In the roster of beloved family Christmas movies, it’s fair to say that the films of the Home Alone franchise – the first two, at least – rank pretty highly for most people, thanks to their mix of pure nostalgia and Macaulay Culkin’s supremely adorable face. Culkin’s Kevin McCallister might seem like the perfect hero, but if you really pay attention, his actions in the Home Alone movies are actually far more villainous in nature, to such an extent that he could be considered the bad guy of the series. Don’t believe us? Consider the following evidence…
He is fascinated by serial killers
One shared theme in the first two Home Alone films is that the scary adult isn’t so bad after all. In the original, Kevin learns that Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) is actually just a kind and lonely gentleman with a sad backstory, whilst in the sequel the homeless lady who feeds pigeons in Central Park (Brenda Fricker) is actually compassionate and intelligent.
It’s worth noting, though, that Kevin is at first fascinated with Marley because he thinks he’s obsessed with his brother’s story that his elderly neighbour is a serial killer. As scared as Kevin is, the boy seems thrilled by the idea, and maybe a little disappointed once he finds out Marley is really friendly.
He tortures innocents for fun
Defenders of Home Alone’s violence argue that Kevin only acts in self defence, only harming those who deserve it. How, then, can we justify his treatment of D. Danny Warhol’s pizza delivery boy? Before Kevin uses any of his booby traps on Harry and Marv, he makes the totally innocent pizza guy believe he is about to be shot, just so he drops the pizza and flees.
Not only has Kevin probably traumatized the poor , but it’s made worse by the fact that the pizza boy is definitely on minimum wage, and probably had to pay for the stolen pizza as well as being yelled at by his boss and possibly fired. Despicable.
He gaslights his mother
Early in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin literally pretends to have not made it into the minibus to the airport, just to mess with his mother. That might seem perfectly justified given she did indeed forget him in the first movie, but Kate’s reaction immediately proves that she’s totally traumatised by her previous mistake.
She immediately goes into meltdown any time she thinks she’s lost Kevin again, and goes above and beyond to find him whenever she actually does. Kevin rewards this by slyly reminding her of her failings constantly, and reaping the benefits of her trauma and regret.
He has no self-control
Getting the extended family together can play havoc with anyone’s nerves, but Kevin’s response to conflict points to a serious inability to deal with any kind of stress. After finding that his specifically requested pizza has already been eaten, it’s understandable that Kevin might be a bit upset, but his reaction is alarming.
Kevin releases a guttural scream, then he launches himself at his brother Buzz – and manages to push and claw until he pins the much older and bigger boy against the kitchen counter. We might expect such a fight-or-flight reaction in a genuine life or death scenario, but not over pizza.
His booby traps would cause life-long injuries, if not death
Everyone agrees Home Alone’s booby traps are hilarious. But if we look beyond the slapstick humour and consider what Kevin is actually doing to Harry and Marv, it’s truly brutal stuff. Actual studies have been done on the real level of harm the traps would inflict, and the long and short of it is that they would either be killed outright, or be left suffering painful ailments for the rest of their no doubt miserable lives.
That blow torch, for example, would cause a burn severe enough to kill the cells in Harry’s skull, ultimately causing his head to rot away and cave in. Meanwhile, the superheated doorknobs would lead to hand amputations, while the litany of things dropped on both burglars’ heads would require extensive plastic surgery and most likely brain damage rehabilitation. Funny, right?
He has violent hallucinations
On top of Kevin’s temper, there’s also the problem of his constant visual and auditory hallucinations. When we first find out that Kevin is afraid of the basement, it seems like the perfectly normal response of a kid to a place that is cold, dark and full of cobwebs – but Kevin’s response goes way beyond ordinary. He’s terrified of the furnace, hearing it make horrifying noises and seeing it twist and distort.
Given the realism of the rest of the film, it’s reasonable to assume that Kevin really does think that the furnace is coming to life for revenge when he imagines it doing so, which points to a serious and potentially damaging phobia that might explain his need to protect himself.
He has no respect for privacy
Kevin is a menace who is obsessed with spying on his family and peers. In certain situations, like fighting off comedically stupid burglars, Kevin’s ability to skulk around is actually pretty useful, but that only points to some super weird habits in his ordinary life.
Kevin is constantly listening in to his parent’s conversations and isn’t afraid to infiltrate the rooms of his relatives and rifle through their stuff. Then in Home Alone 2, Kevin has no qualms about walking in on his Uncle Frank in the shower, and even secretly recording his voice during those private moments.
He lets his neighbours’ houses get destroyed
Kevin might be the protagonist of the Home Alone movies, but he’s hardly the only one who gets dragged into the story, as the people unlucky enough to live next door to Kevin also have their lives ruined. When Kevin’s own basement is flooded thanks to his antics, we see evidence that it is not just his own house that is affected, but that of his neighbours as well.
Not only that, but Kevin actually realises that this is happening, and still declines to say anything in case it gives the game away on his holiday torture vacation. Even worse, Kevin suspects the Bandits and watches as they loot his neighbours of all their precious valuables, and he still says nothing in case it leads to him getting grounded.
He’s a compulsive spender
Kevin proves in both Home Alone movies that he believes his family should pay for leaving him behind, both emotionally and financially. In the first movie, he completely and utterly destroys the family home, running up a repair bill that would easily inch into the thousands of dollars.
In the second movie, meanwhile, rather than going to the authorities, Kevin chooses to go on a huge spending spree, checks into the glitziest hotel he could possibly find, orders a patently absurd amount of room service, and even hires his own private limo – all of it charged to his father’s credit card.
He doesn’t have a single friend
As the title implies, Kevin does spend a fair bit of time on his own in the Home Alone movies. While he does develop friendships of sorts with creepy old people, it’s noticeable that at no point in the two films do we see Kevin interact with an actual friend close to his own age.
One simple explanation for this might be that all Kevin’s many beloved schoolfriends are simply on vacation for the holidays, but his needy, impulsive and overly-emotional behaviour suggests a different reality. Simply put: he probably doesn’t have any friends at all.
What’s the reason that the Home Alone franchise has remained a beloved family classic, despite the fact that the protagonist is an undeniable sociopath? It’s quite simple: Kevin is so manipulative that he is capable of tricking an audience into believing he is totally angelic, even as he tricks the characters on screen.
In the first film, he lulls the burglars into a false sense of security with his apparent innocence, and lies his head off to the supermarket checkout girl. Then in the sequel he spends a significant amount of time staying at a luxury hotel before anyone suspects a thing, and he constantly takes taxis, walks around completely alone, and talks to strangers – without ever losing control.
He’s obsessed with violence
One would hope any small child would be traumatised by having to physically defend themselves from adults, but Kevin takes to violence like a duck to water. He watches violent movies, he idolises his neighbour who he believes is a serial killer, and he handles a gun with ease and knowledge.
We see Kevin smirk with satisfaction several times in the first movie – is that because he’s just defended his house and his life? Or because he likes the sight of someone tumbling down the stairs, and knowing that he has caused them immense physical pain?
He’s massively sheltered
The strange thing about Kevin is that as violent, rage-filled and determined as he is, he’s also seriously sheltered. Kevin is scared of his siblings, his older relatives and the outside world in general, as seen in the way it takes him a few tries in the first movie to get further than the end of his drive.
Then, on top of his fear of the basement, Kevin is also afraid of sleeping in the attic – even though the McCallister house attic could quite easily be converted into a comfortable studio apartment. Small wonder his grasp of reality seems so tenuous.
He’s unfathomably annoying
Throughout the Home Alone franchise, Kevin is portrayed as a pretty sympathetic person. We see him get overlooked by his parents, bullied by his siblings, belittled by his older relatives, and exposed to casual callousness by people on the streets of New York. When you think about it, however, there has to be a reason why Kevin is so completely reviled by his family.
Uncle Frank calls Kevin a “little jerk”, while his cousin calls him “a disease.” This is obviously not how the family all talk to each other by default. In fact, they mostly seem to get on with each other and exist in the same chaotic harmony, Kevin excepted. The obvious explanation for this is that before the events of the first movie, Kevin was just an absolute menace to his siblings, uncles and cousins.
He ruins his father’s relationship
Despite what would for most people be life-changing experiences, Kevin doesn’t mature. Even by Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (which would feature a teenage Kevin McCallister, had he not be recast and forcibly aged down), he considers himself the most important person in the family, to the point of destroying the lives of those around him.
Home Alone 4 sees Kevin set out to expose his father’s new girlfriend as some kind of evil stepmother and reunite his dad with his mother. This could have been quite sweet, but both Kevin’s parents are drastically unsuited to each other, hence why they are considering divorce in the first place.
He’s too toxic to be around his siblings
There are many strange elements to Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House, not least the casting changes. Maybe the most sinister change, though, is that two of Kevin’s siblings just aren’t around anymore, something that is simply never addressed. We see elder bully Buzz and world-weary Megan sitting next to Kevin on the couch but Jeff and Linney, who are easy to spot in the first two movies, are nowhere to be seen.
Given that they are not living with the freshly estranged father, and the family have downsized to a much smaller house, there is only one explanation. Either the two younger siblings were rehomed after living in the shadow of Buzz and Kevin’s constant yelling, fighting and scheming – or one of Kevin’s trap ideas went south in a truly unfortunate way.
He’s not welcome in his own neighbourhood
On a similar note, Home Alone 4 opens on a shot of the McCallister household, but it’s not the household that we know and love. It is much smaller, much less grand, and is in a totally different neighbourhood, and we’re never given a clear reason for why this is. Still, it’s easy to theorise about the explanations, and most of the possible ones involve Kevin as the central factor.
Let us theorise that Kevin’s destructive tendencies either monetarily affected the family to the point that they had to downsize, or Kevin’s behaviour made him such a liability in the eyes of the neighbourhood that the whole family was asked to leave.
He’s super judgemental
Kevin of all protagonists should know that appearances can be deceiving, as a tiny, bottle-blond kid with a secret rage who can take down basically any adult criminal. However, despite him knowing that nobody is exactly what they appear to be on the surface, Kevin still pre-judges everybody he meets.
Whether it’s remaining steadfast that Old Man Marley is out to get him, or being convinced that the Bird Lady in New York is some kind of sinister, insane witch – it takes almost a whole movie in either case for him to go back on his earlier opinion. Even in the fourth movie, Kevin is still suspicious of Mr. Prescott, who is nothing but dedicated to his job the whole movie.
He has no loyalty
The inciting incident in Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House is that Kevin must choose whether to spend Christmas with his mother and family, or with his father and his new girlfriend Natalie. Kevin’s siblings, both Buzz and Megan, decide to stay with their mother – despite the fact that the house is much smaller, and has far fewer luxuries.
Kevin feels absolutely none of the loyalty that his siblings display, and jumps at the opportunity to leave them all behind. He does have the good sense to seem begrudging about it, but then immediately jumps right into the lap of luxury at Natalie’s house. He then spends the whole time trying to ruin the hierarchy of the house and ruin the girlfriend’s life, just showing that he’s ungrateful wherever he goes.
Even the fan theories say that he’s the villain
For an adorable Christmas film that dozens of families watch every year, there are a lot of fan theories centred on Home Alone, and almost all of them are pretty morbid. One of the main ones is the sold soul theory, which states that John Candy’s character in the first movie is actually the devil, and Kevin’s mother Kate sells her soul to him to get back to the house.
Another similar theory suggests Kevin isn’t just a sweet young boy, but an evil poltergeist who isn’t aware that he’s dead. None of the rest of the family can see him, but they’re all aware of his presence, and they actually go on holiday to get away from his antics for a couple of days.