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Michael J Fox Movies: The Celebrated Star’s 10 Most Iconic Roles, Ranked

Explore the beloved actor's best from 'Teen Wolf' to 'Back to the Future!'


There are so many notable Michael J Fox movies, that it’s hard to list them all. Born Michael Andrew Fox in Edmonton, Alberta, his family moved to Vancouver when Michael was 10 and that’s where he developed his desire to act.

At age 15, he auditioned for the role of a 10 year old in a series called Leo and Me (1978), and thanks to such attributes as his short stature and distinctive youthful voice, he secured the role.

He soon dropped out of high school against the advice of one of his teachers, who told him, “Fox, you’re not going to be cute forever,” to which Fox responded, “Maybe just long enough, sr.” When he recounted this on a David Letterman show appearances, Fox added, “It turns out we were both right.”

Portrait of Michael J Fox, 1985
Portrait of Michael J. Fox, 1985THIERRY ORBAN/Sygma/Getty

Michael J. Fox became enthralled with acting when he appeared on stage in The Shadow Box and, in response, at 18 moved to Los Angeles – where else? With stars in his light blue eyes, Fox got a few television roles, his first being Letters from Frank, a TV film for which he’s credited under the name Michael Fox.

He added the J when he registered with the Screen Actors Guild and discovered there was already a Michael Fox listed. “I realized I couldn’t register as Michael A. Fox because I didn’t want teen magazines to use headlines such as ‘Michael, A Fox!‘”

But just as fast as the roles and accolades came, they quickly diminished. And like most out-of-work actors, he survived on boxes of mac and cheese. Fox also sold half of a sectional couch to a neighbor and sold paperback books to a local bookstore for cash to buy groceries.

Michael J Fox and the cast of Family Ties, 1982
Michael J. Fox and the cast of Family Ties, 1982Pictorial Parade/Getty

Then his agent called to tell him about an upcoming sitcom, Family Ties, and the role of Alex P. Keaton. With little to no money at that time, Fox didn’t even have a phone, a necessary lifeline in Hollywood, so he negotiated the deal from a phone booth outside a Pioneer Chicken restaurant in Hollywood and told the network they would need to call him between four and five since he would only be home then.

Related: ‘Family Ties’ Cast Then and Now — You Won’t Believe How Much They’ve Changed!

He waited for the call outside the phone booth and was fortunately there to answer it and secure the role that made him famous. He shot the film Teen Wolf during a five-week break from Family Ties, then went on to make Back To The Future, both of which were released in 1985 (BTTF came out first, boosting the box office of Teen Wolf).

Michael J Fox in Back to the Future, 1985
Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, 1985Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty

It was during the filming of Doc Hollywood in 1991, that Fox noticed his finger twitching and that he was unable to control the movement. He then saw a doctor who gave him the grim diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. During production of TV’s Spin City Fox often hid his left hand in his pocket due to the disease. But has not stopped him. Here, see the other films we loved.

The top 10 Michael J Fox movies, ranked

Usually playing easy going, even-tempered nice guy characters, the actor did venture out of this characterization a few times. Here is a look back at some of the best Michael J Fox movies.

10. Casualties of War (1989)

Don Harvey, Michael J Fox and Sean Penn in Casualties of War, 1989
Don Harvey, Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn in Casualties of War, 1989Sunset Boulevard/Getty

Alongside always intimidating Sean Penn, Fox starred in this dark, gritty and violent drama about the Vietnam War’s moral voice. In the film, a girl is taken from her village by five American soldiers. Ultimately the young girl is killed and the 5th soldier, Fox, who refused to partake in her rape, is determined that justice be done. 

9. For Love or Money (1993)

Scene from For Love or Money, 1993
Scene from For Love or Money, 1993Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment/MoviestillsDB

Who or what will win out – love or money? This is the dilemma that Doug (Fox), a concierge at a luxury hotel who has saved up all his tips towards his plan for his own hotel, faces. When he finds the fiscal supporter that he needs to fulfill his dreams, he discovers his married rescuer is having an affair with the woman he loves from afar. So now it’s a choice between money for his hotel or his feelings for her.   

8. Greedy (1994)

Micheal J Fox and the cast of Greedy, 1994
Micheal J. Fox and the cast of Greedy, 1994Imagine Entertainment/Universal Pictures/MoviestillsDB

Co-starring Kirk Douglas as rich old billionaire Uncle Joe, Fox is cast as Daniel McTeague, a struggling bowler imported from another city by his family to get into Joe’s good graces so that he bequeaths his millions to the greedy family. But Uncle Joe, though aging, isn’t as dumb as the family thinks. At the same time, Uncle Joe is tended to by a beautiful nurse who would also love a piece of his bank account. 

(Click through to our sister site for a look back at some of the best Kirk Douglas roles!)

7. Teen Wolf (1985)

Micheal J Fox in prosthetic wolf mask and makeup for Teen Wolf, 1985
Micheal J. Fox in prosthetic wolf mask and makeup for Teen Wolf, 1985Wolfkill/Atlantic Entertainment Group/The Kushner-Locke Company/MoviestillsDB

While some of us inherit our family’s green eyes and blonde curly hair, others like high school student Scott Howard (Fox) discover his family has its own unique hereditary characteristic. Now Scott sprouts hair everywhere as a werewolf and his ridiculed basketball team is suddenly on a winning streak.

Before discovering his new family pedigree, Scott was the worst player on the team, but now a bullied 17 year old student who is looking for love becomes an overnight sensation, but finds it difficult to choose which way of life was better.    

6. The Frighteners (1996)

Trini Alvarado and Michael J. Fox in The Frighteners, 1996
Trini Alvarado and Michael J. Fox in The Frighteners, 1996Universal/Getty

In this role, which marks one the the last major Michael J Fox movies, Fox plays Frank Bannister, who, after a tragic car accident that kills his wife, discovers he can communicate with the dead. Instead of using his new psychic powers to help others, he uses them to con people.

But when an evil spirit appears, Frank may be the only one who can stop this evil from killing the living and the dead. It was during the filming on location in New Zealand that Fox made up his mind that he’d had enough of being away from his family making movies and opted for the new sitcom Spin City

5. Doc Hollywood (1991)

Scene from Doc Hollywood, 1991
Scene from Doc Hollywood, 1991Warner Bros./MoviestillsDB

The romantic comedy centers around a talented medical doctor, Benjamin Stone, who decides to become a plastic surgeon, but on his way from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles for the interview, he gets off the highway to avoid a traffic jam and ends up crashing into a fence in small town U.S. A.

His penance is to work for several days at the town hospital while his car is being fixed and then get on his way to the promising new high paid job. But the locals are liking Stone and he becomes enamored with a pretty ambulance driver. So will he leave for sunny southern California or remain in Grady’s small town life? 

4. The Secret of My Success (1987)

Helen Slater and Michael J. Fox on set of The Secret of My Success, 1987
Helen Slater and Michael J. Fox on set of The Secret of My Success, 1987Michael Ochs Archives/Handout/Moviepix/Getty

Fox played Brantley Foster, a well-educated recent graduate of Kansas State University who moves to the Big Apple where he deals with the ups and downs of the business world. But living in New York City isn’t so easy; on his first day at work, he is fired in a hostile take-over and learns that jobs – and women – are hard to get.

Enter his distant cousin who runs a multi-million dollar company and gives Brantley a job – in the mail room. Through various circumstances, Brantley reinvents himself at the company as Carlton Whitfield to improve the business and, of course, impress a female company employee. Leading a double life isn’t easy either as Brantley/Carlton finds out.

3. Bright Lights, Big City (1988)

A dramatic turn in 1988's Bright Light, Big City
Micheal J. Fox in Bright Lights, Big City, 1988United Artists/Mirage Enterprises/MoviestillsDB

The tragic drama stars Fox alongside Kiefer Sutherland, Phoebe Cates, Dianne Wiest and Jason Robards and was based on the novel by Jay McInerney. The film follow one week in the life of 24 year-old Jamie Conway, who spends his nights partying with alcohol and drugs while by day he’s a fact-checker for a magazine.

The actor was praised for his delivery of a drunken monologue. During the shooting of the film, Fox co-starred again with his now wife Tracy Pollan, who was playing Alex Keaton’s on-screen girlfriend in Family Ties.  

2. Homeward Bound (1993) & Homeward Bound II (1996)

This movie and its sequel star the voices of Michael J. Fox as Chance, a young dog; Don Ameche as Shadow, an aging wise dog; and Sally Field as Sassy, the snobby Himalayan cat. The threesome are left behind when their owners go on vacation, so they decide to find their owners as they travel across forested mountains and lonely countryside while their people search for them at the same time. It’s a kid’s movie, so don’t worry about the ending. 

In the sequel, the three pets are once again left behind by their owners in San Francisco. What’s scarier — mountains, the streets of San Francisco or owners who could be so careless?

Related: 14 Must-See Photos of Young Sally Field that Prove She Was Born to Be a Star

1. Back to the Future Parts I, II, & III (1985-1990)

The original Back to the Future from 1985
Christopher Lloyd and Micheal J. Fox in Back to the Future, 1985Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/MoviestillsDB

In the original film, teenager Marty McFly travels backwards in time from 1985 to 1955 in a “specialized” DeLorean invented by his friend, maverick scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Eric Stoltz was originally brought on to play the role of Marty, though he ended up replaced by Fox.

As a result, since Fox was still signed to Family Ties, he would rehearse the show from 10AM to 6PM, then be rushed to the Back to the Future set where he would rehearse and shoot until 2:30AM. In the end, it was well worth Fox’s efforts as the film became the number one grossing movie in 1985 and went  on to have two successful sequels. 

In the first movie, Marty inadvertently prevents his future parents from falling in love, thus threatening his own existence. He is forced to make sure his teenage parents-to-be meet and do fall in love so he can get back to the future. Audiences loved the concept, and the films making up the Back to the Future trilogy became, without a doubt, the most celebrated Michael J Fox movies.

Scene from Back to the Future Part II, 1989
Scene from Back to the Future Part II, 1989Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/MoviestillsDB

Back to the Future Part II finds Marty and Doc traveling from 1985 to 2015 in order to prevent Marty’s son from sabotaging the McFly family’s future. But Doc’s time machine is stolen by arch nemesis Biff and used to alter history for his own selfish reasons. Once again the duo must restore the timeline. 

Part III in the trilogy also deals with time travel, only this time its setting was the Old West. 

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