National Lampoon’s Vacation Movies in Order

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

Growing up, and even now, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Christmas Vacation, and the other films in the franchise have a particular place in everyone’s hearts. When it was released in 1983, the film comedy centered on the Griswold family, and their cross-country trip was a tremendous hit with critics and viewers alike, and it became a box office sensation.

The success of National Lampoon’s Vacation produced a slew of sequels and spin-offs, with some of the new entries centering on various members of the Griswold family. But how many National Lampoon’s Vacation films have been made? What is the ideal order to watch these movies in? Worry not as I am here to help. Stick around as I detail the best order to watch the National Lampoon Vacation movies.

How Many National Lampoon’s Vacation Movies Are There?

To date, there are six National Lampoon’s Vacation movies. The order of the movies in terms of their release date is as follows:

  • National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
  • National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
  • Vegas Vacation (1997)
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 (2003)
  • Vacation (2015)

National Lampoon’s Vacation Movies In Order

Vacation movies are straightforward, and the series has no prequels, therefore the chronological and release dates are the same. Here is the list of all National Lampoon’s Vacation movies in their chronological order:

1. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

Clark Griswold, an American well-meaning paterfamilias, and his loving wife, Ellen, take their two teenage children, Rusty and Audrey, on a cross-country vacation from the suburbs of Chicago all the way to sunny California’s Walley World amusement park.

Anything that can go wrong will, and before long, Ellen’s cousin, Catherine, and her husband, Eddie, join the scene, and Clark is on the edge of blowing a gasket.

Now, Roy Walley’s magnificent park appears so far away, and while the possibility of a secret rendezvous with the seductive blonde in a fast, 1981 Ferrari 308 GTSi sounds appealing, Clark must do the right thing and reach the promised place. How difficult can it be to plan the ideal vacation?

National Lampoon’s Vacation is just hilarious. It’s Chevy Chase at his best before he turned into a bitter old guy. The kids have been recast with each Vacation, but I always consider Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron to be the actual Rusty and Audrey, and Imogene Coca provides a terrific performance as the doomed Aunt Edna.

The film continues on with a terrific sequence of events that is well-balanced. The gang truly does appear to behave as a family, and the whole notion of the thinly disguised Disneyland-style Walley World is really hilarious, plus you get a good John Candy cameo as a by-the-book character.

Cousin Eddie is one of the more mature characters in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Eddie is portrayed as a backward, probably incestuous relative of Ellen in this film. In subsequent films, he is portrayed as a retarded but lovable moron. 

It’s difficult for me to see Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation without remembering Cousin Vicki telling Audrey that she learned French kissing from her father.

Vacation is a delightful film. It’s ridiculous humor done well, with a cast capable of pulling it off. If you haven’t seen National Lampoon’s Vacation and enjoy comedies, you should.

2. National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

Following their successful Wally World excursion in National Lampoon’s Vacation, the Griswolds embark on a lovely, worry-free, all-expenses-paid trip to cosmopolitan Europe, courtesy of the popular TV game show, Pig in a Poke.

Clark Griswold, his wife Ellen, and their teenage children, Audrey and Rusty, are under a time crunch this time, attempting to see as much as they can in London, Paris, Germany, and Rome.

Disaster strikes once again, as British driving peculiarities, heinous fashion crimes in the City of Lights, a massive language barrier in a Bavarian village, and a run-in with the authorities in Rome all obstruct enjoyment. Can the Griswolds survive their European vacation?

Regrettably, the film is inconsistent. There are several hilarious situations in the film, as well as some unforgettable ones. I don’t imagine an American group can look at a picture of London and not shout, “There’s Big Ben!” Although the giggles are more slapstick and absurd than in the last movies, the lengthy London traffic circle, and Pig-in-a-Polk is unforgettable moments.

The lack of a plot for the film is one of its flaws. They travel to Europe and tour the continent for the majority of the film. The plot of National Lampoon’s Vacation was to visit Wally World; the Griswalds are aimlessly drifting in European Vacation. It would have been more effective if they had made up a bogus story about them being hunted by diamond thieves or anything.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are still fantastic as the parents, but the film was forced to recast Rusty and Audrey, and Jason Lively and Dana Hill simply don’t have the same comedic timing as Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Minor characters are also played by John Astin, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa, and Eric Idle.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation is amusing but not very memorable. Enjoy the clothes and trends of the 1980s by watching them. It’s a time capsule of the era, and if you grew up in the 1980s, you should see it… You can’t help but grimace when you see Rusty’s “stylish” clothes. Watch European Vacation, but bear in mind that it is most likely just for die-hard fans of the show. 

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

After the huge errors of National Lampoon’s Holiday (1983) and National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), Clark Griswold, the well-meaning but devastatingly ineffective paterfamilias, wants nothing more than to have a good, old-fashioned Christmas and construct the ultimate family vacation.

This year, however, Clark’s noble objective of having the best Christmas Eve party is hampered by useless family members, massively damaged equipment, and an unexpected but extremely spectacular run-in with the authorities. How tough is it to get into the Christmas spirit and organize the ideal holiday vacation?

Chevy Chase’s pure joy in the holiday season makes Christmas Vacation work. He enjoys Christmas, as seen in the photos. The holidays are both one of the happiest and one of the most challenging times of the year for many individuals.

His efforts to make the best Christmas imaginable often backfire, and he loses control. This discontent is shared by many people. If you haven’t met a Clark Griswold, you could be one.

The picture also has a strong supporting cast. Beverly D’Angelo continues to be an excellent foil to Chase’s displeasure. Clark’s children were de-aged this time, with Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis playing his cynical children.

Clark’s parents’ in-laws, John Randolph and Diane Ladd, and Ellen’s parents, E. G. Marshall and Doris Roberts. Todd and Margo, the yuppie neighbors played by Nicholas Guest and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, must also be liked.

The film has a retro look to it. It has all of the sparkle and glam of a Christmas film, but with some comedy and nasty humor tossed in for good measure. Clark’s enthusiasm is heightened by the dinner table, Christmas tree, and, of course, the lights, which contribute to the film’s Christmas ambiance (though I never was a big fan of the sledding scene).

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, like other modern classics such as Home Alone, has become a Christmas tradition. As families gather for the holidays, they also come to see the Griswolds celebrate the season, something Clark would have cherished.

4. Vegas Vacation (1997)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

The Griswolds have simply not learned their lesson. Despite previous failures at family pleasure, the Griswolds are off to Las Vegas… Then, of course, meeting Cousin Eddie and his family. Clark aspires to be a huge star. Wayne Newton falls in love with Ellen.

Rusty realizes he may be the luckiest guy alive. Audrey enjoys spending time with her dancer cousin Vicki. The Griswolds are in Vegas, and Vegas is in return!

The film National Lampoon’s Vacation was fantastic. National Lampoon’s European Vacation was not…but it did have its moments. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was fantastic once again… Vegas Vacation turned out to be the weakest of the bunch.

I had a hard time finding anything amusing in Vegas Vacation. The writing is mediocre, sloppy, and lacks inspiration. Vegas Vacation doesn’t feel like much effort was put into it, and the only effective joke was a reference to the first Vacation with an appearance by Christie Brinkley as the “hot chick” again.

Chevy Chase’s comedic abilities haven’t aged well, but I still like Beverly D’Angelo as his irritated wife. Rusty and Audrey were recast, like in prior Vacations, and were playing this time by Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols.

Wayne Newton portrays himself, and the picture contains Sid Caesar’s final cinematic performance (in an appearance that mirrors his comedy partner Imogene Coca in the original Vacation). Randy Quaid had worn me out, and Cousin Eddie’s reappearance was needless (though it made perfect sense Eddie would end up in Vegas).

Vegas Vacation is a sloppy film that tries to cash in on a brand. The film severed connections with National Lampoon and John Hughes… I’m not sure it would have made a difference. The film’s failure effectively ended the franchise.  

5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2 (2003)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

With Christmas fast approaching, the crass and permanently unemployed Cousin Eddie Johnson from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989) unexpectedly wins a worry-free, all-inclusive vacation to a magnificent tropical island in the South Pacific.

Eddie’s family, together with the devastated Audrey Griswold, the similarly unhappy Uncle Nick, and the charming guide, Muka Laka Miki, end up marooned on a barren islet in the middle of nowhere following an apparently benign boat excursion. It’s now Eddie’s turn to shine. Can he create the ideal Christmas out of thin air?

The film is really awful. The plot is suffocating, it’s not humorous, and it goes on and on. The family will receive a free trip to Hawaii as a result of their outing (they are staying with Audrey Griswold so naturally, she comes along with old Uncle Nick).

The film takes a Gilligan’s Island approach, with the entire party plus their tour guide becoming trapped on an isolated island (which, of course, isn’t uninhabited). Almost all of the characters have their own narrative lines, yet none of the characters’ tales genuinely progress.

It would be one thing if the movie looked decent, but it also looks terrible. The slapstick humor is terrible and overdone, and the film is littered with horrible blue-screen, CGI, and badly produced visuals.

You may argue that changing the setting to Hawaii harms the “Christmas image,” but this film has lost its Christmas vibe long before the team arrives in Hawaii.

6. Vacation (2015)

National Lampoon's Vacation Movies in Order

Following in the footsteps of his father, Clark Griswold, the visionary in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Rusty Griswold, the hardworking family guy, wants to spend time with his wife, Debbie, and their two boys, Kevin and James.

Rusty plans to surprise his family with his suggestion for an incredible journey across the nation in their leased Albanian SUV, as the notion of returning to the location of his vivid childhood memories, the fascinating Walley World, keeps coming to mind.

However, when the Griswolds hit the road for some serious family togetherness, this proves to be easier said than done, as, disaster after disaster, Rusty’s amorous ambitions appear to be dashed. Can a few little setbacks derail Rusty’s dreams for the ideal family vacation?

Vacation is a comedic “soft relaunch/reimagining” of the original National Lampoon’s Vacation from 1983, directed and written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley.

With a relatively cheap budget, the film received generally poor reviews and performed well at the box office. Chevy Chase’s brief presence got him a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor (along with his appearance in Hot Tub Time Machine 2)

Growing up, one of my favorite comedies was National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was R-rated, yet there was something healthy about it that we were permitted to view even though we were children.

I believe the new version of the film retains some of this wholesomeness, and despite the negative reviews, I found myself chuckling throughout most of the film owing to well-timed (albeit predictable) comebacks and quips.

The narrative of the film is essentially the same as that of all Vacation plots. The irate, unhappy family is forced to spend time together as a family and travels across the country.

The film makes fun of the premise that all of this has already been done, and that “remakes” of earlier events aren’t always as excellent as the original. True, but it was still entertaining and ended up being the third greatest Vacation in the series (since European Vacation is pretty weak and Vegas Vacation is awful).

Vacation isn’t the finest film, but it was enjoyable for me. They could have used more of America as a location by seeing more of it, but the movie is about laughs, not how it actually looks.

In terms of remakes and reboots, I think it did a better job of separating itself from the original source material while remaining fundamentally a Vacation picture. Much of the funniest comedy was in the trailer, but I found myself laughing throughout.

  • Hrvoje Milakovic is co-owner of Fiction Horizon and a big cinephile. Apart from that, he likes to read comics, play games and collect action figures. He has been featured on LifeWire, Yahoo and IMDb, to name a few.