A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that National Lampoon's Vacation is a 1983 comedy filled with inappropriate behavior from both adults and tweens. There is frequent profanity, including a tirade filled with "f--k," brief female nudity (breasts), sexual innuendo, an incest joke, and a dog killed after being left leashed to the back bumper of a station wagon after driving down the highway. Though drug use and sex are never seen, they're very frequently implied and are generally the butts of jokes. The father comes close to cheating on his wife but doesn't succeed and realizes that he loves his wife. As with every other social taboo this film encounters, the father's almost-cheating is treated as a joke, as he is rather inept at it. Two tween boys look at pornographic magazines and talk about masturbation. Two tween girls look at a shoebox one of them keeps that's filled with marijuana; she later gives five joints to the girl on the road trip, who acts giggly and high in later scenes. An elderly woman dies on a road trip and is left in the rain on a lawn chair in the backyard of a relative who isn't home. There's also gunplay and use of the word "retard."
What's the story?
Poor Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase). Nothing seems to go right for him and his dream vacation, a road trip from Chicago to California's Walley World amusement park. Things go wrong from the start when a slick car salesman (Eugene Levy) convinces Clark to settle for a wood-paneled, puke-green station wagon dubbed "The Family Truckster" ("You think you hate it now, but just wait until you drive it"). On the road, anything that can go wrong does go wrong. Aunt Edna dies in the car, the dog pees on the picnic basket, and the credit cards get canceled. Meanwhile, an attractive blond woman in a red-hot Ferrari (Christie Brinkley) flirts with Clark, almost leading to the demise of his marriage. With the family's bond barely intact, they arrive at their destination only to find the home of Marty Moose closed for repairs.
Is it any good?
This is a fun classic comedy, and though it's rated R, it comes off as relatively tame by today's standards. Even kids who didn't grow up with Chevy Chase will enjoy watching him play his usual deadpan character. The humor is silly and sometimes offensive, which will prove irresistible to adolescents. Though some of the jokes and references are dated, parents and older teens will still find much to enjoy in this goofy comedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about comedies. How can a dead dog -- or a dead old lady -- be funny? Can you think of other popular movies that turn disgusting and depraved situations into laughs -- or at least try to?
How far can filmmakers push before they've crossed the line into true tasteless territory? To whom do you think most of these movies are targeted? Why do you think that?
Which aspects of the movie seem dated? Why?
How is sexuality portrayed in the movie, among tweens as well as adults?
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love comedy
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
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.