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Biff Tannen

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Biff Tannen
Back to the Future character
Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen
First appearanceBack to the Future (1985)
Last appearanceBack to the Future Part III (1990)
Created byRobert Zemeckis
Bob Gale
Portrayed byThomas F. Wilson
Voiced by
  • Kid Beyond (The Game)
  • Thomas F. Wilson
    (The Animated series; The Game, 2015-re-release)
In-universe information
Full nameBiff Howard Tannen
FamilyIrving "Kid" Tannen (father)
ChildrenBiff Tannen, Jr.
Time travel
Original time1955, 1985, 1985A, 2015
Years visited1955 (from 2015)

Biff Howard Tannen is a fictional character and the main antagonist of the Back to the Future trilogy. Thomas F. Wilson plays Biff in all three films as well as the Universal Studios ride, and voiced the character in the animated series. Aidan Cutler played him in the original West End production of the first film's stage musical adaptation, and Nathaniel Hackmann plays him in the Broadway production.[1] Biff is the main antagonist of the first and second films. Biff's great-grandfather, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (also played by Wilson), is the main antagonist of the third.

The character is portrayed as a hulking, belligerent, dim-witted bully who obtains what he wants by intimidating others into doing his work for him, or by cheating. He and his family members are shown to misuse idioms in ways that make them appear foolish and comical, despite their intention to insult or intimidate. He frequently calls others "butthead".

Character portrayal[edit]

Biff's early life and nature[edit]

Biff was born in Hill Valley, California in the year 1937. He is the great-grandson of Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, son of Irving "Kid" Tannen and grandfather of Griff Tannen. He bullied George McFly into doing his homework for him while he drank and hung out with his friends. Feared by most of his schoolmates, he was less brave without his gang (Match, Skinhead, and 3-D). The only person at Hill Valley High School that Biff fears is Mr. Strickland. Biff lives with his grandmother, Gertrude Tannen, at 1809 Mason Street. In 1955, Biff proudly owned a black 1946 Ford Deluxe convertible which he drove around Hill Valley. He has a particular dislike for manure, displayed when he is shoved into large quantities of it at multiple points during the films.

Stealing Doc's time machine in 2015, an aged and physically decrepit Biff travels back in time to 1955 to give his vigorously-hotheaded teenage self the sports almanac, then heads back to the future again, hoping to gain a happier life as a result of his actions. And initially, things do indeed appear to move in a positive direction for him --- on his 21st birthday in 1958, Biff's younger self wagers money on a horse race that's listed in the almanac with the victorious steed's name revealed, winning his first million dollars and giving himself prestige and arrogant confidence like he'd never had before. However, despite his progressively gaining vast wealth and power through this "fixed" sports-event betting, Young Biff is still unable to convince Lorraine to marry him, and watches in bitter seething envy over the following 15 years as Lorraine instead marries George McFly and begins to raise a family of three --- Dave, Linda, and finally Marty. At last, Biff resorts to murdering George in 1973, and is able to use his money and political influence to cover his guilt. And soon, without George's supporting her and her family financially, Lorraine feels compelled to actually accept the well-to-do Biff as her new husband. The petulant and arrogantly tempestuous Biff never really feels content in the marriage as Lorraine was a more of a prize to be won and possessed, and often lashes out verbally and physically; Lorraine eventually gets so fed up with Biff's overbearing hostility and abuse, along with finding out that Biff murdered George, that she shoots him dead sometime in the late '90's. Thus, when the "original" Old Biff returns in the DeLorean to 2015 and totters out of the DeLorean in anticipation of being satisfied at last, he instead clutches his chest in pain, sinks to the pavement, and then merely fades from existence.

Biff's relationships[edit]

In 1955, Biff coveted Lorraine Baines who did not return the sentiments. In the original 1985, Biff's marital status is unknown as no mention of a wife was ever made in the trilogy.

The alternate 1985 reveals that Lorraine, widowed after the murder of George McFly, ended up marrying Biff in 1973 so that her children could live a better life.[2] In a video clip after their wedding, Biff is asked, "how does it feel?", to which he replies, "third time's the charm".

Biff's children[edit]

By 2015, Biff has a teenage grandson, Griff, suggesting that Biff had at least one child by 1985. The animated series reveals that Biff has a son, Biff Jr.

Character creation[edit]

The character is named for studio executive Ned Tanen following an incident years earlier where Tanen reacted aggressively to a script being pitched by the film's writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. Tanen accused the two of attempting to produce an antisemitic work with their 1978 film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand.[3][4] Drafts of Back to the Future show the character with the middle initial of "H", but this detail was omitted in further revisions.

As the October 2015 date featured in the films approached, media outlets began noting the similarities between the alternate 1985 version of the character and Donald Trump, who at the time Part II was produced had just purchased the Plaza Hotel in New York City and, by 2015, was in the midst of an ultimately successful run for President of the United States.[5] When the comparison was brought to Gale's attention in an interview, he said, "Yeah. That's what we were thinking about".[6] Both The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone note the similarities of Biff's casino penthouse to Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino;[6][7] additionally, The Beast points out that in Back to the Future Part II:

Biff uses the profits from his 27-story casino... to help shake up the Republican Party, before eventually assuming political power himself, helping transform Hill Valley, California, into a lawless, dystopian wasteland, where hooliganism reigns, dissent is quashed, and wherein Biff encourages every citizen to call him "America's greatest living folk hero".[6]

The fact checking website Snopes, however, doubts this claim, noting that neither Gale nor Zemeckis mentioned anything about Trump being the inspiration for the character until after comparisons began appearing in social media, and saying that it "...appeared to be retrofitted to 2015's current events, not prescience on the part of the filmmakers in 1985".[8]


  1. ^ "See the full cast for Broadway's 'Back to the Future: The Musical'". Entertainment Weekly.
  2. ^ "Back To The Future". Scifiscripts.com. March 18, 1952. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  3. ^ Freer, Ian. "The making of Back to the Future", Empire, January 2003.
  4. ^ "Q&A with Director Robert Zemeckis & Producer Bob Gale", "Back to the Future" DVD, Bonus Materials
  5. ^ Lee, Benjamin (October 23, 2015). "Back to the Future writer: bad guy Biff was based on Donald Trump". The Guardian. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Collins, Ben (October 21, 2015). "'Back to the Future' Writer: Biff Tannen Is Based on Donald Trump". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on May 8, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  7. ^ Stuart, Tessa (October 21, 2015). "'Back to the Future' Writer: Biff Is Donald Trump". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 30, 2019. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  8. ^ LaCapria, Kim (October 22, 2015). "Back to the Future Rumors and Predictions". Snopes. Snopes Media Group Inc. Retrieved June 3, 2021.

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