Home Alone was released the year I was born (1990) and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it has been with me ever since. It would be impossible to count how many times I’ve watched it in the last 25 years, mostly on VHS tape in the basement of my grandparents’ condo on Arboretum Circle in the Cleveland suburb of Sagamore Hills, Ohio. It’s difficult to imagine my childhood without Kevin and the rest of the McCallisters, without Harry and Marv, without the gangsters Johnny, Snakes, and Acey; I think I saw the iconic How the Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon in Home Alone a hundred times before I actually watched it on its own. Whether we were celebrating early on Christmas Day or they were giving me presents on my sister’s birthday so I wouldn’t feel left out, a visit to grandma and grandpa’s house almost always included a viewing of Home Alone. The tributes to John Hughes’ life and work came pouring in after his sudden death in 2009; from actors who would be nothing without him like Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald, to fellow writer-directors who openly admit to aping his work like Judd Apatow (who candidly told Variety “Basically, my stuff is just John Hughes films with four-letter words.”), the far-reaching impact of Hughes’ writing talent has been well-documented. The word “relatable” seems to appear time and again in describing that unique genre we can call the John Hughes Movie: whether you felt like an outcast in high school or simply had a family, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and many others have something for you. But Home Alone was the climax of a storied career that, sadly, died with John Candy. While critics at the time complained that Home Alone was completely far-fetched (of course, it is) and “adult-bashing” (what John Hughes Movie isn’t?), it’s still one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time and anyone that disagrees is just plain wrong. Never mind that on the heels of this success, the John Hughes Movie genre quickly declined in the 1990s as he tried to recapture the glory years of the 80s, even reaching back to his own youth with adaptations of newspaper comic strips (Dennis the Menace ) and Disney movies (101 Dalmatians ) in between sad attempts at Home Alone sequels; never mind that the careers of Macaulay Culkin, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson never really went anywhere despite their early flashes of brilliance. We can always come back to Home Alone, and not just because it reminds us of the 90s. We can always come back to Home Alone because it reminds us that family is complicated, but that’s ok. It reminds us that Christmas might be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most difficult. It reminds us during the season of giving that we have to appreciate what we already have because we could lose it faster than Johnny from Angels with Filthy Souls can count “one, two, TEN!”.
Director: Chris Columbus
Starring: McCauley Culkin, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci