Home Alone Physics

Home Alone is an American Christmas comedy film, written in 1990; produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. It is featured by Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard and Catherine O’Hara. This movie is about an eight year old kid, called Kevin (Culkin), who has to defend his house from two burglars, Harry and Marv (Pecsi and Stern), after his family goes away for Christmas vacations and accidently leaves him behind.

The proposed scene shows thieve Marvin, crawling in to the house through the basement. In the center of the room, he pulls an antique electrical cable to turn on the lights. In step of turning on the lights, he is hit by an electrical iron that falls through the laundry conduit. In the movie, the iron falls at about 3.5 seconds.

How could you use this movie, mainly this scene, in a Physics class to teach concepts such as, acceleration, free fall, potential energy and kinetics?

We propose the following tasks:


  1. Watch carefully the movie excerption and measure the time the iron takes to land on Marvin’s head. Calculate the house height using the time given. Does this sounds realistic?
  2. From a previous scene it can be estimated that the house, from the basement to the attic, has about 13 meters of altitude. Calculate the time that it would take for the iron to fall from the top.
  3. What height would the house have on the moon or Jupiter, if the falling time in the movie is correct? ()
  4. Calculate the realistic falling time on the moon and Jupiter, using a specific house height (13 m).
  5. In which celestial body can be verified what happens in the film?

In this great book you may find answers and explanations to these and other questions concerning physics concepts. Films such as, Fast and the Furious, Spiderman and The X-men, are some of the many options offered here.