The lead character of the series is Marty McFly. During the course of the trilogy, he travels through time using a DeLorean time machine invented by his friend Emmett Brown and encounters the villain, Biff Tannen, in several different time periods and visits his family ancestors and descendants.
Martin Seamus "Marty" McFly (portrayed by Michael J. Fox in the films and voiced by David Kaufman in the animated series and AJ LoCascio in Back to the Future: The Game) is the son of George McFly and Lorraine Baines McFly. Marty travels between the past and the future, encountering his ancestors and descendants. Marty and his friend Doc Brown help restore the space-time continuum while encountering Biff Tannen (or members of the Tannen clan) at various points in time.
Doctor Emmett Lathrop "Doc" Brown (portrayed by Christopher Lloyd in the films and Back to the Future: The Game, and voiced by Dan Castellaneta in the animated series) is the inventor of the DeLorean time machine. At various points in time, Doc helps Marty restore the space-time continuum and reverse the changes that were caused by time travel.
Biff Howard Tannen (portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson in the films and animated series and voiced by Kid Beyond in Back to the Future: The Game) is the main antagonist of the first 2 films and a local bully who harassed George McFly and has once altered history in the second film. He comes from a long line of bullies in Hill Valley, most of whom harassed members of the McFly family. Biff is also a descendant of Buford Tannen (also portrayed by Wilson), who is one of Hill Valley's outlaws during the 1880s.
George Douglas McFly (portrayed by Crispin Glover in Back to the Future and by Jeffrey Weissman in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III and voiced by Michael X. Sommers in Back to the Future: The Game) is the father of Marty, Linda and Dave from the union with his wife Lorraine Baines McFly. Although he is one of the main characters in the first movie, George only makes cameos in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III.
In the first film, George is portrayed as weak and the main target of Biff Tannen's bullying. The novelization of the film expounds on George's history of weakness, describing two incidents in which he is unable to stand up for himself. In 1955, in contrast with Marty, George did not have any friends for support and was targeted not only by Biff and his gang but also other kids in school. He has a penchant for science fiction, and writes some of his own but never allows himself to share them with anyone due to his fear of rejection. In 1955, with Marty's help, he gets the courage to stand up to Biff, knocking him unconscious. As a result, he and Lorraine fall in love and George becomes popular in school for defeating Biff in a fight. In the new future, they are both happily married with George working as a college professor and being a successful writer who orders Biff around. In the alternate timeline in Part II, George was murdered by Biff in 1973.
George's character was greatly reduced in the sequels, and the role was recast. Weissman wore prosthetics to resemble Glover and imitated Glover's rendering of McFly, and his scenes were spliced with shots of Glover from Back to the Future. The result was so convincing that many people were fooled by it. However, Glover did not appreciate this and sued. The lawsuit resulted in the adoption of stricter rules by the Screen Actors Guild to prevent this situation from occurring again.
Lorraine Baines-McFly (portrayed by Lea Thompson and voiced by Aimee Miles in Back to the Future: The Game) is the wife of George McFly and the mother of Marty, Linda and Dave. She is the eldest daughter of Sam (George DiCenzo) and Stella (Frances Lee McCain) Baines, and sister of Milton (Jason Hervey), Sally (Maia Brewton), Toby, and Joey.
In Back to the Future, Lorraine is initially portrayed in 1985 as middle-aged and unhappy. After Marty changes the timeline, she is shown to be fit and happily married to George in 1985. In Part II, she is still happily married to George in 2015, but in the dystopian alternate 1985 timeline she is widowed and married to Biff.
David "Dave" McFly (portrayed by Marc McClure) is the eldest child of George and Lorraine McFly. In 1985 before Marty went to 1955, Dave works at Burger King, but in the post-time travel 1985 he wears a suit as a nondescript white-collar worker for an accounting firm. In a deleted scene from Part II, the alternate 1985 timeline shows that Dave is an alcoholic and a gambling addict following George's death and Lorraine's second marriage to Biff.
Linda McFly (portrayed by Wendie Jo Sperber) is the middle child and only daughter of George and Lorraine McFly. In 1985 before Marty went to 1955, Linda is having boy trouble and it is unknown if she is in college or has a job. In 1985 after Marty went to 1955, Linda works in a boutique and has gained the attention of many boys.
Seamus and Maggie McFly (portrayed by Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson) are Irish immigrants and the paternal great-great-grandparents of Marty McFly. In Part III, Marty is befriended by Seamus and Maggie. While Maggie does not trust the "strange young man", Seamus has a familiar feeling about him and believes that helping him is the right thing to do. They have a son named William (Marty's great-grandfather). Much like his descendants, Seamus is harassed by a member of the Tannen family, Buford Tannen.
Maggie McFly is played by Lea Thompson, who also plays Marty's mother Lorraine, even though Maggie is not an ancestor of Lorraine; in a DVD commentary track for Part III, Bob Gale states that the creative team considered it important to include Thompson in the film, and he imagines that McFly men are simply "genetically predisposed" to be attracted to women who look like her.
Marty Jr. and Marlene McFly (both portrayed by Michael J. Fox) are Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker's future son and daughter in 2015 in Part II.
Originally, 17-year-old Marty Jr. was to be arrested and sentenced to fifteen years in prison for joining a robbery initiated by Griff and his gang. Marlene attempted to help Marty Jr. break out of jail but failed and was sentenced to twenty years in a woman's prison. Doc and Marty prevented the event from ever happening.
Clara Clayton (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen in both Back to the Future Part III and the animated series) is the wife of Doc Brown and mother of Jules and Verne Brown.
Clara moved to Hill Valley and originally died in an accident when her wagon plummeted into Shonash Ravine, which was renamed Clayton Ravine in her memory. The animated series reveals that Clara, along with the rest of the family, moves to the early 1990s and lives in a farmhouse outside of Hill Valley. She then becomes a teacher at Hill Valley Elementary School.
Jules Eratosthenes Brown and Verne Newton Brown (portrayed by Todd Cameron Brown and Daniel Evans in Back to the Future Part III and voiced by Josh Keaton and Troy Davidson in the animated series) are the two children of Doc Brown and his wife, Clara, who named them after their favorite author Jules Verne.
The characters had minor, non-speaking roles in Back to the Future Part III but were further developed in the animated series. Jules, an introvert, mostly imitates his father's interests and mannerisms while Verne appears to be more outgoing and extroverted. Several plot points of the animated series revolve around either Jules or Verne altering history and the steps necessary to correct the damage.
In the Back to the Future game when asked about his family, Doc reveals that his sons are now teenagers and their parents are discussing what time period they should attend college at.
Copernicus is Doc's dog from 1955. Like his other dogs, Copernicus was used in many of Doc's experiments. When Copernicus died, he was eventually replaced by Einstein.
Einstein (portrayed by Tiger in the first film and Freddie in the other two and voiced by Danny Mann in the animated series) is Doc Brown's pet Catalan sheepdog. He later becomes one of the main characters in the animated series as the Brown family's dog.
In the first film, Doc successfully tests his time machine by placing Einstein in it and sending him one minute into the future. In the animated series, Einstein becomes anthropomorphic and smarter, helping Doc with his inventions for traveling to the past and the future.
Kid Tannen is Biff's father who only appears in the Back to the Future game. Kid is a gangster who runs a local speakeasy in the 1930s Hill Valley. He, like the rest of the Tannen family, bullies the McFly family forcing Marty's grandfather Arthur to do his accounting. Kid is brought down with the help of Marty, a young version of Doc, and Arthur McFly. He later marries Edna Strickland and reforms from his criminal ways with her help.
Buford Tannen (portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson in Back to the Future Part III) is the main antagonist of the third film. He is the great-grandfather of Biff Tannen and the local town outlaw in 1885 Hill Valley. He was nicknamed "Mad Dog" by a newspaper reporter, due to his violent temper and propensity for drooling, a nickname Tannen greatly despises. Buford is cruel, homicidal, rude, and emotionally unstable. He displays a need for control and is brought down to childlike tantrums when he is humiliated or makes mistakes, whether it be something that happens to him or something he says or does. He is often accompanied by his gang (played by Christopher Wynne, Sean Sullivan and Mike Watson), and developed a feud with Marshal James Strickland and his deputies.
Griff (portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson in both Back to the Future Part II and in the animated series) is a grandson of Biff. He is part of a gang that also consists of "Data", "Spike", and "Whitey" (portrayed by Ricky Dean Logan, Darlene Vogel, and Jason Scott Lee).
In the animated series, Griff makes a brief cameo appearance in the episode "Solar Sailors" where his grandson, Ziff (also voiced by Wilson), is detained after he attempts to sabotage Marta McFly's space cruiser due to his hatred towards her family.
Griff's last name is never mentioned in the movies, which means he could either be the son of Biff's son Biff Jr, or the son of Biff's daughter, Tiffaney. However, in the animated series, Ziff says that both he and Griff are Tannens.
In the animated series, Biff Jr. is the son of Biff Tannen. Like his father and paternal relatives, he likes to bully and steal from children around him including Jules and Verne Brown with whom he developed a feud with. In addition, Biff Jr. delights vandalizing other people's properties. Biff Jr. lives with his father with whom he has an abusive relationship. He is voiced by Benji Gregory.
There is a reference from Verne Brown that there is another Strickland who works at Hill Valley Elementary School as its vice principal.[episode needed]
James Strickland (portrayed by James Tolkan in Back to the Future Part III) is the chief marshal of Hill Valley in 1885 and the grandfather of Mr. Strickland. He also has an unnamed son (portrayed by Kaleb Henley), who will become Gerald Strickland's father.
In a deleted scene not included in the final cut, and in the movie's novelization, Strickland is killed by Buford Tannen. In the theatrical release Strickland simply remains absent for the latter half.
In the Back to the Future game, Edna Strickland in 1986 notes that James was shot and killed by Buford. Marty remarks that's a detail he doesn't remember, possibly a reference to the differences between the film and the movie novelization.
Edna Strickland, in Back to the Future: The Game, is the sister of Gerald Strickland. She is somewhat nicer than her brother, but still set in her ways towards upholding strong morals and abolishing crime and laziness. After Marty alters her original timeline, Edna married Kid Tannen and became the stepmother of Biff Tannen.
Jennifer Jane Parker is the girlfriend (and, in 2015 in Back to the Future Part II, the wife) of Marty McFly.
The character was played by Claudia Wells in Back to the Future. However, Wells was not available to film the sequels for personal reasons, and the role was recast to Elisabeth Shue although Wells reprised her role as Jennifer in Back to the Future: The Game as a punk rock version of her character. Consequently, the opening scene of Back to the Future Part II was re-shot with Shue taking Wells' place, rather than using the ending of Back to the Future. In the spin-off Back to the Future: the Animated Series, Jennifer was voiced by Cathy Cavadini.
In 1985, Jennifer attends Hill Valley High School, along with her boyfriend Marty. In the animated series, Jennifer is enrolled to Hill Valley College with Marty after graduating high school and working part-time as a tutor. She lives with her family on a ranch, the deed to which was owned by Biff Tannen, after one of his ancestors forced Jennifer's great-great-grandfather to sign it over by holding Jennifer's great-great-grandmother hostage. In the episode "A Friend in Deed", Marty travels back in time to 1875 and sabotages the deal with help from Jules and Verne.
In the future witnessed in Back to the Future Part II, Jennifer and Marty had two children, Marlene and Marty Jr. (both played by Michael J. Fox)
Douglas J. Needles (portrayed by Flea in Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III) is an acquaintance of Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker from Hill Valley High School. Like his school's alumnus, Biff Tannen, Needles also has his own gang (portrayed by Christopher Wynne, J.J. Cohen, and Ricky Dean Logan) and develops a rivalry with Marty. Needles often goads Marty into doing reckless things, leveraging on Marty's fear of being labeled as a coward. In 1985, Needles convinces Marty to take part in a street race with his pickup truck (which he acquired in the final timeline of Part I). The street race ends up with Marty crashing into a Rolls Royce. With this crash, Marty break his hand (which results in his inability to play the guitar) and goes into debt with the owner of the wrecked car up to the point of financially ruining his life and future (as seen the timeline of Part II, in 2015). Also, in the same timeline, in 2015, Needles convinces Marty to take part in an illegal business transaction which results in his firing. In the final timeline of Part III (also in 1985) Marty refuses to take part in the street race as, while in 1885, he had learned to ignore people calling him a coward.
Goldie Wilson (played by Donald Fullilove in part 1) is a young man working at Lou's Cafe in 1955 who goes on to become the first black Mayor of Hill Valley in the 1980s. A campaign poster shows the name Goldie in quotation marks, suggesting Goldie is a nickname, presumably in reference to his gold tooth. He would also have a grandson, Goldie Wilson III (also played by Fullilove) in Part II, who works as a car salesman.
Match (portrayed by Billy Zane), Skinhead (portrayed by Jeffrey Jay Cohen), and 3-D (portrayed by Casey Siemaszko) are the three high school boys who make up Biff Tannen's gang in 1955. Their nicknames are only given in the films' novels, screenplays, and credits. Only one of their real names is mentioned in the movies - Biff refers to Skinhead as Joey in one of the 1955 scenes in Back to the Future Part II, while outside of the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance.
In the alternate 1985, the three work in Biff's casino as his bodyguards. Each gets his nickname from a distinctive character trait. Match often has a match sticking out of his mouth; Skinhead has very short, close-cropped hair; 3-D is always wearing a pair of anaglyphic 3-D glasses (a reference to the 3-D movies that were popular in the 1950s).
Marty McFly: Is that... Vice Principal Strickland? Edna Strickland: Mother never could keep little Gerald out of her clothes...