Who doesn’t love seeing Kevin McAllister fight off the bad guys in the holiday classic Home Alone? Directed by John Hughes, the beloved movie revolves around a young boy mistakenly left at home when his family flies to Paris for Christmas — and a mother's desperate journey to get back to him — all while burglars try to break into his house to steal all of the family’s precious belongings. Honestly, it’s pretty heavy stuff and high stakes, which raises the question: is Home Alone too scary for kids? After all, the idea of having to defend your house from Harry and Marv is pretty menacing, even if they are ridiculous. Here’s what parents need to know before watching Home Alone with their little kids this holiday season.
Home Alone has some scary moments.
While there are themes of family, love, and forgiveness in 1990’s Home Alone, there are also a significant amount of scary situations that come up when poor little Kevin (Macauley Culkin) is left alone in his Chicago-area home/mansion. And, honestly, for my 7-year-old, just the idea of Kevin being without his family around got her weepy to the point of needing to pause the movie. Of course the main threat in the film comes from the movie’s villains, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern). For some parents their goofy antics and slapstick comedy might balance out their menacing (if inept) behavior of breaking into houses and threatening children.
There’s also the ever-looming specter of “Old Man Marley,” who isn’t actually a bad guy, but we don’t know that right away. Prior to having a sweet heart-to-heart with Kevin in church, he is forebodingly (if incorrectly) portrayed as a serial killer who hauls around his murdered family in a garbage can.
But kids love Home Alone’s Kevin for a reason.
There’s a reason kids love to watch Kevin take on the bad guys. It’s not just because he’s so darn clever coming up with a series of booby traps for The Wet Bandits in his plan to protect his home involves everything from a paint can to the head to stepping barefoot on broken glass ornaments. He also tackles a whole bunch of his own fears. The furnace in the basement, for instance. Doing his own laundry. Grocery shopping. All things little kids might think they could never do on their own, and there he is figuring it out, in spite of being afraid, without any adult around to back him up. At first, anyhow.
So, what age is Home Alone appropriate for?
This is one of those times when you have to ask questions about your kid(s) specifically. Does your child have fears about your home being robbed? Being left at home alone? Having a big hairy spider crawl on their face? If so, this is obviously not the right time for Home Alone. Asking yourself these types of questions is is more relevant than figuring out whether if your child is old enough for the movie. It’s really less about the age of the child than the child themselves.
Common Sense Media has ranked Home Alone, which is rated PG, as appropriate for children ages 10 and older, though parents on the site say 8 and older is fine. But again, it's simply knowing your child and what makes them tick, so to speak. Also be prepared to deal with some questionable behavior on Kevin’s part that parents probably don’t want their own kids emulating.
What else should parents consider about Home Alone?
Parents might also need to consider what happens in the first few scenes of Home Alone. Culkin's Kevin is downright disrespectful to his mother, played by icon Catherine O’Hara. (Though, in our opinion, turnaround is fair play...) There is name calling between siblings and other family members, and a few curse words thrown around as well.
But in the quiet, reflective moments of the film, you'll find the heart of Home Alone is really the importance of love and family. And there's nothing scary about that.
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