Fact Check

Kevin McCallister Watches a Fake Gangster Movie in 'Home Alone'

Black-and-white footage of the "film" was created just for the movie featuring McCallister, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin.

Published Dec 25, 2023

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Claim:
In the 1990 film "Home Alone," the character Kevin McCallister watches a black-and-white gangster movie that isn't real.

The holiday season often brings beloved traditions. For many people, watching the 1990 film "Home Alone" featuring actor Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister is among them — a movie that has resonated with audiences of all ages, all around the world.

And with that popularity has come numerous rumors about the film. For instance, in December 2023, an Instagram account shared an image with two screenshots from "Home Alone," along with the caption: "In Home Alone, the vintage gangster movie that Kevin watches (called Angels with Filthy Souls) isn't a real movie. It's only a one minute scene created for Home Alone."

That rumor about the black-and-white "movie" featured in "Home Alone" has circulated for years. In 2018, actor and filmmaker Seth Rogen said in a post on X (formerly Twitter), "My entire childhood, I thought the old times movie that Kevin watches in Home Alone (Angels With Filthy Souls) was actually an old movie." Rodney Rothman, an American filmmaker and author, responded to Rogen, "I didn't know it until you just said this." Even Culkin himself reposted Rogen's tweet, adding, "Me too."

The claim that Kevin watches a black-and-white gangster movie that isn't real is true. Julio Macat, cinematographer on "Home Alone," has told publications including Vanity Fair and Hollywood Reporter that the footage was conceptualized and created just for Culkin's character to watch in the movie.

In the in-question scene of "Home Alone," Kevin, who is accidentally left at home by his family during Christmas vacation, finds a videotape of a "movie" called "Angels with Filthy Souls." It features a scene where a gangster named Johnny confronts another gangster named Snakes. Johnny refuses to pay Snakes for "the stuff" and ends up shooting him after a brief exchange, concluding with the famous line, "Keep the change, ya filthy animal!" Kevin cleverly used the tape to play a prank on a pizza delivery boy, employing Johnny's lines in a way that resulted in scaring him away.

Here's the in-question scene from "Home Alone" movie:

In December 2015, Vanity Fair published an article titled, "Inside the Making of Home Alone’s Fake Gangster Movie." It started (emphasis ours):

As far as beloved family Christmas movies go, Angels with Filthy Souls is an unlikely one: a gritty, noirish gangster flick in which a crow-voiced curmudgeon abruptly unleashes a blaze of gunfire on his unsuspecting victim.

Even more unlikely, since it doesn’t exist. Angels with Filthy Souls is the fictitious gangster movie tucked into the beloved John Hughes and Chris Columbus family comedy Home Alone, which turns 25 this year. It’s the forbidden flick nine-year-old Kevin McCallister at last indulges in while enjoying a tremendous helping of ice cream—“Guys, I’m eating junk and watching rubbish! You better come out and stop me!”—only to be horrified by what unfolds. Later, he uses it as a weapon in his arsenal against the Wet Bandits (and a hapless Little Nero’s Pizza delivery boy).

The article continued, citing interviews with Macat and art director Dan Webster. They said that "Angels with Filthy Souls" was shot in one day and that the fake gangster movie's title was inspired by an actual movie released in 1938, "Angels with Dirty Faces."

Angels with Filthy Souls was shot in one day, on the final “test day” before principal photography officially began on Home Alone. “We had nothing to lose,” said director of photography Julio Macat. “We went for it.”

The script pages for the sequence turned up relatively late, referred to only as “the gangster film.” The eventual title—a tip of the fedora to the James Cagney’s Angels with Dirty Faces—came later. “I believe the title was decided upon only because we needed to create a label for the tape Kevin puts in the VHS player,” said art director Dan Webster. “Now that is a very old-fashioned sentence!”

Moreover, Hollywood Reporter published an article in November 2020 with the title "‘Home Alone’ Film ‘Angels with Filthy Souls’ Turns 82 — Kind Of," in which Macat "detailed the creation of the faux gangster that gives the holiday classic one of its most iconic lines." It read:

It was Macat’s idea to shoot the faux film in the style of the late ’30s — which means it fell on him to make it happen. “I got some very slow ASA black-and-white film from Kodak, which means you have strong lights to get exposure. You need three or four times more light than normal to expose the film,” he recalls. “Then there was the strong backlighting, smoking up the room and having the shutters with the classic noir style. I used double fog filters, and I tried to match the camera lenses. I used a little netting material in front of the lenses to blow out the highlights even more.”

Angels With Filthy Souls was shot inside a little library in Lincoln Park. And Macat says it was a particularly cold day and the building did not have a heater. “I was thinking, ‘Thank God for the hot lights,'” he says.

"Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," released in 1992, featured a made-up sequel titled, "Angels With Even Filthier Souls."

The "Home Alone" rumor about "Angels with Filthy Souls" was not the first claim we fact-checked related to the 1990 movie. For instance, in December 2023, we addressed the satirical rumor that Culkin would be returning as McCallister for a new “Home Alone” film titled “Cabin Alone” on Disney+.

Sources

Angels with Dirty Faces. Directed by Michael Curtiz, First National Pictures, Warner Bros., 1938.

Ibrahim, Nur. “Is Macaulay Culkin Returning for a New ‘Home Alone’ Film?” Snopes, 7 Dec. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/macaulay-culkin-home-alone/.

Liles, Jordan. “‘Home Alone’: Here’s What Kevin’s Groceries Would Cost in 2023.” Snopes, 18 Dec. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/12/17/home-alone-kevin-grocery-store/.

Nast, Condé. “‘Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal’: Inside the Making of Home Alone’s Fake Gangster Movie.” Vanity Fair, 21 Dec. 2015, https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/12/home-alone-gangster-movie.

Parker, Ryan. “‘Home Alone’ Film ‘Angels with Filthy Souls’ Turns 82 — Kind Of.” The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Nov. 2020, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/angels-with-filthy-souls-turns-82-kind-of-4095371/.

Aleksandra Wrona is a reporting fellow for Snopes, based in the Warsaw area.