Why "Home Alone" Will Remain a Classic Holiday Movie

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Why "Home Alone" Will Remain a Classic Holiday Movie

Every year, one television network unearths the classic 1990 blockbuster "Home Alone" for some nostalgia viewing. Current audiences may not remember, but this movie was actually a sleeper hit. No one expected "Home Alone" to be the top grossing film of 1990, and yet, it managed to exceed the earnings of movies such as "Pretty Woman," "Ghost," and "Dances with Wolves." With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to see why "Home Alone" did so well and continues to become a part of many families' holiday traditions.


With a 10-year-old Macaulay Culkin in the starring role, it would have been easy for director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes to make ''Home Alone'' a kid's movie. Instead, Hughes and Columbus made a film for the entire family. While the movie might best appeal to younger crowds, adults immensely enjoy this film as well. Young children might find the beginning a bit slow, but viewers of all ages become engrossed in the film when Macaulay Culkin's character, Kevin McCallister, is left on his own.


What makes "Home Alone" an enduring Christmas classic is its honest look at family life during the holiday season. Rather than sit around the table for a home-cooked meal before flying to Paris for Christmas, the McCallister clan makes due with a stack of pizzas and a few two-liter sodas. Instead of sitting around the table and enjoying each others' company, you see lot's of conflict and people milling about the kitchen island. It's not as picturesque as a lot of holiday movies, but the initial scenes are more similar to most family mealtimes during the holidays than the final dinner scene of "A Christmas Carol."

Hughes also astutely captures what it's like for children when their extended family comes to stay. Kevin decides to sleep in the attic alone rather than risking a night sharing a room with his bed-wetting cousin Fuller; it's this decision that sets the whole plot into motion. Hughes also populates the McCallister clan with plenty of familiar characters. Who doesn't have an Uncle Frank--a man who's a bit too cheap to pay for pizza and a bit too fast to lose his temper?

Even after Kevin's family departs, Hughes' screenplay still doesn't disappoint. He still seems to know exactly what the eight-year-old Kevin would want to do when alone at home. After Kevin wakes up, he's not afraid. Instead, he commences with a series of activities he's been forbidden to do. The standard snooping, jumping on the bed, and running around the house should bring a smile to the face of any kid who's been left alone for a few hours.


Casting Culkin as the precocious eight year old is another choice that helps to make "Home Alone" a classic. It's difficult to find the right child actor, as many young actors have yet to develop the acting ability necessary to star in a Hollywood movie. Culkin, however, was compared to the most successful child actor of all time: Shirley Temple. Although Culkin's acting career as an adult has faltered, his ten-year-old self is still enjoyable to watch onscreen.

It should be noted that "Home Alone" only received mixed reviews from critics. Some reviewers didn't find Caulkin as charming as audiences did. However, the largest complaint concerned the violent traps set for the two bandits trying to rob Kevin's home. It's a reasonable complaint. Although the violence inflicted on the bandits clearly gets its inspiration from cartoons, the cringe-inducing scenes of standing on nails and falling down stairs happens to real actors.


Despite concern from critics, audiences disagreed. Critics who loved the film compared it to the slapstick comedy made popular by The Three Stooges. Plus, so many of the gags are so over the top, it becomes difficult to take them seriously. Undoubtedly, this reaction is due to the excellent acting of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Although they are the victims of many painful traps, they still huff and puff like cartoon villains. Listening to Joe Pesci rapidly mutter under his breath, probably trying not to swear in this family film, is part of the fun.

Christmas classics, like "A Christmas Carol," will likely always be part of holiday television watching. But "Home Alone" represents a different type of Christmas movie, one which appeals to modern audiences because of its honesty and not its idealism. However, most Christmas movie fans know that all of these beloved holiday films are just a reminder that being with family is the most important part of the season. As Kevin's mom races across the world to be with her son, "Home Alone" reminds audiences of this fact.