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SYFY WIRE Back to the Future

Michael J. Fox's Best Genre Roles, Ranked, from Teen Wolf to Back to the Future

We honor the subject of Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie with our celebration of his best genre roles.

By Tara Bennett
Back To The Future Christopher Lloyd Michael J. Fox

There are plenty of things to get in a tizzy about these days, but a non-controversial stance just about everyone can agree upon is that Michael J. Fox is a Canadian national treasure we'd all like to call our friend. Fox's 45-year acting career has gifted us with roles in television classics like Family Ties, Spin City, and The Good Wife. And on the big screen, he's been in some of the greatest films of all time including the Back to the Future trilogy.

RELATED: Original 'Back to the Future' trilogy stars reunite almost 40 years after original film

With the Apple TV+ original documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie now streaming, SYFY WIRE felt it was high-time to reflect back and honor the sci-fi and horror films that Fox remains known for. While he's certainly guested on genre shows like Tales from the Crypt, and voiced plenty of fantasy or sci-fi characters in films from Stuart Little to Atlantis: The Lost Empire, we've narrowed our particular list down to only Fox's live-action films.

Here's our ranking of Michael J. Fox's greatest genre films:

6. Teen Wolf (1985)

Teen Wolf is certainly no An American Werewolf in London when it comes to its story, comedy, or VFX, but Teen Wolf remains a weird, fun time capsule of the bro humor of the '80s. Sorta naughty and a lot ridiculous, Fox manages to give a solid comedic performance under all that facial hair. 

5. Mars Attacks! (1996)

It helps to have a lot of love for '50s-era sci-fi films to really appreciate Tim Burton's star-filled satire, Mars Attacks! In it, Fox plays opportunistic news reporter Jason Stone, with Sarah Jessica Parker playing his girlfriend, Nathalie Lake. They, along with the rest of humanity, react to Martians landing on Earth and their ensuing invasion. Broad, bright, and over-the-top, the whole cast is directed to go nuts, which Fox does with aplomb. 

4. Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The great debate amongst Back to the Future trilogy fans is which of the two sequels is better. Ask 10 different people and you'll get 10 different answers, but for our money, Back to the Future Part II ranks just below Part III. Fox, of course, is still charming and funny as Marty McFly, now stuck in the future. But Part II really gives him a lot of the same beats to play as in the original film, just with futuristic props, like the Hover board, sight gags, and future dressed sets. For the repetition factor alone (and some terrible visual continuity problems), we shift this one down the list. But we give Fox points for his multiple role work as Marty McFly Jr. and Marlene McFly.

3. Back to the Future Part III (1990)

On the other hand, we rank Back to the Future Part III for going way back into the past and changing the whole franchise into a Western for this installment. Fox gets to play multiple roles again, this time as Marty and Marty's ancestor, Seamus McFly. Part III also introduces the very sweet romance between Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Clara Clayton (Mary Steenburgen), an underrated plus of this movie that Fox gets to help facilitate as Marty. 

2. The Frighteners (1996)

Peter Jackson directs Fox in the under-appreciated horror classic, The Frighteners. Fox plays Frank Bannister, a broken man who sees ghosts after the death of his wife. With the help of the undead, he becomes a low-rent ghostbuster scamming homeowners for money to "cleanse" their home of ghosts. Fox is great as a cynic who finds purpose once more when a Grim Reaper-like entity starts murdering in his town and he has to stop it. A true standout performance by Fox. 

1. Back to the Future (1985)

One of the best sci-fi films ever, Back to the Future remains one of those rare perfect movies that lands everything: its story, comedic beats, time travel logic, and perfect casting with Fox as teenager Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as his eccentric friend, Doc Brown. Together, the two have perfect chemistry as Lloyd goes big while Fox goes befuddled. It's no wonder this is the film that made Fox a movie star, and paved the way for him being everywhere in the mid '80s and early '90s. Even three decades later, Fox's performance remains perfection.

If you're looking to catch up on Universal Pictures' Back to the Future legacy, pick up the entire trilogy here.