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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

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NationalLampoonsChristmasVacation Poster

The poster for the film's theatrical release.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (titled National Lampoon's Winter Holiday in the United Kingdom) is a 1989 Christmas comedy film directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. It is the third installment in the National Lampoon's Vacation film series, and was written by John Hughes, based on his short story in National Lampoon Magazine, Christmas ‘59.

The movie debuted at #2 at the box-office while grossing $11,750,203 during the opening weekend, behind Back to the Future Part II. 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.[1] Considered the most popular movie in the series, it was the last movie in the National Lampoon's Vacation series until Vegas Vacation came out in 1997.


SPOILER: Plot details or story follow.

The movie begins with Clark Griswold taking his family on the search for a perfect Christmas tree. After aggravating nearby motorists, getting stuck under a big rig, and walking in the woods for a long time, he finally finds the said tree. (He digs it out himself because he forgot the saw.) He breaks several windows and gets covered in tree sap setting it up, as it barely fits in the yard, let alone the living room.

While shopping for gifts at a downtown Chicago department store, Clark meets a saleswoman named Mary. He makes a series of Freudian slips to her on their first encounter, and later fantasizes about her skinny-dipping in his future pool (interrupted by his cousin-in-law's daughter).

Clark has been working on a project at his firm which he expects will bring in a good Christmas bonus. He plans to use the bonus to put in a swimming pool, which he has already laid down a $7,500 deposit on.


As Christmas approaches, the many members of Clark's extended family begin arriving to stay with him. His and his wife Ellen's parents are the first to arrive. This drives him to go set up the lighting on the house with his son Rusty. He covers nearly every inch of the home's exterior and yard with lights (according to himself, a grand total of 25,000 Christmas lights). He becomes very frustrated after many attempts to get them working. Unknown to him, the electricity wasn't on to begin with. When Ellen heads to the back store room to get something, she flips a light switch, lighting the house (and causing the power plant to switch to nuclear generators for backup power), and blinding their unfriendly yuppie neighbors. After the lights are up and running, Ellen's cousin and cousin-in-law, Eddie and Catherine, along with their children, show up to stay with him for a month, with their dilapidated, rusty RV parked in the driveway the whole time. Stifling his disappointment at their surprise arrival proves difficult for Clark. However, he and Ellen are concerned about Eddie's children, as they won't have many, if any, gifts for Christmas, due to Eddie's seven year unemployment. Later on, Clark treats Rusty, Eddie, Catherine, and others to a sledding trip. He then adds a sheeting of a "Non-Choloric, Silicon-Based Kitchen Lubricent" that his company had made, but results in the chemical compound shooting him at 800 mph for about one mile, leading to him becoming severely injured.

On Christmas Eve, the family's eldest members, Uncle Lewis and Aunt Bethany, arrive for dinner. Numerous disasters occur that evening: the turkey is cooked for far too long and it dries out, Aunt Bethany's white Persian cat is electrocuted when it chews on a strand of Christmas lights, Uncle Lewis burns the tree down while lighting a cigar, forcing Clark to quickly search for a replacement. He takes one from his yard and sets it up, and a maniac squirrel leaps out and "terrorizes" the family. A delivery from the company arrives at the house that evening, everyone expecting it to be the long-awaited bonus. Unfortunately, Clark's boss cut out bonuses without informing his employees. As a substitute, Clark is enrolled in the "Jelly of the Month" club.

Clark has now reached his boiling point, going through several outbursts out of severe frustration. The family attempts to leave due to the events of the evening. Eddie then kidnaps Clark's boss, and he finally sees reason about the Christmas bonuses. A SWAT team, called by his wife, raids the home, but he explains that it is all a misunderstanding and admits he was wrong to withhold bonuses from his employees. He then decides to give Clark his bonus, along with an added 20%.

Uncle Lewis' cigar ignites the gas from the sewage Eddie had earlier dumped down the storm drain while emptying the holding tank on his RV, blasting a Santa ornament into the sky. The movie ends as Aunt Bethany sings the National Anthem as everyone watches the strange but touching sight, as Clark realizes his dream of the perfect, albeit weird, family Christmas.

Spoilers end here.


Home video releases


  • The label on the home movie reel that Clark finds in the attic is labeled "Xmas '59", in reference to the original short story.
  • This was the last movie that Mae Questel (who played Aunt Bethany) made before her death. She was best known as the original voice of both Betty Boop and Olive Oyl from the Popeye cartoons.


Actor Character
Chevy Chase Clark Wilhelm "Sparky" Griswold, Jr.
Beverly D'Angelo Ellen Smith Griswold
Juliette Lewis Audrey Griswold
Johnny Galecki Rusty "Russ" Griswold
John Randolph Clark Wilhelm Griswold, Sr.
Diane Ladd Nora Griswold
E.G. Marshall Arthur "Art" Smith
Doris Roberts Frances Smith
Randy Quaid Cousin Edward "Eddie" Johnson
Miriam Flynn Cousin Catherine Johnson
Cody Burger Cousin Rocky Johnson
Ellen Hamilton Latzen Cousin Ruby Sue Johnson
William Hickey Uncle Lewis
Mae Questel Aunt Bethany
Sam McMurray Bill
Nicholas Guest Todd Chester
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Margo Chester
Brian Doyle-Murray Frank Shirley
Natalia Nogulich Helen Shirley
Traci Kochendorfer Downtown Shopper
Nicolette Scorsese Mary
Devin Bailey Clark Griswold, Jr. (age 9)
Jeremy Roberts Cop


  1. Box Office Mojo: Christmas Vacation (1989)

See also

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed
content from Wikipedia (view authors).
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Pictures Christmas in ConnecticutGremlinsNational Lampoon's Christmas VacationJack FrostNational Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island AdventureThe Year Without a Santa ClausFred ClausA Christmas Story 2
New Line Cinema ElfThe Nativity StoryFour ChristmasesA Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
Live-action television episodes
Friends and Joey "The One With Phoebe's Dad" • "The One Where Rachel Quits" • "The One With the Girl from Poughkeepsie" • "The One With the Inappropriate Sister" • "The One With the Routine" • "The One With the Holiday Armadillo" • "The One With the Creepy Holiday Card" • "The One With Christmas in Tulsa" • "Joey and the Plot Twist" • "Joey and the Christmas Party"
DC Comics "Season's Greedings" • "Home is Where the Hurt Is" • "Twas the Night Before Mxymas" • "Lexmas" • "Year's End"
Other shows "A Semi-Merry Christmas" • "Mel, the Magi" • "Mel's Christmas Carol" • "'Tis the Season to Be Jealous" • "A Christmas Story" (Growing Pains) • "A Christmas Story" (Just the Ten of Us) • "Santa on the Lam" • "Miracle on Elm Street" • "The Christmas Show" • "Fa La La La Laagghh!" • "The Man Who Canceled Christmas" • "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" • "Deck the Malls" • "Christmas Day-Ja Vu" • "A Country Christmas" • "How the Finch Stole Christmas" • "Meet the Cuban Parents" • "Christmas Punch" • "A Clear and Presentless Danger" • "George Is Being Elfish and Christ-Misses His Family" • "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis" • "Christmas" (The Middle) • "It's Beginning to Stink a Lot Like Christmas" • "The Maternal Congruence" • "Jolly Red Elf" • "The World Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" • "The Santa Simulation" • "Give Santa a Tail-Hole"
Animated productions
Looney Tunes and related shows The Shanty Where Santy Claus LivesBedtime for SnifflesGift WrappedBugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales • "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special" • "'Twas the Day Before Christmas" • "Jingle Boo" • "The Great Wakkorotti: The Holiday Concert" • "A Christmas Plotz" • "Little Drummer Warners" • "No Time for Christmas" • "The Twelve Days of Christmas" • "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas" • "It Happened One Night Before Christmas" • "In Arms Way" • "Noel" • "The Christmas Tree" • "The Banks of the Delaware River" • "Feather Christmas" • "Yule Be Sorry" • "Christmas in July" • Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas • "A Christmas Carol"
DC Comics "Christmas With the Joker" • "Holiday Knights" • "Frozen Out" • "Comfort and Joy" • "Storybook Holiday" • "Invasion of the Secret Santas!" • "Second Christmas" • "The True Meaning of Christmas"
Other cartoons "Yuletide and Redtide" • A Scooby-Doo! Christmas • "The Match Before Xmas" • The Polar Express • "Ho Ho Horrors" • Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker TaleA Miser Brothers' Christmas • "Da Grinchy Code / Duck" • "FROST / Undercover Claus" • Scooby-Doo! Haunted Holidays • "Fantastic Four Christmases / Red and White Collar" • "The Plight Before Christmas" • Tom and Jerry: Santa's Little HelpersElf: Buddy's Musical Christmas • "Scary Christmas"
Have Yourself a Looney Tunes ChristmasA Hip-Hopera ChristmasMerry Christmas: Animaniacs & Looney TunesThe Looney Tunes Kwazy ChristmasA Looney Tunes Sing-A-Long Christmas

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