National Lampoon's Vacation

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National Lampoon's 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.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story "Vacation '58" which appeared in "National Lampoon" magazine.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.
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 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.

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, 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 (Henry Gibson) 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.

Clark (slipping into madness and realizing that all his efforts have been for nothing) 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.


  • Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold
  • Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Griswold
  • Imogene Coca as Aunt Edna
  • Anthony Michael Hall as Russell "Rusty" Griswold
  • Dana Barron as Audrey Griswold
  • Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie
  • Christie Brinkley as the Girl in Red Ferrari
  • John Candy as Russ Lasky
  • Eddie Bracken as Roy Walley
  • Brian Doyle-Murray as Kamp Komfort Clerk
  • Miriam Flynn as Cousin Catherine
  • James Keach as Motorcycle Cop
  • Eugene Levy as Ed the Car Salesman
  • Frank McRae as Grover
  • Jane Krakowski as Cousin Vicki
  • John P. Navin, Jr. as Cousin Dale
  • Violet Ramis (uncredited) as Daisy Mabel
  • Nathan Cook as Man Giving Directions
  • Mickey Jones as Mechanic
  • John Diehl as Assistant Mechanic
  • Michael Talbott as Cowboy
  • Henry Gibson (uncredited) as Hotel Clerk


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.

"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."

Upon Simmons' agreement with Warner Bros., Hughes was assigned the task of adapting his original story into a screenplay.

Walley World

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. Similarly, Roy Walley's appearance bears similarities to that of Disney and his name is similar to that of his brother Roy Disney.

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.

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

The Wagon Queen Family Truckster station wagon was created specifically for the film.

The Truckster is based on a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon and heavily modified.

The car was designed by George Barris and lampooned American cars of the late 1970s.

The Truckster features a pale avocado green metallic green paint scheme; fake wood paneling; eight headlights, four on each side in a rectangular cluster (taken from another Crown Victoria/Country Squire and inverted); and a grille area largely covered by bodywork with only two small openings close to the bumper.

In the 2015 "Vacation" film, the Wagon Queen Family Truckster reappears at the bed and breakfast garage of Clark and Ellen Griswold.

The Truckster is the creation of a real-life Griswold family that lives in Atlanta, Steve and Lisa Griswold, who created the replica wagon so that they could take family road trips across America with their two daughters.

In July of 2014, the real-life Griswold family drove across the United States visiting the locations seen in the original 1983 Vacation 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.


Box Office

"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.

The film grossed $61,399,552.

Critical Reception

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."

Metacritic reports a 60 out of 100 rating based on six critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."

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."

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."

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."

Theatrical Trailer

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) Movie Trailer
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983) Movie Trailer
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