Home Alone is a 1990 American Christmas comedy film written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. It stars Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Catherine O'Hara. The film follows Kevin, an eight-year-old boy, who must defend his home from two burglars, Harry and Marv, after his family mistakenly leaves him behind on their Christmas vacation. It was filmed between February and May 1990, in an array of locations. The film was originally meant to be a production from Warner Bros., but was changed to a 20th Century Fox production when Hughes exceeded a $10 million budget that he promised for the film with Warner Bros.
Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990 in Chicago; it was released wider in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever, and held the record until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II in 2011. The film received two Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Culkin, as well as two Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score, which was composed by John Williams, and Best Original Song for "Somewhere in My Memory". Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics on its initial release, Home Alone has since been hailed as a holiday classic among audiences and is often regarded as one of the best Christmas films ever made.
Home Alone spawned a successful film franchise that started with the 1992 sequel , which is the only Home Alone sequel to have most of the original cast reprising their roles.
PlotThe 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 the subject of ridicule by his older siblings. Later, Kevin accidentally ruins the family dinner and their flight tickets to Paris after a scuffle with his older brother Buzz, resulting in him getting sent to the attic of the house as a punishment, where he berates Kate and wishes that his family would disappear. During the night, heavy winds damage 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 that 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 that his family is still 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 stay 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 finally 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, then lures Harry and Marv into a neighboring home which they previously broke into. They ambush him and prepare to get their revenge, but Marley intervenes and knocks them unconscious with his snow shovel. The police arrive and arrest Harry and Marv, having identified all the houses that they broke into due to Marv's destructive characteristic 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 Peter, Buzz, Jeff, Megan, and Linnie, 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, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. Marley notices Kevin, and the pair wave to each other.
CastCredits adapted from Rotten Tomatoes.
DevelopmentThe conception of Home Alone arose from a personal dilemma that producer John Hughes had faced. Hughes explained that "I was going away on vacation, and making a list of everything I didn’t want to forget. I thought, 'well, I'd better not forget my kids.' Then I thought, 'what if I left my 10-year-old son at home? What would he do? Hughes then wrote eight pages of notes that developed into the screenplay of the film. Imagining that children are naturally most scared of robbers, Hughes also worked that aspect into the plot of the film.
Home Alone was initially a Warner Bros. production. Hughes had promised the studio he could make the movie for no more than $10 million, considerably less than most feature film production budgets of that era. Concerned that the film might exceed that amount, even minimally, and that Warner would insist on keeping to it, Hughes met secretly with 20th Century Fox before production to see if they would be interested in funding the project if Warner proved as inflexible as the producer feared. According to executive producer Scott Rosenfelt, a copy of the script was "clandestinely" delivered to Fox, bypassing the legal restrictions that would have otherwise prevented Fox from seeing it until the project was in turnaround.
Early in production, the film's budget grew to $14.7 million, well past the limit Warner had imposed. The studio demanded that it be cut by $1.2 million; the producers responded with a memo arguing that the budget could not be cut any further. Warner, unconvinced, shut down production the next day. It quickly resumed as Fox took up Hughes on his earlier offer. The final budget would grow to $18 million.
Hughes had originally asked Patrick Read Johnson to direct, but he was already committed to directing Spaced Invaders. He then turned to Chris Columbus, who had left National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation before shooting started, because of a personality clash with starring actor Chevy Chase, who Columbus said treated him "like dirt". Hughes then gave him the script for both Home Alone and Reach the Rock; Columbus accepted the former, as he found it funnier and liked the Christmas theme. Columbus became the director of the film.
CastingHughes 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 presponsibility". Columbus finally met with Culkin and agreed he was the right choice for the role.
For the role of Harry, one of the bandits, Robert De Niro and Jon Lovitz were considered for the role. After both rejected it, Joe Pesci accepted it. The role of Uncle Frank was originally written for Kelsey Grammer, but given to Gerry Bamman when Grammer was unavailable.
Daniel Stern was cast as Marv, but before shooting started, he was told that the production schedule had been extended from six weeks to eight. He was told there was no money in the budget for a pay increase he sought, so he quit. Daniel Roebuck was quickly hired to replace him, but after two days of rehearsal, Columbus did not see any chemistry between him and Pesci and decided to bring back 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".
John Candy had only one day to film his scenes; it took 23 hours. He was paid $414, since he did the film as a favor to Hughes. In return, he was the only actor Hughes allowed to go off-script according to Columbus, all his dialogue was improvised.
Filmingtook place between February and May 1990. 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's previous films Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, She's Having a Baby, and Uncle Buck had also been shot. The kitchen in the film was shot on location, along with the main staircase, basement, attic and most of the first floor landing. The tree house in the back yard was built specifically for the film and dismantled after filming ended. All the other interiors were duplicated on a sound stage to allow more room for equipment and crew. It was built in the gym and empty swimming pool of the former New Trier High School building, previously used by Hughes for Uncle Buck and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, where the production company had already set up its offices. The scenes inside the church were shot at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois.
For the film within a film, Angels with Filthy Souls, 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.
Cinematographer Julio Macat recalled that Pesci was more difficult to work with than Culkin. The older actor believed some of the dialogue was not of a quality commensurate with his acting ability. He also resented the early unit calls, since they prevented him from starting his day with nine holes of golf as he preferred to do. After he took the assistant director by the collar one day to complain about this, daily call times were moved back from 7 to 9 a.m. to accommodate his rounds. On the other end of the schedule, the crew had limited time to film the many nighttime scenes, since Culkin could not work any later than 10 p.m. due to his age.
On the set, Pesci and 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. Pesci's use of "cartoon cursing", or menacing gibberish, garnered comparisons to Looney Tunes character Yosemite Sam.
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.
MusicInitially 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. Columbus was later 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 Records on cassette on December 4, 1990, and on CD on May 27, 2015.
ReleasesHome Alone premiered in Chicago on November 10, 1990. It was given a wide release on November 16, 1990.
Home Alone was first released by 20th Century Fox on VHS and LaserDisc in the United States on August 22, 1991, their first video to go direct to sell-through rather than to the video rental market first. It sold 11 million copies, generating Fox revenue of $150 million making it, along with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the highest-selling video of all time at that point. Due to the sales, the film did not perform as well in the rental market.
It was later released on DVD on October 5, 1999 as a basic package. The film was released on Blu-ray on December 2, 2008, titled Family Fun Edition, and was released alongside Home Alone 2: Lost in New York in a collection pack on October 5, 2010. The film was reissued again on DVD and Blu-ray on October 6, 2015, alongside all five Home Alone franchise films, titled Home Alone: 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Christmas Edition.
On 19 September 2020, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will release Home Alone on Ultra HD Blu-ray in time for its 30th anniversary.
Box officeHome 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 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 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 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 and held the record until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II in 2011.
By the time the film 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 and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, according to the home video box. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 67.7 million tickets in the United States. It was also the highest-grossing Christmas film until it was surpassed by Dr. Seuss' The Grinch in 2018. According to William Goldman, the film's success prompted the creation of a Hollywood verb: 'to be Home Aloned, meaning to have a film's box office reduced by the impact of Home Alone.
Critical responseOn Rotten Tomatoes, Home Alone holds an approval rating of 65% based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 5.65/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Home Alones 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 Columbus' direction and Culkin's performance. 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 dialogue between Kevin and Marley, as well as the film's final scenes. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a out of a 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 to really care about the plight of the kid ". 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 " Hughes is pulling our strings as though he'd never learn to do anything else". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 3 out of a 5-star rating and praised Culkin's "vivid screen presence, almost incandescent with confidence". However, he criticised his acting, calling it "a bit broad and mannered". Ali Barclay of the BBC wrote "Culkin walks a fine line between annoyance and endearment throughout the film." He also called Home Alone "a film which manages to capture some of the best qualities of Christmas".
Naomi Barnwell of Roobla said that "Home Alone has all the ingredients that make for a great kids’ film". Adrian Turner of Radio Times commented " a celebration of enterprise that captured the heart and wickedness of every child on the planet." According to TV Guide, "'s slapstick falls flat and only the pain remains." Marielle Sabbag of Vocal wrote "Everything about is beautiful and has a realistic quality." Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times criticised the fact that "there is a reason why this film plays better as a trailer than as a full-length film."
Following the film's release, Home Alone gradually became a Christmas classic. It was praised for its quotable phrases, morals, traps, and main character. Hannah-Rose Yee of Stylist called the ending "very sweet" and praised the score from John Williams, calling it "fantastic". Christopher Hooton of The Independent also praised the film, calling the film-within-a-film Angels with Filthy Souls "a fond footnote in cinema history". Matt Talbot from Simcoe.com said that the Wet Bandits were "fantastic" and "never old" on "repeat viewings". Michael Walsh of Nerdist noted the church scene as "One of the best, most touching scenes ".
AccoladesAt the 12th Youth in Film Awards, Macaulay Culkin won 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 plagiarismThe 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 producers 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 did not become widely available there until 2018.
SequelsThe film was followed by a commercially successful sequel in 1992, , which brought back most of the first film's cast. Culkin was paid $4.5 million to appear in the sequel, compared to $110,000 for the original. 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. A third film, Home Alone 3, was released in 1997; it has entirely 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. The movie 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. On November 25, 2012, a fifth film, , premiered during ABC Family's Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas programming event. Similarly to the third film, it does not focus on the McCallister family. Chris Columbus later revealed that there had been discussions on a sequel starring Kevin's son: "This was talked about maybe 10 years ago I don’t know, we were just having fun with it and we said, 'What if Kevin is an adult and he has a kid?' But it was still Pesci and Stern Pesci and Stern are still obsessed with this kid. They’re going to get this kid."
RebootOn August 6, 2019, Disney announced plans to reboot the franchise on its Disney+ streaming service. On December 10, 2019, Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper, and Rob Delaney were announced as the cast for a reboot. Yates will not play Kevin, and will have a new story. The story reportedly "sees Kemper and Delaney play a wife and husband who, in order to save their home from financial ruin, go to war with a kid who has stolen a priceless heirloom". Dan Mazer will direct, from a script by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, and produced by Hutch Parker and Dan Wilson. The film will be a production of 20th Century Studios, and marks the first Fox produced project on Disney+. Filming began in February 2020 in Canada. On March 13, 2020, filming was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
HomagesThe music video for Snoop Dogg's 1994 song "Gin and Juice" opens with a gag where, after a teenaged Snoop's parents have left him to watch the house in their absence, he places his hands to his face and yells in the manner of Kevin McCallister in the first film, while a title comes on screen reading "Home Boy Alone".
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 traps.
The 2016 Christmas-set horror film Better Watch Out includes a scene where a character who is obsessed with the Home Alone films demonstrates how, in real life, it would be deadly for someone to be hit in the face with a paint can swung from a distance.
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 scenes from the film. Google Assistant helps Kevin set up the house to look active by remotely turning on lights, devices, and setting up cutouts of people, in order to have the thieves parked in a van outside steer clear of the house. Additionally, Joe Pesci also reprised his role as Harry, only for his voice making a small cameo. Pesci later appeared in another ad where he watches the short with his friends and jokes about his brief cameo.