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The Rise and Fall of … Home Alone?

To quote Joe Pesci’s Harry Lyme, “Fridgin, frasta, rasta,” or as a basic translation, why aren’t there any good Home Alone movies anymore? With Chris Columbus’ Home Alone and its 1992 sequel continuing to spread a little Christmas cheer in video and streaming formats, the holiday hijinks of Kevin McCallister are firm favorites this time of year. 

Sadly, while Home Alone and Lost in New York have become seasonal staples that captured that elusive festive magic, the subsequent movies have been on a downhill toboggan race into the depths of sequel mediocrity. Suddenly, Beethoven’s Big Break doesn’t seem that bad. But, how did we get from surprise box office hits to dismal Disney+ reboots? Here’s to the steep rise and precipitous fall of the Home Alone movies. 

There’s No Place Like Home Alone

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The original Home Alone was born from the mind of John “The Breakfast Club” Hughes, who dreamed up a scenario of accidentally leaving your kids at home when going on vacation … and what they might get to while you were away. Imagining that all children are scared of burglars, he wove this element into the script alongside a series of deadly (but comical) traps.

Home Alone was originally supposed to be financed by Warner Bros., but only if made for a modest $10 million. A crafty Hughes secretly met with 20th Century Fox, and when the escalating budget caused Warner Brothers to pull the plug, he had the rival studio waiting in the wings. Columbus’ gamble paid off, as the original Home Alone grossed a whopping $476.7 million.

The McCallisters Fox/Disney

With its box office success, a sequel was quickly rushed into production. This time, a change of locale took the action to the Big Apple, where Donald Trump famously allowed Columbus to film at the Plaza Hotel in exchange for a cameo. Most of the original cast returned, with the notable addition of stars including Tim Curry and Dana Ivey. 

Compared to the meagre $110,000 Macaulay Culkin received for the first movie, Lost in New York bagged him $4.5 million and 5% of the film’s gross. This was still worth it to the studio, and with the sequel grossing $359 million against a budget of $28 million, it was another hit. Sadly, this is where the story of the (original) McCallisters comes to an end.

Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci) as the hapless burglars in Home Alone. Fox/Disney

Three’s a Crowd

Obviously, a scenario that involves the McCallisters continuously leaving behind an aging Kevin can only take you so far. Raja Gosnell gets his directorial debut with 1997’s Home Alone 3 serving as a standalone sequel to the first two. The original plan was to produce a second and third movie back-to-back, but when that fell through, the franchise was parked.

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A third movie with a teenage Kevin was later pitched, but with Culkin stepping away from acting at that point, Home Alone was rebooted. As well as being the first without Culkin, Home Alone 3 is also missing the magic of Columbus and the musical genius of John Williams. It was by no means a failure, grossing $79.1 million against a $32 million budget. For many, though, this sequel wasn’t worth the ticket price.

Looking at the bigger picture, Home Alone 3 isn’t all that bad. Alex D. Linz plays a plucky little upstart called Alex, while you’ll spot a young Scarlett Johansson as his sister. It’s a darker affair that feels like it takes some cues from another Christmas cracker, going full Die Hard with a terrorist plot–kudos to Olek Krupa for doing his best Hans Gruber impression. Home Alone 3 also marks another franchise milestone, serving as the last entry to get a theatrical release. 

The Forgotton Years

If only we’d stopped there. Home Alone was never supposed to be the most complex of series, so bringing back the McCallisters, played by new actors, for a direct-to-DVD reboot felt like a desecration of Hughes’ work. 3rd Rock From the Sun’s French Stewart took over from Daniel Stern as Marv for Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House, while Galaxy Quest’s Missi Pyle portrayed his bumbling wife. For those who think they can’t get enough of the franchise, trust us, you’ll be pining for Pesci and Stern. 

Home Alone: 4. Yes, it exists. Let’s move on. Fox/Disney

Even if Mike Weinberg’s Kevin isn’t a patch on Culkin’s cheeky but enigmatic original, he’s thankfully only around for one movie. And although most people don’t even know that Home Alone 4 exists, it could always be worse. 

Rounding off the pack is 2012’s Home Alone: The Holiday Heist. With the well running dry on Home Alone ideas, this TV special tried a modernized approach to the burglary plotline, boasting a more tech-savvy kid and some criminals trying to steal a famous Edvard Munch painting. Its producers somehow convinced Malcolm McDowell to play the lead villain and paid several homages to the previous entries, but that didn’t stop this one from being another flop. The only silver lining is that many consider it slightly better than Home Alone 4.

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A Disney Dud

That’s where we thought the story would end, and so it did for a while. However, with The House of Mouse snapping up 20th Century Fox, Home Alone was a legacy IP that could be easily spun out for a quick buck. Similar to the subpar Cheaper by the Dozen reboot, Home Sweet Home Alone tried to capitalize on our nostalgia.

Dubbed a “wholly unnecessary” sequel, Home Sweet Home Alone serves as a true sequel to the Culkin years. When Home Sweet Home Alone first went into production, fans were hyped by rumors that Culkin would be back. But he repeatedly denied his involvement, and instead we had Devin Ratray reprising his role as the antagonistic Buzz McCallister.

In the film Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper play another pair of underdeveloped villains, with Home Sweet Home Alone having the bones of a long-awaited sequel but falling far short of expectations. Boasting just 16% on Rotten Tomatoes means Home Sweet Home Alone feels like the final nail in the coffin…for now. Then again, we’re sure someone is out there pitching Home Alone 7.

Stoned Alone

Unfortunately, Home Alone 4 isn’t the worst idea 20th Century Studios had. In 2018, Ryan Reynolds was supposedly working on Stoned Alone, a tenuously-titled stoner comedy that would put an adult, pot-addled, Kevin McCallister against a new threat. You can’t help but feel stoner comedies peaked with the likes of Ted and Pineapple Success, but whether Stoned Alone would be the next Deadpool or another shallow grave for the Home Alone franchise, we’ll never know.

The Disney acquisition and Home Sweet Home Alone left Stoned Alone caught in one of Kevin’s traps. In a scathing 2020 interview, Columbus told The Independent,“The reboots are just silly to me. When I read about something called Stoned Alone, they were going to do with Ryan -– it was an R-rated Home Alone movie about stoners –- I thought to myself, ‘This is just an insult to the art of cinema.’”

Despite all the stumbles along the way, we’ve seen elements of what could’ve been a great Home Alone sequel in an unlikely Google ad from 2018 that’s the best thing to come out of the franchise since Lost in New York. The short film brought back Culkin, and while it was merely to sell Google products, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. There was even room for Pesci to appear in his own ad, playing a meta version of himself. 

Culkin recently came back into the spotlight when he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This served as something of a Home Alone reunion, as a tearful O’Hara was there to honor her on-screen son. While Home Alone remains a cult classic, today’s conversations are largely about the original house being up for sale or how Lost in New York’s Pigeon Lady looks like Piers Morgan.

Maybe we’ll get a cinematic return for Home Alone one day, but in the meantime, all there’s left to do is to watch the first two back-to-back and say, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.” 



Based in Manchester, UK, Tom Chapman has over seven years’ experience covering everything from dragons to Demogorgons. Starting out with a stint at Movie Pilot in Berlin, Tom has since branched out to indulge his love of all things Star Wars and the MCU at Digital Spy, Den of Geek, IGN, Yahoo! and more. These days, you’ll find Tom channelling his inner Gale Weathers and ranting about how HBO did us dirty with Game of Thrones Season Eight.


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