Who could forget the film “Back to the Future?” The 80s classic is a frequent pick for many movie channels to screen on the weekends and is beloved by people everywhere. There are many great moments and quotable lines — like “88 miles per hours!” and “1.21 Jigawatts!”— that have managed to find their way into our pop culture and have stayed there for decades.
Yet Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) felt the movie needed a more modern update. While showing part one of “Back to The Future,” TBS edited the word “terrorists” and glossed over as if it had never been said. Despite the word “terrorists” not being a curse word or sexually explicit, Turner decided the word merited censorship.
Here’s the issue with that:
The defining scene that drove the plot of the film was when Libyan terrorists shoot Doc Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd) for refusing to build them an atomic bomb. He instead gives them a casing filled with used pinball machine parts and steals their plutonium to power his latest invention — a time machine.
The terrorists kill Brown in a violent shootout, and the gunmen are depicted as crazed maniacs. After attempting to defend himself, Brown is mowed down by machine gun fire and killed instantly.
Which brings us to the moment where TBS called an audible. After Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) accidentally goes back in time, he tries to seize the opportunity to warn Brown’s younger self about the terrorist attack. He pens a letter in which he outlines the events that took place the night he went back in time.
First half of the clip is movie in original form on Spike, then TBS version excising “by terrorists”.
If you pay close attention, you not only hear that the word “terrorists” has been completely removed, but they also change the angle of the camera so as not to pick up the word “terrorists” from the letter McFly was writing.
Hollywood’s attempts to censor offensive words is nothing new. On various cable recuts of the film Tropic Thunder, there is a famous scene where Sgt. Osiris (played by Robert Downey Jr.) tells fellow actor Tug Speedman (played by Ben Stiller) that when choosing acting roles “you never go full retard.”
Several networks thought this statement was too offensive, so they replaced it with the term “you never go full special.”