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Movie Villain Monday: Biff Tannen - Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-1990)

It’s Movie Villain Monday and this week’s movie villain was suggested in the comments on Facebook.

It’s Biff Tannen from my favourite movie of all time, Back to the Future (1985).

I love that Biff was suggested because he’s not a villain in the same sense as the others I’ve featured so far.

Also, I think it’s only fair that I include variations of the character from the other two movies so get comfortable.

Who is Biff Tannen?

Played by the brilliant Thomas F. Wilson, Biff Howard Tannen is the main antagonist in the awesome Back to the Future trilogy.

Story and Motivation: Back to the Future:

Biff is a bully and the great grandson of Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (the main antagonist in Back to the Future Part III - also played by Thomas F. Wilson).

Biff is used to getting what he wants by bullying and intimidating people and when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) accidentally travels back to 1955, he inadvertently becomes the target of Biff’s rage when he gets into an altercation with him whilst sticking up for his younger father at a diner.

On top of all this, Biff has the hots for Marty’s mother who falls for her future son, unaware of who he is.

Still with me?

Marty also causes $300 worth of damage to Biff’s car in a chase that ends with Biff and his goons crashing into the back of a manure truck and getting covered in it. Obviously, Biff is then out for revenge.

Back to the Future Part II:

In Back to the Future Part II when Marty travels forward in time to 2015 (yes I know, that’s now the past and we STILL don’t have hoverboards) a series of events lead to an alternate future being created where we see an older Biff who has now amassed a fortune and basically owns the town. It’s practically lawless and crime ridden and Biff has control over virtually everything.

Marty learns that his father is dead (at the hands of Biff) and Biff is now married to his mother. “This is heavy!”

Back to the Future Part III:

In Back to the Future Part III, Marty travels back in time to 1885 (the old west) where again he becomes the target (literally) of a Tannen. This time though it’s Biff Tannen’s great grandfather Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen that’s got it in for him, and after another altercation Marty must face Mad Dog in a duel to the death to settle the dispute.

Tom Wilson plays these characters so well! He’s a seriously underrated actor in my opinion. He gives both characters a humorous stupidity yet at the same time is believable as someone you wouldn’t want to mess with.


Ironically Wilson himself was bullied at school for being sickly and skinny and he drew from his experiences to shape the character we know and love to hate.

He also almost didn’t wind up playing Biff at all though!

Tim Robins (The Shawshank Redemption) and J.J. Cohen (Back to the Future) were both considered for the roll.

Wilson was eventually cast when it was decided that a more physically imposing actor was needed in order to be believable against the taller Erik Stoltz (Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly but fired weeks into filming - didn’t know that? Check out my Film Fact: #1).

Had Michael J. Fox been cast from the beginning, J.J Cohen (who ended up playing one of Biff’s goons instead) may have got the intended roll and we never would’ve got Wilson’s great portrayal of the character!

“Well, what are you looking at butthead?!”

Who should I feature next week..?


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