National Lampoon's European Vacation

Movie review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
National Lampoon's European Vacation Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Funny but extremely crass '80s family comedy.
  • PG-13
  • 1985
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 18 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The bulk of the movie shows negative messages in a comic light, with the underlying message being the sanctity of family and respect for parents. The negatives are so extreme at points that they may overwhelm the positive message for some viewers. For example, while in the end the teenage son finds a smart, upstanding girlfriend and sees his parents as positive forces in his life, he previously got drunk and cavorted with a prostitute.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the Griswolds are foolish, for sure, and their ignorance makes other people's lives harder, they never intend to harm. For instance, when Clark hits a bicyclist because he's driving on the wrong side of the road, he's genuinely sorry and offers to make amends. His foolishness is meant as an example of what not to do. That said, the film is rife with stereotypes and behaviors, like the daughter's binge eating, that we would not want our children to emulate.


Several comic fistfights. Two instances of brief, mild sexual force.


Two scenes with bare breasts in a sexual context -- one is at burlesque club, the other is when a teen boy is making out with a teen girl. The parents have a healthy and active sexual relationship. Video of parents having sex accidentally gets out to public.


Frequent strong language, mostly sexual, like "t-ts," "ass," "slut." One instance of "f--k" in French and displayed in English subtitle.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The mom gets mad at her husband, starts drinking, and says she's going to get "plastered." One scene includes lots of beer drinking in the background. Teenage son gets drunk once.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this comedy is overflowing with sexual references, including innuendo and nudity. Teenagers make out with other teenagers, sometimes in front of their parents. There are several brief, comically-portrayed displays of sexual force (including that of an adult to teen). Language is explicit, though always used humorously. Also, the teenage girl struggles with eating/weight issues that are exaggerated for comic effect.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byMovieman456 June 1, 2020
Loved the second on to
Adult Written byArkanshaw February 21, 2020

Not for kids

So many movies from the past I forgot how inappropriate they are and this is one of them. Nudity and sexual innuendos.
Kid, 12 years old April 12, 2021

Wasn't the best but had dome funny bits.

Funny Family comedy has a lot of sexual content for a PG-13 film two scenes with bare breasts one a a strip club in France and one were two people are making ou... Continue reading

What's the story?

The Griswold family, who made such a mess on their way to Wally World in National Lampoon's Vacation, sets off on a similar journey in Europe. After winning a globe-trotting trip on a Family Feud-style game show, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his wife Ellen (Bevery D'Angelo) and teenage children Audrey (Dana Hill) and Rusty (Jason Lively) race through England, France, Germany, and Italy, packing in all the sights they can manage. Guided by jolly and oblivious father Clark, the family nearly kills several Brits while driving on the wrong side of the road, knocks down Stonehenge, mangles the French language, gets chased by Germans in lederhosen, and becomes involved in a kidnapping and robbery scheme that ends in a dramatic car chase. Along the way, Audrey pines for the boyfriend she lefts back home and Rusty flirts with every girl he sees.

Is it any good?

The movie touches on all the funny and awful elements of family travel, from bickering siblings to managing unfamiliar customs, and these things will resonate with parents more than teens. But teens will see themselves in the film too -- the girl obsessed with her boyfriend, the boy testing out his macho side -- all while struggling to get along with their parents. Some scenes are typical slapstick stuff -- poking someone in the groin, silly car chases, etc. -- and provide mild amusement. But a few scenes, like when the family loses their luggage and goes boutique shopping in Italy, are truly laugh-out-loud moments. The themes that are played for laughs, like the teen girl binging and starving herself or the adult passionately kissing the teen girl, are touchy subjects. While the movie clearly aims to poke fun at extreme behaviors, some younger viewers might not understand the complexity of the issues.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes. What kind of stereotypes about Europeans show up in the movie? Is there anything harmful about portraying stereotypes this way? What function do stereotypes perform in our understanding of different cultures?

  • Talk about relationships. What kind of relationships are on display here? Do these types of relationships seem familiar? Do the people in them seem happy? What is different about the girl Rusty meets in the end compared to the other girls he meets in Europe?

  • Families can talk about eating problems. What was Audrey's relationship to food? Do you know any people in real life who have food or weight struggles?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love travel

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate