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National Lampoon's Vacation

Movie review by
Afsheen Nomai, Common Sense Media
National Lampoon's Vacation Movie Poster Image
Funny family comedy is dated and risqué.
  • R
  • 1983
  • 99 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 50 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

In its own weird way, this movie shows how families bond over ridiculous and trying situations. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though essentially a bumbling fool, Clark Griswald is trying to connect with his family in a meaningful way by taking them on a road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles. 


Lead character pulls a "gun" on theme park security guards (later revealed to be a BB gun). A bartender fires a rifle at the main character. Though not shown, a dog is killed when left leashed to the back bumper of a station wagon as a family drives down the highway. Reckless driving -- characters fall asleep at the wheel and lose control of their vehicles while driving fast or getting lost. 


Naked breasts during a shower scene. Tween boys look at pornographic magazines as one tween tells the other about masturbating. Implied oral sex discussed between a husband and wife. Implied incest. A well-known supermodel skinny-dips in a swimming pool; no nudity. Sexualized behavior from this supermodel throughout; the father nearly has a fling with her. 


"F--k," including a lengthy tirade by one of the lead characters in which "f--k" is frequently employed. "A--hole," "s--t," "damn," "son of a bitch," "retard." A euphemism for masturbation used by a tween character. "Honky Lips" spray-painted on the side of the station wagon driven by the Griswalds. 


Neon signs for Budweiser and Miller High Life in bar windows. Characters drink from plainly visible cans of Coors beer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A tween girl shows her cousin a shoebox filled with marijuana and rolls her several joints to take with her on a family road trip; the cousin giggles a lot and acts high in some of the later scenes. A father gives his tween son a beer as a "rite of passage," and the son chugs the beer. Drinking by adults; cigar and cigarette smoking. 

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."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymovieluvr125 April 9, 2008

There is no way this is 12+!!!!

This movie is not appropriate for 12 year olds! Strong language throughout, lots of drug references, and lots of sexual innuendo(including nudity). DONT LET YOU... Continue reading
Adult Written byholmessph December 24, 2010

Find edited version, Walmart has ruined this movie for ever for the family

I just bought this from the $5 movie bin from Walmart.. I watched this on TV all the time growing up and I never ever remember it being this bad. This copy had... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byViolinPlaya650 April 9, 2008
Teen, 15 years old Written bymonkeyonatable April 9, 2008

It was good

This a true American classic. There are a few iffy spots, but not bad at all. Wow, shortest review that I have ever written.

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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