How 'Home Alone' became the most successful Christmas film of all time (2023)

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When does your Christmas really start? For some people, it's the minute that Starbucks break out the red cups – surely a little premature – while for others, it's once they've heard Mariah Carey's “All I Want for Christmas” blaring out at the work do. But for many, the season only starts when they hear the first notes of John Williams' soundtrack to Home Alone.

Since it was released in 1990, director-turned writer/producer John Hughes' film about a boy left behind while his family fly to Paris has achieved a unique status. It's officially the most successful Christmas film of all time with a total box-office taking of $530m internationally, not to mention the gargantuan subsequent VHS and DVD sales. The film's success inspired a film-industry colloquialism: to be “Home Aloned” –when a film dominates the box office, destroying its rivals. In Poland it's aired on public television every year without fail, and drew in the country's biggest ever TV audience on record when five million people tuned in four years ago. And it made a nine-year-old Macaulay Culkin one of the most famous actors in the world.

At the film's point of conception, a few years had passed since the success of Hughes' Brat Pack hits The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Beuller's Day Off, which had made Mollie Ringwald, Matthew Broderick and their co-stars some of the most coveted actors in America. But, tiring of Los Angeles and what he considered to be a soulless lifestyle, Hughes had already decided to take a step back from Hollywood life (that's when he stopped directing) and returned with his family to rural Illinois, where he would develop projects that could be filmed closer to home such as Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck.

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In fact Home Alone grew out of a scene in 1989's Uncle Buck, in which Culkin interrogates a would-be babysitter through the letterbox of his family home. The part of Kevin McAllister, who's accidentally left behind to fight a couple of idiotically persistent burglars, was always written by Hughes for Culkin, though director Chris Columbus admits that they still auditioned hundreds of boys to make sure they had the right one for the part.

Culkin was eight when filming started. Catherine O' Hara, who plays his mother Kate in the film, tells The Independent that she knew he was special straight away. “Macaulay was the first child leading actor I ever worked with. He was a dear little boy with a beautiful face and a funny, 1940s-style straight delivery,” she remembers, adding that they still feel a bond today. “I ran into Macaulay by chance a couple of years ago. He called me, 'Mom!' and I called him, 'Baby!' and we had a short chat. He looked well and still had that beautiful face.”

(Video) Everything Wrong With Home Alone In 15 Minutes Or Less

He was taken out of school before filming and never returned. “I was a kid. So it was kind of weird for me. But you know, I almost didn't know anything else,” he has said. “I mean, I realised that I was leading a very unique life and I was doing things other kids my age weren't doing, but at the same time, it was just crazy.”

Crazy is an understatement for the chain of events that Culkin's fame sparked. At the time of filming, he was getting close to Michael Jackson, who was said to have visited the set. His explosion into the mega-fame that Home Alone and his friendship with Jackson brought was juxtaposed with the breakdown of his relationship with his parents, but particularly his father Christopher, who Culkin “divorced” at the age of 15.

“He was very controlling… he played games with you, just to make sure you were still in your place,” Culkin told Larry King in a rare interview in 2004. “I remember, you know, when I was making God knows how much money and I didn't have a bed. I didn't even have a room. I was sleeping on the couch. Me and my brother were sleeping on the couch.” Culkin and his father are not thought to have spoken again since, though he does see his mother.

In 1994 Culkin made Richie Rich but didn't work again for a decade, never made another hit film – and never again worked with Hughes, who died from a sudden heart attack in 2009. Hughes had shared incredibly close bonds with his actors – and none more so than John Candy, who lived nearby. When Candy could only offer a day's work for his Home Alone cameo – as a band leader – O'Hara remembers they worked for 21 hours straight, improvising their lines for the scene when his character plus band give her a lift home in the back of a lorry.

How 'Home Alone' became the most successful Christmas film of all time (1)

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(Video) Home Alone literally makes no sense...

She says: “John Hughes wasn't on the set a lot – I'm sure he was busy writing his next big hit – but I remember him being with us for every hour on the day that John Candy and I shot with the polka band. John Hughes was so in love with John Candy and he and Chris offered more and more ideas to keep us improvising in the truck. We had John [Candy] for 24 hours and John [Hughes] had us playing for almost all of them.”

But Candy's wasn't the only memorable appearance. Daniel Stern, who played Marv, one of the Wet Bandit burglars alongside Joe Pesci, says that he still gets lines from the film shouted at him wherever he goes, even on a trip to Baghdad to visit soldiers in 2003. “I was surrounded by kids going, 'Marv! Marv!' Like 16 Iraqi kids in the middle of a war zone...That movie is everywhere.”

(Video) Why Home Alone is the Best Christmas Soundtrack Ever

O'Hara adds: “I love being recognised for Home Alone by young people who grew up with it and still watch it every year. I'm so happy to be part of anyone else's Christmas traditions.” (However, she admits that neither she nor Columbus quite “get” the Polish obsession).

Of course, none of the cast or crew had any idea what a mammoth success they had on their hands at first; rumours from the set at the time suggested that John Heard, who plays Kevin's father, and Joe Pesci both believed the film would flop. But they were eating their words by the following year when Hughes and Columbus began work on the sequel Lost in New York. “No one needed persuading,” says O'Hara.

It was only when everyone gathered for the first-ever public screening that they realised they had created a smash. Columbus describes the first screening of the film in Hughes' beloved Chicago. “John and I kept looking across at each other. That's when we knew we had something special.”

Odeon cinemas are screening 'Home Alone' to celebrate the film's anniversary. Go to www.odeon.co.uk for details

FAQs

Why is Home Alone the best Christmas movie of all time? ›

Home Alone is indeed the Best Christmas Movie of All Time because it covers all the season-specific bases, is replete with jingle bell spirit and effectively embodies the Four Fundamental Principles of Christmas. Those principles are: 'Excess', 'Iconography', 'Generosity' and 'Family'.

Is Home Alone the most popular Christmas movie? ›

A YouGov survey of 1,200 US adults found that America's favorite Christmas movie is "Home Alone." About one in six (15%) say the 1990 Christmas movie is the best holiday classic. Close behind are “It's a Wonderful Life” (12%), “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation,” (12%), “A Christmas Story” (11%), and “Elf” (12%).

How successful is Home Alone? ›

Home Alone grossed $476.7 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing live-action comedy until the release of The Hangover Part II (2011), and made Culkin a child star.
...
Home Alone
Budget$18 million
Box office$476.7 million
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Why is Home Alone a Christmas classic? ›

Home Alone is widely regarded as a holiday classic and is a classic movie to watch around the holidays. The movie leaves the viewer feeling nostalgic, with the simple childhood premise of being left in the house alone without your parents.

What makes Home Alone so special? ›

The traps and practical comedy moments will entertain everyone, with the one-liners and quick, witty comebacks being well served for the adults. It is a brilliant movie for the entire family and that is what a good Christmas film should be, which is why Home Alone is seen as the greatest in the opinion of many fans.

What is the most viewed Christmas movie ever? ›

The Santa Clause tops the list with $470.1 million and also has the best average with $156.8 million.

What is America's favorite Christmas movie? ›

It doesn't seem that “A Christmas Story” is lacking in its number of fans though, because it is the most popular Christmas movie in America with 24 states choosing the movie as their favorite.

Which Home Alone is the Christmas one? ›

Home Sweet Home Alone is a 2021 American Christmas comedy film directed by Dan Mazer, written by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, and starring Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Kenan Thompson, Pete Holmes, Ally Maki, and Chris Parnell.

What is the summary of Home Alone? ›

What is the message of Home Alone? ›

They find a way through this problem by learning to talk about how they feel and look honestly at the complexity of their family relationships. So the moral is that a healthy adulthood isn't just about being on your own — being Home Alone isn't that much fun if you're isolated from the people you care about.

Is Home Alone a true story? ›

And yet, when fans actually go to search for “Angels With Filthy Souls,” the Depression-era gangster flick that Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) pops into his VCR while he's, you remember, home alone, they're hit with the sudden realization: the film never actually existed.

Is Home Alone a good Christmas movie? ›

From A Christmas Story to Elf, nothing quite gets us into the holiday spirit like a fantastic Christmas movie. However, no holiday film is more spectacular, hilarious or quotable than Chris Columbus's Home Alone. It was the highest grossing film of 1990 and 25 years later, it's still a classic.

Why you should watch Home Alone? ›

Home Alone is a classic family holiday that will also pack a big nostalgia punch for some adult viewers – watch out for VCRs, pay phones and 1990s fashion. It has a strong cast, a lot of slapstick comedy, and some positive messages.

What is the criteria for a Christmas movie? ›

These qualifications are: The film must primarily be set during the Christmas season. The vast majority of great Christmas movies have their climax on Christmas Eve, but any time in the stretch from post-Thanksgiving until New Year's qualifies.

Is Home Alone still popular? ›

'Home Alone' remains a holiday classic after three decades

While many popular family films from three decades ago have faded into relative obscurity, Home Alone remains popular, especially around the holidays. The story revolves around 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin).

How many people watch Home Alone? ›

Six out of the top 10 movies that week were Christmas-related, with Macaulay Culkin's “Home Alone” topping the list, amassing 307 million viewing minutes. Its sequel clinched the No. 10 slot, with 184 million viewing minutes.

Is the snow real in Home Alone? ›

At the end of the movie where it snows outside Kevin's house, the snow was actually mashed potato flakes.

What's the highest grossing Christmas song? ›

White Christmas - Bing Crosby

Not only is White Christmas the best-selling festive tune ever, it's the biggest-selling single of all time with an estimated 50 million sales.

Which Christmas movie has been played more than any other? ›

Dancer Dixon Donner Blitzen Page 3 10. Which Christmas movie has been played more than any other? Answers: Question 1: The correct answer is the Coca-Cola.

Why are there Christmas movies? ›

Why Are Christmas Movies So Popular?
  • Christmas Only Comes Once a Year. ...
  • Christmas Speaks to Some of Our Core Memories. ...
  • Christmas Movies Help Us Connect With Others in a Meaningful Way. ...
  • There's Always a Market for Family-Friendly Films.
16 Dec 2021

What do Americans watch on Christmas? ›

On television, adults watch old favorites like A Miracle on 34th Street (1945) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946), while children (and nostalgic parents) enjoy classic animated programs such as A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).

How popular is the movie Elf? ›

Elf is one of the most popular Christmas movies that's been released in the past 20 years. In fact, it's one of the most popular Christmas movies ever and is definitely considered a modern Christmas classic. There are many people who consider Elf the best Christmas movie ever and their overall favorite.

Which is better Home Alone one or two? ›

Which Is The Better Movie: Home Alone Or Home Alone 2? Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are pretty much equal in terms of quality of storytelling, comedy, and danger, but the Wet Bandits' plan, the creativity of the boobytraps, and the streamlined nature of the plot help make a case for the original movie.

Is the new Home Alone any good? ›

Home Sweet Home Alone is a surprisingly entertaining, if wholly unnecessary, sequel, a tangerine where we expected to find a lump of coal. November 12, 2021 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review… Everything that happens before the mayhem - the burglary begins after a full hour of padding - is excruciatingly forced.

Is the movie alone worth watching? ›

Better than expected "serial-killer stalks lone woman" flick. "Alone" is a rock-solid thriller. If you are a jaded horror fan, you'll scream "don't do it" multiple times, and mostly, your wish is granted. Very well acted and tautly paced, it is a worthy entry in the "serial abduction and escape" genre.

Does Home Alone talk about Santa? ›

While running late for a "get-together," a man dressed as Santa Claus was approached by Kevin McCallister, who asked him to tell the real Santa Claus to bring his family back for Christmas. He was kind enough to then humor Kevin and give him some Tic Tacs (since he had no candy canes).

How much is the Home Alone house worth? ›

How much is the Home Alone house worth today? Zillow estimates that today, the property is valued at a cool $2 million or so, while Realtor.com estimates that the house on Lincoln Avenue is worth about $1.942 million.

Does Home Alone take place on Christmas Eve? ›

Then, Kevin discovers about two burglars, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), about to rob his house on Christmas Eve. Kevin acts quickly by wiring his own house with makeshift booby traps to stop the burglars and to bring them to justice.

What is the conclusion of Home Alone? ›

In the movie's final moment, Kevin looks out the window and sees Marley hugging his granddaughter and reuniting with his formerly estranged son. Thanks to Kevin's help—encouraging Marley to confront his fears the same way Kevin confronted his fear of the basement—he's been able to revitalize his own life.

What does the movie Home Alone try to convey to the viewers? ›

He gets to prove not just that he can survive without his family, but that he can do extraordinary things when there's no one around to tell him he can't. Thus, Home Alone is basically It's A Wonderful Life in reverse, with everyone in Kevin's life realizing Kevin's worth even though he's known it all along.

What is the conflict in Home Alone? ›

What type of Conflict? In Home Alone, a young boy takes on would-be robbers who enter his house. What type of Conflict? A lawyer is conflicted within himself about telling the truth in his business practices and personal life in the movie Liar, Liar.

What is the moral of Home Alone 2? ›

Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a person's trustworthiness by their appearance. Kevin is initially scared of a homeless woman in the movie, but she actually helps him when he needs rescue from the bandits.

What did Kevin put on his face? ›

Kevin applied aftershave to his face which stings and burns especially if you are not used to it. He screams because he is shocked and it stings. He poured too much aftershave and it burned.

Who owns the Home Alone house now? ›

Ratray—lives in New York. The gorgeous red brick home on Lincoln Avenue actually belongs to an unidentified family who purchased the property back in 2011. In 1988, a few years before Home Alone hit theaters, the house was sold to John and Cynthia Abenshien for a whopping $800,000.

Can you stay in the Home Alone house? ›

You can stay in the real 'Home Alone' house. WINNETKA, Illinois – “Home Alone” is a Christmas movie classic for many people, and now fans have the chance to sleep where Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, once ruled the nest.

Why is Home Alone 2 so good? ›

Thanks in part to its bustling settings of New York and the Plaza Hotel, Home Alone 2 has a number of funny, likable characters throughout. This is contrasted with the limited settings of the first film, which don't often go beyond Kevin's own empty house and largely vacant neighborhood.

What is Home Alone movie? ›

Home Alone

How many swear words are in Home Alone? ›

"New Jack City" boasts 157, and "The Doors" weighs in with 186. Even kiddie-flick smash "Home Alone" has five.

Is Alone suitable for children? ›

Grim, vengeful horror film well made -- but NOT for kids.

Will there be Home Alone 7? ›

Home Alone 7 (full name: Home Alone: Homecoming) is an upcoming American Christmas film.

What does Christmas classic mean? ›

If you think something is classic, that means you believe it is one of the best examples of a particular thing. For example, classic holiday movies are those movies that you believe are the best holiday movies ever made. The word “classic" has its roots in two Latin words: classis and classicus.

Is Christmas a genre for movies? ›

A Christmas Story and A Miracle on 34th Street are two films that fall into the genre without question. Both take place during the Christmas season and are marketed as Christmas films. The same is true for Home Alone, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and Four Christmases.

Why do people consider Sound of Music a Christmas movie? ›

The themes of family and renewal are why The Sound of Music, just like Die Hard, is a Christmas movie staple. Christmas is a time we want to spend with our family and loved ones, and the New Year is a time for renewal and restoration.

Why is Home Alone 2 so good? ›

Thanks in part to its bustling settings of New York and the Plaza Hotel, Home Alone 2 has a number of funny, likable characters throughout. This is contrasted with the limited settings of the first film, which don't often go beyond Kevin's own empty house and largely vacant neighborhood.

Which Home Alone is the Christmas one? ›

Home Sweet Home Alone is a 2021 American Christmas comedy film directed by Dan Mazer, written by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, and starring Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Kenan Thompson, Pete Holmes, Ally Maki, and Chris Parnell.

How many people watch Home Alone? ›

Six out of the top 10 movies that week were Christmas-related, with Macaulay Culkin's “Home Alone” topping the list, amassing 307 million viewing minutes. Its sequel clinched the No. 10 slot, with 184 million viewing minutes.

Is Home Alone a true story? ›

And yet, when fans actually go to search for “Angels With Filthy Souls,” the Depression-era gangster flick that Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) pops into his VCR while he's, you remember, home alone, they're hit with the sudden realization: the film never actually existed.

What is Home Alone about? ›

Which is better Home Alone one or two? ›

Which Is The Better Movie: Home Alone Or Home Alone 2? Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are pretty much equal in terms of quality of storytelling, comedy, and danger, but the Wet Bandits' plan, the creativity of the boobytraps, and the streamlined nature of the plot help make a case for the original movie.

Will there be Home Alone 7? ›

Home Alone 7 (full name: Home Alone: Homecoming) is an upcoming American Christmas film.

Is the new Home Alone any good? ›

Home Sweet Home Alone is a surprisingly entertaining, if wholly unnecessary, sequel, a tangerine where we expected to find a lump of coal. November 12, 2021 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review… Everything that happens before the mayhem - the burglary begins after a full hour of padding - is excruciatingly forced.

Is Home Alone 2 realistic? ›

The first is Angels with Filthy Souls, and the second is Angels with Even Filthier Souls. Neither of those movies are real; rather, both scenes of movie footage were filmed just for the Home Alone movies.

Is Home Alone a good Christmas movie? ›

From A Christmas Story to Elf, nothing quite gets us into the holiday spirit like a fantastic Christmas movie. However, no holiday film is more spectacular, hilarious or quotable than Chris Columbus's Home Alone. It was the highest grossing film of 1990 and 25 years later, it's still a classic.

Does Home Alone talk about Santa? ›

While running late for a "get-together," a man dressed as Santa Claus was approached by Kevin McCallister, who asked him to tell the real Santa Claus to bring his family back for Christmas. He was kind enough to then humor Kevin and give him some Tic Tacs (since he had no candy canes).

How much is the Home Alone house worth? ›

How much is the Home Alone house worth today? Zillow estimates that today, the property is valued at a cool $2 million or so, while Realtor.com estimates that the house on Lincoln Avenue is worth about $1.942 million.

Is Home Alone OK for kids? ›

Home Alone has a strong cast, a lot of slapstick comedy, and some positive and important messages. But because of its violence, coarse language and some sexual references, it isn't suitable for children under 7 years and we recommend parental guidance for children aged up to 10 years.

What age do you have to be to be Home Alone? ›

Home Alone Rules by State
StateMinimum AgeReference
CaliforniaNoneCalifornia Department of Education
Colorado12*CO4 Kids
ConnecticutNoneConnecticut Department of Children and Families
Delaware12*Delaware Division of Family Services
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Is the snow real in Home Alone? ›

At the end of the movie where it snows outside Kevin's house, the snow was actually mashed potato flakes.

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