Everyone likely already knows the basic premise of the franchise. One fateful morning, just a few days before Christmas, young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin in his breakthrough role) is accidentally left home alone while the rest of his family travels to Paris…completely unaware that two burglars are planning on breaking into their house. But fear not, Kevin defends his territory with a series of tricks, traps, and his totally '90s know-it-all attitude that turned the then-child actor into an overnight sensation.
Since the first film, five more have been released, spanning everything from theatrical runs to straight-to-video disasters, and even a Disney+ exclusive. But which ones are worth watching this holiday season?
Here is every Home Alone movie (all available to stream on Disney+), ranked.
Universally panned by critics and audiences, Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House is truly a miserable experience that, thankfully, no one is being forced to sit through. This made-for-TV movie premiered on ABC in 2002, and for some reason, it decided to focus its plot on the McCallister family once again. Kevin has been recast with an unknown child actor, and, despite being released more than a decade after the first film, he’s still 9 years old.
Adding to the disaster is the bland and lifeless story where Kevin is now staying in the ritzy mansion of his dad’s new girlfriend. And, surprise, surprise, a heist is soon underway — and Kevin is the only one who can stop it. The most tragic part of this entire film is that the new bandit duo is played by two very capable and funny actors, French Stewart and Missi Pyle. Sadly, a dead script (the first with zero screenplay contribution from John Hughes) and a lifeless new child actor suck away all the potential Pyle and Stewart could have brought to the film.
Cruelest trap: French Stewart gets his neck crushed in a dumbwaiter.
Another made-for-TV installment of the franchise, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist follows up Home Alone 4 a full decade later. Again, reviews were less than enthusiastic, since the story was yet another cheap imitation of the first film… but made with a tenth of the effort.
In the movie, a family moves into a new home. The son immediately gets bad vibes from the house and believes it’s haunted, and much of the film actually comes across like a small-screen Halloween special, causing The Holiday Heist to constantly feel off-balanced — and very much not a Christmas movie.
Another notable change is a surprising lack of violence in this installment (which could be because it premiered on the ABC Family channel, now Freeform). Despite Home Alone being famous for its elaborate traps, The Holiday Heist takes a much more tame approach, with the “traps” turning more into “a bad guy gets stuck in a window and then hit with a slingshot.” Yes, it’s as dull to watch as it sounds.
Thankfully, the story focuses on a new family and a new house, so at least it doesn’t drag Kevin McCallister into this, or feel as desperate as Home Alone 4.
Cruelest trap: Bring a book, this movie’s got nothing.
This installment marks when the Home Alone series begins its derailment. After the massive success of the first two movies, a third movie was inevitable. The original idea was that Culkin would reprise his role, now as a teenager, giving a fresh coat of paint to the franchise. However, by the late ’90s, Culkin was no longer acting, so the concept was reworked, and Chris Columbus and John Williams were dropped along the way. Now, it would focus on a new family and a new house, with the biggest soon-to-be star being Scarlett Johansson as a stand-in older sister.
Surprisingly, the movie stays true to the scrappiness of the series despite the technological advancements that happened throughout the ’90s. Home Alone 3 doesn’t focus on tech-centric traps, but instead, chooses to recycle the same ol’ lineup of people getting hit with falling objects, crashing through loose floorboards, and stepping on mouse traps.
While certainly not a great movie, it’s still better than 4 and 5 thanks to its cinema-level budget. Though a bit dull and done before, it was at least made with quality kid humor in mind. And, despite its mixed critical reviews, Home Alone 3 was actually a success at the box office (and the last theatrically released Home Alone movie), bringing in a decent $79 million globally.
Cruelest trap: After being electrocuted, two of the bad guys have a dresser dropped on their heads, followed by a barbell.
The newest Home Alone film actually has a surprising switch-up. In the movie, two parents (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper) are broke and about to lose their home. Their one chance of saving their house? An old doll worth $200,000. The problem is that it goes missing and they believe that Max, a kid who visited during an open house, stole it.
To save their home, they try to get the doll back by breaking into the kid’s house after they think his entire family has left on vacation. Naturally, Max was accidentally left behind and Home Alone madness begins. What’s interesting though is that audiences finally get to view the experience through the eyes of the “bad guys”… and what we see is that they aren’t actually bad, they’re just desperate and want what is rightfully theirs.
It completely changes the franchise’s dynamic, and you can’t really figure out which side you’re rooting for. Though the movie is far from perfect, Home Sweet Home Alone finally manages to switch up the Home Alone formula, giving audiences a different spin on the well-known story.
Another notable addition to the film is that OG Kevin’s older brother, Buzz (Devin Ratray), reprises his role in the movie, showing that this isn’t a reboot or remake, but actually a sequel. Buzz is now a local police officer and is… well, not the brightest, to put it nicely. Still, it’s definitely a great Easter egg for fans of the original movies who will surely recognize him.
Cruelest trap: Ellie Kemper gets shot numerous times by a Nerf gun filled with needles… nearly turning Home Alone into Saw II.
Initially, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was released to lousy reviews. Many critics said it was a copy of the first film and wasn’t nearly as good. A lot of them also bashed the movie for its violence, with the Chicago Tribune even saying, “The pleasures here are entirely cruel, with an unhealthy concentration on the suffering of the victims…”
And yet, the film remains truly iconic. Kevin (Macaulay Culkin’s only reprisal) is once again left behind, this time in New York City, with the very same “Wet Bandits” (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) hot on his tail for seconds. The new setting, however, works perfectly. Despite the movie being mostly recycled antics from the original film, pulling them out of suburbia and plopping them in the luxurious and expansive Big Apple makes it feel fresh and new.
Plus, it has so many memorable moments, from Kevin’s stay at The Plaza hotel to his exploration of Duncan’s Toy Chest (inspired by FAO Schwarz), and more. Lost in New York also has an ample supply of both loveable and screwball supporting characters, tons of really fun and interesting characters, like the Central Park pigeon lady that Kevin befriends and Tim Curry’s vengeful hotel concierge.
Despite what critics said at the time, Home Alone 2 has gone down as a Christmas classic and continuously plays on TV throughout the holiday season every year, with many holding it close to the original in terms of quality and nostalgia.
Cruelest trap: Marv is tricked into getting electrocuted, and then Kevin turns up the voltage, shocking him for almost 15 seconds straight.
The movie that started it all is still hands-down the best. The first film is exciting, funny, and, in an odd way, charming, proving the power of a good story (and a few practical effects). Home Alone, on paper, should be a horror movie — a young child left alone, forced to defeat intruders all by himself (the newly released holiday action-comedy Violent Night actually pays plenty of homage). But this cat-and-mouse chase turns out to be incredibly fun and lighthearted thanks largely to Kevin’s hilarious brilliance. His ingenious tricks, from the Michael Jordan cutout train to the absolutely iconic “Keep the change, you filthy animal,” recording, take a story that should have felt traumatic and instead chocks it full of holiday magic.
It’s hard to imagine anyone playing the role of Kevin McCallister better than Macaulay Culkin, and along with the palpable comedia chemistry between “Wet Bandits” Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, who can forget Catherine O’Hara as his guilt-ridden mother? (“Kevin!”) Granted, she did leave Kevin home alone (twice), but her dedication to reuniting with her son proves she really does care, and audiences can’t help but love her.
However, Home Alone‘s success wasn’t guaranteed. Upon its release, the movie was initially met with mixed reviews, but after raking in almost $286 million at the domestic box office alone, it quickly cemented itself as a Christmas classic, and a sequel was put into production.
Cruelest trap: Marv gets his shoes stuck on a tar-covered stairwell, so, barefoot, he continues up the stairs…stepping on a two-inch nail that goes straight through his foot. Ouch.