Child's Play (1988 film)

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

Child's Play is a 1988 American supernatural slasher film directed and co-written by Tom Holland, and produced by David Kirschner from a story by Don Mancini. It is the first film in the Child's Play series and the first installment to feature the character Chucky. It stars Catherine Hicks, Dinah Manoff, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Brad Dourif. Hicks plays a widowed mother who gives her son a doll for his birthday, unaware that the doll is possessed by the soul of an infamous serial killer.

The film was released on November 9, 1988, and grossed more than $44 million against a production budget of $9 million. Along with the film gaining a cult following,[4] the box office success spawned a series of six sequels, along with merchandise and comic books. Child's Play was the only film in the series to be distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as the rights to the series were sold to Universal Pictures in 1990, right before production on Child's Play 2 started.


On the night of November 9, 1988, serial killer and fugitive Charles Lee Ray is chased by homicide detective Mike Norris through the streets of South Side, Chicago after a failed robbery attempt. Mike shoots Charles several times, but he still manages to make it to his getaway vehicle. However, Charles is left behind after his accomplice, Eddie Caputo, gets scared and drives away without him. Charles runs into a toy shop, where he is fatally shot by Mike. Realizing that he is dying, Charles transfers his soul into a "Good Guys" doll, using a Haitian Vodou spell. A bolt of lightning causes the shop to explode. Mike survives the explosion and enters the shop, only to find Charles' dead body and all the "Good Guys" dolls on the floor.

The next day, widow Karen Barclay unknowingly purchases the doll Charles transferred his soul into (now known as Chucky) from a peddler, as a birthday gift for her six-year-old son Andy Barclay. Later that evening, Karen's friend Maggie Peterson babysits Andy. She turns the TV off and tells Andy to go to bed, but she quickly finds Chucky sitting back in the living room with the television on. Andy insists he did not touch the television or put Chucky in the living room, but Maggie does not believe him. After tucking Andy and Chucky into bed, Maggie is hit in the face with a hammer by an unseen assailant and falls out the window to her death. The police search the apartment and Detective Norris deems Andy a suspect. Karen orders Mike and the police to leave once they complete their investigation. Before going to bed, Andy says that Chucky has been talking to him and said that Maggie got what she deserved. Karen is upset and tells Andy to stop lying.

The next morning, Chucky orders Andy to skip school and take the Chicago "L" downtown. While Andy is distracted, Chucky sneaks into Eddie's lair, turning off a stove's pilot light but turning up the gas. Eddie becomes paranoid at the noises in his apartment and shoots the stove, causing the house to blow up. Andy, once again a suspect, is taken from Karen and placed in a psychiatric hospital.

That night, Karen goes home with the Chucky doll. Karen picks up the Good Guy box Chucky came in and a pack of batteries falls out. She realizes Chucky has been functioning without batteries. Karen picks Chucky back up and demands that he speak to her. When he doesn't she turns on the fireplace and threatens to throw him in. Chucky springs to life and starts attacking Karen, even biting her arm. Chucky escapes from the apartment and Karen runs after him, but she is too late to catch him. Karen finds Mike at the station and alerts him about the fact that Andy really was telling the truth and shows him the bite mark that Chucky made. Mike does not believe her and leaves. She goes to find him in a derelict part of town and the peddler who sold her the doll tries to rape her. Mike rescues her and takes her home. As he's driving home, Chucky appears in the backseat and tries to strangle him using a cord, but Mike burns Chucky’s cheek with a cigarette lighter plug. Mike, struggling to drive with Chucky trying to kill him, accidentally hits a dumpster, flipping the car over. Chucky escapes the vehicle and Mike shoots him in the side of the chest, but he escapes. After that, Mike finally believes Karen and decides to help her.

Lee Ray is shocked that the bullet hurt him so he goes to John Bishop, who taught him the chant used to house his soul in the doll. John tells Lee Ray that the longer he stays in the doll, the more human he will become. Ignoring Chucky's pleas for help, John attempts to make a call, but Chucky tortures John, breaking his leg and arm with a voodoo doll and John finally tells him that he has to transfer his soul to the first person he revealed his true identity to, which is Andy. Chucky stabs the voodoo doll in the chest, wounding John, and goes off to find Andy. Karen and Mike enter John’s apartment and discover the scene. Before John succumbs to his injuries from Chucky, John tells them that although Chucky is a doll, he has a heart as well and his heart is fully human and vulnerable to fatal injury.

At the psychiatric hospital, Chucky steals the key to Andy's cell, but Andy is able to trick Chucky and escape his cell. Dr. Ardmore finds Andy in the surgery room and attempts to subdue him, but is killed by Chucky. Andy runs home, but is followed by Chucky, who knocks him unconscious. Chucky prepares to possess Andy by beginning the chant but Karen and Mike arrive and stop him before Chucky's soul is successfully transferred. Chucky tries to bite Karen again but Mike throws Chucky against the wall. Chucky slashes Mike’s leg with a knife and runs away, forcing Mike to chase him. Chucky reappears and hits Mike with a baseball bat, but Karen shoots Chucky in the knee. Karen attempts to fire again, only to discover that the gun is jammed, allowing Chucky to attack her in the living room. Karen traps Chucky in the fireplace and Andy drops a lit match in it, burning Chucky alive. Karen and Andy leave the room to help Mike, but a heavily burned Chucky follows them and attempts to kill them. Karen shoots off his head, arm, and leg and tries shooting him to death. Chucky is again presumed to be killed when he stops moving. Mike's partner Jack Santos arrives at the apartment. However, Jack disbelieves the trio's story until Chucky's body bursts through the vent duct next to Jack and tries to strangle him with his remaining hand. During the struggle, Karen tells Mike to aim and shoot at Chucky's heart, like John said. Mike does so and finally kills Chucky. Mike is taken outside by Karen and Jack, while Andy stays behind and stares at Chucky's burnt corpse before Karen returns for him, shutting the lights off and almost closing the door in a freeze frame.


  • Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/Chucky, a well known voodoo serial killer who transfers his soul into a "Good Guys" doll in order to cheat death after being killed by Mike Norris.
  • Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay, a 6-year-old boy who is framed for Chucky's crimes.
  • Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay, Andy's mother.
  • Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris, a senior homicide police detective and Chucky's arch-enemy.
  • Dinah Manoff as Maggie Peterson, Karen's friend and Andy's babysitter.
  • Tommy Swerdlow as Jack Santos, Norris's partner.
  • Jack Colvin as Dr. Ardmore, the head doctor of a mental hospital.
  • Raymond Oliver as John "Dr. Death" Bishop, Chucky's former voodoo mentor.
  • Neil Giuntoli as Eddie Caputo, Chucky's old accomplice.
  • Alan Wilder as Mr. Walter Criswell, Karen and Maggie's boss.
  • Aaron Osborne as the Orderly
  • Juan Ramirez as the Peddler


Child's Play was filmed in Chicago, Illinois for on-location scenes. The Chicago landmark the Brewster Apartments, located at Diversey and Pine Grove, 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.[citation needed] David Kirschner produced all six films in the Chucky series.[citation needed]

During an airing of the movie on the morning of January 7, 2007, AMC claimed the creator modeled the doll after the Cabbage Patch Kids. This was confirmed by an interview with the creator, Don Mancini, which was featured on the Seed of Chucky DVD. Holland, on the other hand, affirms that My Buddy dolls played a role in Chucky's design.[6] Don Mancini stated his original script was a whodunit story which dealt with the effect of advertising/television on children. Mancini's original script was written to toy with the audience a bit longer, making them wonder whether young Andy was the killer rather than Chucky.

Chucky's full name, Charles Lee Ray, is derived from the names of notorious killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray.[7][8]

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.[8]

The film used various ways to portray Chucky, including RC animatronics and little people or child actors. Various animatronics and cosmetics were used for every scene. Throughout the movie, Chucky's cosmetics transition from looking toy-like to a more human look. The film created multiple Chucky animatronics such as a flailing tantrum Chucky, a walking Chucky, and a stationary Chucky. The animatronic's face was controlled via remote control through a rig that goes on one's face and captures facial movement.


Child's Play was produced on a budget of $9,000,000. 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.[9] 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.[10]

Home media[edit]

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.[11] 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.[12]

On October 8, 2013, the film was re-released again on DVD and Blu-ray in a boxset for the respective formats, containing all 6 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.[13]

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 7 Child's Play films.


Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it a "cheerfully energetic horror film."[14] 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."[15] 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."[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] 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."[19] Philip Strick of The Monthly Film Bulletin found the plot contrived with "ludicrous supernatural gobbledygook" but thought that Holland handled the action sequences well.[20] 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.[21]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 67% of 36 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.4/10.[22] 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".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[24]


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 10 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 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?"[25][26][27] 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."[28]


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) and Cult of Chucky (2017), followed by a television series titled Child’s Play: The TV Series.


A reboot of the franchise was announced by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer to be in development beginning in July of 2018. Lars Klevberg will serve as director, from a script by Tyler Burton Smith. The film will be co-produced by Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg and Aaron Schmidt. The adaptation will reportedly feature a group of kids who come into contact with a modern-day hi-tech version of the Good Guy Doll. Gabriel Bateman and Aubrey Plaza were cast as Andy Barclay and his mother Karen, respectively. The film is scheduled to be released on June 21, 2019.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Child's Play (1988)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Child's Play (1988)". The-Numbers.
  3. ^ "Child's Play". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ "Chucky set to return in new sequel to Child's Play movies". Metro. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Media, Comcast Interactive (21 June 2013). "Director Tom Holland Reveals 'Child's Play' & 'Fright Night' Secrets - Movies".
  7. ^ Hamblin, Cory (2009). Serket's Movies: Commentary and Trivia on 444 Movies. Dorrance Publishing. ISBN 9781434996053.
  8. ^ a b Case, Lindsay (25 October 2014). "Six Things You Didn't Know About the Child's Play Franchise". AMC. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  9. ^ "November 11-13, 1988". Retrieved 2012-08-28.
  10. ^ "Child's Play". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  11. ^ Child's Play (Anniversary Edition) on DVD Archived May 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "Holland Does Child's Play Commentary!". Dread Central. September 16, 2008.
  13. ^ "Child's Play [Collector's Edition] - Blu-ray - Shout! Factory".
  14. ^ Child's Play review Ebert, Roger
  15. ^ James, Caryn (November 9, 1988). "A Killer Companion in 'Child's Play'". The New York Times: C19.
  16. ^ "Child's Play". Variety: 18. November 9, 1988.
  17. ^ Thomas, Kevin (November 9, 1988). "'Child's Play' Packed With Chills and Thrills". Los Angeles Times. Section VI, p. 3.
  18. ^ Kehr, Dave (November 10, 1988). "There's enough trauma in 'Child's Play' to give any kid nightmares." Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 12.
  19. ^ Harrington, Richard (November 10, 1988). "'Child's Play': The Doll Did It". The Washington Post: B17.
  20. ^ Strick, Philip (June 1989). "Child's Play". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 56 (665): 174.
  21. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Carson, Darwyn; Sader, Luke. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  22. ^ "Child's Play". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  23. ^ "Child's Play Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  24. ^ "CinemaScore".
  25. ^ January 28, 1996 Sex with 'Chucky' killer Sunday Mirror
  26. ^ 18 December 1993 Horror fiction became reality The Independent
  27. ^ Computers, curriculum, and cultural change: an introduction for teachers By Eugène F. Provenzo, Arlene Brett, Gary N. McCloskey. Published 1999
  28. ^ December 19, 1993 Chucky films defended The Independent

External links[edit]