Home Alone Vs. Home Alone 2: Which Is Actually The Better Movie

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

This sounds crazy, I know, but there is an argument to be made as to which is the better Home Alone movie: the original 1990 holiday classic or its 1992 followup Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Typically, sequels are nothing more than a big cash grab playing on the memories, expectations, and even tropes introduced in their predecessors, but Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) getting lost in the Big Apple and spending the second consecutive Christmas away from his family (even Uncle Frank) holds its own as a worthy sequel. 

But even though Home Alone 2: Lost in New York remains one of the better sequels out there, is it better than Home Alone? Did John Hughes and Chris Columbus take what they learned on the first film and master it? How does the plot, the sense of danger, and even the cast of characters compare? Let's break it down and settle this once and for all…

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone

The Plot Of Home Alone And Home Alone 2

Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York both lead up to epic showdowns between Kevin McCallister and the Wet/Sticky Bandits, but which movie does a better job of getting the audience to the painful, stomach-churning physical comedy in their respective final acts?

Home Alone's Plot

The first Home Alone movie has a pretty barebones approach to its story: Kevin gets left behind due to his parents' gross negligence, two local robbers plan on breaking into his house, and he has to muster the strength and courage to protect his family's home. There are a few branching subplots (Old Man Marley trying to reconnect with his family; Kate McCallister hitching a ride with the Kenosha Kickers), but once things really start for Kevin, they don't let up until he prevents Marv and Harry from robbing his house blind and gets them arrested.

Home Alone 2's Plot

Like most sequels, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York takes the basic structure of the first movie, but places Kevin in the heart of the Big Apple and follows him on more adventures in the span of two days than anyone could imagine. Throughout the movie, Kevin has a series of run-ins with the snobbish staff at the Plaza Hotel, a subplot involving Duncan's Toy Chest, a facsimile of Old Man Marley with the Pigeon Lady, and last, but not least, the return of his old friends, the Wet Bandits (now going by the Sticky Bandits.

Which Movie's Plot Is Better

There is just so much going on in the two-hour runtime of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, you are exhausted by just trying to keep up. That being said, the more streamlined plot of Home Alone takes the first point here.

Tim Curry, Dana Ivey, and Rob Schneider in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

The Home Alone Characters

Both Home Alone installments are filled with some of the most memorable characters in holiday movie history with icons like Uncle Frank, Kate McCallister, the Wet Bandits, and the Plaza Hotel staff, but which list of supporting characters is the best?

Home Alone's Characters

In addition to Kevin McCallister, Home Alone introduced the world to one of the biggest jerks of all time: Uncle Frank. You also have the extended McCallister family, the Wet Bandits, Old Man Marley, and the Santa Claus who looks like he's on his 11th day of Christmas. Each of these, well maybe not hungover Santa, add something to the story and help build the world around Kevin as he fends off the crooks and becomes the man of the house (unless the furnace kicks on in the basement).

Home Alone 2's Characters

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York features most of the main and outlying characters from the first film but adds the staff (and more) at the Plaza Hotel, which creates some unforgettable moments and confrontations thanks to Kevin's ability to use recorded conversations (like Uncle Frank in the shower) and old movies (Angels with Even Filthier Souls). Tim Curry, Dana Ivey, and Rob Schneider are all on top of their game in ever scene where they interact with Kevin throughout the movie. Then there's Mr. Duncan, the Pigeon Lady, and even the city of New York.

Which Movie's Characters Are Better

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York gets the point here thanks to the return of most of the characters from the first movie and all those great additions, especially those at the Plaza Hotel.

Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, and Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

The Element Of Danger

Both Home Alone movies have a lot going for them in terms of the element of danger, but which is more dangerous: being home alone with two criminals trying to break in or being alone in New York City?

Home Alone's Element Of Danger

The fun and excitement of Kevin being on his own in Home Alone quickly fades away as soon as he has his first run-in with the Wet Bandits and after that it's a series of encounters that would be frightening for even adults who were home alone. Add in all of Kevin's plans to fortify his house (we'll get into that later on) and you have yourself a recipe for near disaster.

Home Alone 2's Element Of Danger

In the 1992 followup, however, Kevin is on his own in New York City (as the name suggests), but is still forced to face two men who undoubtedly plan on killing him in an empty subway tunnel. Then you have to factor in Kevin's nighttime trip to Central Park, the encounters with the Plaza Hotel staff, and the fact that he is a 10-year-old alone in New York in the middle of a winter night with no one there to protect him except for a homeless woman who has a thing for birds.

Which Movie Has More Danger

As terrifying as it might have been for Kevin to deal with two crooks breaking into his house on Christmas Eve, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York gets the point here because he was alone in New York, which at the time was still a dangerous and seedy place for anyone to venture alone at night, let alone a child.

Joe Pesci in Home Alone

The Wet Bandits' Plan

Next up, we have Harry and Marv, aka, the Wet Bandits/Sticky Bandits, and their plan to make it big with various criminal acts in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.

Home Alone's Plan

In Home Alone, the Wet Bandits scope out (well, mostly Harry when he dresses up like a cop) the entire street on which the McCallisters live, figure out when they're going out of town, where they're going, and what to expect in terms of security. And although the scheme doesn't work out according to plan because of Kevin, you have to admit that this is a pretty ingenious way of pulling off a big job.

Home Alone 2's Plan

The plan in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York involves Harry and Marv breaking out of prison, finding their way to New York City, breaking into Duncan's Toy Chest on Christmas Eve, and taking loads of cash so they can buy fake passports and flee the country once and for all. Just like in the first movie, the plan goes to crap when Kevin catches wind of it.

Which Movie Has The Wet Bandits' Best Plan

As great of a scheme it was in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the originality of the plan from Home Alone is one of the all-time greats. And if it weren't for Kevin, the Wet Bandits would have been able to rob ever single house on the street and be out of town before anyone noticed.

Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone

The Planning Of The Boobytraps

For the fifth and final category, you will probably want to queue up John Williams' "Setting The Traps" from the Home Alone soundtrack before we get started with the breakdown of the boobytraps in both movies.

Home Alone's Boobytraps

Kevin's painstakingly planned and arranged boobytraps in Home Alone was like nothing that had ever been seen when the movie came in 1990. Kevin had every door (and doorknob), window, stairway, and every other square inch of his parents' massive home ready for a siege of epic proportions. And even though I'm still having a hard time figuring out how he got that all set up (and later, cleaned up) over the course of a few hours, there's nothing better than seeing the young kid take down two criminals with nothing more than household supplies.

Home Alone 2's Boobytraps

Like most aspects of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin's boobytraps at his uncle's Brownstone takes what worked in the first movie and turns it up a notch (or two). And while the fake-out over the paint cans makes for a great moment and Marv getting electicuted to the point of becoming a skeleton with hair both work, a lot what happens on Christmas Eve just rehashes most of what happened in the first movie. The burning rope and toilet filled with kerosine, however, still bring the laughs.

Which Movie Had The Better Boobytraps

As great as the new and improved boobytraps are in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, nothing will come close to how things went the first time around. The traps were inventive, made sense, and could even be replicated despite our parents' attempts to stop us.

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone

Which Is The Better Movie: Home Alone Or Home Alone 2?

Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are pretty much equal in terms of quality of storytelling, comedy, and danger, but the Wet Bandits' plan, the creativity of the boobytraps, and the streamlined nature of the plot help make a case for the original movie.

Do you agree with the winner here or are you in the camp that thinks Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is the superior movie? Make sure to sound off in the comments below and don't forget to take part in the poll down below.

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Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.