National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a 1989 American Christmas comedy film and the third installment in National Lampoon magazine's Vacation film series. Christmas Vacation was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, written and co-produced by John Hughes, and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, and Randy Quaid with supporting roles by Miriam Flynn, William Hickey, Mae Questel (in her final film role before her death in 1998), Diane Ladd, John Randolph, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Johnny Galecki.[2]

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Theatrical release poster by Chris Consani
Directed byJeremiah S. Chechik
Written byJohn Hughes
Based onCharacters by
John Hughes
Produced by
  • John Hughes
  • Tom Jacobson
CinematographyThomas E. Ackerman
Edited by
Music byAngelo Badalamenti
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • December 1, 1989 (1989-12-01)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[1]
Box office$73.3 million

Based on Hughes's short story, "Christmas '59", published in National Lampoon,[3] the film tells the story of Clark Griswold’s efforts to have a good old-fashioned family Christmas as they take a hilarious turn for the worse. It is the final film in the series to involve Hughes and National Lampoon. Filming took place in Summit County, Colorado, Silverthorne, Breckenridge, and Frisco as well as Burbank, California between March and June 1989.

The film performed well at the box office, grossing $73.3 million against a $25 million budget while receiving generally mixed reviews from critics. It is now regarded as a Christmas classic.



Chicago-area resident Clark Griswold intends to have a great Christmas with his entire family. He drives his wife Ellen and children Audrey and Rusty out to the country to find a tree, ultimately choosing the largest one they can find. Realizing too late that they did not bring any tools to cut down the tree, they are forced to uproot it instead. While Clark is checking out at a mall, he sees the beautiful cashier and talks to her. He also lies to her just to get her as his new wife. Clark's holiday plans inadvertently cause steadily escalating chaos for the family's yuppie neighbors, Todd and Margo Chester.

When both Clark's and Ellen's parents arrive for Christmas, their bickering quickly begins to annoy the family. However, Clark maintains a positive attitude and remains undeterred in his plans. He covers the house's entire exterior with thousands of lights, which temporarily cause a citywide power shortage once he gets them to work properly.

Ellen's cousin Catherine and her redneck husband Eddie arrive unannounced with two of their younger children, Rocky and Ruby Sue, and their pet Rottweiler, Snots. Eddie later admits they are living in the RV in which they arrived, as he went broke and had to sell their home and land. Clark offers to buy gifts for Eddie's kids so they can still enjoy Christmas. Soon afterward, Clark's senile Aunt Bethany and cantankerous Uncle Lewis arrive.

Clark begins to wonder why his boss, Frank Shirley, has not given him his yearly bonus, which he desperately needs to pay for a new swimming pool. After a disastrous Christmas Eve dinner, during which Aunt Bethany's cat is electrocuted and Uncle Lewis accidentally burns down the Christmas tree while lighting his cigar, a courier delivers an envelope. Instead of the bonus Clark expects, it is a membership in Jelly of the Month club. He snaps and angrily wishes for Frank to be delivered to the house so he can insult him to his face.

Taking Clark's request literally, Eddie kidnaps Frank, who admits to canceling the Christmas bonuses but then reinstates them in the face of Clark's chastisement. Meanwhile, Frank's wife Helen calls the police, and a SWAT team storms the Griswold house and holds everyone at gunpoint. Frank decides not to press charges and explains the situation to his wife and the SWAT leader, both of whom scold him for canceling the bonuses until he reveals his change of heart.

The family goes outside when Rocky and Ruby Sue believe they see Santa Claus in the distance. Clark tells them it is actually the Christmas Star and that he finally realizes what the holiday means to him.

Uncle Lewis says that the light is coming from a sewage treatment plant, reminding Clark that Eddie had been dumping his RV sewage into the nearby storm drain. Before Clark can stop him, Uncle Lewis lights another cigar and tosses the match into the drain, causing a giant gas explosion which sets a Santa's sleigh decoration afire and launches it into the sky. Aunt Bethany starts singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and everyone joins in as the flaming decoration flies into the distance.

The entire family, along with the Shirleys and the SWAT team, go inside to celebrate while Clark and Ellen share a Christmas kiss. Clark is satisfied that he has provided a great Christmas for his family, while Snots stands in front of him.


  • Chevy Chase as Clark W. "Sparky" Griswold Jr.
  • Beverly D'Angelo as Ellen Griswold
  • Juliette Lewis as Audrey Griswold. Audrey was previously portrayed by Dana Barron and Dana Hill in the last two films.
  • Johnny Galecki as Russell "Rusty" Griswold. Russ was portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall and Jason Lively in the previous two films.
  • John Randolph as Clark Griswold Sr., Clark's father and Rusty and Audrey's grandfather
  • Diane Ladd as Nora Griswold, Clark's mother and Rusty and Audrey's grandmother
  • E. G. Marshall as Arthur "Art" Smith, Ellen's father and Rusty and Audrey's grandfather
  • Doris Roberts as Frances Smith, Ellen's mother and Rusty and Audrey's grandmother
  • Miriam Flynn as Catherine Johnson, Ellen's cousin
  • Randy Quaid as Eddie Johnson, Catherine's husband
  • Cody Burger as Rocky Johnson, the son of Eddie and Catherine who has a lip fungus that wasn't identified yet
  • Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ruby Sue Johnson, the daughter of Catherine and Eddie who was formerly cross-eyed
  • William Hickey as Uncle Lewis, Clark's uncle and Rusty and Audrey's great-uncle
  • Mae Questel as Aunt Bethany, Clark's aunt and Rusty and Audrey's great-aunt
  • Sam McMurray as Bill, Clark's co-worker
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Margo Chester, the Griswold family's yuppie neighbor who takes the brunt of their shenanigans
  • Nicholas Guest as Todd Chester, Margo's husband
  • Brian Doyle-Murray as Frank Shirley, Clark's boss
  • Natalia Nogulich as Helen Shirley, Frank's wife
  • Doug Llewelyn as the voice of the Parade Announcer
  • Nicolette Scorsese (uncredited) as Mary, the sales clerk



Development and writing


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation originated from a short story by writer John Hughes called "Christmas '59", which was published in the December 1980 issue of National Lampoon magazine.[4] "The studio came to me and begged for another one, and I only agreed because I had a good story to base it on," said Hughes. "But those movies have become little more than Chevy Chase vehicles."[5] Director Chris Columbus initially was to direct the film, but due to a personality clash between himself and Chase, Columbus left the film and was replaced by Chechik. Hughes eventually gave Columbus the script to Home Alone.[6][7]



Principal photography began on March 27, 1989, in Summit County, Colorado,[8] with footage shot in Silverthorne, Breckenridge, and Frisco.[9] From there the production moved to Warner Bros. Ranch Facilities in Burbank, California, where the set of the Griswold family's house and street is located.[10] Filming wrapped on June 30, 1989.



The musical score for National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation was composed by Angelo Badalamenti. It is the only installment of the Vacation film series not to include Lindsey Buckingham's "Holiday Road". In its place is a song entitled "Christmas Vacation" with music by Barry Mann, lyrics by Cynthia Weil and performed by Mavis Staples of The Staple Singers fame.[11] The song was covered in 2007 by High School Musical star Monique Coleman for the 2007 Christmas album Disney Channel Holiday.[12] Popular Christmas songs featured in the film include Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters Hawaiian-themed "Mele Kalikimaka",[13] and, during the climax of the film, Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus".[14][15] For the latter song, Autry's re-recorded 1957 Challenge Records version is used.[16]

Despite several popular songs being present in the film, no official soundtrack album was released. In 1999, a bootleg copy containing music featured in the film along with select cuts of dialogue dubbed as the "10th Anniversary Limited Edition" began to appear on Internet auction sites with the claim that Warner Bros. and RedDotNet had pressed 20,000 CDs for Six Flags Magic Mountain employees to sell to customers entering the park but that only 7,000 had been sold and now the remainder were being made available to the public.[17][18] However forums at movie music sites such as SoundtrackCollector later declared the disc to be a bootleg due to its inaccuracies.[19] For instance, the cut "Christmas Vacation Medley" (claiming to be the work of composer Angelo Badalamenti) is really a track called "Christmas at Carnegie Hall" from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York by composer John Williams and does not actually contain any of Badalamenti's Christmas Vacation score.



Home media


The film has been released on home media several different times: VHS and Laserdisc in early 1990, a bare bones DVD in 1997, and a "Special Edition" DVD in 2003. HD DVD as well as Blu-ray editions were released in 2006.[20] In 2009, a second Blu-ray of the film was released as an "Ultimate Collector's Edition".[21] A steelbook Blu-ray was released in 2015 with remastered picture quality, and a second steelbook was released in 2019.[22] On November 1, 2022, the film was released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time.[23]



Box office


The movie debuted at No. 2 at the box-office while grossing $11,750,203 during the opening weekend, behind Back to the Future Part II.[24] The movie eventually topped the box-office charts in its third week of release and remained #1 the following weekend. It went on to gross a total of $71,319,546 in the United States while showing in movie theaters.[25] It was the highest-grossing film in the series, until the release of Vacation in 2015.

Critical response


At the time of the film's release, the film received mixed to positive reviews; however, over time, many have cited it as a Christmas classic.[14][26][27] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 70% of 54 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.2/10. The site's consensus reads, "While Christmas Vacation may not be the most disciplined comedy, it's got enough laughs and good cheer to make for a solid seasonal treat."[28] Another review aggregation website, Metacritic, assigned the film a rating of 49 out of 100 based on 18 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[29] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[30]

Entertainment magazine Variety responded positively to the film stating, "Solid family fare with plenty of yucks, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is Chevy Chase and brood doing what they do best. Despite the title, which links it to previous pics in the rambling Vacation series, this third entry is firmly rooted at the Griswold family homestead, where Clark Griswold (Chase) is engaged in a typical over-reaching attempt to give his family a perfect, old-fashioned Christmas."[31] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review explaining that "it will prove pater-familiar to fans of the 1983 original and the European Vacation sequel. Only it's a bit more whimsical."[32]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two out of four stars, saying, "The movie is curious in how close it comes to delivering on its material: Sequence after sequence seems to contain all the necessary material, to be well on the way toward a payoff, and then it somehow doesn't work."[33]

Other media




The fourth film in the series, Vegas Vacation, would follow in 1997, without the involvement of either Hughes or National Lampoon.

Spin-off sequel


In 2003, NBC aired a spin-off called National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2 which featured Cousin Eddie's family on a Christmas vacation in the South Pacific. Randy Quaid, Miriam Flynn, and Dana Barron reprise their roles from the previous Vacation films alongside series newcomers Jake Thomas, Edward Asner, Sung Hi Lee, and Fred Willard.


In 2012, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, and Juliette Lewis reunited for Christmas Vacation-themed ads for Old Navy.[34] The series of ads also featured the other actors who portrayed past versions of Russ and Audrey.[35]

In 2020, Chase and D'Angelo reprised their roles as Clark and Ellen in a Ford commercial for the Ford Mustang Mach-E spoofing the house lighting scene.[36]

The movie has inspired the theme for various Christmas lights and decoration displays over the years.[37][38][39]

See also



  1. ^ Harmetz, Ajean (December 7, 1989). "It's Fade-Out for the Cheap Film As Hollywood's Budgets Soar". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  2. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Hughes, John. "Christmas 59". National Lampoon. Archived from the original on February 23, 2001. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
  4. ^ Quin, Eleanor. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  5. ^ Ham, William. "Straight Outta Sherman: An Interview with John Hughes". Lollipop Magazine Online. Archived from the original on August 19, 2000. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Madison III, Ira (November 10, 2015). "Chris Columbus Directed Home Alone Instead of Christmas Vacation Because He Met Chevy Chase". Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  7. ^ LeDonne, Rob (December 22, 2014). "Xmas or Bust: The Untold Story of 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  8. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on April 2, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  9. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) - Locations". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2016. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  10. ^ Blake, Lindsay (December 24, 2013). "Scene It Before: The Griswold House from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Los Angeles. Archived from the original on November 30, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Willis, John (December 8, 1990). "Screen World: 1990 Film Annual". Screen World. 41. Crown Publishing Group: 121.
  12. ^ Lace, Beverly (January 30, 2011). The Musical Life of Monique Coleman. p. 5.
  13. ^ Cruz, Lenika (December 20, 2015). "'Mele Kalikimaka': A Holiday Humblebrag". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on February 21, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2019. ...when Chevy Chase fantasizes about having a pool in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, "Mele Kalikimaka" plays perkily in the background.
  14. ^ a b Hughes, Becky (December 24, 2018). "Why We Still Love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Parade. AMG/Parade. Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019. When a SWAT team arrives to the strains of Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus," the tone is just right.
  15. ^ Roberson, Joe (December 5, 2014). "25 Things You Never Knew About 'Christmas Vacation'". Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019. Gene Autry's "Here Comes Santa Claus" scores the scene when the police storm the Griswolds' house. Coincidentally, Randy Quaid is Autry's third cousin.
  16. ^ "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)". Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  17. ^ Stitzel, Kelly (December 5, 2009). "Soundtrack Saturday: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"". Popdose. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  18. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - 10th Anniversary Movie Soundtrack". Archived from the original on August 19, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  19. ^ "Christmas Vacation - Soundtrack Details". SoundtrackCollector. Archived from the original on August 19, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  20. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation HD DVD Review". Hi-Def Digest. November 29, 2006. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  21. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Blu-ray Ultimate Collector's Edition)". DVD Talk. November 23, 2009.
  22. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation Blu-ray Steelbook". Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  23. ^ "Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Announces Four Holiday Classics Coming to 4K UHD!". November 2022.
  24. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 1-3, 1989". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  25. ^ "Christmas Vacation (1989)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  26. ^ Durrett, Mike. "Top 10 Christmas and New Year's Comedy Movies". Archived from the original on November 8, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  27. ^ Leo, Alex (December 16, 2012). "The 10 Funniest Christmas Movies Of All Time". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  28. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 20, 2024.  
  29. ^ National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, retrieved December 14, 2021
  30. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved October 18, 2022.
  31. ^ "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Variety. 1989. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  32. ^ Kempley, Rita (December 1, 1989). "'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' (PG-13)". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  33. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 1, 1989). "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  34. ^ "'Christmas Vacation' cast reunite for Old Navy commercial". Yahoo! News. November 27, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2021.
  35. ^ "Griswold Old Navy Commercial: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo & Juliette Lewis Stage 'Christmas Vacation' Reunion (VIDEO)". HuffPost. November 26, 2012. Retrieved July 10, 2023.
  36. ^ "Chevy Chase And Beverly D'Angelo Recreate 'Christmas Vacation' Scene With Mustang Mach-E". December 22, 2020. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  37. ^ Solis, Nathan (December 16, 2021). "Over-the-top Christmas house in La Mirada is worthy of Clark W. Griswold himself". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  38. ^ Rousselle, Christine (December 22, 2022). "Police called after 'Cousin Eddie' holiday display spooks neighbor". Fox News. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  39. ^ "South Jersey Home Recreates Christmas Vacation (Griswold Family) Display, Complete With Station Wagon & RV". 94.5 PST. December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 23, 2022.