Child's Play (1988 film)

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Child's Play
Childs Play.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tom Holland
Produced by David Kirschner
Screenplay by
Story by Don Mancini
Music by Joe Renzetti
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by
  • Edward Warschilka
  • Roy E. Peterson
Distributed by MGM/UA Communications Co.
Release date
  • November 9, 1988 (1988-11-09)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[2]
Box office $44.2 million[3]

Child's Play is a 1988 American 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 seen running through the streets of South Side, Chicago. Charles is chased down by homicide detective Mike Norris who shoots him several times, but still manages to make it to his getaway vehicle. However, he is left behind after his accomplice, Eddie Caputo, gets scared and drives away without him. Charles then enters a toy shop, where he is fatally shot by Norris. Realizing that he is soon going to die, he transfers his soul into a "Good Guys" doll via 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 transfered 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. After putting Andy to bed, Maggie is hit in the face with a hammer and falls out the window to her death. The police search the apartment. Detective Norris deems Andy a suspect, much to the annoyance of Karen, who orders Mike and the police to leave once they complete their investigation.

The next morning, Chucky orders Andy to skip school and take the Chicago "L" downtown. While Andy is urinating, Chucky sneaks into Eddie's lair, turning off a stove's pilot light but turning up the gas. As Eddie shoots the stove, the house blows up, killing him. Andy, once again a suspect, is placed in a psychiatric hospital. That night, Karen goes home with the Chucky doll. Karen takes the box Chucky came in to look at it, a pack of batteries fall out, and reads the bottom of the “Good Guy doll” logo saying “Batteries included”, revealing that Chucky’s batteries were never inserted and that he has been functioning without batteries. She then looks at its back and opens the lid which appears to be no batteries at all. Chucky’s head then spins at Karen saying one of it’s phrases and Karen fearfully drops him. Karen picks Chucky back up where she tries to get him to talk which he doesn’t. She then turns on the fire set and threatens to throw him in. Chucky comes to life, and starts attacking Karen including biting her arm. Chucky then escapes. She tries to chase Chucky as he flees but is too late. Karen finds Mike at the station and alerts Mike about the fact that Andy really was telling the truth but shows him the bite wound that Chucky made. He does not believe her and leaves. As Mike drives home, Chucky appears in the backside and tries to strangle Mike from the backseat using a cord but Mike burn Chucky’s cheek with a car cigarette lighter. After that, Chucky attempts to stab Mike by stabbing holes through the back and cushion of his seat which Mike avoids each one. Mike, struggling to drive while Chucky tries to kill him, accidentally hits a dumpster, flipping the car upside down which Chucky and Mike both survive. Mike shoots Chucky and he leaves. After that, Mike finally believes Karen and decides to help her.

Chucky goes to John Bishop who taught him the chant. John tells him 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. Chucky tortures John, breaking John's leg and arm with a voodoo doll of him, forcing John to tell him that he has to transfer his soul to the first person who he revealed his true identity to which is Andy. Chucky then stabs the doll in the chest, affecting John. Chucky escapes just before Karen and Mike arrive on the scene. Before bleeding out and dying, 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 and that only way to kill him is to strike him in the heart.

At the mental hospital, Chucky steals the key to Andy's cell, but Andy is able to trick Chucky with pillows under the bed sheets and escape his cell. Dr. Ardmore finds Andy in the surgery room and attempts to subdue him. Chucky stabs Dr. Ardmore in the leg with a surgery blade and shocks him to death with an Electroconvulsive therapy head set. He chases Andy home, knocking him unconscious with a baseball bat. Chucky then begins possessing Andy. Karen and Mike arrive and stop him before Chucky's soul is transferred. Chucky slashes Mike, then goes after Karen and Andy. Soon, the pair trap Chucky in the fireplace and burn him alive. Karen and Andy leave the room to help Mike, but a heavily burned Chucky follows them and attempts to kill them, since burning him alive didn't work. Chucky is again thought to be killed when Karen shoots off his head, arm, and leg. Mike's partner Jack Santos arrives at the apartment, and disbelieves the trio's story just before Chucky's body then bursts through a ventilation duct and tries to strangle Jack with his remaining arm. During the struggle, Karen tells Mike to aim and shoot at Chucky's heart like John said at his last words which Mike does finally killing him. While Mike, Jack and Karen go to the hospital, Karen turns off the bedroom's lights and Andy looks back at Chucky's burned doll corpse remains before closing the door.


Chris Sarandon played Detective Mike Norris.
  • 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.


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 67% of 36 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 6.4/10.[14] 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".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[16] Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it a "cheerfully energetic horror film".[17] 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.[18]


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?"[19][20][21] 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."[22]


The film was followed by Child's Play 2 in 1990, Child's Play 3 in 1991, Bride of Chucky in 1998, Seed of Chucky in 2004, Curse of Chucky in 2013 and Cult of Chucky in 2017.

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". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved June 16, 2018. 
  15. ^ "Child's Play Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 June 2018. 
  16. ^ "CinemaScore". 
  17. ^ Child's Play review Ebert, Roger
  18. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Carson, Darwyn; Sader, Luke. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 244. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4. 
  19. ^ January 28, 1996 Sex with 'Chucky' killer Sunday Mirror
  20. ^ 18 December 1993 Horror fiction became reality The Independent
  21. ^ Computers, curriculum, and cultural change: an introduction for teachers By Eugène F. Provenzo, Arlene Brett, Gary N. McCloskey. Published 1999
  22. ^ December 19, 1993 Chucky films defended The Independent

External links[edit]