When it comes to Christmas movies, “Home Alone” is a certified classic. Universally beloved, this franchise spans nearly two decades, though you may not realize that there are a total of five — yes, five “Home Alone” movies. It’s the series that gave us Macaulay Culkin’s legendary hands-on-face pose, and iconic lines like “keep the change, ya filthy animal.”
But if you’re anything like me (and by that I mean if you are planning to sit down and marathon all five movies) you learn very quickly that not all “Home Alone” movies are created equal. Here at Fast Feed, we love rankings, so naturally we’re going to rank all five “Home Alone” movies from worst to best.
Disclaimer: I know we all take our Christmas movies seriously, so let’s face it: this is going to be controversial. Christmas movies are personal — they’re closely tied to memories and traditions, and this list reflects my own experience!
5. “Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House”
Right off the bat, we have “Home Alone 4”, a made-for-tv movie released in 2002, originally airing on ABC. If you can get past the less-than-satisfying imitation of Macaulay Culkin’s iconic pose on the cover, you’ll notice some choices that start this film off in the wrong direction.
Unlike “Home Alone 3”, which opted for new protagonists after two films with Kevin McCallister and the rest of his family, “Home Alone 4” brings them back. Inexplicably, everything has changed. Kevin’s parents are now divorced, his dad is dating a young, wealthy woman, and every character is played by a different actor. Why bother keeping the same characters if you’re going to change everything about them? I guess when you’re trying to squeeze film number four out of a decade-old franchise, you’ve got to use your assets.
It’s jarring to see these classic characters played by unfamiliar faces, and particularly disappointing is the return of the wet bandit Marv, who feels like an empty caricature of the original (and not in a good way). The cherry on top is an attempt to “modernize” the classic by introducing a smart home mansion as the setting, which sets the film up for some high-tech hijinks that remind us a little too much of another Macaulay flick, “Richie Rich.” It does provide some good laughs watching in present-day, as characters gleefully use their voice to open doors, instead of the doorknob right in front of them.
4. “Home Alone: The Holiday Heist”
Surprisingly, the last installment of the “Home Alone” series is not the worst. Released in 2012, “Home Alone: The Holiday Heist” originally aired on ABC Family. Ten years after “Home Alone 4,” we get the next installment, which, like the third movie, introduces an entirely new family along with new villains and supporting characters. Our official stance is that if you must make another “Home Alone” film, it is best to leave the McCallisters out of it.
Although it’s not a good piece of cinema, it’s not as bad as it could be. The booby traps are interesting, and there seems to be more depth to the characters. This film undoubtably has a bit more soul than the fourth. Even if it doesn’t quite make you feel as much as the first films, it does try, and that makes all the difference.
3. “Home Alone 3”
The third “Home Alone” movie feels like the true neutral of the bunch. This 1997 film would be the last in the franchise to be written and produced by “Home Alone” creator John Hughes. It doesn’t make the same mistakes the fourth film made by trying to replicate the iconic characters from the first two films, and it’s ok with blazing its own trail. One film critic even argued it was the best of the series.
Immediately you’ll notice a significant change in tone — gone are the wet bandit home burglars, who have been replaced by new villains: a North Korean terrorist organization. Pretty intense stuff, right?
Actor Alex D. Linz does a praise-worthy job of trying to follow up Culkin in the lead role, bringing the same sharp wit and adorable delivery we fell in love with during the first two films. And although it starts to feel more like a spy or action movie made for children with the absence of composer John Williams’ iconic score, it’s reminiscent enough of the original films that it’s not entirely offensive, though I imagine if it were the only sequel without Culkin, I would feel very differently.
2. “Home Alone”
Now, for the controversy. I know, I know — how can I rank the original below a sequel? Like I said, Christmas movies are personal, so if you want to know why you’ll have to read below, but for now let’s focus on this cinematic masterpiece.
The original formula that led to five sequels over a 20 year period was released in 1990. Although it had a lukewarm reception by critics, the coming-of-age story struck a chord across generations in the coming years.
The factors that made this film so great are plentiful. You have the comedic writing that walks the line between slapstick and subtle intellectual humor paired with the perfect delivery of child star Macaulay Culkin. You have a story that is at once entirely unbelievable yet relatable. There are heartfelt moments that teach us about family and belonging, and there are clever, action sequences with booby traps that could make anyone start thinking like a kid again.
Without a doubt, “Home Alone” is a perfect Christmas movie.
1. “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”
The reason “Home Alone 2” ranks above the original for me is easy — it’s the film I grew up with. My grandparents had the VHS, and all I ever wanted to do was watch the movie when I visited, whether it was Christmas or spring.
This time around, when Kevin gets separated from his family and ends up in New York City, he’s a bit more comfortable trying to make the most of his solo vacation. A confident Kevin McCallister strolls into the Plaza Hotel with his dad’s credit card, outsmarts the front desk and talks his way into a suite, all while saying “a kid, going into a hotel, making a reservation? I don’t think so.” We also see the return of a hilarious “Home Alone” gag as Kevin plays clips from movies to the hotel staff outside his door as he tries to avoid detection.
The intricate booby traps set against the wondrous city scape of New York, the pigeon lady, Tim Curry and Rob Schneider as the hotel employees — this film is the gift that keeps on giving.
So curl up, turn on the TV and fire up your streaming services because it’s time for “Home Alone!”