20 Things to Look for While Watching Home Alone Over the Holidays

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Home Alone, the 1990 classic that instantly made Macaulay Culkin an A-list star, is one of those Christmas movies that naysayers will try to tell you isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s not primarily about Christmas, but the backdrop of the holidays is present everywhere you look—from the stockings little Kevin McCallister (Culkin) hangs for his transcontinental family and the poinsettias that seem to decorate every set to the warm-and-fuzzy lesson about bringing loved ones together. Nevertheless, there are many things you’ve probably missed in McCallister’s saga dealing with burglars. During your ritual viewing of Home Alone around this time, here are some goofs and interesting facts to watch out for.

1. HOME ALONE IS A JOHN HUGHES MOVIE THROUGH AND THROUGH, EVEN THOUGH IT ISN’T.


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The master behind 1980s teen classics including Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off wrote Home Alone, though he did not direct it as he did those other films. He also served as producer, and it feels like his baby. It’s set in Hughes’s home turf, the Chicago area, and reunites him with John Candy and Culkin, who both starred in Hughes’s 1989 Uncle Buck. The surprisingly dark, adult content (guns, self-defense, family abandonment) lightened with wholesome humor are Hughes trademarks.

2. IT SET UP DIRECTOR CHRIS COLUMBUS’S CAREER.


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Columbus had only directed two feature films before he took the reins on Home Alone, which would become a template for his major work in the future. He’s become known for family-friendly material with plenty of gags. He partnered again with composer John Williams on the first two Harry Potter movies, in which the music is as unbelievably catchy as it is here.

3. THE HOME IN HOME ALONE IS A STAR IN ITS OWN RIGHT.


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    A large part of the mass appeal of Home Alone was its image of a large family living in the suburbs of Middle America. They might seem ordinary in their traditional, red-brick, Georgian house, but their life would’ve been a fantasy for most Americans. The actual house shot for the film is in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka. In 2017, Bloomberg reported that the neighborhood is the 10th richest in all of the United States. The McCallisters' house sold for $1.585 million in 2012 and looks much the same as it did in 1990, preserving one of movie history’s most famous exteriors.

    4. KEVIN’S FAMILY IS SCARILY MEAN TO HIM.


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      It’s not hard to fathom why Home Alone was scarring to some young kids (it was to this writer growing up, anyway). In the beginning, we see why Kevin might be happier without his family around. But they aren’t just harsh; their bullying of an eight-year-old verges on sadistic. His sister Linnie calls him incompetent (in French!), his brother Buzz calls him a “phlegm-wad” and suggests that he eat regurgitated cheese pizza, and his uncle calls him a “little jerk” for a minor accidental spill. When they realize in France that they’ve left little Kevin to fend for himself, none of the family members seems particularly worried except his mom. It’s enough to wonder if the McCallisters aren’t the true villains of Home Alone.

      5. THE MCCALLISTERS ARE A LITTLE TOO FAST.


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        When the McCallisters are late getting out of the house for their flight to France, Uncle Frank says they have only 45 minutes until the plane departs. It takes about 30 minutes to drive from Winnetka to the closest major airport, O’Hare (where scenes were shot), according to Google Maps. Even if they shaved off 10 minutes in their rush, that gives them 25 minutes from arriving at the airport until departure. Airlines typically close gates 15 minutes before departure, so the McCallisters checked in, got through security, and raced to the gate in 10 minutes (or even faster). That’s either some kind of record or sloppy writing.

        6. DON’T EVER TRUST HEATHER IN MATH CLASS. 


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        Hughes came up with a fun plot device to leave Kevin in the dust: While Heather is counting up the number of kids before they leave for the airport, the neighboring Murphy kid is busy in one of the vans, leading her to mistakenly include Kevin. But Kristin Minter, the actress who played Heather, may have gotten thrown off in real life when Buzz interrupts her counting, because if you watch closely, she actually counts herself twice and forgets Linnie in the tally.

        7. HOME ALONE IS AN ADVERTISER’S DREAM.


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        Hollywood was not shy about product placement in its movies during the 1990s, but even so, the sheer number of brands that appear in Home Alone is mind-boggling. We see (and hear) Pepsi multiple times, along with American Airlines, Playboy, Junior Mints, Crunch Tators (an ‘80s Frito Lays snack), Tide, Tropicana, Tic Tacs, Kraft—and those are just the most obvious examples.

        8. THE BB GUN IS NOT TRUE-TO-LIFE.


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          Kevin makes use of Buzz’s Daisy BB gun throughout the movie, whether it’s for target practice on toys or to ward off Joe Pesci. But the model shown, while used as a pump-action gun, is actually lever-action.

          9. NO, THAT ISN’T A REAL ‘30S GANGSTER MOVIE.


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            The Home Alone filmmakers created a fake gangster movie for Kevin to watch and get inspiration from, called Angels with Filthy Souls. It’s certainly a reference to the actual 1938 picture Angels with Dirty Faces. The footage for the movie-within-a-movie lasts one minute and 20 seconds, and you can watch every filthy second of it here. It feels surprisingly authentic for a parody clip, and clearly had the desired effect: a sequel even appears in Home Alone 2.

            10. THE MOVIE (MOSTLY) GETS CHICAGO RIGHT.


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              While the ride to the airport may have been way too quick, those from the Chicagoland area will notice that the filmmakers put great care into making its setting in the area feel real, including doing exterior shots on location. That’s not surprising given Hughes’s love affair with Chicago in his movies. The Metra commuter train (not to be confused with the L) that reaches the suburbs of the city even gets a shoutout with a passing train.

              11. BUT IT DEFINITELY DOESN’T GET FRANCE RIGHT.


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                When most of the McCallister clan makes it to Paris, they’re actually being shown in another part of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Based on when they left, it should be nighttime in France, but is instead daylight. Catherine O’Hara’s Kate leaps to the closest payphone, somewhat rudely kicking off a Frenchwoman in order to find out about her son. The problem is she’s using a BT payphone that wouldn’t have existed in Paris, and while she’s asked to insert coins, French payphones at the time required telephone cards.

                12. HOME ALONE IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF THE POLICE.


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                  When Kate gets through to local police about her son being home alone, she gets them to agree to send someone to check up on him. They do, but only with the barest amount of effort. An officer shows up at the front door and knocks. Kevin, being scared, doesn’t answer and hides in the bedroom. Despite the fact that the house lights are on and Kevin’s mom told police that her son is there, the officer is apparently satisfied with his detective work and radios back to the department about Kate, “Tell her to count her kids again."

                  13. LITTLE NERO’S PIZZA EXISTED, BUT ONLY FOR A DAY.


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                    Who wouldn’t want to grab a slice of Little Nero’s Pizza like Kevin, with its affable delivery boy, charmingly amateur logo, and unforgettable motto (“No Fiddlin’ Around!”)? Sadly, the restaurant is fictional, an apparent nod to Little Caesars. But love for Home Alone and its cult pizza joint is so strong that distributor 20th Century Fox and UberEATS partnered in 2015 to serve customers in select cities pizzas (which actually came from local establishments) in Little Nero’s boxes.

                    14. THE GROCERY STORE NEEDS TO FIX ITS REGISTER.


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                      Kevin goes under the radar of many adults, who don’t seem sufficiently suspicious of an eight-year-old fending for himself outside. He makes a shopping trip to a grocery store and does his best adult impression, chatting with the sales clerk and even bringing along a coupon for an item. But when the sales clerk rings up his groceries, her register does not identify any products or transactions, and her scanner doesn’t light up or make any sound.

                      15. JOHN CANDY WAS REALLY, REALLY GOOD AT HIS JOB.


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                        Late comedy legend Candy makes quite an impression with just a little screen time toward the end of Home Alone, as a polka musician helping Kate get back to her son. It’s even more stunning when you discover that he did all his scenes in one day of shooting, though to be fair it was a 23-hour day. He also completely improvised perhaps the funniest bit in the entire film, when he attempts to comfort Kate by telling her that he once left his son in a funeral home.

                        16. KEVIN ACTUALLY ISN’T VERY GOOD AT PROTECTING HIS HOME.


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                          One of the more significant errors in the movie involves Kevin running home from church in the evening to prepare for the robbers he knows are planning to swing by at 9 p.m. For someone who’s awfully meticulous about his DIY security methods, Kevin makes a serious lapse: We watch him open the front door without a key, meaning he left it unlocked the entire time he was gone, despite literally knowing that thieves were on their way.

                          17. THE PHONE LINES DON’T WORK, UNTIL THEY DO.


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                            Another plot convenience to keep Kevin out of touch with his family is that the phone lines in the McCallisters’ neighborhood, as we learn early on, are down. Yet somehow Kate reaches the police presumably in the same neighborhood, Kevin orders a pizza to his home, and he calls the police toward the end of the film to alert them about the robbers. Through the entire runtime, however, the rest of the family is incapable of reaching Kevin.

                            18. MARV’S FACEPRINT ISN’T SO CONVINCING.


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                            Makeup in a 1990 family comedy could only do so much. Daniel Stern’s bumbling sidekick to Harry, Marv, takes an iron in the face while intruding on the McCallister home. But in the closeup that immediately follows, it’s obvious that the faceprint is a sticker.

                            19. THE MOVIE ALSO DOESN’T GET HARRY’S DOOR BURN RIGHT.


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                            Joe Pesci does an excellent job acting angry at being subverted by a rosy-cheeked eight-year-old. At one point, his Harry attempts to simply open the front door, but Kevin has put a hot iron on the other side of the doorknob. Harry gets a bad burn in the shape of the “M” on the doorknob, but given the angle at which he put his hand on the knob, the burn should look different.

                            20. HARRY LOSES MORE THAN A TOOTH.


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                            In the process of battling Kevin’s tricks, Harry loses a gold tooth that makes an appearance later. But the wedding ring we saw him wearing in earlier scenes also disappears, following the scene in which Marv attacks the spider on him, without any explanation. If Pesci ever signs up for another Home Alone sequel, maybe that mystery can finally be solved.

                            10 Dramatic Downton Abbey Fan Theories

                            Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
                            Jim Carter as Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey (2019).
                            Focus Features

                            Despite its exhaustively polished veneer, Downton Abbey was always a soap opera. Julian Fellowes's historical drama about a family of aristocrats and their many servants could never resist a good shocker, and it deployed plenty of them over the course of six seasons. The valet was suspected of murder (twice). One of the Crawley sisters got knocked up by her older married boyfriend, who promptly went missing. And another sister’s first sexual encounter ended in death. Considering all this, it should come as no surprise that fans have developed similarly wacky theories about the show. These fan theories include secret parentage, undercover spies, and, of course, poison.

                            Brush up on the best of them before the Downton Abbey movie hits theaters—just in case the whole miscarriage curse comes up.

                            1. Mr. Carson is Lady Mary’s father.

                            This theory all comes down to eyes. As you may recall from science class, certain genes are dominant and others are recessive. This is perhaps most easily understood through eye color, where brown eye color, a dominant gene, is expressed as BB and blue eye color, a recessive gene, is expressed as bb. A parent with brown eyes might carry the recessive blue eye gene (i.e. Bb), but if you plot out genetic probabilities on a basic Punnett square, two blue-eyed parents with double bbs have seemingly no shot at producing a Bb baby. Now, what does any of this have to do with Downton Abbey? Both Lord and Lady Grantham have blue eyes, but their eldest daughter, Mary, has brown eyes. This has led some fans to speculate that Lady Mary is actually the daughter of Carson, the family’s beloved butler who has always acted as as sort of second father to Mary. As debunkers have noted, two blue-eyed people can have a brown-eyed child, because recessive genes aren’t that simple. But isn’t it wild to think of Carson and Cora having an affair?

                            2. Thomas Barrow poisoned Kemal Pamuk.

                            One of the soapiest subplots of Downton Abbey's first season involved “poor Mr. Pamuk,” the dashing Turkish diplomat who makes a fateful visit to the Abbey. After enjoying a day of fox hunting and an evening of sparkling conversation, Kemal Pamuk drops dead ... right in Lady Mary’s bed. The cause, it is later revealed, was a heart attack, but many viewers suspected something more sinister. Earlier in the episode, the Crawleys’ closeted footman, Thomas Barrow, made a pass at Pamuk, which the diplomat rejected quite forcefully—so much so that he threatened to get Thomas fired. That placed the footman in a tricky situation, but it was nothing a little poison couldn't fix, and that’s exactly why some fans believe Thomas slipped something into Mr. Pamuk’s dinner.

                            3. Lady Grantham’s miscarriage started a curse.

                            In the Season 1 finale, tragedy strikes. The newly pregnant Lady Grantham slips on a bar of soap, falling onto the bathroom tiles and inducing a miscarriage. It’s a sad moment, but it’s also, Reddit claims, the source of the house’s future misfortune. According to this theory, the miscarriage kicks off a curse of deadly pregnancies: Lady Sybil dies in childbirth; Matthew Crawley dies in a car accident soon after the birth of his son; and when the maid Ethel Parks becomes pregnant with Major Bryant’s child, he dies, too.

                            4. Mr. Bates is actually a bad guy.

                            Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
                            Brendan Coyle and Joanne Froggatt in Downton Abbey (2019).
                            Focus Features

                            Downton Abbey invests a lot of time and effort in convincing us that John Bates, Lord Grantham's trusty, is a great guy—despite his checkered past and multiple murder allegations. But what if everyone’s assumptions about Bates are exactly right? Some Redditors believe Bates is just a remorseless serial killer, pointing to his intense hatred of his first wife and “creepy vibes” as evidence. Anna had better watch out.

                            5. Michael Gregson is a spy.

                            Lady Edith’s boss and lover Michael Gregson is the publisher of a London magazine, The Sketch. Thanks to his job, he knows tons of important people, travels all over the world, and speaks multiple languages. He eventually disappears inside Germany in season 4, and later dispatches to the Crawley family imply that he was a victim of Adolf Hitler’s “thugs.” (The show timeline places Gregson in Munich right around the time of the Beer Hall Putsch.) Or at least, that’s the official story. Another one suggests that Gregson was a British spy gathering intel on the insurgent Nazis—and he might not have died at all. His superiors simply needed to feed Edith a lie that would discourage her from poking around, so they made up a cover story that someone who follows the news would believe.

                            6. Lady Rosamund Painswick is Lady Edith’s mother.

                            When Lady Edith becomes pregnant with Michael Gregson’s child, she finds a strong support system in her aunt, Lady Rosamund Painswick. Upon learning Edith’s secret, Rosamund travels to Downton Abbey to help her niece through her pregnancy, and suggests adoption options as the due date draws near. Some fans have interpreted this empathy as a clue that Rosamund, not Lady Grantham, is Edith’s true mother. It could also explain why Edith looks (and behaves) so different from her sisters. Or it could just be a sign that Rosamund cares about her niece.

                            7. Lady Mary’s “operation” was IVF.

                            In season 3, Lady Mary claims to have undergone a “small operation” that will help her start a family with Matthew. It’s maddeningly unclear what this operation entails, but one wild guess is that she had an early version of IVF. The complete crackpot theory is that this was a cover for Matthew’s infertility, which the doctors wouldn’t disclose to him, presumably to preserve his 1920s masculinity.

                            8. Lady Mary’s son George becomes a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II.

                            Lady Mary’s son George is only five years old in the series finale of Downton Abbey. But that means he would theoretically be 18 in the fall of 1939, which is exactly when World War II broke out in Europe. He would almost certainly enlist, as show creator Julian Fellowes himself has suggested. But Decider has more specifically theorized that George would join the Royal Air Force (RAF), “with a desire to rebel against his emotionally distant mother and find purpose in a greater cause.” Sounds like George would be taking part in some dangerous missions, putting the entire family’s future at risk.

                            9. Public tours keep the estate alive.

                            The Crawleys spend much of Downton Abbey fretting about the future management of their estate—partially because Lord Grantham is kind of bad at it. But Lady Mary has taken over when the series ends, and Fellowes believes she’d find savvy ways to keep her family’s home in their hands. “She would probably have opened the house to the public in the 1960s, as so many of them did,” Fellowes told Deadline. “And she’d have retreated to a wing, and maybe only occupied the whole house during the winters. My own belief is that the Crawleys would still be there.”

                            10. The Dowager Countess keeps Denker and Spratt around for the drama.

                            Gladys Denker is a maid to the Dowager Countess. Septimus Spratt is her butler. These two do not like each other, and they’re quite public about it. Denker and Spratt’s unprofessional squabbles would’ve gotten plenty of other servants fired, but fans believe the Dowager Countess keeps them employed for her own amusement.

                            You Can Rent This Wizard of Oz-Themed Cottage in North Carolina

                            Airbnb
                            Airbnb

                            This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the classic 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book. In addition to watching the film, you can opt for a more immersive way to celebrate the occasion. As Travel + Leisure reports, a cottage in West Jefferson, North Carolina offered on Airbnb is perfect for any traveling Oz fan—and it’s only $35 a night.

                            The studio cottage is considered a glamping destination and is slim on amenities—it has a breakfast nook, porch, sofa bed, and a Porta John—but the Oz-themed details more than make up for the lack of luxurious perks.

                            A pair of stockinged feet are visible under the home, hinting at a witch’s untimely demise; a character mural of Dorothy and her three escorts, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, appears on the side of the cabin; inside, various other decorations pay homage to Baum's books, including a pair of ruby slippers and a few stuffed Totos.

                            A cottage with a 'Wizard of Oz' theme in West Jefferson, North Carolina is pictured
                            Airbnb

                            If you go, you’ll have to act quickly. The cottage is open only in the spring, summer, and fall, as it has no heat.

                            The Airbnb listing has a perfect score across 16 reviews. You can book it here.

                            [h/t Travel + Leisure]

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