A 1983 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall, with numerous others (such as John Candy, Eugene Levy, Brian Doyle-Murray, veteran character actor Eddie Bracken, supermodel Christie Brinkley, and future 30 Rock regular Jane Krakowski) featured in smaller roles.
The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story in National Lampoon magazine, "Vacation '58" (the screenplay changes the year to 1983). The original story is (reportedly) a fictionalized account of his own family's ill-fated trip to Disneyland (changed to "Walley World" for the film) when Hughes was a boy. The success of the movie helped launch his screenwriting career.
A series of sequels followed:
- National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)
- National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
- Vegas Vacation (1997)
- Vacation (2015): A sequel/reboot to the original, Ed Helms stars as an adult Rusty Griswold who takes his family on a crosscountry road trip to Walley World. The film is written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein who previously did Horrible Bosses.
There was also a 2003 Made-for-TV Movie, Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure, which focuses on Randy Quaid's character and his family, and a 2010 Reunion Show, Hotel Hell Vacation wherein Clark and Ellen stay at a hotel that doesn't go in their favor. A "Walley World Water Park" opened in Canada several years after the release of the movie.
National Lampoon's Vacation provides examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Lasky, to Clark:Lasky: What's this concerning, Mr. Grizzle?
- All for Nothing: After all what they have went through in that torturous trip, they finally arrive at Walley World only to find it closed for maintenance. Which proves to be the very last straw for Clark and the climax of the film is all about his attempt to defy this trope.
- Adaptational Karma: The original story by Hughes had Clark Griswold going Ax-Crazy when he discovered Disney World was closed for maintenance, purchasing a handgun and driving straight to Walt Disney's home to shoot him, hitting him in the thigh before being tackled by a dozen policemen and put in jail while his family flew back home trying to put all of this behind them. The film climaxes with Clark Griswold going Ax-Crazy when he discovers that Walley World is closed for maintenance, purchasing a realistic BB gun and taking a Walley World security guard hostage so his family can enter the closed park, and being let go with no charges once he explains the whole desperate thing to Roy Wally (and the dozen SWAT Team members surrounding him with guns).
- The Alleged Car: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a parody of Malaise-Era broughamy American cars. The "Wagon Queen Family Truckster" is built using the body and chassis of a 1983 Ford LTD Crown Victoria Country Squire station wagon, with numerous modifications (such as the dual quad headlights and extra fake wood paneling) to create the heavily "over-the-top," intentionally gaudy and ugly appearance.
- It even has what may be the earliest example of the "accidental airbag deployment" gag in 1983! (The airbag which actually was offered on virtually zero models in 1983 note was fashioned using a simple trash bag.
- By the end of the trip, it's practically falling to pieces, having survived not only shoddy workmanship, but also vandalism and a 50-yard jump off an unfinished road. Some writers have pointed to this as a parody of the reputation for quality and reliability that AMC and Ford had at the time (whether deserved or not).
- Amusement Park: Walley World, the final destination of the Griswolds. And they say half the fun is just getting there?
- Analogy Backfire: When Clark tries to justify his actions to Roy Walley:Clark: Can you imagine how your kids would have felt if when you got to Florida, it was closed?Roy: Oh, they don't close Florida.
- The Anti-Grinch: All that Clark wants is to provide his family an unforgettable family vacation and have plenty of time shared together. Come hell or high water. Which means leading his family through an endless barrage of awful situations, some of which happen because he didn't wanted to fly over to California like everybody else wanted (because of the aforementioned desire to share time), and climaxing with taking a Walley World guard hostage so they'll be able to use the rides.
- Artistic License Law:
- The dealership where Clark buys the Wagon Queen Family Truckster has an on-site crusher, for some reason, and destroys a trade-in. Not only would a real car dealer keep the trade-it so they could resell it, but Clark had only given his car over for evaluation; the dealership hadn't actually purchased Clark's car yet (destruction of private property). They also ordered the wrong model and force Clark to buy it (bait and switch), and failed to install the old plates on the new car, or even a sticker signifying an application for new plates. Clark should have called the police when they crushed his car, but also would have been pulled over for driving without license plates as soon as he left the dealership.
- There is also the standard application of "Karma Houdini by way of someone deciding to not pursue charges" in the epilogue. Not even Walt Disney (sorry, Roy Wally) would probably waive the fact that Clark took a man hostage for however long it took them to use several rides of the park as well as general trespassing.
- Ax-Crazy: Clark when he finds out the trip was all for nothing.
- Bare Your Midriff: Christie Brinkley in her bra and panties
- Black Comedy: Everything related to Aunt Edna's death. Passing away in the backseat with the kids, getting wrapped up and strapped to the roof (in a sitting position no less), and finally being left on the patio of her son's home in the pouring rain. And Clark and the kids feeling more annoyance than grief about the whole matter.
Relax, it'll be easy for Cousin Normie to find Aunt Edna. All he has to do is look for the buzzards.
- On that note, Rusty's False Reassurance:
- Black Comedy Pet Death: Wanting to get his family moving as soon as possible, Clark unknowingly drives out of the camp site's parking lot with aunt Edna's yappy little dog still tied to the rear bumper. Miles down the road, he's pulled over and confronted with the empty leash, Clark says that he would never intentionally kill a dog, and the cop let's him go with a warning. Inside the car, Clark tells the others he was pulled over for speeding, but the cop hands him the leash, and say's he'll try to pick up the dog's remains. Aunt Edna was not happy.
- Bumbling Dad: Clark is the king of this trope. Most of the comedy comes from the destructive chaos he causes while he tries to present himself as a man in control.
- Butt-Monkey: Clark. It wouldn't be a Vacation film without at least 5 bad/embarrassing things happening to himnote .
- Cluster F-Bomb: When the Griswolds have been through hell and Ellen suggests going home, Clark finally snaps and goes into one of these. It is... epic.
- Continuity Nod: Clark wears Walley World tees and sweaters throughout European Vacation, and he and Eddie drink eggnog from Walley World souvenir glasses in Christmas Vacation.
- Corpsing: Chevy Chase and James Keach stated in interviews, that during the "Dog tied to the bumper" scene, both he and Chevy were legitimately tearing up, and that Chevy consistently biting his lips and his shortness of breath were genuine. All because they were trying so hard to contain themselves from laughing.
- Corrupt Hick: After jumping the car off the road and damaging it badly, Clark is taken advantage of by a couple of hicks at a gas station, who barely fix his car, then take all of his money. Chevy asks them what their local sheriff thinks of their shady "business" dealings, whereupon they both laugh and one of them flashes a sheriff's badge.
- Determinator: Clark will stop at nothing to get his family to Walley World. This trope slowly becomes his Fatal Flaw and cause of his Sanity Slippage over the course of the movie, and is carried over to the other movies in the Vacation series.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Clark pulls this off when arriving at Walley World, by holding a man who works there at gunpoint, just because they closed it down for two weeks due to street cleaning.
- Down on the Farm: Cousin Eddie and his family live on a farm in Kansas.
- Exact Words: Trying to sell Clark on the Family Truckster, the car dealer tells him, "You think you hate it now, but wait 'til you drive it."
- Failed Dramatic Exit: The Griswolds say their goodbyes to their friends and neighbors and are about to depart on their adventurous vacation... only for their luggage to fall off the roof of the car as soon as they pull out of the garage.
- Fictional Counterpart: Walley World, to the Disney Theme Parks.
- Also Six Flags Magic Mountain, where the ride sequences were filmed.
- Finger-Twitching Revival: A deleted scene shows Aunt Edna is still alive when they strap her to the car roof, then leave her at a relative's house. Somehow this was darker than leaving a corpse outside someone's house.
- Hollywood Law: The Honest John's Dealership where Clark buys the Family Truckster somehow gets away with crushing Clark's car before he traded it in for the Truckster, on top of forcing him to buy a model he didn't order (it also begs the question of why they had an on-site crusher). They also drive across the country without license plates or even temporary tags, which would have gotten Clark pulled over as soon as he left the dealership.
- The cop who pulls the family over for accidentally dragging Dinky to death completely ignores the missing license plate.
- At the end, the family simply return home, even though they committed several serious crimes (like taking the Walley World employees hostage with a gun) and were actually apprehended by the police. The assumption is that Roy Walley decided to press no charges, but it is not his call: once the police got involved, such matters belong to the prosecutor. It's never explained how the prosecution lets them go away scot free.
- Honest John's Dealership: Clark procures the Family Truckster from one of these.
- Hypocritical Humor: Ellen is understandably aghast at Clark's crappy and uncaring eulogy for Aunt Edna, stopping it in the middle to deliver her own. Problem is, her speech isn't any better, being more of a thinly-veiled rant at her husband than a genuine expression of grief.
- Improbable Parking Skills: Clark falls asleep at the wheel, the car wanders onto an exit ramp, careens toward a hotel, and Clark wakes up in time to scream and stomp the brakes. The car stops in a parking spot, and the luggage all tumbles off the top of the car to boot.Clark: "Well, we're here!"
- Incest Is Relative: Cousin Eddie and his daughter Vicki, according to her.Vicki: I'm going steady, and I French kiss.Audrey: So? Everybody does that.Vicki: Yeah, but Daddy says I'm the best at it.
- Irony: At the beginning of the film, Clark says that the reason he doesn't want to fly is because when you're on a plane, you can put headphones on and be in your own world, and thus not truly spending time with your family. When Clark and Ellen start (badly) singing various songs, Rusty and Audrey put on headphones in the backseat.
- Jerkass: Aunt Edna who complains every single chance she gets as she travels with the family. Thankfully she dies along the way.
- Kafka Komedy: Clark's good intentions all lead to a never-ending streak of humiliating moments.
- Leg Cling: The original movie poster and home video covers, being a parody of classic Frank Frazetta Conan the Barbarian illustrations (in fact, they were designed by Frazetta's fellow Conan illustrator Boris Vallejo).
- Lingerie Scene: Christie Brinkley has one.
- Lighter and Softer: Than the original National Lampoon story by Hughes, which among other differences ended with Clark purchasing a real gun, hunting down the actual Walt Disney to his California home, and shooting him in the leg as a result of finding the amusement park closed and thus ending up going to jail while the rest of the family fly home, trying their damnedest to forget this whole mess ever happened. Needless to say, the original tale was a mite more nihilistic.
- Magical Computer: Clark plans out the trip on one. While the car avatar runs through the planned route, Rusty gets bored, picks up a joystick, and makes a Pac-Man kind of thing try to eat it. Clark takes evasive maneuvers with the car avatar. Audrey then defends the car from Rusty's attack by controlling some space alien shooter thing with another joystick.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Roy mentions he has seven children.
- The Mountains of Illinois: The Griswolds visit relatives in Coolidge, Kansas, with mountains visible in some shots. While Coolidge is about 10 miles from the Colorado state line, you can't see mountains until you're about 100 to 125 miles inside Colorado at best. Most of eastern Colorado is about as flat and empty as you'll ever see.
- Also noticeable at the very beginning when they go to the car dealership in "Chicago." Some palm trees and distant mountains are visible in the background.
- Mr. Alt Disney: Roy Walley.
- Ms. Fanservice: Christie Brinkley.
- Beverly D'Angelo too, who even does get naked!
- Nausea Dissonance: After the Griswolds discover their dog had peed on their sandwiches, everyone starts spitting their sandwich out except Aunt Edna, who just keeps eating.
- Negative Continuity: The film series is built on this. Nothing that ever happens in previous films affects the later ones. Ever. And the films feel free to contradict each other. Rule of Funny is in full play.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: The Griswold children, at least until the 2015 relaunch. This makes Clark's line in the first film about how he'll wake up one day and they'll be grown up pretty funny.
- Rusty actually gets younger in Christmas Vaction and both Audrey and Rusty are adults in Vegas Vacation but under 21. And adult Audrey does appear in the TV spinoff Cousin Eddies Island played by the original actress.
- Oddball in the Series: It's the only Chevy Chase Vacation film that's rated R.
- Parodies of Fire: The Chariots of Fire theme starts up as the family runs towards Walley World.
- Rage Breaking Point: Clark does his best to keep a happy attitude, no matter what happens to the family, as he's sure that Walley World will make it all better. Then it turns out the park is closed for maintenance, and Clark finally snaps.
- Ramp Jump: Clark has an unintentional one in the middle of the Arizona desert that pretty much destroys the Family Truckster, though that doesn't stop him from admiring his "work."Clark (proudly, under his breath): "Fifty yards!"
- Road Trip Plot: 90% of the movie is devoted to the drive to Walley World.
- Sanity Slippage: What happens to Clark when their trip proves to be All for Nothing.
Rusty: (worried, puts his hand on his shoulder) Dad, you want an aspirin or something?
- It started to slip when the family complains about the terrible experience they had so far and just wanna go home. He tells them they're all crazy and that they're gonna continue until they arrive at Walley World.
Clark: DON'T TOUCH!!
- Setting Update: In the original short story, the Griswolds lived in 1958 Grosse Pointe, Michigan; the movie transplants them to Present Day (at the time of production) Chicago.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: See All for Nothing above.
- Shameless Fanservice Girl: Christie Brinkley.
- Shower Scene: Thank you, Beverly.
- Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: The film is a Type 4 (Near Identical Adaptation); it changes some names and gives the story a mostly-happy ending, but it sticks close to the original Vacation 58 short story.
- Spiritual Successor: Little Miss Sunshine
- Thirsty Desert: Clark wandering through Monument Valley.
- Two-Person Pool Party: It's broken up before anything serious can happen, though.
- Clark actually gets two in the first movie. One with Christie and only a few minutes later, one with Beverly. Both are cut short because the water is too cold.
- Violently Protective Wife: Ellen telling Aunt Edna to "sit down and shut up" after she complains about Clark for the umpteenth time.
- What a Drag: That poor dog. Sure, it was a nasty sandwich-pisser, but it didn't deserve that.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Ellen calls Clark out for the attitude in the car after they delivered Aunt Edna's body, and for the way he acted on the trip. Though, Clark is annoyed by her negativity and goes to a bar to cool off.Ellen: Where are you going?
Clark: What do you care?!