Every National Lampoon Vacation Movie, Ranked

Regarding road trip comedies, few come close to the success of the National Lampoon’s Vacation series. The franchise has caused audiences to split their sides since it launched in 1983. The relatable family antics struck a chord with filmgoers and remained one of the top comedy franchises of all time. While some entries are beloved, others are not so much. Even the worst films have some elements that can be enjoyed for better or worse. From Wallyworld to Christmas, each film in the Vacation series is ranked.

6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure (2003)

Eddie in National Lamppon's Christmas Vacation 2

Just because a character works well in an ensemble doesn’t mean they will work in a solo project. This was learned the hard way with Christmas Vacation 2. The first film featured Cousin Eddie in a supporting role, and fans loved him. His scenes worked because Clark acted as the straight man to Eddie’s antics. Many people don’t even realize there was a Christmas Vacation sequel, which is probably for the best. The film follows Eddie and his family as they are shipwrecked on a deserted island.

Randy Quaid reprises his role as Eddie from the previous films, as does Miriam Flynn as Catherine. Dana Barron also plays Audry, reprising her role from the original film. This movie was the only one in the series without a theatrical release, as it was made for TV. While a few decent jokes are hidden throughout, the film fails to live up to the name of Christmas Vacation in nearly every way. As stated before, the biggest issue is that the character of Eddie doesn’t work as a leading man.

5. Vegas Vacation (1997)

Clark and Eddie in Vegas, Vacation

Vegas Vacation was the final film to feature Clark Griswold attempting to take his family on vacation. This movie returned to the same formula as the first two films but added nothing new. The laughs are certainly there, but they are predictable and a bit stale. As the title suggests, Clark and the family take a trip to Las Vegas, and nothing goes right. The typical Vegas movie cliches are present, including Clark battling a gambling problem and Audry being seduced by the nightlife. This is the film’s biggest issue; it plays everything safe. Ironically, no gambles are taken in the plot. While good for a few laughs, nothing substantial is missed if this movie is skipped. Even Cousin Eddie appears, although he adds little to nothing to the overall plot. He is there simply to be there.

4. Vacation (2015)

The Griswolds in 2015's Vacation

The series was dormant for 18 years (12 if one counts Christmas Vacation 2). That is until it earned a sequel/reboot in 2015. Simply titled Vacation, the film follows a now adult Rusty as he attempts to reconnect with his family. Nostalgic for his youth, Rusty decides to take the same trip his father took him on in 1983. Rusty takes his unwilling family on a road trip to Wallyworld. While the film doesn’t exactly capture the same feel as the earlier movies, there is still an excellent time.

There are several references to past films, including a brief cameo by Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as Clark and Ellen. The movie does have some solid jokes and does a decent job at telling a similar story to the first film without blatantly retelling it. Ed Helms plays Rusty, and one feels he has been with the series all along. As of now, this is the final film in the series, and while not perfect, there are certainly worse notes to end on.

3. National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

the Griswolds in National Lampoon's European Vacation, Vacation

After the first film’s massive success, it only made sense to send the Griswolds on another doomed vacation. This time, they win a trip to Europe on a game show. Everything is set for a perfect getaway, but as fans know, things rarely go the way Clark Griswold plans. While the original film had them on a road trip across the country, they wreak havoc on foreign land this time. The movie carries a similar feel to the first, while steel brings a fresh take.

Some of the jokes here outdo the original in many ways, while others pale in comparison. This movie is sandwiched between the two most successful entries in the series, so it often goes overlooked. This is a shame, as European Vacation is a fun time with many laughs to be had.

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Griswolds breaking into Wallyworld, Vacation

This is where it all started, which is one massive way to get the ball rolling. Clark Griswold feels his family is slowly drifting apart. He wants to rectify this by packing them all in the car and driving across the country to Wallyworld. Nothing goes their way, and it becomes nothing short of a war for Clark to make it to the famed park. Every family that has ever taken a road trip knows that things rarely go perfectly according to plan. Everything that could go wrong on a trip goes wrong, from family quarrels to lost credit cards.

That is where the beauty of the film lies. Many people can relate to Clark. He wants nothing more than to allow his family to have a good time, and it seems the world is against him. His methods are unorthodox, and he makes some stupid decisions, but at the end of the day, Clark loves his family and will do anything for them, even if it kills him. The laughs are nearly nonstop, and the family dynamic is unmatched. This would be the best series if not for one other holiday-themed film.

1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Clark and Ellen in Christmas Vacation, Vacation

One would be hard-pressed to find a household that doesn’t play this film at least once during the holidays. The third film in the series sees the Griswolds stay home as they host a family Christmas. Clark wants both sides of the family to enjoy the holidays traditionally, but this is too much to ask. Like the original film, what makes Christmas Vacation work is how relatable the issues are. Stubborn Christmas lights and irritating relatives are all something families go through each year.

Again, Clark wants nothing more than to see his family happy, even at the risk of his sanity. This is the film that many claims to be the best of the bunch. To many, this is even one of the best Christmas comedies of all time. The humor is top-notch, and the story is filled to the brim with heart. Your Christmas may be hectic, but you can rest easy knowing it could be as bad as Clark’s.