Is “Home Alone” a Christmas movie?

by Gavin Meichelbock

With this three-part series “It is a Christmas movie?,” we will review three movies in an attempt to settle the debate as to whether they are Christmas movies or not based on classic Christmas movie criteria and tropes.

With 90s cinema trying to reinvent the film wheel, it is no wonder that a simple Christmas adventure would have been just too simple.

On last week’s edition of “Is it a Christmas Movie,” 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was able to escape the 90s “go big or go home” philosophy of film and be a true-hearted Christmas movie. Unfortunately, not every wannabe holiday movie was able to do the same. Releasing in the year 1990, “Home Alone” tries to obtain the status of a Christmas movie but misses every target.

The common argument as to why “Home Alone” is not a Christmas movie is because it has nothing to do with Christmas. Firstly, the McCallisters are traveling for the holidays. If “Christmas with the Kranks” does one thing right, and it only does one thing right, it is that it shows that Christmas time is about staying home with family. The McCallisters are completely missing the true meaning of Christmas by ignoring this fact.

Secondly, they could have planned their trip for any other time during the year. If the McCallisters went to Paris during Thanksgiving or over the summer, the plot would stay the same because it isn’t dependent on Christmas. Kevin could have still been left at home and had to defend his house from robbers. In “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” when allowed to experience any holiday, Jack actively chooses Christmas, tying it to the plot of the film and therefore making it about Christmas. “Home Alone” does not have this tie-in factor. At the end of the day, all Christmas movies are about Christmas, and this one simply isn’t.

Another key factor to a Christmas movie is that they are all about love. “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” for example, is about a person growing to love the holidays and what they represent. In “Elf,” Buddy must use his love of Christmas to save the holidays in a world that thinks Christmas cheer is old-fashioned. There is no love to be had in “Home Alone;” everyone hates each other.

Kevin McCallister is a menace. In his first scene, he gets into an argument with his mom and pesters everyone in the house. His siblings go after him, to be fair, so it’s not always Kevin being the instigator, but this only adds to how everyone hates each other in the movie. After Kevin starts a fight in the kitchen over the lack of cheese pizza, he almost ruins the family’s trip by spilling milk on the passports. When everyone gets mad at him, instead of admitting his fault, Kevin wishes he didn’t have a family. While this can be misconstrued as a take on the plot of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” where the main character wishes for something terrible to happen only to be shown that life is wonderful, Kevin and his family learn no such lesson.

While the movie certainly ends with the family realizing they should be nicer to Kevin and vice versa, “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” places all of the characters back in the same spot as at the beginning of the first film. The family is still an arguing mess, Kevin’s older brother Buzz still bullies him and Kevin even wishes, once again, to be free of the burden that is his family. Since any hope of this movie being about a family who grows to love each other over the holidays is squashed by the sequel, “Home Alone” fails to meet yet another criterion of the Christmas film.

A trope mentioned for why “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a Christmas movie is the fight to save Christmas. In “Home Alone,” even though Kevin does his fair share of fighting in this movie by literally pulling a “Die Hard” — not to spoil next week’s article — it does not fit this trope. If Kevin fails to defend his house, Christmas will not cease to happen like in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Due to this fact, Christmas is not in danger and so this is not a fight to save Christmas. However, while “Home Alone” may miss the mark of being a Christmas movie, it is a perfect action movie.

Whether it be a Vietnam War veteran fleeing from a manhunt, “Rambo,” or an ex-Special Forces soldier-turned-criminal who is the only one who can save the president, “Escape from New York,” action heroes are disgraced from society and in need of redemption. After Kevin nearly ruined his family’s vacation and stole a toothbrush, he could certainly use some redemption.

The best action heroes, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sean Connery, all deliver killer one-liners. “Home Alone” is no exception to this. Its most iconic lines, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal” and “You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?” are one-liners Kevin delivers while messing with the criminals.

Speaking of Connery, “Home Alone,” has a scene that comes straight out of “The Untouchables.” Right before Kevin Costner decides he must take down Al Capone, Connery meets up with him in a church and tells him to bring a gun to a knife fight. Similarly, in “Home Alone,” while Kevin is visiting a church before the upcoming battle to reconcile with his past mistakes, the kind, old neighbor, Marv, gives him advice on the importance of family. The main hero getting visited by a friend while seeking forgiveness in a church before the climactic conflict is still used in action movies today, as seen in “John Wick: Chapter 4.”

Although these action movie one-liners, church scenes and character archetypes are all put into play during the Christmas season, the fact that the movie is not about Christmas still means it is not a Christmas movie.


Home Alone Illustration. Illustrated by Dora Gao/BruinLife.

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