Back To The Future Originally Had A Different Title, And It Was Ridiculous

If it wasn't for Steven Spielberg, Back to the Future would have been named Space Man From Pluto.

By Chad Langen | Updated

time traveler

Just as it’s difficult to envision anyone but Michael J. Fox as Marty, it’s hard to imagine Back to the Future being recognized by any other name. Yet, as per Digital Spy, the iconic sci-fi film was on the brink of being released under an entirely different title. If not for Steven Spielberg’s intervention, the cultural phenomenon might have debuted on screens as Space Man From Pluto.

In a 1984 inter-office memo, Universal’s Sidney Sheinberg suggested to Steven Spielberg, an executive producer of Back to the Future, that the original title could narrow its appeal by classifying it as a “genre” movie and offered Space Man From Pluto as a more attractive alternative. Sheinberg dismissed potential criticisms of the new title making the film seem like a “cheap” sci-fi piece, arguing instead that it carried a sense of “heat, originality and fun.” He also felt his suggested title would sidestep the perception of being a stereotypical time-travel film.

Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the director and writer/producer respectively, found themselves in a difficult position as they disagreed with Sheinberg’s proposed title but were wary of dismissing it. Spielberg stepped in, skillfully handling the situation by sending a humorous letter to Sheinberg, which had the underlying intention of causing slight embarrassment and making him reconsider his stance. Spielberg’s tactful approach yielded results, with Sheinberg withdrawing his title suggestion and the production resuming as Back to the Future.

It is widely known among Back to the Future fans that Space Man From Pluto was not the only questionable idea Sheinberg put forth for the film. When Michael J. Fox could not initially accept the role of Marty due to conflicting schedules, Sheinberg proposed Eric Stoltz for the part. However, Stoltz’s interpretation of the role was judged too serious, contrasting with the screenplay’s playful nature, which led to his early release from the project by key team members including Zemeckis, Gale, and Spielberg.

Michael J Fox
Michael J. Fox in Space Man Fr–or, rather, Back to the Future

Of course, Fox eventually secured the role of Marty in Back to the Future, a high-school student who is accidentally sent thirty years into the past using a time-traveling DeLorean car invented by his eccentric scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. In the 1950s, Marty must ensure his parents meet and fall in love to secure his own existence. Moreover, he must overcome a series of hilarious and tense situations, all while figuring out how to return to the future.

Upon its release in 1985, Back to the Future achieved remarkable success, both commercially and critically, captivating audiences and critics alike, and quickly topping the box office. The film earned an impressive $11 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $383 million globally. Furthermore, the film’s popularity led to several sequels, inspired theme park attractions, and even gave rise to video games.

We can’t help but wonder how things might have unfolded if Sheinberg’s proposed alterations had been implemented. Comparatively, Space Man From Pluto doesn’t seem to resonate as strongly or evoke the same sense of adventure as Back to the Future does. Regardless of the what-ifs, the fact remains that the film is an undeniable classic.