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National Lampoon's Vacation is a 1983 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron and Anthony Michael Hall. The film features numerous others, such as comedians John Candy and Imogene Coca, supermodel Christie Brinkley and future Thirty Rock regular Jane Krakowski, 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.

The film was a significant box-office hit, earning over $61 million in the United States with an estimated budget of $15 million. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted National Lampoon's Vacation the 46th greatest comedy film of all time.

A series of sequels followed:

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.

The original, however, is still widely considered to be the best of the Vacation films, and continues to be a popular film and a staple on cable television channels. It also currently garners a 97% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A "Wally World Water Park" opened in Canada several years after the release of the movie.

Tropes used in National Lampoon's Vacation include:

  • All for Nothing: After all what they have went through in that torturous trip, they finally arrive at Wally World only to find it closed for maintenance.
  • The Alleged Car: The Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a parody of the hideous American sedans and wagons of the era.
    • It even has what may be the earliest example of the "accidental airbag deployment" gag. In 1983!
    • By the end of the trip, it's practically falling to bolts, having survived not only shoddy workmanship, but also vandalism and a fifty-foot jump.
  • 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 Wally World tees and sweaters throughout European Vacation.
  • Corrupt Hick: The film features a scene where Chevy Chase 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, leading the men to laugh, and one of them to pull out and display a sheriff's badge.
  • Hollywood Law: the 4th film has this in spades: a Fake ID is all the under-21 rusty needs to be able to keep 4 luxery cars won at the slot machines, and Clark is able to cash someone else's winning keno ticket.
  • 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!"

  • Jerkass: Aunt Edna who complains every chance she get as she travels with the family. Thankfully she dies along the way.
  • Left It In: Before the family leaves for their trip to Europe, Clark videotapes Ellen while she's taking a shower, who then tells him to delete it after he's finished. The family gets their camera stolen by a thief while they're in France; when they arrive in Rome, Ellen then discovers that Clark did not delete the video of her in the shower at all, when she sees a poster advertising a movie that starred her. Apparently, the thief discovered the video after he stole the camera and advertised it as a movie.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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 feet!"