How John Hughes Came Up With Home Alone

2 minute read

When Home Alone was released 25 years ago, on Nov. 16, 1990, it was both a sleeper hit and not. On one hand, the movie that TIME would soon call “the undisputed conqueror of the Christmas movie season” that year had been turned down by Warner Bros. before 20th Century Fox scooped it up.

On the other hand, screenwriter Hughes had a strong record of Christmas-time movie success, bringing out Home Alone on the heels of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. And Home Alone proved he could do it again. TIME explained:

Like all of Hughes’ ideas, Home Alone sprang from a small domestic problem. ‘’I was going away on vacation,’’ he says, ‘’and making a list of everything I didn’t want to forget. I thought, ‘Well, I’d better not forget my kids.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I left my 10-year-old son at home? What would he do?’ ‘’ One what-if led to another. Taking a break from packing, Hughes wrote eight pages of notes that developed into the screenplay of Home Alone, which he also produced.

In order to come up with what would happen to Home Alone‘s Kevin during his solo adventures, Hughes used the same technique, imagining what a real kid was most scared of: robbers, naturally.

Home Alone beat out a handful of more serious pictures to score more than $120 million before New Year’s, and also marked a larger cultural shift. Armed with the movie’s box-office numbers and the knowledge that Baby Boomer parents were willing to invest serious dollars in keeping their kids happy, movie studios turned the early ’90s into a new era of kid-powered pop culture.

Read the full feature about the film’s success, here in the TIME Vault: Home Alone Breaks Away

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