How Back to the Future Borrowed From It’s a Wonderful Life

When it comes to films that make a mark on cinema so great they stand the test of time, very few have earned the title, but one movie has earned that and could also be considered one of the greatest Christmas films ever made -- It's a Wonderful Life. Frank Capra's heartwarming classic reminds its viewers to cherish all of the moments in life, good and bad, as it's still better than not experiencing them at all. From its lessons to its story, the film continues to be a staple in cinema that is mirrored time and again in other forms of media, but what could a movie like Back to the Future Part II have to do with such a classic film?

It's a Wonderful Life follows the twists and turns in the life of a man named George Bailey, but when things finally reach their breaking point, Bailey, who has always gone out of his way to help his community, contemplates suicide. However, before committing the act, an angel named Clarence is sent to show him that his life is worth living. To do so, Clarence shows him a reality where George is never born, forcing him to see the errors in his thoughts and the value he's had in the past. The Back to the Future franchise has a similar lesson as Marty McFly lives through his life's past, present and future and sees how his own reality would be had he never been born.

RELATED: Why Bad Santa Is More Like Rick And Morty Than Back To The Future


In Back to the Future Part II, Marty's greed gets the best of him, and he purchases a sports almanac from the year 2015, hoping to get rich, but what happens is that, unbeknownst to him and Doc Brown, Biff Tannen from the future stole the book. After giving it to his past self, Biff creates a 1985 where he rules the town of Hill Valley, and Marty is never born, but unlike It's a Wonderful Life, Marty's new reality hits much closer to home. In fact, the entire segment of the film shows just how important his place in the timeline is.

In It's a Wonderful Life, George has an antagonist named Mr. Potter, a wealthy yet foul older man who only lives to earn money at the expense of others. The alternate 1985 version of Biff in Back to the Future Part II shares many similarities to Potter in that he only values money and his own happiness. That being said, Biff takes things a step further by killing George McFly and marrying Marty's mother, Lorraine, before he was born. Though this reality hits Marty the hardest, the revelation of how the world would be with Potter or Tannen in control represents the importance of one selfless person, like George or Marty. When these characters stand up to giants and moguls who look to step on those they view as beneath them, they make the world a better place.

RELATED: Spider-Man: No Way Home's Story Was Inspired By A Christmas Classic


Unlike in the real world, both George and Marty got an opportunity to change their outcomes to something they've always known and loved. That being said, not everyone in the world gets a second chance to fix things. In that understanding is a powerful lesson introduced in It's a Wonderful Life and driven home in Back to the Future Part II. That lesson is that no matter how large or small, all life is significant, but sometimes it takes time to see its value, no matter how blatant it may be.

Film can be a powerful medium, and as more classics are homaged in other forms of media, it's essential to recapture and build on the lessons introduced in the original. Back to the Future is all about choices and second chances. Although these opportunities don't come often, their value still remains. Life is a precious thing, and there's value to every person that ripples into the world around them. In the end, there's always time to turn things around and changes things for the positive should the occasion call for it.

KEEP READING: Klaus Is An Underrated Christmas Movie - Here’s Why

Nicolas Cage Says a Recent Animal Co-Star Tried to Kill Him
Related Topics
About The Author
Nicholas Brooks (1170 Articles Published)

CBR Features Writer Nick Brooks has been writing for over ten years about all things pop culture. He has written for other sites like and When not writing you can find him with his lovely girlfriend, cooking, reading comics, or collecting any new Star Wars Black Series, Marvel Legend, or Transformer. For more of his thoughts on pop culture check out his blog, The Next Panel with Comic Brooks.

More From Nicholas Brooks