Maybe it's just me, but I was watching Top Secret for the first time today, and I realized that the scene where Nick (Val Kilmer) sings Tutti Frutti by Little Richard felt a lot similar to the scene in Back to The Future where Marty (Michael J. Fox) sings Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.

  • In both movies, neither character was supposed to be singing
  • Both songs were written by African Americans in the late 1950's
  • Both songs were written in the future compared to the time the scenes were set in (the scene from Back to The Future was set in 1955, and as far as I can tell Top Secret was set during WWII)
  • Both songs were clearly unexpected by both the listeners and the band
  • Most of the listeners in both movies gradually liked the song more and more (except until the end in Back to The Future)
  • Both movies had a lot of focus on a red electric guitar at the end of the song
  • Possible similarity: In Back to The Future, Marty tells the band "this is a blues riff in 'B'," and in Top Secret, Nick also tells the band something, but I couldn't make out what he said.

My first thought was that since Top Secret is a parody film, that they got the idea from Back to The Future, but according to IMDB, Top Secret was released a year before Back to The Future.

So, my question is: did the makers of Back to The Future get the idea from Top Secret? Is it possible that the makers of Top Secret got the idea from Back to The Future before it was released? or are the similarities I see between to the two scenes merely coincidental?

  • @community I wasn't sure if it's appropriate to add the reference tag, feel free to remove it if you don't think so.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jun 11, 2013 at 7:52
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    What, there was time travel and WWII involved in Top Secret? Never seen it but I always thought it just takes place in the GDR (and at a time the Little Richard song at least existed, even if not known that largely by the GDR inhabitants) and got this confirmed by Wikipedia. But Wikipedia also has a critic that says that "embarassingly the GDR as depicted in the movie more often than not resembles Nazi-Germany", so maybe you just got fooled by the movie's production design. But nevertheless the question still holds and is an interresting one, I think.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jun 11, 2013 at 8:10
  • From what I remember, even though Nick Rivers wasn't supposed to be singing, he kinda expected it, which is why he had musical sheets with him and handed them to the band. - As @ChristianRau points out, the movie is set in the 1980's, not WWII (e.g. Nick Rivers listening to a walkman). - The first draft of the Back to the Future script is dated February 1981, and even though it differs from the finished product, Marty playing Johnny B. Goode is in it.
    – Oliver_C
    Jun 11, 2013 at 13:38
  • @ChristianRau, there is no time travel involved in Top Secret. Sorry if I was misleading on that. Jun 11, 2013 at 16:47
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    Given that the movies were probably scripted and in shooting at approximately the same time, it's most likely a coincidence. The lead time from script to movie is (generally) a lot longer than a single year.
    – JohnP
    Sep 25, 2013 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


I think the similarities are coincidental.

The Johnny B. Goode scene ties directly back to the start of the film, where Marty is auditioning for the school program, and his band is rejected for being "too loud." In talking about the filming of the scene, Michael J. Fox says, "My favorite part of the original Back to the Future, filmed in 1985, was the Johnny B. Goode sequence during the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. As a frustrated musician, I was in my glory, learning the guitar chords and lead solo arrangements, as well as working with a choreographer to mimic and incorporate into the production number the signature styles and stage moves of my rock and roll heroes.” (Lucky Man: A Memoir, p, 144)

Top Secret was actually a parody of Elvis films (imdb, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes), so it had a different inspiration.

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