Best Michael J. Fox Characters, From Marty McFly to Teen Wolf
Jan 25, 2023
Michael J. Fox became a household name when he starred on the sitcom Family Ties back in the 1980s. He became a bona fide superstar in 1985 when he landed the role of Marty McFly opposite Christopher Lloyd in the mega blockbuster, Back to the Future. The actor stayed busy over the next decade until he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in the early ’90s. After that, he continued to work, but was forced to scale back his work schedule. Despite his medical issues, Fox has accumulated an impressive filmography as the Canadian-born actor continues to be an inspirational and beloved figure. Here are his best roles in both film and television.
Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties
Image via Paramount Domestic Television
Fox rose to stardom on the NBC hit sitcom Family Ties playing the role of Alex P. Keaton, a young Republican whose affinity for conservative politics and Ronald Reagan was only surpassed by his sibling rivalry with sister Mallory (Justine Bateman). The show ran for eight seasons and made the young Canadian-born actor a household name while also opening the door for film opportunities that saw him become one of the biggest film stars of the ’80s and ’90s.
RELATED: Watch Michael J. Fox Receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Honor at the Oscars’ 13th Governors Awards
Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985)
Image via Universal Pictures
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and co-starring Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, and Leah Thompson, this is without a doubt Micheal J. Fox’s biggest and most memorable film. His role as the time-traveling teenager, Marty McFly, who has to save his parent’s marriage in order to ensure his own existence after finding himself stuck in the back to the year 1955 was one of the biggest films of the decade and spawned a trilogy that raked in more than $961 million worldwide.
Jason Stone in Mars Attacks! (1996)
Fox was part of an elite ensemble cast that included Hollywood stalwarts like Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, and Danny DeVito in this Tim Burton directed satire about a Martian invasion and the absurdity that ensues on the behalf of mankind when forced to deal with an alien encounter. Playing the part of Jason Stone, an intrepid news reporter who tries to capitalize on the extra terrestrial event, Fox puts himself in harms way as the Martians prove to be less than friendly visitors.
Jamie Conway in Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
Image via United Artists
It was time for Fox to shed the wholesome image that the actor had used to rise to the top of the industry for his role in Bright Lights, Big City. Starring opposite Kiefer Sutherland and Phoebe Cates, Fox plays Jamie Conway, a 24-year-old fact-checker for a major magazine whose penchant for partying and the New York City nightlife sees him spiral into drug abuse as he tries to mourn the death of his mother (Dianne Wiest) from cancer a year prior. The unoriginal script combined with an audience that was not ready to see the actor play such a different character than they had grown accustomed to in the Back to the Future films spelled doom at the box office.
Ben Stone in Doc Hollywood (1991)
Image via Warner Bros.
Fox got back on track in Doc Hollywood when he played an aspiring plastic surgeon Ben Stone who, while on his way to Beverly Hills for an interview with a top surgeon, gets knocked off the road and plows into a fence and ends up stuck in a small town called Grady, South Carolina. The fence happens to belong to the town’s judge who sentences him to 32 hours of community service in the Grady medical clinic during which he meets and falls for a local girl (Julie Werner). The light-hearted comedy capitalized on the charm and charisma that made Fox one of the biggest stars in the Hollywood.
Mike Flaherty in Spin City
Image via ABC
The Canadian actor found gold for a second time on the small screen with Family Ties producer Gary David Goldberg when he starred as Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York in the ABC sitcom Spin City at the turn of the century. Fox leads a collection of eccentric screwballs (Richard Kind, Alan Ruck, Barry Bostwick) who are in charge of all things involving the Big Apple political scene. Fox had to take leave of the show in 2000 as his Parkinson’s symptoms had become too problematic to continue the everyday grind of television. Charlie Sheen stepped in to play the role for the remainder of the series.
Frank Bannister in The Frighteners (1996)
Image via Universal Pictures
Before taking the entertainment world by storm with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson directed Fox in this comedy horror film in 1996. Fox plays Frank Bannister, an unscrupulous necromancer who uses his abilities to drum up business for his ghost-sweeping, exorcism business. Things take a turn for the worse when Bannister encounters more than he bargained for after coming across the spirit of a mass murderer who has taken on the form of the Grim Reaper.
Scott Howard in Teen Wolf (1985)
Image via Atlantic Releasing Company
Marking his second big Silver Screen hit in 1985 along with Back to the Future, Teen Wolf sees Fox take on the part of Scott Howard, a regular teenager who begins to notice himself developing some strange lupine characteristics. Eventually, he discovered that he comes from a long line of werewolves, and that his hairy new alter-ego is a hit with the ladies and suddenly an all-world high school basketball player. The film was a surprise hit that delivered a massive return on its meager $1.7 million budget by hauling in a whopping $33 million at the box office. In pure financial terms,Teen Wolf was easily the most profitable film of his career.
Max Eriksson in Casualties of War (1989)
Image via Columbia Pictures
This gritty Vietnam War flick saw Fox step way outside his comfort zone to star opposite Sean Penn as PFC Max Eriksson. The film was directed by Brian DePalma and based on the true events that occurred on Hill 192 in 1966 that saw a group of American soldiers kidnap, rape, and eventually murder a young Vietnamese woman. It was a brutal film that again came up short of financial success as audiences didn’t seem to want to see the actor take such enormous departures from his wholesome. All-American persona that had made him a star.
Stuart Little in Stuart Little (1999)
Fox lent his voice to the titular mouse in all three Stuart Little films that follow the adventures of a cheese-loving critter that is adopted by a young New York couple. The voice-over work was perfect for the actor who was no longer able to meet the grueling physical demands of movie and film work as his health continued to be an issue throughout the shooting process that spanned 1999-2005.
Chance in Homeward Bound (1993)
Image via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Fox again took advantage of his youngish, boy-like vocal talents when he narrated the character of Chance in Homeward Bound, and it’s sequel in 1996. The film is a remake of the 1963 movie, An Incredible Journey and follows the comical adventures of an American Bulldog who tags along with his Golden Retriever pal, Shadow who goes on a trip to find his owner after he mistakenly thinks he has been abandoned by his owner, Peter (Benj Thall).
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