Home Alone has been considered a classic and a Christmas tradition since the moment Macaulay Culkin slapped those childishly handsome cheeks and yelled at the top of his lungs all the way back in 1990, but seeing the John Hughes written and Chris Columbus directed picture develop into a franchise of straight-to-video/dvd glorified holiday specials has given the franchise the proverbial “mixed bag” of good and bad filmmaking. In this list, we’re ranking all 5 of them (yes there have been 5) from worst to best.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments!
5. Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)
The fourth entry to the franchise is nothing short of a disaster.
A clear cash grab intended to capitalise on the burgeoning DVD market, this Rod Daniel (K-9) straight-to-TV feature recasts the iconic roles of Kevin McCallister (once played by Macaulay Culkin) and Marv (originally Daniel Stern) and, as if that wasn’t sacrilegious enough, takes the concept to an entirely different level of absurd. Seriously, if you thought a child defending his house from fully grown men via a series of booby traps was absurd, wait ’til you get a load of this…
In Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House, Kevin McCallister must ignore the instructions of his parents and rescue a crown prince from his old foe Marv and Marv’s wife Vera.
It truly is as bad as it seems…
4. Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012)
Home Alone 5 (The Holiday Heist) thankfully didn’t regurgitate the great characters from the first Home Alone in some lame attempt to gather an audience, but much like our previous entry did seem like a film written before the Home Alone branding was ever slapped on it.
In many ways another sorry attempt to grab cash from willing and hopeful consumers, rather than a fitting tribute or loving extension to the Home Alone franchise, The Holiday Heist did actually offer brief glimmers of being something more than that of the franchise’s previous incarnation, notably upping the casting quality to include the legendary Ed Asner (albeit in a cameo) and A Clockwork Orange actor Malcolm McDowell.
The movie was directed by Peter Hewitt, the man who helmed Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure just a year after the original Home Alone was released and later directed the absurd British children’s comedy Thunderpants (2002), his work on The Holiday Heist at least attempting to replicate some of the feeling of the first few movies, albeit quite poorly.
For your consideration: “I’m a 90s Kid and I Watched Home Alone for the First Time This Year“.
3. Home Alone 3 (1997)
Home Alone 3 was far from as good as the first few films, and it did feature an entirely new cast of characters and actors. But, if you were to judge it as a standalone holiday movie for kids, it was fine.
Written by the same John Hughes who wrote Home Alone 1 & 2, Home Alone 3 featured glimmers of the heart that went into the original films, though many of the creative (and somewhat ludicrous) set pieces devised for the original films seems to have been sorely missing for this Raja Gosnell (Never Been Kissed; Scooby-Doo; The Smurfs) directed entry.
Nevertheless, this movie is a huge step up from the two on this list so far, and even if it doesn’t feature the same level of creativity and sophistication of Home Alone 1 & 2, it does have enough about it to keep you interested, including an appearance from a very young Scarlett Johansson.
2. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
How could they forget poor Kevin again?!
This time misplacing the poor prepubescent cheeky chappy (played by original actor Macaulay Culkin) at Chicago airport and then boarding a flight to the torrential downpours of Florida, it is (to be fair) probably the flight company that is to blame for Kevin’s misfortunes this time as they let him board a plane to New York instead.
Questionable narrative trigger aside, this is one of the Home Alone franchise’s definitive holiday classics, the streets of New York showcasing the wonder and spectacle of Christmas (snow and all), while the narrative of the picture keeps the heart and spirit of the holiday at its core, Kevin ultimately realising that living it up on his Dad’s credit card in a Trump-owned hotel (watch out for the President’s cameo) is hardly as worthwhile or life affirming as befriending a homeless pigeon lady in Central Park. Oh, and The Wet Bandits Harry and Marv (Pesci and Stern) are back for all of the usual shenanigans.
With Chris Columbus and John Hughes teaming up behind the camera once again, this is one of those truly memorable children’s films that combines grown up themes with child-like wonder to offer a Christmas movie still watched year after year over a quarter of a century later.
1. Home Alone (1990)
Home Alone (1990) remains the absolute pinnacle of the Home Alone franchise and arguably one of the all-time great children’s Christmas movies.
Combining the heartwarming talents of director Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire; Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone), screenwriter John Hughes (The Breakfast Club; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Planes, Trains and Automobiles) composer John Williams (Jaws; Star Wars; Jurassic Park; Harry Potter) and the innocence of star Macaulay Culkin and supporting talent John Candy, this movie was the once in a lifetime collaboration of talent that you’d likely only ever see on a 20-film franchise these days, only this was a totally fresh and original idea. It boggles the mind.
Every iconic image people hold in their heads of the Home Alone franchise comes from this movie, whether it’s Marv stepping on a nail, Harry being hit in the head by an iron, Kevin screaming after applying aftershave to his face or the creepy neighbour turned hero that likes to clear his driveway in the hope his family will soon visit him.
Above all, this Home Alone has the purest of ideas underpinning it: that Christmas is about love, forgiveness, sharing and family – there are simply no substitutes. This is an absolute classic in every sense of the word, a perfectly orchestrated holiday movie for all the family and absolutely the best Home Alone movie in the franchise.
“Keep the change ya filthy animal.”
And there goes our list. Let us know if you agree by leaving a comment down below or tweeting us @thefilmagazine.