National Lampoon's European Vacation Movie Poster Image

National Lampoon's European Vacation

Funny but extremely crass '80s family comedy.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 26, 1985
DVD/Streaming release date:April 2, 2002
Cast:Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, Dana Hill
Director:Amy Heckerling
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content, graphic partial nudity, and language

This review of National Lampoon's European Vacation was written by

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

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

About Our Ratings

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate.

Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 10 years old February 16, 2014

Maybe 12+ if not 15+

This movie was good. (Not as great as the original or christmas) With that said, I have watched European Vacation but I am not allowed to see it again for a long time. It's original was R but it is now PG-13. I agree with the R rating. There isn't very much language, but there is an f-word in French. But there are 2 scenes of nudity in the movie. The 1st one was when Clark took Ellen to a naked show and bare breasts were shown for like 2 minutes. Ellen was the only girl there and she closed her eyes. The last one was when Rusty was with a girl and she took her brae off and you could see her breasts completely for about 3 seconds. And at the begging the pig in a poke host started hitting on Ellen and Audrey. Ages 12+ iffy 15+ good
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent of a 9 and 11 year old Written byanastasiaRUSA November 7, 2011

not for kids

Definitely not for kids
Parent of a 13 year old Written byLoveLand July 29, 2010

Very bad

Stupid and full of garbage you don't want in your own mind especially not your childs!!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing