Child's Play (1988 film)

Child's Play is a 1988 American supernatural horror film directed by Tom Holland, from a screenplay by Holland, Don Mancini and John Lafia, and based on a story by Mancini.[4] It is the first film in the Child's Play series and the first installment to feature the character Chucky. It stars Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, and Jack Colvin, with Brad Dourif as the titular character. Its plot follows a widowed mother who gives a doll to her son, unaware that the doll is possessed by the soul of a serial killer.

Child's Play
Childs Play.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTom Holland
Screenplay by
Story byDon Mancini
Produced byDavid Kirschner
CinematographyBill Butler
Edited by
  • Edward Warschilka
  • Roy E. Peterson
Music byJoe Renzetti
Distributed byMGM/UA Communications Co.
Release date
  • November 9, 1988 (1988-11-09)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9–13 million[1][2]
Box office$44.2 million[3]

Child's Play was released in the United States on November 9, 1988, by MGM/UA Communications Co. It grossed more than $44 million against a production budget of $9 million.[5][6][2]

Along with the film gaining a cult following,[7] the box office success spawned a media franchise that includes a series of six sequels, merchandise, comic books, a reboot film of the same name released in June 2019, and a TV series that began airing in October 2021. Child's Play was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,[8] although the rights to the series were sold to Universal Pictures in 1990,[9] beginning with the sequel Child's Play 2. MGM retained the rights to the first film and, as such, distributed the 2019 reboot.


Detective Mike Norris chases fugitive serial killer Charles Lee Ray through the streets of Chicago and into a toy store. After being shot by Norris, a dying Ray performs a voodoo chant to transfer his soul to one of the Good Guy-brand talking dolls on display. The store is struck by lightning and explodes, and Norris finds Ray's lifeless body in the rubble next to the doll.

Widow Karen Barclay's six-year-old son Andy desperately wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday, but she cannot afford one. Soon after, she learns that a homeless man outside of her workplace has gotten ahold of a Good Guy doll and is trying to sell it. She buys it and gives it to Andy. The doll appears normal and refers to itself as "Chucky". That night, Karen's best friend Maggie watches over Andy while Karen works late. After Andy's bedtime, Maggie finds Chucky sitting in front of a television tuned to a late-night newscast about Ray's death. She is then attacked by Chucky, being hit in the head with a hammer and falling out of the window to her death. Police search the apartment and Norris considers Andy a suspect, despite Karen's protests. Andy claims that Chucky killed Maggie and says that Chucky told him that his real name was "Charles Lee Ray".

The next morning, Chucky orders Andy to skip school and take a train downtown. While Andy is distracted, Chucky sneaks into the home of his former accomplice, Eddie Caputo, and kills him by causing a gas explosion. Andy is again considered a suspect and is admitted to a psychiatric hospital after claiming Chucky is the culprit. Karen returns home with Chucky and discovers batteries are still in the doll's box; the doll has been moving and speaking without them. Frightened, Karen lights her fireplace and threatens to burn Chucky, who violently comes alive in her arms and attacks her before escaping. Karen goes to the police and explains what happened; Norris doesn't believe her. Karen finds the man who sold her the doll and asks for more information. The man tries to assault her, but Norris arrives and stops him. Norris forces the man to admit that he took the doll from the torched toy store.

Karen again tries to convince Mike that the doll is alive, but he refuses to believe her, insisting that he killed Ray. After bringing Karen home, Norris is attacked by Chucky, and in the ensuing fight, he shoots the doll, whose wound inexplicably bleeds and causes pain. Chucky escapes to his former voodoo instructor John, who informs him that the longer his soul remains in the doll, the more "human" the doll will become. Chucky demands that John help him reverse the spell, but he refuses. Chucky tortures John with a voodoo doll, forcing him to reveal that in order to escape the doll's body, Chucky must transfer his soul to the first human he revealed his true identity to: Andy. Chucky stabs the voodoo doll in the chest, mortally wounding John, and escapes. Karen and Norris arrive shortly after. Before dying, John tells them that to kill Chucky, they must strike at his heart.

Chucky arrives at the psychiatric hospital where Andy is being held and kills a doctor with an electroshock therapy device. In the chaos, Andy escapes and flees home, but Chucky follows closely behind and knocks him out. As Chucky prepares to possess him with the voodoo chant, Karen and Norris arrive. Chucky wounds Norris. Karen and Andy manage to trap Chucky in the fireplace and set him on fire, appearing to kill him. Karen and Andy leave the room to help Norris, but a charred Chucky escapes from the fireplace and chases Andy. Karen shoots Chucky repeatedly, blowing him to pieces. Norris' partner Jack arrives at the apartment, initially refusing to believe the three's story about the doll being alive. Chucky's body suddenly bursts through a vent to strangle Jack. Norris manages to shoot Chucky's body through the heart, finally killing him.

Jack says that nobody will believe them before leaving the room with Norris, Karen, and Andy.


Additionally, Alan Wilder appears as Walter Criswell, Edan Gross as a young boy in a commercial promoting Good Guy dolls / Oscar Doll, Aaron Osborne as an orderly, Juan Ramirez as the homeless man who Karen received Chucky from, Tyler Hard as Mona, Ted Liss as George, Roslyn Alexander as Lucy

Chucky PuppeteersEdit



According to an interview with Mental Floss, screenwriter Don Mancini first conceived of the concept while studying as a film major at the University of California, Los Angeles. Mancini was inspired by the consumerism of the 1980s and the effect of marketing on children based on his experiences with his father, an advertising executive.[14] Mancini's troubled relationship with his own father and his experiences of alienation as a gay man caused him to center the script around a child with a single mother and no father figure.[15] He was also influenced by the Cabbage Patch Kids, Trilogy of Terror, Magic, Poltergeist, the character of Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll". The film's executive producer David Kirschner, who would produce all seven films in the Chucky series, claimed in the same interview that he had wanted to make a film about a killer doll after reading The Dollhouse Murders.[14] The director Tom Holland has also affirmed that the My Buddy dolls played a role in Chucky's design.[16]

Mancini's original script was titled Batteries Not Included, with the title later changed to Blood Buddy after it was discovered that a different film with the same name was being made.[17] During production it was nearly retitled again in order to avoid confusion with Sidney Lumet's 1972 horror film of the same name.[1] It would have featured a doll filled with fake blood that would allow it to bleed if played with roughly, and it would have come alive after Andy mixed his own blood with the doll's. The doll would have represented Andy's suppressed rage, and would have targeted his enemies.[14] Mancini's original script would have been a whodunit story which dealt with the effect of advertising and television on children. Mancini's original script was also written to toy with the audience a bit longer, making it ambiguous whether Andy or Chucky was the killer.[2]

Charles Band expressed interest in filming the script, and later produced the Puppet Master franchise. The script was accepted by United Artists after studio president Tony Thomopoulous and MGM/UA Communications Chairman Lee Rich realized that it could begin a long-running series.[1] After UA purchased the script it was rewritten by John Lafia to make the character of Andy more sympathetic and after Kirschner expressed doubt that parents would buy their children a doll with fake blood. In Lafia's rewritten script Charles Lee Ray's soul would have been transferred to the doll after being executed by electric chair as it was being manufactured on an assembly line.[14] The script featured the doll factory where Chucky was produced as a location, which would be recycled for the second film.[17]

William Friedkin, Irvin Kershner, Robert Wise, Joseph Ruben, Howard Franklin, and Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel were approached to direct before Holland was hired on Steven Spielberg's recommendation from his work on Amazing Stories.[14][2] John Lithgow was considered to play Charles Lee Ray before Brad Dourif was hired in the role after Holland worked with him in Fatal Beauty.[18][2] Initially the voice of Chucky's doll form was intended to be a simple electronic overlay similar to ordinary toys with sound chips. When this was deemed infeasible and when Dourif was initially unavailable to record Chucky's voice because of his involvement in Spontaneous Combustion, Holland cast Jessica Walter to voice Chucky on the basis that Mercedes McCambridge had voiced Pazuzu in The Exorcist.[14][19][20]


Principal photography began on January 7, 1988, and wrapped on March 5, 1988 with a budget of $9–13 million.[1][2] Mancini never entered the set and was minimally involved in the production because of the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike.[14] Child's Play was filmed on location in Chicago. The Brewster Apartments, a Chicago landmark located at Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove Avenue, served as the location of the apartment where Andy and Karen lived and is pictured on the film's poster. In-studio filming took place at Culver Studios in Culver City, California.[2] The on-location filming was conducted in the winter with a wind chill reaching as low as −50 °F (−46 °C), forcing the production to rent entire rooms and park running station wagons near shooting locations as warming centers.[1]

Chucky's full name, Charles Lee Ray, is derived from the names of notorious killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray.[21][22]

Maggie's death was originally going to be by electrocution while taking a bath. The idea was abandoned, and was later used for Tiffany's death in Bride of Chucky.[22]

Visual effectsEdit

The film used various ways to portray Chucky, including radio-controlled animatronics operated by up to nine puppeteers, extras of short stature, and child actors. Kevin Yagher was in charge of the puppetry for the film.[14] Various animatronics and cosmetics were used for every scene. Throughout the film, Chucky transitions from appearing as a normal toy to appearing more human, with his hairline receding throughout the film.[14] The film created multiple Chucky animatronics such as a flailing tantrum Chucky, a walking Chucky, and a stationary Chucky. The animatronic doll's face was controlled via remote control through a rig capturing facial movement on puppeteer Brock Winkless. For some scenes Holland used short-statured actors and children such as Ed Gale and Alex Vincent's sister Ashley with forced perspective sets.[14][17]

Test screeningEdit

The film initially received negative reviews after a two-hour rough cut was shown to audiences at a test screening. Kirschner and Mancini subsequently cut 25 minutes of the film to reduce the amount of time Chucky was on screen, something Kirschner had advocated for during production to build suspense in a similar fashion to Jaws or Alien. Holland, who had repeatedly clashed with Kirschner over Chucky's amount of time on screen and the film's tone during shooting, objected to the cuts and left the production.[14][2]

The three have also suggested that the test screening flopped due to their use of Walter as the doll's voice.[2][14] They claimed that while Walter's voice was suitably menacing, she was unable to convey the humor intended for the character, and all of her lines were redubbed with Dourif's voice.[14] The cut footage, shown only in production stills and the film's script, would have featured Charles Lee Ray stalking a drunk woman as a human only to discover it to be Mike Norris on an undercover sting operation, Andy showing Chucky around his room and finding a photograph of his deceased father, John healing an infant through a Voodoo ritual, and Chucky unsuccessfully trying to break into Andy's room at the mental hospital and tricking a mentally-ill girl named Mona into carrying him into the ward.

The script also featured an alternate ending in which Chucky is stabbed by Andy with a knife mounted on an radio-controlled car and has his face and legs melted with a squirt gun filled with Drano in addition to being lit on fire and shot repeatedly by Mike and Karen. Chucky would have been seemingly killed by being overpowered by Jack and several police officers. While storing Chucky's remains in an evidence room, another cop would have disbelieved Jack's assertion that the doll was alive, and after they left, Chucky's disembodied arm would have come to life to swat a fly.[23]


The score was composed by Joseph Renzetti which featured a collection of electronic and orchestral elements. Portions of the soundtrack were released on vinyl in 1989 and was later followed up by another vinyl pressing by Waxwork Records that featured the complete score from the original master tapes.[24]


Child's Play was produced on a budget of $9,000,000. MGM/UA made a controversial decision to not release the film during Halloween, moving the release date closer to Veterans Day weekend.[1] The film was heavily promoted for three weeks before release through television spots emphasizing audience reactions directed towards 12-to-20-year-olds and intended to “position Chucky as the new terror icon.”[1] The film was released on November 9, 1988, in 1,377 theaters, opening at #1, out of the other 12 films that were showing that week, with $6,583,963.[25] The film went on to gross $33,244,684 at the US box office and an additional $10,952,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $44,196,684.[26] It became United Artists' second highest-grossing film of 1988 following Rain Man.[14]

Home mediaEdit

Child's Play was originally released on VHS in North America by MGM/UA Home Video on April 25, 1989.

The film was first released on DVD by MGM in 1999. The film was presented in an open-matte full screen presentation and included a theatrical trailer and a "Making Of" booklet. The Australian DVD release by MGM featured the film in non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. The DVD was re-released in 2007 with a lenticular cover.

A 20th Anniversary DVD was released by MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on September 9, 2008.[27] The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen format (for the first time in the U.S. in 20 years) enhanced for 16x9 monitors and includes an English 5.1 surround track and English, French, and Spanish 2.0 stereo tracks. Special features include two audio commentaries with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Kevin Yagher, producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini, a "Selected Scene Chucky Commentary", "Evil Comes in Small Packages" featurettes, a vintage featurette from 1988 titled "Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play", and "Chucky: Building a Nightmare" featurette, theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. The film received a Blu-ray Disc release on September 15, 2009. The DVD does not feature any contributions from director Tom Holland, who claims he was not asked to contribute to it. In response, the website Icons of Fright contacted Holland and asked if he would be willing to record a commentary track that would be free for download on their website. He agreed, and the track is downloadable from here.[28]

On October 8, 2013, the film was re-released again on DVD and Blu-ray in a boxset for the respective formats, containing all six Child's Play films.

On October 18, 2016, Scream Factory and MGM re-released the film in a brand new Collector's Edition Blu-ray.[29]

On October 3, 2017, the film was re-released once again on DVD and Blu-ray in a boxset for the respective formats, containing all seven Child's Play films.[citation needed]


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 71% of 48 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.50/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Child's Play occasionally stumbles across its tonal tightrope of comedy and horror, but its genuinely creepy monster and some deft direction by Tom Holland makes this chiller stand out on the shelf."[30] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[32]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it a "cheerfully energetic horror film."[33] Caryn James of The New York Times praised it as "a clever, playful thriller," adding, "It's the deft wit and swift editing that keeps us off guard, no matter how predictable the plot."[34] Variety called the film a "near-miss", commending Tom Holland's "impressive technical skill" and the actors for keeping "straight faces during these outlandish proceedings," but finding that "the novelty is not buttressed by an interesting story to go along with the gimmick."[35]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Scary, yet darkly funny, this thriller of the supernatural from the director of the terrific 'Fright Night' moves with the speed of a bullet train and with style to burn."[36] Dave Kehr of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1 out of 4 stars and wrote that it "would probably be sickening if it weren't so relentlessly stupid."[37] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post wrote that Holland "keeps things moving without rushing them. Unfortunately, 'Child's Play' gets a little ugly at the end, not only because the finale seems a rehash of virtually every shock movie of the last 10 years, but because it involves the very realistic terrorizing of a 6-year-old."[38]

Philip Strick of The Monthly Film Bulletin found the plot contrived with "ludicrous supernatural gobbledygook" but thought that Holland handled the action sequences well.[39] Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "[a] scary and clever horror thriller", also praising the film's special effects.[40]


Award Category Winner/Nominee Result
Saturn Awards Best Actress Catherine Hicks Won
Best Horror Film Child's Play Nominated
Best Performance by a Younger Actor Alex Vincent Nominated
Best Writing Tom Holland, John Lafia, Don Mancini Nominated


During the initial release, a large crowd of protesters formed at the main entrance of MGM calling for a ban on the film because, they claimed, it would incite violence in children. Local news reporters from two TV stations were broadcasting live from the scene. The producer, David Kirschner, was watching the demonstration on TV and was disturbed. Jeffrey Hilton, who had been working in Kirschner's office at MGM, indicated that he could quell the disturbance in ten minutes. While Kirschner was watching from the safety of his office, Hilton spoke to the group's leader and shook his hand. The group instantly dispersed, much to the chagrin of the newscasters. Hilton did not reveal to Kirschner whether it had been a threat or simple diplomacy that saved the day.

Hilton's diplomacy notwithstanding, the film series was plagued with accusations of inciting violence in children. Child's Play 3 was cited as the "inspiration" for two murders, which took place in the United Kingdom in December 1992 and February 1993 respectively: the murder of Suzanne Capper and the murder of James Bulger. In the Suzanne Capper case, the 16-year-old was forced to listen to recordings of the gangleader repeating the catchphrase "I'm Chucky, wanna play?"[41][42][43] Tom Holland, in response to both murders, defended the film, stating that viewers of horror movies could only be influenced by their content if they were "unbalanced to begin with."[44]


The film was followed by several sequels including Child's Play 2 (1990), Child's Play 3 (1991), Bride of Chucky (1998), Seed of Chucky (2004), Curse of Chucky (2013), Cult of Chucky (2017), and a television series titled Chucky (2021).


A reboot of the franchise was announced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to be in development beginning in July 2018. Lars Klevberg served as director, from a script by Tyler Burton Smith. The film was co-produced by Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg and Aaron Schmidt. The adaptation featured a group of kids who come into contact with a modern-day hi-tech version of the Good Guys doll. The film starred Gabriel Bateman as Andy Barclay and Aubrey Plaza as his mother Karen. The film was released on June 21, 2019.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Child's Play (1988)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "How Child's Play Survived Bad Test Screenings to Become a Horror Classic". The Hollywood Reporter. 5 November 2018. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  3. ^ "Child's Play". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ James, Caryn (1988-11-09). "A Killer Companion in 'Child's Play'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  5. ^ "'Child's Play': THR's 1988 Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  6. ^ "Child's Play (1988) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  7. ^ "Chucky set to return in new sequel to Child's Play movies". Metro. 25 June 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Child's Play [1988] - IGN, retrieved 2019-06-27
  9. ^ "Chucky Movie Rights Explained: Why There's Two Franchise at Two Different Studios". ScreenRant. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2019-06-27.
  10. ^ "Chucky Was Played by a Real Person Exclusive Interview with Ed Gale". iHorror | Horror News and Movie Reviews. January 29, 2015.
  11. ^ Navarro, Meagan (April 15, 2019). "[It Came From the '80s] How Actors and Effects Made a Killer Doll a Horror Icon in 'Child's Play'".
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Tom Holland (Director) (1988). Child's Play (DVD). United States: United Artists.
  13. ^ Cheng, Cheryl (2015-07-30). "N. Brock Winkless IV, the Puppeteer of Chucky in 'Child's Play,' Dies at 56". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Your Friend 'Til the End: An Oral History of Child's Play". 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  15. ^ "Child's Play: How Don Mancini's Personal Life Inspired The Movie Franchise". ScreenRant. 2020-07-26. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  16. ^ Media, Comcast Interactive (21 June 2013). "Director Tom Holland Reveals 'Child's Play' & 'Fright Night' Secrets - Movies". Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Comtois, James (2020-05-21). "Child's Play watch party reveals film's original titles and why Alex Vincent 'deserved an Oscar'". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  18. ^ "Devilish dolls scare up box office dollars". Boston Herald. 2019-06-22. Retrieved 2020-09-10.
  19. ^ "We cordially request the Jessica Walter cut of Child's Play". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  20. ^ Heigl, Alex (2021-03-26). "Jessica Walter almost had role as Chucky in 'Child's Play,' says Tom Holland". New York Post. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  21. ^ Hamblin, Cory (2009). Serket's Movies: Commentary and Trivia on 444 Movies. Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4349-9605-3.
  22. ^ a b Case, Lindsay (25 October 2014). "Six Things You Didn't Know About the Child's Play Franchise". AMC. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  23. ^ "Full text of "Child's Play (1988) Script"". Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  24. ^ Slingerland, Calum (15 October 2019). "The Original 'Child's Play' Soundtrack Is Coming to Vinyl". Exclaim. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  25. ^ "November 11–13, 1988". Retrieved 2012-08-28.
  26. ^ "Child's Play". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  27. ^ Child's Play (Anniversary Edition) on DVD Archived May 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "Holland Does Child's Play Commentary!". Dread Central. September 16, 2008.
  29. ^ "Child's Play [Collector's Edition] - Blu-ray - Shout! Factory".
  30. ^ "Child's Play". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  31. ^ "Child's Play Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  32. ^ "CinemaScore".
  33. ^ Child's Play review Ebert, Roger
  34. ^ James, Caryn (November 9, 1988). "A Killer Companion in 'Child's Play'". The New York Times: C19.
  35. ^ "Child's Play". Variety: 18. November 9, 1988.
  36. ^ Thomas, Kevin (November 9, 1988). "'Child's Play' Packed With Chills and Thrills". Los Angeles Times. Section VI, p. 3.
  37. ^ Kehr, Dave (November 10, 1988). "There's enough trauma in 'Child's Play' to give any kid nightmares." Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 12.
  38. ^ Harrington, Richard (November 10, 1988). "'Child's Play': The Doll Did It". The Washington Post. p. B17.
  39. ^ Strick, Philip (June 1989). "Child's Play". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 56 (665): 174.
  40. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Carson, Darwyn; Sader, Luke (2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  41. ^ January 28, 1996 Sex with 'Chucky' killer Sunday Mirror
  42. ^ 18 December 1993 Horror fiction became reality The Independent
  43. ^ Computers, curriculum, and cultural change: an introduction for teachers By Eugène F. Provenzo, Arlene Brett, Gary N. McCloskey. Published 1999
  44. ^ December 19, 1993 Chucky films defended The Independent
  45. ^ "Marathi films inspired by Hollywood". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-12-01.

External linksEdit