Home Alone is a 1990 American Christmas comedy film written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. The film stars Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for their Christmas vacation. Kevin initially relishes being home alone, but soon has to contend with two burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The film also features John Heard and Catherine O'Hara as Kevin's parents.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Chris Columbus|
|Produced by||John Hughes|
|Written by||John Hughes|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Edited by||Raja Gosnell|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$476.7 million|
Culkin was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy, and the film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Score, which was written by John Williams, and Best Original Song for "Somewhere in My Memory". After its release, Home Alone became the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time in the United States, and also held the record worldwide until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II in 2011. For nearly three decades, the film was also the highest-grossing Christmas film of all time until it was surpassed by The Grinch in 2018. Despite the mixed critical reception upon its initial release, Home Alone has been hailed as a holiday classic among audiences, and is often ranked as one of the best Christmas films of all time.
Home Alone spawned a successful film franchise with four sequels, including the 1992 film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which is the only Home Alone sequel to have the original cast reprising their roles.
The McCallister family is preparing to spend Christmas in Paris, gathering at Peter and Kate's home in a Chicago suburb on the night before their departure. Peter and Kate's youngest son, Kevin, is being the subject of ridicule by his older siblings. Later, Kevin accidentally ruins the family dinner after a scuffle with his older brother Buzz, resulting in him getting sent to the attic of the house for punishment where he berates Kate and wishes that his family would disappear. During the night, heavy winds cause damage to the power lines, which causes a power outage and resets the alarm clocks, causing the family to oversleep. In the confusion and rush to get to the airport, Kevin is accidentally left behind.
Kevin wakes to find the house empty and, thinking his wish has come true, is overjoyed with his newfound freedom. However, he soon becomes frightened by his next door neighbor, Old Man Marley, who is rumored to be a serial killer who murdered his own family; as well as the "Wet Bandits", Harry and Marv, a pair of burglars who have been breaking into other vacant houses in the neighborhood and have targeted the McCallisters' house. Kevin tricks them into thinking his family is home, forcing them to put their plans on hold.
Kate realizes mid-flight that Kevin was left behind, and upon arrival in Paris, the family discovers that all flights for the next two days are booked. Peter and the rest of the family stays in his brother's apartment in Paris while Kate manages to get a flight back to the United States, but only gets as far as Scranton, Pennsylvania. She attempts to book a flight to Chicago but again, everything is booked. Unable to accept this, Kate is overheard by Gus Polinski—the lead member of a traveling polka band who offers to let her travel with them to Chicago on their way to Milwaukee in a moving van, which she gratefully accepts.
Meanwhile, Harry and Marv realize that Kevin is home alone, and on Christmas Eve, Kevin overhears them discussing plans to break into his house that night. Kevin starts to miss his family and asks the local Santa Claus impersonator if he could bring his family back for Christmas. He goes to church and watches a choir perform, then meets Old Man Marley, who dispels the rumors about him. He points out his granddaughter in the choir, whom he never gets to meet as he and his son are estranged; Kevin suggests that he should reconcile with his son.
Kevin returns home and rigs the house with booby traps to take on the burglars. Harry and Marv break in, spring the traps, and suffer various injuries. While the duo pursues Kevin around the house, he calls the police and flees, luring them into a neighboring home which they previously broke into. Harry and Marv ambush him and prepares to get their revenge, but Marley sneaks in and knocks them with his shovel before they can harm Kevin. The police arrive and arrest Harry and Marv, having identified all the houses they broke into due to Marv's habit of flooding them.
On Christmas Day, Kevin is disappointed to find that his family is still gone. He then hears Kate enter the house and call for him; they reconcile and are soon joined by the rest of the McCallisters, who waited in Paris until they could obtain a direct flight to Chicago. Kevin keeps silent about his encounter with Harry and Marv, although Peter finds Harry's knocked-out gold tooth. Kevin then observes Marley reuniting with his son and his family. Marley notices Kevin, and the pair wave to each other. Buzz suddenly yells "Kevin, what did you do to my room?!" at which point Kevin runs off.
- Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, the protagonist
- Joe Pesci as Harry, a short and hotheaded thief who targets the McCallisters' home with Marv
- Daniel Stern as Marv, a tall and dim-witted thief who targets the McCallisters' home with Harry
- John Heard as Peter McCallister, Kevin's father
- Roberts Blossom as Marley, Kevin's neighbor
- Catherine O'Hara as Kate McCallister, Kevin's mother
- Angela Goethals as Linnie McCallister, Kevin's elder sister
- Devin Ratray as Buzz McCallister, Kevin's eldest brother
- Gerry Bamman as Uncle Frank McCallister, Peter's brother
- Hillary Wolf as Megan McCallister, Kevin's eldest sister
- Larry Hankin as Officer Balzak
- John Candy as Gus Polinski, Kate’s friend and helper
- Michael C. Maronna as Jeff McCallister, Kevin's elder brother
- Kristin Minter as Heather McCallister, Kevin's eldest cousin
- Daiana Campeanu as Sondra McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin
- Jedidiah Cohen as Rod McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin
- Kieran Culkin as Fuller McCallister, Kevin's youngest cousin
- Senta Moses as Tracy McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin
- Anna Slotky as Brook McCallister, Kevin's younger cousin
- Terrie Snell as Aunt Leslie McCallister, Uncle Frank's wife
Home Alone was initially a Warner Bros. production; when 20th Century Fox took over the project, the budget grew from $14 to $17 million. Columbus' work with Home Alone began several years earlier when Hughes helped him secure the directing job for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. That project ended poorly when a personality clash between Columbus and Chevy Chase led to Columbus leaving the movie. Hughes then gave him the script to Home Alone, which he accepted. Hughes had originally asked Patrick Read Johnson to direct but declined due to his commitment on Spaced Invaders. Johnson would go onto direct Baby's Day Out, another film written and produced by Hughes.
Hughes suggested to Columbus that they cast Macaulay Culkin in the main role because of his experience with the child actor while shooting Uncle Buck. Columbus met with other actors for the part, by his count "hundreds and hundreds", as he felt it was his "directorial responsibility". It totaled to 200 children. Columbus finally met with Culkin and agreed he was the right choice for the role. Due to Culkin's age, he could only work until 10 PM which created shooting problems for the crew because of the movie's many night-time scenes.
Casting turned out to be a tremendous task. For the role of Harry Lime, one of the bandits, Robert De Niro, Rowan Atkinson, Bob Hoskins, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Dudley Moore, Phil Collins and Jon Lovitz were considered for the role. However, De Niro and Lovitz both rejected the role, which was ultimately turned over to Joe Pesci.
Initially, when the filmmakers approached Daniel Stern to play Marv, his asking price was thought to be too high, so actor Daniel Roebuck was cast as Marv instead. However, after two days of rehearsal, the filmmakers were underwhelmed by Roebuck's chemistry with Pesci, so Roebuck was replaced by Stern. Roebuck later admitted that although he was upset to be fired from the production, he now believes the experience to be "such a little blip of unimportance."
Although the role of Uncle Frank was given to Gerry Bamman, the character was originally written for Kelsey Grammer, who would later be known for his iconic role in Frasier. On the set of Home Alone, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern both had difficulty refraining from swear words, which became annoying to Pesci since Culkin was on set as well. In fact, the only swear word that made it into the film was "shit" accidentally said by Daniel Stern when his shoe fell through the doggy door.
The film's stunts also created tension for the crew during shooting. Columbus said, "Every time the stunt guys did one of those stunts it wasn't funny. We'd watch it, and I would just pray that the guys were alive." Stunts were originally prepared with safety harnesses, but because of their visibility on camera, the film's final stunts were performed without them. According to Buzzfeed, an injury had occurred between Pesci and Culkin during one of the rehearsals where "Harry tries to bite off Kevin's finger." Culkin still has the scar.
Some scenes were shot in a three-story single-family house located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in the North Shore village of Winnetka where Hughes' previous films Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, She's Having a Baby and Uncle Buck had also been shot. The kitchen in the film was shot in the house, along with the main staircase, basement, attic and most of the first floor landing. The house's dining room, and all the downstairs rooms (excluding the kitchen) were duplicated on a sound stage to allow more room for equipment and crew. The house was built in 1920 and features five bedrooms, a fully converted attic, a detached double garage and a greenhouse. The tree house in the back yard was built specifically for the film and dismantled after filming ended.
For the film within a film, Angels with Filthy Souls (a parody of the 1938 crime film Angels with Dirty Faces), shooting took only one day. To create the illusion that the film was a 1940s gangster film, the scene was filmed with black-and-white negative film and Johnny's office used authentic items from that era.
Initially Columbus hoped to have Bruce Broughton score the films, and early posters listed him as the composer. However, Broughton was busy with The Rescuers Down Under and he had to cancel at the last minute. From there Columbus was able to get in touch with Steven Spielberg who helped him contact John Williams to produce the final score. Christmas songs, such as "O Holy Night" and "Carol of the Bells", are featured prominently in the film, as well as the film's theme song "Somewhere in My Memory". The soundtrack was released by Sony Classical in cassette on December 4, 1990 and in CD on May 27, 2015.
Home Alone grossed $285.8 million in the United States and Canada and $190.9 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $476.7 million, against a production budget of $18 million.
In its opening weekend, Home Alone grossed $17 million from 1,202 theaters, averaging $14,211 per site and just 6% of the final total and added screens over the next six weeks, with a peak screen count of 2,174 during its eighth weekend at the start of January 1991. Home Alone proved so popular that it stayed in theaters well past the Christmas season. It was the No. 1 film at the box office for 12 straight weeks, from its release weekend of November 16–18, 1990 through the weekend of February 1–3, 1991. It was finally dethroned from the top spot when Sleeping with the Enemy opened with $13 million. It nevertheless remained a top ten draw at the box office until the weekend of April 26 that year, which was well past Easter weekend. It made two more appearances in the top ten (the weekend of May 31–June 2 and the weekend of June 14–16) before finally falling out of the top ten. After over nine months into its run, the film had earned 16x its debut weekend and ended up making a final gross of $285,761,243, the top-grossing film of its year in North America. The film is listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever.
By the time it had run its course in theaters, Home Alone was the third-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, as well as in the United States and Canada behind only Star Wars ($322 million at the time) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial ($399 million at that time), according to the home video box. In total, its cinema run grossed $477,561,243 worldwide. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 67.7 million tickets in the US.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Home Alone holds an approval rating of 64% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Home Alone's uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin's cute performance and strong supporting stars." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, it has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Variety magazine praised the film for its cast. Jeanne Cooper of The Washington Post praised the film for its comedic approach. Hal Hinson, also of The Washington Post, praised Chris Columbus's direction and Culkin's acting. Although Caryn James of The New York Times complained that the film's first half is "flat and unsurprising as its cute little premise suggests", she praised the second half for its slapstick humor. She also praised the conversation between Kevin and Marley, as well as the film's final scenes.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a 2 1⁄2 out of 4-star rating and 2 thumbs down. He compared the elaborate booby-traps in the film to Rube Goldberg machines, writing "they're the kinds of traps that any 8-year-old could devise, if he had a budget of tens of thousands of dollars and the assistance of a crew of movie special effects people" and criticized the plot as "so implausible that it makes it hard for [him] to really care about the plight of the kid [Kevin]". However, he praised Culkin's performance. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly magazine gave the film a "D" grade, criticizing the film for its "sadistic festival of adult-bashing". Gleiberman said that "[John] Hughes is pulling our strings as though he'd never learn to do anything else".
Macaulay Culkin won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Original Score, which was written by John Williams, and the other for Best Original Song for "Somewhere in My Memory", music by Williams and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.
Accusations of plagiarismEdit
The 1989 French film 3615 code Père Noël, which is about a young boy who is home alone with his elderly grandfather and has to fend off a home invader dressed up as Santa Claus, has been noted for its plot similarities to Home Alone. 3615 code Père Noël director René Manzor threatened the makers of Home Alone with legal action on the grounds of plagiarism, alleging that Home Alone was a remake of his film. 3615 code Père Noël was not released in the United States during its original theatrical run in January 1990 and didn't become widely available there until 2018.
Sequels and homagesEdit
The film was followed by a commercially successful sequel in 1992, Lost in New York, which brings back the first film's cast. The film within a film, Angels with Filthy Souls, had a sequel in Home Alone 2, Angels with Even Filthier Souls. Both Angels meta-films featured character actor Ralph Foody as stereotypical 1930s mobster Johnny.
Home Alone 3, released in 1997, has completely different actors and characters as well as a different storyline with Hughes writing the screenplay.
A fourth made-for-TV film followed in 2002, Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House. This entry features some of the same characters who were in the first two films, but with a new cast and a storyline that does not fall into the same continuity. Hughes did not write the screenplay for the TV film.
In December 2015, Culkin reprised his role as an adult Kevin McCallister in the inaugural episode of the Jack Dishel web series, "DRYVRS", where a visibly disturbed Kevin recounts his experience of being left home alone by his family. In response to Culkin's video, Daniel Stern appeared in a short video reprising his role as Marv, released in conjunction with Stern's Reddit AMA, where he pleads for Harry to return to help protect him against Kevin's cunning traps.
On December 12, 2018, Culkin made a guest appearance as himself in an episode of RedLetterMedia's Best of the Worst Series, during which he reviewed Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House.
On December 15, 2018, Culkin made a guest appearance as himself in an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd to review multiple video game adaptations of the first two Home Alone films, as well as a gameplay session of The Pagemaster with James Rolfe and Mike Matei in the days following that episode's release.
On December 19, 2018, Culkin would once again reprise his role as an adult Kevin McCallister in a 60 second advertisement for Google Assistant, titled Home Alone Again; the commercial contains shot for shot remakes of plentiful scenes from the film, and Google Assistant helps Kevin set up the house to look active by remotely turning on lights, devices such as an electronic toy train set, and setting up cutouts of people, including basketball player Kevin Durant, in order to have thieves parked in a van outside (presumably Harry and Marv) steer clear of the house. Additionally, Joe Pesci also reprised his role as Harry, only for his voice making a small cameo.
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For one sequence, the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse cartoon and a lampoon of home-invasion thrillers.