National Lampoon's Vacation



Funny family comedy is dated and risqué.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: November 11, 2005
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1983
  • Running Time: 99 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

Positive role models

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. 

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 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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 29, 1983
DVD release date:July 29, 1997
Cast:Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid
Director:Harold Ramis
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Brothers and sisters
Run time:99 minutes
MPAA rating:R

This review of National Lampoon's 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.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." 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

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 YOUR KIDS SEE THIS!!!!!!
Parent of a 6 year old Written bymadsmooney1214 August 28, 2012

national lampoons vacation

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 it before they've crossed the line into true tasteless territory? Who do you think most of these movies are targeted to? How do you know?
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byViolinPlaya650 April 9, 2008


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide