National Lampoon's Vacation

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National Lampoon's Vacation
Theatrical release poster
by Boris Vallejo
Directed by Harold Ramis
Produced by Matty Simmons
Written by
Based on "Vacation '58" 
by John Hughes
Music by Ralph Burns
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by Pembroke J. Herring
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 29, 1983 (1983-07-29)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $61.4 million[2]

National Lampoon's Vacation, sometimes referred to as Vacation, is a 1983 American comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall. John Candy, Imogene Coca, Christie Brinkley, and a young Jane Krakowski appear in supporting roles. The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story "Vacation '58" which appeared in National Lampoon.

The film was a box-office hit, earning more than $60 million in the US with an estimated budget of $15 million, and received widespread acclaim from critics. In 2000, readers of Total Film voted it the 46th greatest comedy film of all time. It is widely regarded as the best National Lampoon film, and in August 2015 was listed as the best film in the Vacation film series by Daniel Cohen.[3][4] It continues to be a cult film and a staple on cable television.


Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), wanting to spend more time with his wife Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) and children Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron), decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from the Chicago area to the Los Angeles amusement park Walley World, billed as "America's Favorite Family Fun Park." Ellen wants to fly, but Clark insists on driving, so he can bond with his family. He has ordered a new car in preparation for the trip, but the dealer (Eugene Levy) claims that it will not be ready for six weeks. Clark is forced to accept a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, an ugly, out-sized station wagon, as the car he brought to trade in (a 1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser[1]) has already been hauled away and crushed.

During the family's travels, they run into numerous mishaps, such as being tagged by vandals in a rundown area of St. Louis, while Clark is tantalized numerous times by a beautiful young woman (Christie Brinkley) driving a flashy red Ferrari. They stop in Kansas to visit Ellen's cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn) and her husband Eddie (Randy Quaid), who foist cranky Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca) and her mean dog Dinky on the Griswolds, asking them to drop her off at her son Norman's home in Phoenix. After stopping at a decrepit and dirty campground in Colorado for the night, Clark forgets to untie Dinky's leash from the bumper before driving off the next morning, killing the dog. A police officer pulls the Griswolds off the road and angrily lectures Clark over animal cruelty but accepts Clark's apology; Edna learns of her dog's death and becomes more irate with Clark. Exiting Colorado, the Griswolds lose their credit cards, forcing Clark to have to cash a check for future spendings.

While Ellen and Clark argue during a drive between Utah and Arizona, they crash and become stranded in the desert. After setting off alone in the desert to look for help (becoming a little delirious in the process), Clark eventually reunites with his family, who have been rescued and taken to a local mechanic (who is also the corrupt county sheriff). The mechanic extorts the remainder of Clark's cash only to make the car barely operational. Frustrated, they stop at the Grand Canyon; when Clark cannot convince a hotel clerk (James Staley) to cash a personal check, he takes cash from the cash register behind the clerk's back and leaves the check. Leaving the Canyon, they find that Aunt Edna has died in her sleep. They tie the deceased to the roof of the car, wrapped in a tarpaulin. When they reach Norman's home, they discover he is out of town and leave Edna's body at the back door. Clark eventually meets the Ferrari-driving blonde beauty at a motel and goes skinny-dipping with her in its pool, but they are discovered by the family before anything untoward can transpire. Ellen forgives Clark, and the couple goes skinny-dipping as well.

Despite the family's misfortunes and the begging of Ellen and the kids, Clark becomes obsessed with reaching Walley World. They finally arrive the next day, only to find that the park is closed for the next two weeks for repairs. Finally slipping into madness and realizing that all his efforts have been for nothing, Clark buys a realistic-looking BB gun pistol and demands that park security guard Russ Lasky (John Candy) take them through Walley World; Ellen and the kids follow, attempting to placate Clark. Eventually, a LAPD SWAT team arrives, along with park owner Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken). Roy understands Clark's impassioned longing to achieve the perfect vacation, bringing back memories of his own childhood years ago. He decides not to file criminal charges against the Griswolds and lets the family - and the SWAT team - enjoy the park as his guests.

The ending credits show various pictures of the Griswolds' vacation as well as the decision to fly home.



During the Chicago Blizzard of 1979, writer John Hughes began developing a short story entitled "Vacation '58" for an issue of the National Lampoon. While the story ended being bumped from the initial vacation-themed issue, it was eventually published in September 1979 and subsequently optioned by Warner Bros.[5] "When I brought it to Hollywood, the first guy I brought it to was Jeff Katzenberg who was at Paramount," recalled producer Matty Simmons, who worked as a publisher at the National Lampoon. "He said it would never make a movie, it was too episodic, too consequential. I said, 'Yeah, it's a road trip. It's supposed to be episodic. You go from town to town, place to place.' But he didn’t like it, so then my agent brought it to Warner Brothers, and I met with them. Most of them said the same thing, but there was one executive over there – a guy named Mark Canton – who really pulled for it and it got made."[6] Upon Simmons' agreement with Warner Bros., Hughes was assigned the task of adapting his original story into a screenplay.[7]

Walley World[edit]

In Hughes' original short story, the theme park was Disneyland. To avoid legal troubles, all of the names associated with Disneyland were altered to sound-alikes. For instance, the park became Walley World, itself a good-natured parody of the Anaheim location, and the mascot, Marty Moose, is reminiscent of Walt Disney's own Mickey Mouse.[5] Similarly, Roy Walley's appearance bears similarities to that of Disney and his name is similar to that of his brother Roy Disney.[citation needed].

In the film, the Walley World theme park is represented by Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. Santa Anita Park's large parking lot and blue-tinged fascia served as the exterior of Walley World, while all park interior scenes were shot at Magic Mountain.[8] The two roller coasters seen in the film are Revolution, which can be recognized by the vertical loop, and Colossus, the double-track wooden roller coaster.

Wagon Queen Family Truckster[edit]

Wagon Queen Family Truckster

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster station wagon was created specifically for the film. It is based on a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon.[9] The car was designed by George Barris, and it lampooned (no pun intended) American cars of the late 1970s. The Truckster features a pale avocado metallic green paint scheme; eight headlights (a second pair, pirated from another Crown Victoria/Country Squire, mounted inverted below the stock pair); and a grille area largely covered by bodywork with only two small openings close to the bumper.[10]

In the 2015 Vacation, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster reappears at the bed-and-breakfast garage of Clark and Ellen Griswold. The Truckster is the creation of Lisa and Steve Griswold, a real-life family living in Atlanta, who created the replica wagon to take family trips with their two daughters. In July 2014, the real-life Griswolds drove across the United States, visiting the locations seen in the original film, and ended their journey on the 31st anniversary of the film at Walley World (Six Flags Magic Mountain), so they could ride the Colossus before Six Flags' planned closure of the roller coaster.[11]


The musical score for National Lampoon's Vacation was composed by Ralph Burns, featuring original songs by Lindsey Buckingham. A soundtrack album was released in 1983 by Warner Bros. Records.[12] While it did not chart, Buckingham's single "Holiday Road" reached number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  1. "Holiday Road" – Lindsey Buckingham
  2. "Mister Blue" – The Fleetwoods
  3. "Blitzkrieg Bop" – Ramones
  4. "Deep River Blues" – Ralph Burns
  5. "Summer Hearts" – Nicolette Larson
  6. "Little Boy Sweet" – June Pointer
  7. "The Trip (Theme from Vacation)" – Ralph Burns
  8. "He's So Dull" – Vanity 6
  9. "Christie's Song" – Ralph Burns
  10. "Dancin' Across the USA" – Lindsey Buckingham


Box office[edit]

National Lampoon's Vacation opened theatrically in 1,175 venues on July 29, 1983 and earned $8,333,358 in its opening weekend, ranking number one at the domestic box office.[13] The film grossed $61,399,552.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was acclaimed by critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 93% rating based on 43 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Blessed by a brilliantly befuddled star turn from Chevy Chase, National Lampoon's Vacation is one of the more consistent – and thoroughly quotable – screwball comedies of the 1980s."[14] Metacritic reports a 60 out of 100 rating based on six critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, saying, "National Lampoon's Vacation, which is more controlled than other Lampoon movies have been, is careful not to stray too far from its target. The result is a confident humor and throwaway style that helps sustain the laughs - of which there are quite a few."[16] Entertainment magazine Variety called the film "an enjoyable trip through familiar comedy landscapes" and praised "director Harold Ramis for populating the film with a host of well-known comedic performers in passing parts."[17] Conversely, Richard Rayner of Time Out magazine said, "The visual gags come thick and fast, and are about as subtly signposted as the exit markers on a freeway. An exercise in the comedy of humiliation which is the stuff of shamefaced giggles."[18]


  1. ^ "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION (15)". British Board of Film Classification. August 16, 1983. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ Cohen, Daniel (August 4, 2015). "Ranking The First Four Vacation Movies". Pop-Break. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  4. ^ Giles, Jeff (July 29, 2015). "National Lampoon’s Best Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Hughes, John (2008). "Vacation '58 / Foreword '08". Zoetrope All-Story. American Zoetrope. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  6. ^ Evans, Bradford (April 10, 2012). "Talking to Matty Simmons About Producing Animal House, Publishing National Lampoon, and His New Book Fat, Drunk, and Stupid". Splitsider. The Awl. Archived from the original on April 12, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ "For National Lampoon's Vacation". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. United States Federal Government. December 16, 1981. Archived from the original on August 15, 2015. Retrieved August 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ "National Lampoon's Vacation Movie Filming Locations". The 80s Movies Rewind. Archived from the original on August 12, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ Movie cars: 20 best of all time - 1983 Queen Family Truckster, MSN
  10. ^ "'Family Truckster' road tripping to Mecum auction in Houston". April 3, 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "'Family Truckster' Vacation Movie Behind the Scenes with the Real Griswolds". July 28, 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "National Lampoon's Vacation Soundtrack (1983)". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved August 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for July 29-31, 1983". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. August 1, 1983. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  14. ^ "National Lampoon's Vacation". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  15. ^ "National Lampoon's Vacation". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 29, 1983). "Movie Review: National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on September 25, 2014. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  17. ^ "National Lampoon's Vacation". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. July 29, 1983. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  18. ^ Rayner, Richard (June 24, 2006). "National Lampoon's Vacation". Time Out. Time Out Group. Archived from the original on July 25, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 

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