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Film / A Christmas Story

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"Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, around which the entire kid year revolved."

Based on humorist Jean Shepherd's autobiographical short stories, directed by Bob Clark, and narrated by Shepherd himself, the 1983 movie A Christmas Story lovingly and hilariously depicts a childhood Christmas in 1940s America.

Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants one thing and only one thing for Christmas: a BB gun. It's not just any BB gun he wants, either; his heart is set on an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, with a compass in the stock (and this thing which tells time). But his mother, his teacher, and even the department store Santa Claus inform him, in an ever-deepening refrain, "You'll shoot your eye out!" In the meantime, we are treated to a number of entertaining episodes involving Ralphie, his parents (Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon), his kid brother Randy (Ian Petrella), and various other inhabitants of Hohman, Indiana.

This movie, which was primarily drawn from material in Shepherd's 1966 book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, has come to be embraced as a perennial holiday favorite. It eventually spawned a play, as well as such sort-of sequels as the made-for-TV The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1985) and Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss (1988) and the theatrical feature It Runs in the Family (1994).note  None of the original film's cast members appear in any of the others save for actress Tedde Moore (Miss Shields), who appears in the 1994 film.

A Direct to Video sequel, called – what else? – A Christmas Story 2, was released in 2012. (You can watch the trailer for it here). A Screen-to-Stage Adaptation of the first movie went to Broadway that same year, followed by another national tour the next holiday season. A live telecast of the musical aired on Fox in December 2017. Information can be found on That Other Wiki, of course.

In November 2022, another sequel was released by HBO Max. Titled A Christmas Story Christmas and set around 30 years after the events of the original movie, it was directed by Clay Kaytis (known for directing The Angry Birds Movie and The Christmas Chronicles) and once again features Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. It also disregards the events of A Christmas Story 2.

A Christmas Story provides examples of the following tropes:

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    The original 1983 film 
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When her students play the buck-teeth prank on her, Miss Shields does her best to hide an amused smirk as she collects the fake teeth.
  • Adaptation Distillation: A good many of the events in the movie (the lamp incident, beating up a bully, the secret decoder ring message, etc.) come from instances at multiple different points in the book, being separate memories of Ralph Parker's childhood that he reminisces about with Flick when they're both adults. In the film, they all take place during the same Christmas holiday. One vignette (the Bumpus hounds devouring the holiday dinner and them going out for Chinese instead) comes from a different compilation book, Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters. In that story, it was the Easter ham that fell victim to the Bumpus' dogs rather than the Christmas turkey.
  • Adaptational Expansion: The original story has a scene in which Mr. and Mrs. Parker reconcile after the lamp is destroyed, with the Old Man admitting that it's just a lamp and not worth letting his marriage go down the drain.
  • Adults Are Useless: While the kids are aware that their parents and teachers care for and love them, they also know there are some things you do as kids that they'd best not find out about.
    Miss Shields: (after Flick gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole) Now, I know that some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I'm sure that the guilt you feel is far worse than any punishment you might receive. Now, don't you feel terrible? Don't you feel remorse for what you have done? Well, that's all I'm going to say about poor Flick.
    Adult Ralphie: Adults loved to say things like that, but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.
  • All There in the Script: The shooting script for the film reveals that the Old Man's first name is Frank. No first name is provided for Mrs. Parker. The 2013 book A Christmas Story Treasury by Tyler Schwarz includes a facsimile of the Western Union telegram announcing that the Old Man is the recipient of a major award. The telegram is addressed to Frank Parker.
  • The Alleged Car: The Old Man's 1937 Oldsmobile.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The year when the story takes place is never explicitly identified. It's clearly toward the tail end of The Great Depression, there aren't any references to World War II, and radio is still the dominant broadcast medium. The presence of the characters from The Wizard of Oz (released in the autumn of 1939) at the department store probably tilts it toward 1939 or 1940, and a few other vague hints suggest 1940 (like the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin being a 1940 model), although there's some Anachronism Stew as well, and you can also make a case for 1945 (after the war's end, but before the introduction of network television). Meanwhile, A Christmas Story Christmas is set in 1973, which is explicitly identified as being 33 years later (thereby placing this film in 1940).
  • Angrish: To keep the film kid-friendly, strings of profanity are rendered as vaguely obscene-sounding gibberish:
    • The Old Man's string of profanities when battling the furnace.
    • Mrs. Schwartz's frenzied screeching while beating her son.
    • Ralphie flies into this when beating Scut Farkus. The only intelligible phrase is "son of a bitch".
  • Annoying Laugh: Scut Farkus' laugh seems to be intentionally obnoxious, and even his crying sounds similar. This plays up to his trait of being a monstrous and crazy bully.
  • Apple for Teacher: Ralphie gives his teacher an entire fruit basket in an attempt get a good grade to butter his parents up with.
    Adult Ralphie: Yes, truly, a little bribe never hurts.
  • Arc Words: "You'll shoot your eye out," a warning of what may, and (sort of) does, happen if Ralph were to get the BB gun.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Although the film is set in Indiana, there are multiple references to Higbee's, a defunct department store chain based in Ohio. (In fact, the scenes were actually shot at Higbee's flagship store in Cleveland.)
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: The kitchen staff at the Chinese restaurant sing Christmas carols with Japanese Ranguage. The manager is embarrassed and interrupts them to try to correct their pronunciation.
  • Aside Glance:
    • Ralphie looks straight into the camera and grins after tricking his mom into believing that an icicle, rather than his BB gun, was what hit him in the face.
    • He also pulls one in the "soap poisoning" Imagine Spot as his family fawns over him in grief, all the more impressive because he's wearing sunglasses while imagining himself to be blind.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • After bickering for most of the movie, Mother and The Old Man share a romantic moment of watching the snow fall next to the tree at the end.
    • In a familial sense even though they don't always get along when Ralphie is beating up Scut Farkus, Randy makes a point of picking up Ralphie's glasses.
    • In addition to that, Mrs. Parker cares for Ralphie after his fight and she doesn't hold the fact that he swore again against him.
  • Barbaric Bully: Scut Farkus is the teenage neighborhood bully along with his minion, Grover and they terrorize the children.
  • Batman Gambit: Ralphie concocts a story on the fly about a falling icicle striking him after he accidentally steps on his glasses in order to avoid getting in trouble over this and his new gun.
  • Behind the Black: Farkus surprises the three characters by hanging upside down in the schoolyard. A little hard to see both how anyone didn't notice he was there, or what he was hanging upside-down from.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Mrs. Schwartz doesn't take too kindly to finding out about her son's supposed swearing.
    • The Old Man has several (his furnace, his car, his kids' roller-skates, the Bumpus' dogs). Oddly enough, when the dogs invade the house and eat his beloved turkey, The Old Man just wearily tells his family to get dressed to go out to eat.
  • Berserker Tears: Ralphie while beating Farkus to a bloody pulp.
  • Big "NO!": Ralphie, after Santa pushes him down the slide upon telling him that he'll shoot his eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun.
  • Big "OMG!":
    • Mrs. Shields, when she learns where Flick is the hard way.
    • Also, Ralphie: "Oh my God, I shot my eye out!"
  • Big "SHUT UP!": When Ralphie won't stop pestering his folks to take him to the department store to see Santa while they're trying to watch a parade, his Old Man hits him with one.
    Old Man: Shaddup Ralphie!
  • Black Dude Dies First: When Ralphie gets his BB gun and fantasizes about shooting the villains, the black guy gets shot first.
  • Blind People Wear Sunglasses: In his Imagine Spot about going blind, Ralphie is wearing sunglasses. It's implied he's wearing them to simply look blind, as he winks to the camera from behind them while his parents sob about his situation.
  • Brick Joke: When Ralphie writes his "What I Want For Christmas" essay, he says that a football wouldn't be a good present. Later, when he's on Santa's knee and choking when he's asked what he wants, Santa suggests a nice football.
  • Buffy Speak: The "Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time."
  • The Bully: Scut Farkus, and to a lesser extent, his toady Grover Dill.
  • Bumbling Dad: The Old Man, played masterfully by Darren McGavin. He does strange things, reads the paper often, and is a bit detached from his family but you can tell he genuinely loves them.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Flick, Farkus's most frequent target as well as the poor sap that gets his tongue stuck on a pole.
    • Ralph whenever he falls victim to the response of "You'll shoot your eye out!" every time he requests a BB Gun as a Christmas present, and a few other letdowns as a result of him being a habitual daydreamer.
    • Randy whenever he is pressured into wearing an incredibly thick snowsuit. The suit is so big he can't move or put his arms down.
    • The Old Man, on account of how he always falls victim to having to deal with something going wrong with mechanical devices, with the exception of one item; and having to be the victim of dozens of a neighbors' dogs always intruding and even gobbling up the family turkey dinner on Christmas morning.
  • Canon Foreigner: Kinda-sorta. Scut Farkus was the head bully in other tales by Shepherd, but he wasn't present in the original story adapted for the film. There, Grover Dill was the main bully whose ass Ralphie ended up kicking.
  • Cassandra Truth: Mrs. Schwartz correctly deduces that Ralphie learns the F-word from his father, yet his mom still insists it was from Schwartz himself, despite hearing The Old Man swear as much as everyone else.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Ralphie's mom uses football to take the Old Man's mind off Ralphie's fight.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Bumpus' hounds. They're minor, amusing annoyances—until they destroy the turkey.
  • Chinese Ranguage: The staff caroling in the Chinese restaurant. "Tis the season to be jorry. Fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra, ra, ra". May be an in-universe joke, since the manager, who has a better grasp of pronouncing the English language yells at them for doing it and they immediately switch to "Jingre Berrs".
  • Clothes for Christmas Cringe: Ralphie cringes at the pink bunny suit his Aunt Clara sends him for Christmas.
    Adult Ralphie: Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Ralphie, especially when Miss Shields has to snap him out of his daydreaming about his hopeful victory.
    • The kid in the aviator helmet waiting in line to see Santa. He creeps Ralphie out.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Averted through heavy use of euphemisms, but repeatedly implied.
    Adult Ralphie: In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.
  • Cool-Down Hug: How Ralphie's mom ends the beat down he gives Scut Farkus.
  • Comical Overreacting: Schwartz's mom, to Schwartz's supposed cursing.
  • Competition Coupon Madness: In order to get the coveted Little Orphan Annie decoder ring — which is required to decode the show's secret message — Ralphie must send in an ungodly number of Ovaltine labels. He collects these labels religiously, drinking Ovaltine far past the point where he's come to hate the stuff, until finally he's collected enough and sends away for the decoder ring. When the ring arrives in the mail, he uses it to decode the secret message, which reads: Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • The bearded man who directs Ralphie and Randy to the back of the line to see Santa at Higbee's is Jean Shepherd (and the woman in the red hat next to him is Shepherd's co-writer and Real Life wife Leigh Brown).
      Man in Line for Santa: Young man. Hey, kid! Just where do you think you're going?
      Ralphie: Going up to see Santa.
      Man in Line for Santa: Hmph. The line ends here. It begins there.
    • Also, director Bob Clark appears as the Parkers' neighbor Swede.
      Swede: Hey, Parker, what is that?
      Mr. Parker: Don't bother me now, Swede, can't you see I'm busy?
      Swede: Yeah, but what is that?
      Mr. Parker: I-i-i-it-uh-It's a major award!
      Swede: A Major Award? Shucks, I wouldn'ta knowed that. It looks like a lamp.
      Mr. Parker: It IS a lamp, you nincompoop. But it's a major award. I won it!
      Swede: Damn, hell, you say you won it?
      Mr. Parker: Yeah, mind power, Swede; mind power.
  • Culturally Sensitive Adaptation: The Screen-to-Stage Adaptation changed the Asian Speekee Engrish rendition of "Deck the Halls" at the Chinese restaurant to a perfectly eloquent rendition of the song. The change is lampshaded as Mr. Parker notes he "wasn't expecting that," and the restaurant owner judgmentally asks him, "What were you expecting?"
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ralphie finally snaps and beats the tar out of Scut Farkus while unleashing a string of profanities.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Old Man's reaction to Ralphie's bunny pajamas. "He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny..."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance
    • Bullying and coercing were blatantly ignored. Also, the bullying itself was rather barbaric and no one did anything to stop it.
    • Violence in general was a regular form of problem solving and rarely anyone got arrested for it.
    • Schwartz gets beaten by his mother for being accused of teaching Ralphie the F-word over the phone. Mrs. Parker just hangs up the phone. Today, she would have been in serious legal trouble for letting the abuse happen and failing to properly report it to Child Protective Services.
    • The leg lamp was looked at as vulgar and obscene at the time, and women controlled the household. Nowadays there’s a better understanding of gender and this lamp would be considered tame if not classy in its own right.
    • Today, The Wicked Witch of the West who roamed the mall would have gotten in serious trouble for grabbing a child’s cheek even if it was playful.
  • Disappointed in You: Mrs. Shields discusses and tries to invoke this after Flick is freed from the flagpole, having correctly deduced that his classmates coerced him into getting stuck to it to begin with.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Everyone but Mrs. Parker and The Old Man with the lamp. The latter is indeed distracted by it, but unlike everyone else, it doesn't seem to derive from any kind of attraction, but rather his sheer pride at winning "a major award". Meanwhile, the former is also distracted by the lamp, but it's due to her being horrified by it.
  • Doom It Yourself: The Old man doesn't give the glue on his major award time to dry before he puts the shade on it, wrecking it beyond recognition.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: As the movie takes place in northwest Indiana, it makes perfect sense for there to be plenty of snow throughout December, courtesy of Lake Michigan.
  • Dropped Glasses: Ralphie drops his glasses when confronted the last time by Scut Farkas. His brother picks them up while Ralphie pummels Scut. Ralphie also manages to shoot them off his face with the Red Ryder.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In his DVD commentary Bob Clark admits that the ending is fuzzy and sentimental, but given the emotional rollercoaster the main characters spent the movie riding on and the irreverent tone of the rest of the film, the ending acts as a deserved redemption.
  • '80s Hair: Ralphie's mom, in a bit of Anachronism Stew, has an 80's-style perm. Contrast with the other major female character, Miss Shields, who has a bobbed and pinned hairdo much more typical for the 1940's setting.
  • Embarrassing Pyjamas: Ralphie Parker is reluctantly cajoled into modeling his new pink bunny onesie pajamas.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Mrs. Parker apparently overlooks the Angrish Ralphie uttered when fighting Scut Farkus, but she draws the line when Ralphie utters the "F,-word", washing his mouth out with soap and demanding to know where Ralphie learned that word.
    • Even the callous store Santa at Higbee's makes a point of warning Ralphie, "You'll shoot your eye out!" when Ralphie asks for a BB gun.
  • Evil Laugh: Farkus has a loud, obnoxious cackle whenever he appears.
  • Eye Scream: Everyone repeatedly tells Ralph he'll "shoot his eye out" if he uses a BB gun. Ralphie thinks he may have actually done that when he plays with the gun, but finds out that it only knocked off his glasses and didn't harm his eye but was dangerously close to it.
  • Face Palm: The Old Man's reaction to both the pink bunny costume and his wife cooing over it.
  • Fall Guy: Flick, one of Ralphie's friends, is left to Farkus' mercy several times. (At one point, when his tongue becomes stuck to a metal pole, his friends even leave him stuck outside, and the authorities have to remove him from the pole.)
  • Fat Suit: Tedde Moore was pregnant during filming,note  so she wore extra padding to hide it and make Miss Shields look more full-figured.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The pink bunny suit. The camera starts at Ralphie's feet, and pans up.
  • Feuding Families: The Old Man vs. The Bumpuses.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Everyone keeps warning Ralphie that if he gets that BB gun, he'll shoot his eye out. He does get the BB gun for Christmas... and the first time he shoots, the pellet ricochets back into his face.
    Adult Ralphie: Oh my God, I shot my eye out!
    • Similarly, Randy picking up Ralphie's glasses from the snow during the fight with Scut foreshadows Ralphie having to look for them (and failing) in the above scene.
    • When the workmen bring the crate into the house and set it upright, the Old Man warns them to be careful. "Watch the lady!" Interesting considering they were delivering the only conflict that the couple has to handle between them during the film.
    • The FRAGILE warning on the crate the lamp was delivered in.
  • Flipping Helpless: Ralphie's little brother is dressed up in so many layers for the Indiana winter, he can't get back up when he falls down. Comes in handy when the boys run into Scut Farkus for the first time.
    Adult Ralphie: Randy layed there like a slug. It was his only defense.
  • The '40s: The time-period in which this film takes place.note 
  • Freak Out:
    • Ralphie's beatdown of Farkus.
    "Something had happened. A fuse blew and I had gone out of my skull."
  • Generation Xerox: Ralphie and his father are more alike than it initially seems.
    • Both employ a long list of expletives whenever they lose their tempers.
    • Both are very excited when they believe they have won a particular prize.
    • Ralphie is pretty cynical for a kid, and it seems he gets it from his old man, who can also be a bit grumpy.
    • After Ralphie unwraps his BB gun in front of his parents, his old man notes with nostalgia that he also had one when he was Ralphie's age.
  • Genki Girl: Esther Jane in the stage show.
  • The Ghost: The Bumpuses, again.
  • Good Parents: Oh so very much. Ralphie and Randy's parents have shown several times in the film that they care for them and they do their best to make sure their sons grow up right.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
    • The father is a notorious curser, but his vulgar tirades are rendered in the film as meaningless Angrish. Some of his dialogue that did contain swearing was redubbed after an initial review by the MPAA. For example, right before the tire blows out, the Old man says "dad gummit," but those who can read lips can see him say "goddammit."
    • Later lampshaded in the scene in which Ralphie helps his father change a flat tire. After the nuts get knocked out of the hubcap he was holding, he shouts out "Oh, fudge!" Only, as he points out himself, he didn't actually say "fudge".
      "It was the word! The big one! The queen mother of dirty words... The "F-dash-dash-dash" word!"
    • From the store Santa: "If Higbee thinks I'm working one minute past nine he can kiss my foot!"
  • Happily Married: Not even the "Legendary Battle of the Lamp" can permanently derail Ralphie's parents. One of the final scenes is them both marveling in the play of the Christmas lights on the falling snow, arm-in-arm.
  • Hair of the Dog: On Christmas morning, the Old Man is rubbing his head and grimacing as if he has a hangover. Apparently a morning bottle of wine is a Christmas tradition at Ralphie's house. After a glass of wine, he is back to his usual self.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Flick is triple dog dared into licking a frozen flagpole and gets his tongue stuck on it. The fire department has to be called to get him off.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • After Santa Claus, Ralphie's final hope at getting a Red Ryder BB gun, tells him he'll shoot his eye out, Ralphie is left staring blankly up at the ceiling until his parents come to find him.
    • After the turkey is eaten by Bumpus' dogs, the Old Man can only examine the remains, picking up a wing that he tosses onto the floor before resigning himself to whatever's open.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: Not technically a sweater, but Ralphie's homemade bunny outfit counts.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The tree salesman comes across as this, given some of his sub-par trees.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When the family is leaving to get a Christmas tree, the mom goes inside to turn off the leg lamp, explaining to the Old Man that she doesn't want to waste electricity. Cut to a shot of the house with every other light left burning.
  • Imagine Spot: Many conjured by Ralph like the scene where he imagines Mrs. Shields as an evil teacher and gives Ralphie an A+ on his theme with many more pluses on the board.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: It's kind of hard to ignore Ralphie's bright blue eyes throughout the course of the film, especially considering the narrative.
  • Innocent Swearing: Subverted, then double subverted. Ralphie knows exactly what, ahem, "fudge" means, but considering he's only imitating his father, one could say he should get off the hook. Which he does after beating up Farkus, during which time he was swearing profusely. Inverted with Schwartz; in no way is his swearing innocent. The third word out of his mouth is a swear word, for goodness' sakes.
  • Instant Soprano: Played for Laughs by the Old Man, who adopts a Mickey Mouse voice after his Christmas gift (a bowling ball) is unceremoniously dumped onto his tender bits.
    The Old Man: A blue ball.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: The singers at the Chinese restaurant clearly have very little skill with English phonetics.
  • It's the Best Whatever, Ever!: In narration, Ralphie declares that the leg lamp "was, indeed, a lamp", and refers to it as "the soft glow of electric sex". Mr. Parker can't stop raving about the lamp himself.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Mrs. Parker tricks Randy into eating his dinner this way (by asking him to show her how pigs eat) just so he won't sit there and pick at his food. Ralphie and The Old Man are visibly disgusted by the display.
  • Jerkass:
    • Farkus is a Grade-A bully who takes joy in pummeling weaker kids. Makes it hard to feel sorry for him when he's getting his No Holds Barred Beat Down by Ralphie.
    • Santa's main elf shoves the kids down the slide with sadistic glee.
    • The lady elf isn't exactly a ray of sunshine either.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • The Old Man. He's gruff and cynical, but he's the one who gets Ralphie the Red Ryder gun that he wants so much, despite literally every other person Ralphie mentions it to telling him "You'll shoot your eye out!
    • Ralphie is also this. Like many young boys he can be materialistic or self-centered but he is also innocent and well-meaning.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted for many.
    • After Flick refuses to say who pressured him to stick his tongue on the pole, Ms. Shields tries to play their inevitable guilt as punishment enough. Ralphie's narration then smugly notes that this is an utter crock and all kids know it. But Ralphie does however get his mouth washed out with soap after saying the "F-word".
    • Subverted Schwartz also. He doesn't suffer consequences for triple dog daring Flick into getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole since Flick refused to tell the teacher who put him up to it (though it seems like the teacher knows it had to be either him or Ralphie). On the other hand, while it is unconnected to the previous incident, Schwartz later gets an unexpected beating from his mother when Ralphie falsely tells his mother that he learned the F word from Schwartz instead of his father, which also makes his father a Karma Houdini. Then again, his Major Award was destroyed and the Christmas turkey was eaten by the neighbour's dogs.
    • While Scut got what was coming to him, Grover Dill, Scut's Toady got almost no comeuppance for his role in bullying Ralphie and his friends, minus one shove to the ground that sent him running.
  • Karmic Misfire: Schwartz gets an unexpected beating from his mother when Ralphie falsely tells his mother that he learned the F word from Schwartz.
  • Large Ham: Again, the Old Man.
    • YOUUU USED UP ALL THE GLUUUUE ON PURPOSE!! has to be Darren's HAMMIEST line. Just look at his face when he says it!
    • Farkus with his Evil Laugh.
    • Everybody during Ralphie's fantasy daydreams. Ms. Shields is a particular standout ("A Plus-Plus-Plus-Plus...!"), as are the parents' reactions to "Soap poisoning".
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Scut picked the wrong day to throw a snowball at Ralphie, as his bloody nose would demonstrate.
    • It was just a coincidence that The Old Man went against his wife's wishes to buy Ralphie his BB gun right after she "accidentally" broke his leg lamp, right?
    • Played with with Schwartz, as mentioned under Karma Houdini above.
  • Last Resort Takeout: After their Christmas turkey gets ravaged by the Bumpus' dogs, the family resorts to eating at the local Chinese restaurant.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The Bumpus Hounds, with "Chicken Reel" of all things.
    • And Scut Farkus with the Wolf's theme from Peter and the Wolf. (Interesting side note: "Farkus" comes from the Hungarian word for wolf.)
    • The first time Scut shows up, Ralphie and his brother and pals are accompanied by the Little Bird's theme from that same piece. And the fast-motion Running Gag of the kids getting chased by Scut everyday is a bit of The William Tell Overture.
    • Ralphie's Imagine Spot of rescuing his family from Black Bart finds him accompanied by "On the Trail" from Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite.
  • Lemony Narrator: Considering the narrator is (now middle-aged) Ralph, looking back at the events of his childhood from years later, this isn't surprising.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Some of Old Man Parker's Angrish profanities are picked up by Ralphie when he starts a Curb-Stomp Battle with Scut Farkus and beats the living spit out of him
  • Literally Prized Possession: The leg lamp is a "major award" that Ralphie's dad wins in a contest and proudly displays in the window. It's a ridiculous lamp, but he prizes it simply because he won it. Also, the Orphan Annie decoder that Ralphie drinks so much Ovaltine for turns out to be nothing but an advertising gimmick, leaving him disillusioned.
  • MacGuffin: The BB gun. Ralphie's desire for it drives the plot, because it helps him endure some difficult adolescent rites-of-passage (dealing with bullies, disappointing your parents, falling prey to peer pressure, things not living up to expectation).
  • Mall Santa: Higbee's mall Santa and his elf helpers are particularly disgruntled, either because most of the children scream when placed on his lap or as the cause of it. Roger Ebert named this scene as the greatest visit to Santa ever seen on film.
  • Match Cut: Used for particularly humorous effect; a scene transitions from Randy lifting the lid of a toilet and getting ready to use it to a close-up of the mother lifting the lid off a pot of unappetizing boiled cabbage.
  • Meaningful Gift: Ralphie spent the entire movie desperate for just one gift — a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. When Christmas comes, he gets a couple of things that he likes, not the gun, which he reluctantly accepts when sitting with his parents. Then his dad points to one final present hidden behind the desk; the B.B. Gun, because he had one when he was a kid. Both of them light up with childlike joy when he's opening the box, and what makes this even more special is that his dad is the only one he didn't talk about the gun to.
  • MockGuffin: Ralphie learns too late that the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring was just a promotional ploy.
  • Moe Greene Special: The reason everyone's afraid to buy Ralphie the BB gun he wants.
  • Mr. Imagination: Ralphie has several daydreams where he makes himself look like a hero.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ralphie's mother at times, particularly in regards to his little brother.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • After having his mouth washed out with soap, Ralphie has a daydream where he's blinded from soap poisoning. When he reveals the cause of his blindness to his parents, they amply break down and cry.
    The Old Man: I told you not to use Lifebuoy!
    • When Flick gets his tongue stuck to the pole Schwartz can be heard saying "What have I done?"
  • My Little Panzer: "You'll shoot your eye out!"; although, at the time the movie was made, Boys' Life magazine was still running ads for BB guns in every issue.
  • My New Gift Is Lame:
    • Ralphie receives a pink bunny suit from his aunt for Christmas.
    • Ralph and Randy also don't care for socks.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: "Oh, fudge!" Only I didn't say "fudge"...
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The original 1983 theatrical trailer makes it out to be more of a crude, broad anti-Christmas comedy than the warmly nostalgic entertainment it actually is. (This may actually have helped contribute to the movie's poor box office performance, as families with kids were scared away from seeing it to begin with while teenagers were disappointed by its failure to live up to the raunchy promise of the trailer.)
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: The mall Santa is a cynical guy who's purely in it for the money and is planning to leave the second his agreed shift is over. However, he does warn Ralphie that a BB gun will shoot his eye out when he asks him for one. The elves are even worse, being openly mean to the kids.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The film, and the stories it's derived from, are set in fictional Hohman, Indiana, which is a slightly disguised version of Jean Shepherd's real-life hometown, Hammond, Indiana.note 
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Ralphie delivers a brutal one to Farkus.
  • No Name Given: Mrs. Parker doesn't have a known first name, and Mr. Parker is only referred to as "The Old Man", even in the credits.
  • Noodle Implements: Admittedly minor, but it's a "Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time". What kind of thing? Is it a clock or a sundial?
  • No Peripheral Vision: When the teacher asks where Flick is after he stuck his tongue to the pole. The camera shot over her shoulder reveals that Flick was right there, out the window, right within her range of vision.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Adult Ralphie, voiced by Jean Shepherd himself.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several instances.
    • Bart: "Oh NO! It's...." All Bandits: "OLD BLUE!! OH NO!!"
    • The boys, when they hear Scut's menacing laugh.
    • Flick (and most of the kids, for that matter) when his tongue freezes fast to the flagpole.
    • The Old Man, seeing his precious major award has been shattered.
    • Ralphie, realizing what he just said in front of his father.
    • Ralphie again, when his last hope, Santa, refuses his request for the BB gun, citing the same reason all other adults have given.
    • Both Parker parents, realizing the Bumpus Dogs have destroyed their Christmas dinner.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: Ralphie's father, who is known for cursing a blue streak when tinkering with the furnace, is the one who tells his wife that Ralphie said the dreaded "F" word when he dropped the hubcap full of lug nuts.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: Ralphie, when he drops the hubcap full of lug nuts:
    Ralphie: Oh, fuuudge!
    Adult Ralphie: Only I didn't say fudge; I said the word, the big one, the queen mother of all dirty words, the "F-*-*-*" word!
    Mr. Parker: [shocked] What did you say?
    Ralphie: Uh, um...
    Mr. Parker: That's what I thought you said... Get in the car, go on!
  • Pastiche: The original poster art is done in the style of a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover, including putting A Christmas Story in the same font as the Post's nameplate.
  • Peking Duck Christmas: After the neighbors' dogs eat Mrs. Parker's turkey, Mr. Parker takes his family to a Chinese restaurant, where they eat Peking Duck (though Ralphie calls it "Chinese Turkey") and sing carols with the owners.
  • Phrase Catcher: Everybody tells Ralphie, "You'll shoot your eye out!" when he tells them he wants a Red Ryder BB gun.
  • Ping Pong Naïveté: Mrs. Schwartz knows Ralph's father well enough to suspect him of being the one who taught Ralph the F word. But when she's being told that it was supposedly her son, she believes it so instantly and completely that she can't even be bothered to hang up the phone before she starts beating her son in a fit of rage (let alone interrogate him first).
  • Playing Possum: Whenever Scut Farkus's gang teams up on Ralphie and Randy, Randy's defensive instinct is to lie on his back like a turtle (since his snowsuit is too thick for him to do anything else).
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Ralphie says, "Oh... fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge!" when he drops the lugnuts, though the narration clarified, "Only I didn't say "fudge."
    • "Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!"
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: When Dad reads the outside of the crate containing his newly-arrived major award:
    Dad: Ah. "Fra-gee-lay"...that must be Italian.
    Mom: I think that says "fragile", honey.
  • Product Placement: A Show Within a Show example with the decoded message. "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine." In Real Life, the Little Orphan Annie radio show DID have sponsors for Ovaltine on its show, and yes, they sent out decoder rings, but the secret messages weren't Ovaltine commercials. Peter Billingsley was already famous for being "Messy Marvin," the spokesperson for Ovaltine's competitor, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (his commercials even call Ovaltine out). So this was also a bit of a meta-joke.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: After Flick refuses to tell Miss Shields who coerced him into sticking his tongue on the flagpole and no one fesses up, she tells the class that their guilt for what he went through should be punishment enough. Ralphie's narration notes that all kids know this is nonsense and they only care about not getting caught and suffering a real punishment. Schwartz is even laughing as she tries to lay down the guilt trip.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After putting up with Farkus' crap all movie, Ralphie getting a snowball in the face on an already bad day is the last straw.
  • Random Events Plot: Aside from the overall theme of Christmas approaching and Ralphie wanting the BB gun, the film is basically just a series of individual Slice of Life vignettes loosely woven together. It's a side effect of the book it's based on having an adult Ralph Parker reminiscing on several stories from different points in his childhood, which in the movie are all condensed into a single time frame.
  • Red Right Hand: Farkus's yellow eyes; Grover Dill's green teeth.
  • The Remake: While not a direct remake, several elements of the film were reused from Jean Shepherd's previous made-for-TV films about Ralphie Parker. 1976's Phantom of the Open Hearth includes a lengthy subplot about the Old Man's leg lamp, which was largely repeated (with only small alterations) for this film. Likewise, that film sees one of the Old Man's buddies being abandoned by his friends in the midst of a bad situation - a subtle inspiration for Flick's tongue/pole saga. The 1982 follow-up film, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, sees the first on-screen usage of 'You'll shoot your eye out' when Randy wants fireworks. Allegedly, an almost entirely unknown and never aired telefilm produced in 1978 for ABC contains many elements later used in this film, including the birth of "Ohhhhh, fudge" (albeit spoken by Randy). More of Phantom of the Open Hearth, specifically Mom's gravy boat catastrophe, ended up in the 1994 theatrical sequel It Runs in the Family.
  • Retraux: Not really overtly so, but the film definitely has a style that's much more like a classic Hollywood production than something from The '80s, including things like using Wipes and Iris Outs as transitions. Peter Billingsley has said that one time a woman told him he looked like Ralphie but knew he obviously couldn't have been since the movie was made in the '40s.
  • Rewatch Bonus: There are a lot of little details going on in this movie that are easy to miss, most of them very funny.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Two kids put small gifts on the teachers desk... followed by Ralphie bringing in a giant fruit basket, accompanied by a brief bit of Hawaiian steel guitar in the incidental music.
    • How many times Ralphie is told that he'd shoot his eye out with the Red Ryder BB gun.
  • Running Gag:
    • The kids getting chased by Scut and Grover to and from school, with Randy lagging behind both groups.
    • Ralphie being told, "You'll shoot your eye out!"
  • Sycophantic Servant: Grover Dill is an embryonic, non-supernatural example.
  • Safety Worst: Ralphie's mom overdresses his little brother to the point that he can't move his arms, just to protect him from catching a cold.
  • Serious Business: A recurring theme, as the narrator explains a number of quaint anecdotes with humorous hyperbole to show how deadly important everything seems to be to a young boy.
    • The narrator explains the rules of daring among the schoolboys. He notes that Schwartz makes a breach of etiquette by going from "double dog dare" to "triple dog dare," skipping over "triple dare." For his part, Flick reacts as if he has no choice but to comply with a triple dog dare, showing the gravity of the situation.
    • Ralphie's admission into the Little Orphan Annie fan club and decoding her secret message, entirely captivated by the marketing campaign.
    • Ralphie's whole obsession with the Red Ryder BB gun.
  • Shot in the Ass: In Ralphie's Imagine Spot about driving off a gang of robbers with his BB gun, he shoots one trying to escape right in the ass.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The flag atop the pole that Flick sticks his tongue on has 48 stars, since the story is set a couple decades before Alaska and Hawaii became states.
  • Sleeping Single: We only see their bedroom briefly, but Mr. and Mrs. Parker have separate beds.
  • Slice of Life: The film depicts a few weeks in the everyday lives of a 9-year-old Midwestern boy and his family and friends. Some modern observers have even compared its style to Slice of Life Anime.
  • Soap Punishment: Happens to Ralphie frequently enough that he has become "quite a connoisseur of soap".
  • Source Music: Heard at various points, such as the brass band and choir downtown and the songs playing on the radio.
  • Spit Take: Mrs. Parker tries the Lifebuoy soap, and realizes that she really doesn't like it.
  • Still Believes in Santa: Played with. Ralphie doesn't believe in Santa, but he does think asking him is his last hope of getting a Red Ryder BB gun.
    Adult Ralphie: Let's face it, most of us were scoffers. But moments before zero hour, it did not pay to take chances.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: The manager of the Chinese restaurant is fairly embarrassed and annoyed when his employees try to sing Christmas carols and have a little trouble with the "Ls".
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Everyone, from Ralphie teacher to the crass mall Santa warns Ralphie, "You'll shoot your eye out!"
  • Tagline: Peace. Harmony. Comfort and Joy... Maybe Next Year.
  • Taps: Ralphie's Old Man buries the broken lamp in the back yard. Ralphie couldn't be sure, but he thought he heard Taps playing.
  • Talking Lightbulb: The first time Scut Farkus appears, he's taunting the main characters from behind a fence. The fence slat he's hiding behind wiggles to indicate that's where the sound is coming from.
  • Tears of Remorse: In Ralphie's fantasy, he dreams that his parents burst into tears in remorse for blinding him with soap.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: One of the most famous examples.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After being teased one time too many by Scut Farkus to the point of tears, Ralphie gives Scut a beatdown he'll never forget, leaving Scut with a bloody nose.
  • T-Word Euphemism: "It was the word! The big one! The queen mother of dirty words! The "F dash dash dash" word!
  • Undercrank: In the Imagine Spot with Ralphie shooting the bad guys, they are in fast-motion. Also, the scene where Ralphie turns in his paper begins and ends with fast-motion scenes of the boys running to and from school, complete with chipmunk voices. There's another scene of that nature just before Ralphie gets his decoder pin.
  • Unexplained Accent: As Bob Clark himself noted in his DVD commentary, the Parkers' neighbor (played by Clark) oddly has a Southern accent despite being called Swede.
  • Unnamed Parent: Neither of Ralphie's parents are named; they're referred to as "my mother" and "my old man" throughout.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Ralphie as an adult will sometimes describe things from the naive perspective of his younger self, such as swearing that Scut Farkus had yellow eyes. Ralphie also describes his childhood terror of being "destroyed" by his father, when throughout the film the father is the more indulging parent, while the mother is the disciplinarian.
    • Every night (except for Christmas dinner - turkey, natch) consisted of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and red beets.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Ralphie flies into one when he finally snaps at Farkus.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: When the leg lamp breaks, a loud sound of shattering glass is heard, even though the lamp is clearly made of plastic.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Ralphie sends in an inordinate amount of Ovaltine labels to get the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin, required to decode the show's secret message. The message turns out to be nothing but an ad for Ovaltine.
  • Wham Line:
    Narrator: Oh my God, I shot my eye out!
    • Prior to that, a more heartwarming one when it looks like all of Ralphie's efforts have been for naught:
    The Old Man: Hey, what's that behind the desk over there?
  • White Elephant: The pink bunny pajamas that Ralphie receives from his Aunt Clara.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?:
    • Discussed by the narrator: "What kind of parents would name their kid 'Scut?' Still, I had to admit, the name suited him."
    • Flick's name is rather curious, though it's never explained whether this is a first name, a nickname, a last name or part of his last name. Shepherd based Flick on a Real Life childhood friend whose last name was Flickinger.
  • With Friends Like These...: After Flick is triple dog dared to stick his tongue to the frozen flagpole, his friends decide to go back to class instead of trying to help him get unstuck.

    A Christmas Story 2 
  • Continuity Nod: Plenty to the first movie, the "Oh Fudge" slow motion, dealing with yet another rude department store Santa, an embarrassing outfit from their aunt, and of course, the infamous leg lamp.
  • Determinator: Despite numerous setbacks, Ralphie does his best to try to earn the money for the damages to the car. It pays off in the end, when the car dealer lets him off the hook for exactly this reason.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Raphie rapidly banging his cymbals after smelling Drucilla's hair.
  • Imagine Spot: Not as frequent as the first movie, but Ralphie has at least two of them.
  • Mall Santa: Even worse than the first film; Ralphie calls him out on it.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Ralphie and Drucilla
  • Stalker with a Crush: Ralphie has a crush on a girl named Drucilla. One disturbing facet about this is that he also brings up her lavender scented shampoo. Errr... Ewww
  • Stock Sound Effect: Baby Kate Cry: Variant: A group of people were rushing trying to get attention at once, including one of the women with her baby in a basket, which was crying until Ralphie wrapped it as a present.
  • Time Skip: Six years after the first movie.
  • Work Off the Debt: The main conflict of the movie. Ralphie accidentally damages a car while messing around in it and trying to rise the money to get it repaired.

    The 2017 live show 
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Combined with an Age Lift; the middle aged Chinese carolers from the original are played here by the younger and more attractive acapella group, The Filharmonic. Could also be a case of Decomposite Character, since they're a quintet instead of a trio this time.
    • Miss Shields falls under this too, since she's played by the beautiful Jane Krakowski.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Miss Shields is blonde here, while in the original film (and the stage musical), she has dark brown hair.
  • Adaptational Expansion: Mrs. Schwartz, in the original film, was only heard as a voice over the phone. Here, she appears in person, and plays an expanded role with a song about Hanukkah, going as far as to tell Ralphie the dreaded "You'll shoot your eye out!" line when he states his desire for the BB gun.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Internally: Adult!Ralphie holds the door open for his mom, and the two make eye contact before she gets into the car.
  • Colorblind Casting: Several of the characters were played by African-American actors, most notably Flick and Ralphie's mom (played by the biracial Maya Rudolph).
  • Informed Judaism: Schwartz is Jewish in this version. Justified, considering Schwartz is a common Jewish surname.
  • Interactive Narrator: In addition to narrating the story itself, Adult!Ralphie often interacts with the physical environment and frequently participates in the activities.
  • Late to the Realization: In this version, it's only after Adult!Ralphie describes the aftermath of him breaking his glasses that he finally realizes his mother was never fooled by the icicle story.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: After the singers at the Chinese restaurant perform "Deck the Halls" in perfect harmony and diction (rather than the Asian Speekee Engrish version from the original film), the Old Man comments that that's not what he expected (the owner of the restaurant even asks, "What were you expecting?" in a passive-agressive tone). An example of a Justified Trope, as keeping the original scene would raise the ire of civil rights groups and media watchdogs.
  • Race Lift:
    • As mentioned above, biracial actress Maya Rudolph plays Ralphie's mother.
    • In the original film and the stage musical, the cranky Mall Santa is portrayed as white. Here, he's played by black actor David Alan Grier.
    • The singing Chinese waiters are played here by Filipino acapella group The Filharmonic.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • In this version, though somewhat fueled by his worries about not getting the BB gun, Ralphie walks over to Schwartz's house to apologize for pinning the blame for saying the f-word on him.
    • Schwartz also apologizes to Flick for triple dog daring him to stick his tongue on the flagpole.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Scut and Dill pick on both girls and boys in this adaptation.


Video Example(s):


Ralphie Loses It

A snowball to the face was the final straw for Ralphie, who takes out all his frustration and disappointment on a unsuspecting bully.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / RageBreakingPoint

Media sources: