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Villain Overview

WRONG! That's yours. So, from now on, you'd better be lookin' behind you when you walk. 'Cause one day, you're gonna git a bullet in your back!
~ Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen threatens to kill Emmett Brown.

Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen is the main antagonist of the 1990 film Back to the Future Part III. An outlaw living in the latter half of the 19th century, he lived around Hill Valley, California. Tannen was the great-grandfather of Biff Tannen.

He was portrayed by Thomas F. Wilson, who also played Biff and Griff Tannen.


Buford Tannen had a violent temper and a tendency to drool. These two characteristic traits earned him a nickname: "Mad Dog". Tannen himself hated the nickname, and would react violently when it was used in front of him.


Buford Tannen was a notorious gunman, whose short temper and a tendency to drool, earned him the nickname 'Mad Dog'. He was quick on the trigger and bragged that he had killed 12 men, not including Indians or Chinamen. However, this claim cannot be substantiated since precise records were not kept after Tannen shot a newspaper editor after printing an unfavourable story about him in 1884.
~ Information on Buford Tannen from the Hill Valley City Archives.

Buford Tannen was nicknamed 'Mad Dog' because of his temper and his tendency to drool. Tannen himself hated the nickname and would react violently when people called him that to his face. Tannen was a notorious gunman who had shot at least 12 men, "not including Indians or Chinamen." Later generations would have a hard time verifying that claim since Tannen had shot the local newspaper editor, when the man printed an unfavorable article about him.

Sometime in 1885, Tannen approached Doc Brown to shoe his horse. Doc Brown did so, but then Tannen failed to pay for the job. The horse later threw his shoe while Tannen was riding him. As a result Tannen was thrown from his horse, along with a bottle of whiskey. Tannen would later demand Doc pay him $75 for the horse, and $5 for the whiskey, totaling $80. Doc offered to re-shoe the horse, but it was too late since Tannen had shot the horse. Brown refused since Tannen never paid him for the original job.

In the original timeline, Tannen murdered Emmet "Doc" Brown by shooting him in the back. Doc Brown was buried by his girlfriend Clara in a cemetery on the outskirts of town, she had it noted on his stone that he was shot in the back over a matter of $80.

History rewritten

Encounter with "Clint Eastwood"

"Mad Dog?" I hate that name. I hate it. You hear? Nobody calls me "Mad Dog"! Especially not some duded-up, egg-suckin' gutter trash!
~ Tannen after 'Clint Eastwood' (Marty McFly) accidentally gets on his bad side.

70 years later, in 1955, when Marty McFly discovered Doc's fate, he went back to 1885 to save Doc, and upon arriving in Hill Valley soon meet Tannen in the Palace Saloon. Tannen mistook Marty for Seamus McFly (Marty's great- great grandfather), who Tannen had warned not to set foot in the Palace Saloon. Tannen realised Marty wasn't Seamus, but commented that he looked like him, "especially with that dog-ugly hat". This snide remark drew laughs from Buford's gang. Tannen asked Marty if he was related to Seamus and asked what his name was. Marty replied "Eastwood. Clint Eastwood". Tannen asked "What kinda stupid name is that?" and he and his gang mocked "Clint's" clothing. Just as the saloon's bartender was pouring whiskey for Tannen and his gang. the outlaw asked the bartender if he had seen "that no- good, cheatin' blacksmith". Frightened, the bartender said "No, sir, Mr. Tannen. I haven't". Just then, Marty recognised him and said "You're Mad-Dog Tannen", enraging Buford and causing everyone in the Saloon to run and hide. Tannen angrily told Marty he hated the nickname and said "Nobody calls me 'Mad Dog'!". Tannen grabbed his gun and, to the amuseument of his gang, shot at Marty's feet multiple times, telling him to dance. Marty moonwalked, leaving Tannen, his gang and everyone in the Saloon bewildered. With Tannen and his men distracted, Marty threw a spitoon, which landed on Tannen and spilt its contents down his front. Enraged, Tannen pointed his gun at Marty, but the barrel was empty. The outlaw ordered his gang to "Get him!", but Marty ran out of the Saloon, with Tannen and his gang chasing after him.

The Hanging

We got ourselves a new Courthouse! High time we had a hanging!
~ Buford attempts to hang Marty.

Marty ran on foot while Tannen and his gang pursued him on horseback. Tannen caught Marty with a lasso, and he and his gang rode towards the under- construction Hill Valley Courthouse. Tannen attempted to hang the youth, but Marty was saved by Doc Brown. Tannen confronted the blacksmith, by commenting that Doc owed him money. When asked how much, Tannen said his horse threw a shoe and since Doc did the shoeing, that made him responsible. Doc retorted that since Tannen never paid him for the job, that made them even. The outlaw stated that he was on his horse when it threw the shoe, he fell off the horse and broke a bottle of Kentucky Red Eye whiskey. So, Tannen stated that Doc owed him $5 for the whiskey, and $75 for the horse ($80 in total). Doc shouted that Tannen should bring is horse back and reshoe him, but Tannen shouted that he shot the horse. Doc retorted "Well that's your problem, Tannen!". Tannen then told Doc that the problem was his, and warned him that he would get a bullet in his back. After that, Tannen and his gang rode out of town.

Hill Valley Town Festival

What's wrong, dude? You yellow? That's it, isn't it? 'Yellow-belly'.
~ Tannen calls 'Clint Eastwood' yellow.

It was at this festival where Tannen called Marty 'yellow' and challenged him to a shootout at 8:00 Monday morning. Marty accepted, thinking he would be gone by then.

'Clint Eastwood' vs. Buford Tannen

Time's up, runt!

Train delays and the capture of Doc Brown by Tannen forced Marty to face the gunslinger. Taking a cue from a Clint Eastwood film, Marty wore an iron stove door under his poncho. This saved his life and enabled him to defeat Tannen, erasing the tombstone that sent Marty back to 1885 from history when Tannen's head cracked it in two.

Beginning a family tradition, Tannen fell into a cart full of manure as law enforcement arrived to arrest him for robbing the Pine City Stage.


I hate manure.
~ Buford Tannen's last words before his arrest.

Buford Tannen's last words were later used again by his great-grandson Biff in 1955 with the same hatred of manure passed onto him.

It is possible that before his death, Buford married Biff's great-grandmother, and fathered Biff's grandfather.


  • He most likely inspired Marshal Nathan Van Cleef from the Owen Wilson/Jackie Chan movie Shanghai Noon.
  • In the Paradox script (an original draft, which combined the plots of Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III), Buford's nickname was "Black Biff".
  • In Back to the Future Part II, a photo of Tannen is seen, though, he sports a large beard.


           BackToTheFutureTitle.png Villains

Biff Tannen's Gang/BiffCo
Biff Tannen (Match, Skinhead & 3-D)

Griff Tannen's Gang
Griff Tannen (Data, Spike & Whitey)

Buford Tannen's Gang
Buford Tannen (Stubble, Ceegar & Buck)

The Libyans