in addition to

Minor characters in Back to the Future films

This page has character biographies on some of the minor recurring characters from the Back to the Future trilogy who are not members of the McFly family.

Mr. Strickland

Mr. Strickland is a strict authoritarian with a strong disdain for slackers (particularly those of the McFly family). In this respect, he takes after his ancestor, Chief Marshal James Strickland of Hill Valley 1885 (as featured in Back to the Future Part III) who was constantly at odds with local outlaw Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. He is played by actor James Tolkan.

Strickland works at Hill Valley High School in both 1955 and 1985. His first name is unclear - the novel for the first film refers to him as "Gerald", but his office door in Part II says "S S Strickland" (the initials might refer to his title "school superintendent".) He thinks that Doc Brown is a "nutcase" and does not want his students hanging around with Doc - this suggests that Strickland and Doc may have met in the past. His bald head emphasises his strict persona (when Marty first sees him in 1955, he comments "That's Strickland. Didn't he ever have hair?"). The novelization of the first film suggests that Doc is well-known in Hill Valley, having come from a formerly-rich family and his predictions being printed in the local newspaper, to the disapproval of the populace.

Back to the Future

Strickland is first seen in 1985 when he catches Marty and Jennifer sneaking into school late. After finding out this is because Marty was at Doc's house, he warned Marty not to hang around with Doc before noting that Marty's band, the Pinheads, are auditioning for the dance that evening. Strickland informed Marty not to waste his time, telling him that "no McFly has ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley".

In 1955, Strickland is just the same as he will be in 1985 - except with a blond tonsure of hair. Strickland was chaperone at the "Enchantment Under The Sea" dance, where he was not impressed with Marty's music. A scene deleted from the movie shows Strickland finding George McFly trapped in a phonebooth by bullies, but he does not let George out, instead telling him, "you see what happens to slackers?" He keeps George in there as a lesson.

Back to the Future: Part II

In 1985A, Marty was mistakenly identified as the person responsible for stealing Strickland’s newspapers (although correctly identified as a slacker, a judgement reinforced by Marty’s own admission) and threatened with castration by shotgun. Strickland wore a bulletproof vest and had a scar on his face. Fortunately, at least for Marty, Strickland was promptly engaged in a firefight with a gang of 'gun-toting slackers,' during which Marty made his escape.

When Doc and Marty go back to 1955 to restore history by taking the sports almanac away from Biff Tannen, Strickland confiscated what Marty believes to be the almanac from Biff and labeled Biff a slacker. Shortly after, Strickland unknowingly trapped the hand of his future pupil between his chair and desk as Marty attempted to re-acquire Gray's Sports Almanac. Strickland threw the magazine in the trash, and soon afterwards Marty discovered that it was not the almanac, but a risque girlie magazine instead.

Back to the Future: The animated series

Mr. Strickland does make a cameo in one episode, "Marty McFly PFC", where it is revealed he was in the Army in the 1940s. He is not identified by name, but it is his use of the word "slacker" that gives him away. In the "present" (1991 - 1992), it is revealed that he is now Dean of Hill Valley College.

James Strickland

James Strickland was the chief marshal of Hill Valley in 1885 and the grandfather of Mr. Strickland, Hill Valley High School principal in the 20th Century. Along with his unnamed son (presumably the father of Mr. Strickland), the Marshal was first seen attending the festival that celebrated the clock tower being constructed.

His first name was not mentioned in the film, but was mentioned in the novel. It may be a reference to actor James Tolkan, who plays both the Marshal and Mr. Strickland. The Marshall was given a full head of hair to make up for Mr. Strickland (and Tolkan himself) being bald, according to Bob Gale in the DVD commentary.

Back to the Future: Part III

The Marshal and his deputy made sure that no one went to the festival armed, although Strickland missed a small Derringer pistol hidden underneath the hat of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen. Tannen snidely told the Marshal that he ought to smile since it was a party, but the stoic lawman simply replied he would only smile when he saw Tannen hanged. After Tannen and his men left, Strickland turned to his son and told him to always remember to value discipline above all else. Later, at the party, Strickland showed up armed with a rifle during a tense moment between Tannen and "Clint Eastwood," breaking up the confrontation and getting the party back on track.

A deleted scene, which remained in the novel of the film, had Tannen and his men encountering Marshal Strickland and his son while en route to the duel with "Eastwood," and Strickland attempted to bar the outlaw's way. In the confrontation, Tannen disarms Strickland with a quickdraw of his pistol. Tannen warned him to stand aside unless he wanted his son to see him die. Weaponless, Strickland complied, but was then shot anyway by Tannen who rode off with his gang. As he lay dying, Strickland told his distraught son once more, "Remember that word, son. Discipline." This explains why it is Strickland's deputy who arrests Tannen later and not Strickland himself (as originally filmed, the deputy arrested Tannen for the murder of Marshal Strickland, but in the finished film, the deputy arrested him for robbing the Pine City Stage.) As the scene was deleted from the film, the canonicity of Strickland's death is unclear.

Match, Skinhead, and 3-D

Match, Skinhead and 3-D 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.

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 3-D glasses (a reference to the 3-D movies that were popular in the 1950s).

They seem just as mean-spirited as Biff but seem content to let Biff boss them around (perhaps because he is the only one of them with a car). They are played by Billy Zane (Match), Jeffrey Jay Cohen (Skinhead), & Casey Siemaszko (3-D).

Back to the Future

When Biff showed up to bully George McFly about doing his homework at Lou's Cafe, the three were with Biff. They were also present when Biff nearly started a fight with George's son, Marty McFly from 1985 (who passes himself off as a new student named Calvin Klein), and then later when Marty does manage to start a fight with Biff at Lou's Cafe. After punching Biff, Marty runs outside, knocking Match, Skinhead, and 3-D down on the way. When Marty tries to escape on a make-shift skateboard, the gang chases after him in Biff's car. A brief chase ensues, ending with Biff's car crashing into a manure truck, causing the car and the bullies to end up covered in manure.

The three were with Biff at the "Enchantment Under the Sea dance" to get back at Marty, who had brought Lorraine Baines as a "date". While Biff tried to have his way with Lorraine, he told them to take Marty around back so he can deal with him later. The three carry Marty over to a car and lock him in the trunk. Unfortunately for them, the car happened to belong to the band playing at the dance: Marvin Berry and the Starlighters, who promptly chased the bullies off.

Back to the Future: Part II

The gang still work for Biff in 1985A, apparently serving as his security (this is the only timeline in which they are seen after 1955.) The three knocked out Marty when they found him out in front of Biff's hotel, and took him upstairs. They later chased Marty through the hotel after he confronted Biff about the almanac, though Marty managed to lose them. In this timeline, Match still had a match in his mouth in addition to wearing a cowboy hat, while 3-D had traded his 3-D glasses for a pair of tacky novelty sunglasses; albeit with red and blue lenses, similar to 3-D glasses.

The younger Match, Skinhead, and 3-D also managed to cause trouble for Marty when he returned to 1955 to get the almanac back and restore the timeline. After Marty managed to take the almanac off of Biff at the dance, the bullies chased him through the school. Although Marty lost them, the bullies spotted Marty's "other" self performing onstage at the dance. They assumed it was the same person (though they wonder how he managed to change clothes so fast), and they got ready to jump him when he got offstage. To protect his other self, Marty climbed up into the rafters and dropped a set of sandbags on them, knocking them out.

They do not appear in Part III (Buford Tannen has his own set of cronies in 1885, as does Griff in 2015) or the ride, although J.J. Cohen would play one of Needles' gang at the end of Part III.

Goldie Wilson

Goldie Wilson is a young black man working at Lou's Cafe in 1955 who goes on to become Mayor of Hill Valley in the 1980s. He is played by Donald Fullilove. A campaign poster shows the name "Goldie" in quotation marks, suggesting "Goldie" is a nickname, presumably in reference to his gold tooth, but in fact, the nickname was initially applied by Steven Spielberg to his boss, William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton. Blonde-headed Bill Clinton's haircut was considered feminine (his hair curled out) at the time. The model for the character of Goldie Wilson was 18 year old future mayor of Dallas, Ron Kirk. Kirk would become Texas governor Ann Richards' secretary of state, mayor of Dallas twice 1994-2001, and a candidate for US Senate in 2002

Back to the Future

Goldie worked at Lou's Cafe in 1955. Despite his humble background, he was an ambitious and confident young man who hopes to go to night school and makes something of himself. When he saw young George McFly being bullied by Biff Tannen and his gang, he told George to have some respect for himself and not let people push him around. He told George of his own plans to be somebody someday. George's son, Marty McFly who has traveled back from 1985, recognized Goldie and added that Goldie will be mayor, unwittingly inspiring Goldie to run for mayor. Though Goldie's employer, Mr. Caruthers, scoffed at the idea of "a colored mayor", Goldie vowed to become mayor and to clean up the town (to which Caruthers jokingly replied with "Good, you can start by sweeping the floor.")

Goldie's ambition would pay off as he would be mayor in the 1980s, and would seek re-election in 1985. A campaign van was seen advertising the following recorded message:

"Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson. Progress is his middle name. Mayor Goldie Wilson's progress platform means more jobs, better education, bigger civic improvements, and lower taxes. On election day, cast your vote for a proven leader. Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson..."

Coincidentally, this is the exact same campaign message conveyed by his predecessor, Mayor Red Thomas, who was running for re-election in 1955.

Fans have theorized that Goldie's vows to clean up the town would translate into attempting to reverse the urban decay prevalent in downtown Hill Valley by 1985, and full-blown in 1985-A. His efforts were apparently successful as the city centre has been restored to prosperity by 2015.

Not all his efforts were appreciated, however. The Hill Valley Preservation Society opposed his sponsoring an initiative to replace the clock tower, which had not run since being struck by lighting in 1955. They were successful in preserving it until at least 2015.

Back to the Future: Part II

Goldie does not appear in Part II, Part III, or the ride; though in Part II, we learn Goldie's son, Goldie Wilson II, followed in his father's footsteps and became mayor of Hill Valley by 2015. His grandson, Goldie Wilson III (also played by Donald Fullilove), followed a different path, opening a chain of businesses providing hover-conversions for old road cars. Goldie III appeared in his own commercials and was not above name-dropping, specifically mentioning his grandfather's history as mayor.

Douglas J. Needles

Douglas J. Needles (typically referred to as Needles) is an acquaintance of Marty McFly and his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, though likely not a friend. Unlike Biff Tannen, who typically bullied Marty's father into getting what he wanted, Needles appears more of a rival to Marty who can goad Marty into doing foolish things by calling him "chicken". He is played by Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Back to the Future: Part II

Needles is indirectly responsible for ruining Marty's life by talking him into racing their trucks. Marty ended up crashing into a Rolls-Royce which sped onto the main road by ignoring a STOP sign. The Rolls-Royce driver ended up pressing charges against Marty, who broke his hand in the accident and would later give up on his music. It was not revealed until Part III, however, that the race had been Needles' idea.

In 2015, Needles and Marty were working together at a plant, with Needles being in a higher position than Marty (similar to George and Biff in the first film). Needles was attempting to convince Marty to join in on an illegal scam to make more money. Marty was hesitant at first, but went along with it when Needles called him "chicken". Unfortunately, their boss, Ito Fujitsu, was monitoring the entire transaction and fired Marty on the spot. Whether Needles himself faced any consequences is unknown, and what happens to Needles in future timelines is also unknown.

Back to the Future: Part III

Just after Marty's return from 1885 to 1985, Needles (now 17 again) met up with Marty and Jennifer at the point where he proposed the race. This time, however, Marty had learned not to lose his judgment because of name-calling and avoided the race, thereby preventing the accident with the Rolls-Royce and changing the future. What this means for Needles is unclear.

Lou Caruthers

Louis (Lou) Caruthers is the owner of Lou's Cafe in 1955. He is most likely a war veteran as his brass approach to the odd looking Marty McFly seems to indicate. He is played by Norman Alden and only appeared in Back to the Future: Part I.

When Marty McFly enters his cafe, Lou mistakes his vest for a life jacket and asks him, "Hey kid. What'd you do, jump ship?... Well, what's with the life preserver?". When he barks at Marty to order something and is asked for a Tab, he doesn't know Marty wants a soda since a "tab" is slang for a bill to Lou. When asked for a Pepsi Free, he tells Marty, "If you want a Pepsi pal, you got to pay for it!"

After Marty sees his father George McFly, Lou's employee Goldie Wilson makes a comment about running for mayor of Hill Valley and Lou replies, "A colored mayor. That'll be the day.". This was of course just after the Brown v. Board of Education decision of the United States Supreme Court and before the Civil Rights Movement and it was probably not conceivable to most whites for an African American youth to become something so important as mayor. When Goldie vowed to be the best mayor Hill Valley has ever seen and "clean up this town", Lou jokingly replied to him, "Good, you can start by sweeping the floor."

George McFly went into Lou's cafe, ordering chocolate milk just before trying to meet Loraine. Lou, off screen, slides the drink to George on the bar counter.

Coincidentally, Norman Alden was in a television series western in 1955 called, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. Alden played the character known as Johnny Ringo.

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