Five Similarities Between “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
My perfect December evening is curling up on the couch under a cozy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate and a pine-scented candle. Completing this image is a festive Christmas movie! Seasonal blues can have us feeling Grinchy, but I find my favorite Christmas movies to be a great source of comfort and joy. Each year, I make a list of much-watch seasonal films, including a somewhat controversial choice: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Each of the Harry Potter films has some kind of Christmassy scene; however, the first film, directed by Christmas fan Chris Columbus, captures the merry-and-bright spirit best. Columbus also directed Home Alone. It turns out that the two festive films have a lot more in common besides the holiday. From plot points to character tropes, they’re practically mirrors of one another. Here are some of the most striking similarities I found while watching these ’90s films back-to-back.
Harry Potter and Kevin McCallister are young boys who are often mistreated at home until their lives get turned upside down. When we first meet him, Harry suffers at the hands of the Dursleys and lives in a cupboard under the stairs; likewise, Kevin is bullied by relatives and sent to sleep in the attic. The scene in which the McAllisters are angry at Kevin for ruining their pizza mirrors the scene where Harry is punished for removing the glass at the zoo. In each case, it’s not solely the kid’s fault, but they bear the blame.
In Home Alone, Kevin awakens to find his wish has come true, believing he magically made his family disappear. Harry, of course, finds that he’s literally a wizard and escapes to Hogwarts. Despite their young ages, Kevin and Harry have strong moral compasses and courageously rise to the occasion to defeat formidable foes. Both are clever, snarky, endearing, and perfectly cast. This makes sense considering casting directors Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins worked on both films.
Well before the Wet Bandits (the iconic duo, Harry and Marv) make themselves known to him, Kevin sees Old Man Marley as the biggest threat to the block. Likewise, from the moment Severus Snape appears on our screens, he is the primary suspect for the most dangerous antagonist Harry is likely to face off against.
In both films, the trope of mistaken villain is used. Marley ends up saving Kevin’s life just as Snape saves Harry’s. Home Alone‘s main antagonists end up being the Wet Bandits, who may not be quite as formidable as Lord Voldemort, but they are more comparable to the evil yet easily-defeated Quirinus Quirrell.
Third-Act Obstacle Courses
We all know how Harry ends his first year at Hogwarts defending the Sorcerer’s Stone, but first, he, Hermione, and Ron had to face a series of obstacles. They put Fluffy to sleep before tumbling into Devil’s Snare; next, Harry had to catch one of many violent keys to unlock a door; finally, the trio played their dangerous chess game. All of this led to Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort himself.
In Home Alone, it was Kevin’s carefully planned series of booby traps that the bad guys had to work through, including ice, fire, and a tarantula. Like Ron, the Wet Bandits are knocked out in the end with help from Old Man Marley. So while the two films have different ways of going about it, they share this trope of a dangerous obstacle course in the third act.
The dangers faced by both Harry and Kevin are very real. Voldemort ruthlessly orders Quirrell to kill Harry. Similarly, the Wet Bandits ruminate on how best to torture Kevin and frequently voice their intention to kill him. These villains initially underestimate the young hero’s abilities, but they are quick to commit to murdering a child.
Despite this, both films achieved a PG rating. This was carefully handled by Chris Columbus and producer Mark Radcliffe, who also worked on both films. In a behind-the-scenes video, Radcliffe discussed options for Quirrell’s on-screen death, saying, “It won’t look too scary, but it would look cool.” Both movies delicately struck a balance between light and dark, avoiding anything too gruesome for a children’s movie.
Finally, if you listen to the score for both films, you will undoubtedly notice some similar tones and musical cues. Each film has uplifting motifs that are iconic and easily recognizable. I find the chord progressions in the Christmassy scenes at Hogwarts to be particularly similar to the overall soundtrack for Home Alone.
There’s a reason why these two movies have such a similar sound. In addition to sharing a director, a producer, and two casting directors, Sorcerer’s Stone and Home Alone also share the well-loved composer, John Williams.
It makes sense why these are two films from my childhood are some of my all-time favorites. They are nostalgic, fun stories with endearing characters and wholesome themes. I’d recommend watching them back-to-back and keeping an eye out for ways in which they mirror one another. Most of all, watch these magical movies for their Christmas cheer.