Home Alone

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Home Alone
Home alone poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Produced byJohn Hughes
Written byJohn Hughes
Music byJohn Williams
CinematographyJulio Macat
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Hughes Entertainment
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 10, 1990 (1990-11-10) (Chicago)
  • November 16, 1990 (1990-11-16) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$18 million[2]
Box office$476.7 million[2]

Home Alone is a 1990 American 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 an eight-year-old boy (Culkin), who must defend his home from two burglars (Pesci and Stern) after his family mistakenly leaves him behind on their Christmas vacation.

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". Home Alone became the highest-grossing live-action comedy film of all time in the United States and held the record worldwide until it was overtaken by The Hangover Part II in 2011. It was also the highest-grossing Christmas film until it was surpassed by The Grinch in 2018.[3][4] Though it received mixed reviews from critics on its initial release, Home Alone has been hailed as a holiday classic among audiences and is often regarded as one of the best Christmas films ever made.[5][6][7][8]

Home Alone spawned a successful film franchise with four sequels (two theatrical and two made-for-television), including the 1992 film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which is the only Home Alone sequel to have most of the original cast reprising their roles.


The McCallister family prepares 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 and relatives, namely his older brother Buzz. Meanwhile, Harry Lyme, a burglar, poses as a police officer offering security advice in order to gather information about every house in the neighborhood, including the McCallister's. Right before Harry leaves, Kevin gets into a fight with Buzz after Buzz claims he ate all the plain cheese pizza not even a minute after it arrived, resulting in Kevin's plane ticket mistakenly being thrown away and him getting sent to the attic of the house as punishment. As Kate walks Kevin to the attic, she has a brief conversation with Harry. After Harry leaves, Kevin berates Kate and wishes that his family would disappear. During the night, heavy winds cause damage to the power lines; the resulting power outage (which everyone sleeps through and has ended by morning) resets the alarm clocks and causes the family to oversleep. In the confusion and rush to get to the airport, along with an accurate headcount when a neighbor's son passes by (mistaken for Kevin) coupled with no assigned ticket, Kevin is accidentally left behind.

Kevin awakens only 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 in 1958. Meanwhile, 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.

After accidentally shoplifting from a local store, Kevin runs into Harry and his partner Marv, who have broken into other vacant houses in the neighborhood. Kevin is initially able to trick them into thinking that his family is still home, forcing them to put their break-in plans on hold, but after further investigation, Harry and Marv finally come to the realization that Kevin is home alone, and on Christmas Eve, Kevin overhears them discussing plans to break into his house that night at 9:00. Kevin starts to miss his family and asks the local Santa Claus impersonator if the "real" Santa could bring his family back for Christmas. He goes to church and watches a choir perform, where he finds Old Man Marley, who turns out to be a nice man and 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 due to an argument they had years ago; Kevin convinces Marley to attempt reconciling with his son.

Kevin returns home and rigs the house with booby traps to thwart Harry and Marv's plan. They break in and spring the traps, suffering various injuries, but refuse to give up. 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 prepare to get their revenge, but Marley arrives and hits them with his snow shovel, knocking them unconscious. The police arrive and arrest Harry and Marv, having identified all the houses 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 on the floor. Through a window, Kevin observes Marley reuniting with his son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. Marley notices Kevin, and the pair wave to each other. Buzz suddenly yells "Kevin, what did you do to my room?!" (as Kevin had accidentally trashed it earlier while taking his money to go grocery shopping) at which point Kevin runs off.


  • Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, a rambunctious eight-year-old child with a penchant for creating harmful inventions.
  • Joe Pesci as Harry Lyme, a short and hotheaded thief who targets the McCallisters' home with Marv.
  • Daniel Stern as Marv Merchants, 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 elderly neighbor.
  • Catherine O'Hara as Kate McCallister, Kevin's mother and Peter's wife.
  • Angela Goethals as Linnie McCallister, Kevin's elder sister.
  • Devin Ratray as Peter "Buzz" McCallister Jr., Kevin's eldest brother who often gets him into trouble.
  • Gerry Bamman as Uncle Frank McCallister, Peter's older brother and Kevin's uncle.
  • Hillary Wolf as Megan McCallister, Kevin's eldest sister.
  • Larry Hankin as Officer Balzak.
  • John Candy as Gus Polinski, a polka performer who helps Kate.
  • Michael C. Maronna as Jeff McCallister, Kevin's elder brother.
  • Kristin Minter as Heather McCallister, Kevin's eldest cousin and the daughter of Uncle Rob and Aunt Georgette.
  • Daiana Campeanu as Sondra McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin and the second daughter of Frank and Leslie.
  • Jedidiah Cohen as Rod McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin and the older son of Frank and Leslie.
  • Kieran Culkin as Fuller McCallister, Kevin's youngest cousin and the younger son of Frank and Leslie.
  • Senta Moses as Tracy McCallister, Kevin's elder cousin and the eldest daughter of Frank and Leslie.
  • Anna Slotky as Brooke McCallister, Kevin's younger cousin and the youngest daughter of Frank and Leslie.
  • Terrie Snell as Aunt Leslie McCallister, Kevin's aunt and Uncle Frank's wife.
  • Jeffrey Wiseman as Mitch Murphy, 8-year-old neighbor whom Heather mistakes for Kevin during the headcount.
  • Virginia Smith as Aunt Georgette, Kevin's aunt, wife of Uncle Rob, and mother of Heather and Steffan.
  • Matt Doherty as Steffan, Kevin's elder cousin, son of Rob and Georgette.
  • Ralph Foody as Gangster #1 (Johnny), a character in the film Angels with Filthy Souls.
  • Michael Guido as Gangster #2 (Snakes), a character in the film Angels with Filthy Souls.
  • Ray Toler as Uncle Rob, Kevin's uncle, the younger brother of Peter and Uncle Frank, and the father of Heather and Steffan.
  • Billie Bird as Woman in Airport, named Irene, who sells Kate her ticket to Dallas.
  • Bill Erwin as Man in Airport, named Ed, Irene's husband who agrees to the ticket sale.
  • Gerry Becker as Officer #1.
  • Alan Wilder as Scranton Ticket Agent.
  • Hope Davis as French Ticket Agent.
  • Kenneth Hudson Campbell as Santa, a Santa Claus impersonator who Kevin visits.
  • Elvis Presley as airport visitor


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. A copy of the script was "clandestinely" delivered to Fox, according to executive producer Scott Rosenfelt, bypassing the legal restrictions that would have otherwise prevented Fox from seeing it until the project was in turnaround.[9]

Hughes had originally asked Patrick Read Johnson to direct, but he was already committed to Spaced Invaders.[10] He then turned to Columbus, who had left National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation before shooting started since he was unable to work with Chevy Chase. 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.[11][12]

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" (actually 200), as he felt it was his "directorial responsibility".[12][13] Columbus finally met with Culkin and agreed he was the right choice for the role.[12]


For the role of Harry Lime, 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.

After 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.[9] 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."[14]

John Candy had only one day to film his scenes; it took 23 hours. He was paid $414, less than the actor who had played the pizza deliveryman, 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.[9]


The Home Alone house in Winnetka, Illinois.

Principal photography took place between February and May 1990.[15][16] Some scenes were shot in a three-story single-family house located at 671 Lincoln Avenue[17] in the North Shore village of Winnetka where Hughes's 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.[18] The kitchen in the film was shot on location, along with the main staircase, basement, attic and most of the first floor landing.[19] The tree house in the back yard was built specifically for the film and dismantled after filming ended.[20] All the other interiors were duplicated on a soundstage 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.[9]

The scenes inside the church were shot at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, Illinois.[21]

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.[22]

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.[9]

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.[9] After he took the assistant director by the collar one day to complain about this, daily call times were moved back from 7 a.m. to 9 to accommodate his rounds.[23] 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.[12]

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.[24][13]

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."[12] Stunts were originally prepared with safety harnesses, but because of their visibility on camera, the film's final stunts were performed without them.[12] 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.[13]

In May 2011, the house was listed for sale at $2.4 million;[25] it sold in March 2012 for $1.585 million.[17]


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.[12] From there Columbus was able to get in touch with Steven Spielberg who helped him contact John Williams to produce the final score.[12] 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[26] and in CD on May 27, 2015.[27]


Box office[edit]

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.[2]

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.[28][29] It was finally dethroned from the top spot when Sleeping with the Enemy opened with $13 million.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] The film is listed in the Guinness World Records as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever.[32]

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.[29][33] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 67.7 million tickets in the US.[34]

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.[35]

Critical response[edit]

On 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 Alone's uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin's cute performance and strong supporting stars."[36] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, it has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[37] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[38]

Variety magazine praised the film for its cast.[39] Jeanne Cooper of The Washington Post praised the film for its comedic approach.[40] Hal Hinson, also of The Washington Post, praised Columbus' direction and Culkin's performance.[41] 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.[42]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a ​2 12 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.[43] 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".[44]


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.[45]

Accusations of plagiarism[edit]

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.[46] 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.[47][48] 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.[49]


The film was followed by a commercially successful sequel in 1992, Lost in New York, 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.[50] 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.[51]

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.

On November 25, 2012, a fifth film, The Holiday Heist premiered during ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas programming event.[52] Like the third film, it does not focus on the McCallister family.


On August 6, 2019, Disney announced plans to reboot the franchise on its Disney+ streaming service.[53]

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 Fox, and marks the first Fox produced project on Disney+. It is set to film in early 2020 in Canada.[54][55]


The music video for Snoop Dogg's 1994 single "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 McAllister 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.[56] 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.[57]

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 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.[58]

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 the thieves parked in a van outside (presumably Harry and Marv) steer clear of the house.[59] 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.[60]


Home Alone (ISBN 0-590-55066-7) was novelized by Todd Strasser and published by Scholastic in 1990 to coincide with the film.

On October 6, 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie, an illustrated book by Kim Smith and Quirk Books was released.[61][62]

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ "All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation". Box Office Mojo.
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