Flux Capacitor would work, or did he think it would be a failure and the only reason it worked was because Marty came back in time to tell him it worked, and then Doc knew he couldn't tell Marty that they met to make sure Marty would go back in time to meet him to make sure the flux capacitor was invented... whoa... this is heavy.

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    I have to disagree with the addendum. They were obviously good friends at 1985 to begin with - Marty had a key to Doc's house and regularly took care of Einstein for him. That denotes a pretty close friendship.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 21, 2014 at 4:41
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    @LegoStormtroopr: The Marty we see didn't, but another Marty did, the well-adjusted, rather spoiled, Harvard-bound Marty the cool parents remember. FRIDGE LOGIC: Hey! Maybe that Marty went back, deftly avoided interfering with anything, and returned to find himself in the dysfunctional family where everyone thinks he's an underachieving dweeb, now wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of Doc Brown... Well, it needs work...
    – Beta
    Feb 21, 2014 at 6:19
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    Never underestimate the charm of a dog. Original-Marty's dysfunctional family doesn't appear to have any pets, and Marty is clearly fond of Einstein. This is another reason for him to hang out with Doc Brown. The Doc might even have hired a younger Marty to help walk and otherwise take care of Einstein. Feb 21, 2014 at 11:26
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    @Beta Doc acts like he doesn't remember meeting Marty at the beginning of the movie. However, he quite clearly does, since he dons the bullet-proof vest and shows him the taped-up letter at the end. It's your basic time loop paradox: Doc befriends Marty so that he can go back in time to 1955, and show a working time machine, so that Doc can invent and build it, and befriend Marty ...
    – Chahk
    Feb 21, 2014 at 14:27
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    @Chahk: Inasmuch as we can apply hard logic to this movie (and overlook e.g. the way siblings disappear from Marty's wallet photos but not his brain), at the beginning Doc does not remember meeting Marty in 1955, he does not have a taped-up letter in his pocket, and he is not wearing a bullet-proof vest. When Marty makes his second trip through time, he arrives to find a Doc with vest, letter and memories-- and how much of the secret that Doc imparted to his Marty, we don't know.
    – Beta
    Feb 22, 2014 at 0:32

How about this answer:When Marty travels time and get back to 1955,he meets DOC for the first time and gives idea about Flux capacitor; This helps doc to find Time machine for returning back to present year.

This is their first meet. That's how Marty knows Doc. Since the story spins around Time travel, we can even consider this as an answer.

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    But BTTF features a model of time travel where the timeline is rewritten by time travel (as evidenced by the change to Marty's parents at the end of part 1), so there must have been an "original" version of 1955 where Marty wasn't there--the one we hear Marty's mom describe at the beginning of the movie, where George was the one who bumped his head and had to be taken care of. So at the start of the movie we must be in a timeline where Marty didn't appear in 1955, yet Marty and Doc are still friends in the 1985 of that timeline, it can't be because Doc remembers him from 1955.
    – Hypnosifl
    Oct 21, 2015 at 5:16
  • Damn, Hypnosifi just blew the legs off my idea - that doc knew of Marty because he already knew him. But to Ganesh's statement - Marty doesn't give Doc the idea of the Fluc capacitor, Doc had that idea himself, and bumped his head. Marty meets him afterwards, so not paradox of the idea just appearing out of thin air.
    – Engineer
    Jul 15, 2018 at 5:09

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