Home Alone is the most successful Christmas-themed movie ever. The film was a juggernaut when it opened in 1990 and there’s a reason it’s on five times a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People like violence. They also like spunky kids and Joe Pesci (especially Joe Pesci). Combine those elements with Three Stooges slapstick and what you’ve got is box office Christmas gold, baby! It’s actually kind of a messed up idea for a holiday movie when you think about it, really — kid tells his family to take a hike and then proceeds to shoplift and torture low level crooks — but hey, whatever.
The movie made a star of Macaulay Culkin, and will probably be shown on TV every year until our sun burns out and human life ceases to exist. In the meantime, here’s some trivia you may not know about one of the best Christmas comedies of all time.
1. The concept for Home Alone originated from just one scene from Uncle Buck with Macaulay Culkin interrogating the babysitter through the mail slot. The scene gets recreated of course in Home Alone, only this time with Culkin using Daniel Stern’s face for target practice.
2. Daniel Stern isn’t actually screaming with that tarantula on his face. The scream would have scared the spider, so he only mimed the scream and his actual shriek was dubbed in later. And being the thespian that he is, Daniel Stern would only allow the spider on his face for exactly one take.
3. One of my favorite trivia gems is that Joe Pesci would forget he was in a family comedy and keep dropping F-bombs during his character’s angry outbursts. The director gave him the advice of saying “fridge” as a G-rated substitute.
Even in a family Christmas movie, a little bit of Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas shines through.
4. John Candy’s role in the film was shot over a continuous 23-hour stint on the set and he completely improvised the story about forgetting his son at a funeral home. His character was inspired by the part he played in the John Hughes classic from three years earlier, Planes, Trains & Automobiles.
5. The reason Buzz’s girlfriend looks especially “woof” is because it was actually the art director’s son made up to look like a girl. Director Chris Columbus thought using a real girl’s photo would be too cruel on the omg-the-world-is-ending psyche of an actual teenage girl.
6. “You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?” was an improvised line not originally in the script. A version of the line also made it into the sequel with Kevin saying, “Hey, you guys give up? Have you had enough pain?”
7. Many a fruitless quest was spent at the video store trying to rent Angels With Filthy Souls before the dawn of IMDb, only to find out it doesn’t even exist! The gangster flick footage was created specifically for Home Alone. Although it is heavily inspired by the James Cagney movie, Angels With Dirty Faces.
“Keep the change ya filthy animal.”
8. When Home Alone came out in November of 1990 it was in the theaters for months. We’re talking till like May or June of the following year in some theaters. For 12 of those weeks it was the number 1 film at the box office. This led to the comedy beast landing in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Highest Box Office Gross – Comedy,” pulling in $533,000,000 internationally.
9. Wouldn’t we all break into Buzz’s stuff if we knew that we had just made him disappear? In addition to fireworks and an air rifle, Kevin finds Buzz’s reading material, a Playboy from July 1989. In case you’re wondering, the centerfold that month was Erika Eleniak, who’s biggest credit at the time was a reoccurring role on Charles In Charge. She went on to have a recurring role on Baywatch.
10. The famous movie poster for the film with Macaulay Culkin screaming is based on the Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.”
11. Little Neros Pizza is a play on real-life pizza chain Little Caesars, with Nero being a Roman Caesar. The pizza boy knocking over the statue either with his car or tripping over it is also a running gag throughout the movie.
12. Like most of John Hughes’ films, Home Alone took place in the Chicago suburbs with the McCallisters residing in a three-story, 4,250-square-foot home located in Winnetka, Illinois. The house on 671 Lincoln Avenue was built in the 1920s and sold for $1.5 million last year — booby traps not included.
13. Director Chris Columbus had storyboarded a dream sequence for Kevin in which the house would come to life and torment him. The evil basement furnace would get up on all fours and chase him up the stairs and toy nutcrackers would go after him. The scenes were written off as being too expensive and only the stationary angry furnace remained; which was done with fishing line and flashlights.
14. Daniel Stern wore a pair of rubber feet during his barefoot scenes of stepping on the nail and tar booby traps on the stairs.
15. The Santa impersonator that shares his Christmas Tic-Tacs with Kevin drove an unreliable 1980 Honda Civic hatchback that stalls out. The car really was a p.o.s. and stalled out during filming of the scene.
16. Old Man “Shovel Bashing” Marley wasn’t even supposed to be in the script, but every holiday movie needs a lovable old geezer, right? John Hughes original script was straight Thee Stooges-slapstick, but director Chris Columbus thought it needed a bit more heart to balance out the setting someone on fire with a blow torch scenes. And thus, the creepy next door neighbor came in to teach Kevin about family and forgiveness.
17. Home Alone is basically a national treasure in Poland. After the fall of communism, Home Alone became one of the first western films shown in the country and it has aired on national TV every year since 1990.
18. Both Robert De Niro and Jon Lovitz were offered the part of Harry. Both turned it down, but it’s probably fair to say that one of them regretted it much more than the other.
19. Besides being a box office success, the film was a cash cow, ushering in three video games, a board game, the Talkboy (which originally was just a non-functioning prop from the first sequel) and four more films. I think Home Alone 2 is pretty good even though it’s basically a near identical movie as the first, just with big city backdrop and the addition of Rob Schneider and Tim Curry. You should just pretend the other three films in the franchise don’t exist altogether.
20. The part of Kevin McCallister was written by John Hughes especially for Macaulay Culkin but director Chris Columbus had over 100 other boys audition just to make sure Macaulay was the right fit.
*Bonus* Not an actual fact, but more of a conspiracy theory. There’s a sect of Elvis fans who believe the King makes a cameo appearance as the bearded man behind Mrs. McCallister during her argument with the desk clerk.