National Lampoon's Vacation, sometimes referred to as Vacation, is a 1983 American comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Randy Quaid, Dana Barron, and Anthony Michael Hall. John Candy, Imogene Coca, Christie Brinkley, and a young Jane Krakowski appear in supporting roles. The screenplay was written by John Hughes, based on his short story "Vacation '58" which appeared in National Lampoon.
This film was a box-office hit, earning more than $60 million in the US with an estimated budget of $15 million, and received widespread acclaim from critics. As a result of its success, four sequels have been produced over the last three decades: European Vacation (1985), Christmas Vacation (1989), Vegas Vacation (1997), and most recently, Vacation (2015) which serves as both a reboot and a continuation. In 2000, readers of Total Film voted it the 46th greatest comedy film of all time. It is widely regarded as the best National Lampoon film, and in August 2015 was listed as the best film in the Vacation film series by Daniel Cohen. It continues to be a cult film and a staple on cable television.
Clark Griswold, wanting to spend more time with his wife Ellen and children Rusty and Audrey, decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from the Chicago suburbs to the southern California amusement park Walley World, billed as "America's Favorite Family Fun Park." Ellen wants to fly, but Clark insists on driving, so he can bond with his family. He has ordered a new car in preparation for the trip, but the dealer claims that it will not be ready for six weeks. Clark is forced to accept a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, an ugly, out-sized station wagon, as the car he brought to trade in has already been hauled away and crushed.
During the family's travels, they run into numerous mishaps, such as being tagged by vandals in a rundown area of St. Louis, while Clark is tantalized numerous times by a beautiful young woman driving a flashy red Ferrari. They stop in Kansas to visit Ellen's cousin Catherine and her husband Eddie, who foist cranky Aunt Edna and her mean dog Dinky on the Griswolds, asking them to drop her off at her son Norman's home in Phoenix. After stopping at a decrepit and dirty campground in Colorado for the night, Clark forgets to untie Dinky's leash from the bumper before driving off the next morning, killing the dog. A state trooper pulls the Griswolds over and angrily lectures Clark over animal cruelty but accepts Clark's apology; Edna learns of her dog's death and becomes more irate with Clark. Exiting Colorado, the Griswolds lose their credit cards, forcing Clark to have to cash a check for future spendings.
While Ellen and Clark argue during a drive between Utah and Arizona, they crash and become stranded in the desert. After setting off alone in the desert to look for help, Clark eventually reunites with his family, who have been rescued and taken to a local mechanic. The mechanic extorts the remainder of Clark's cash only to make the car barely operational. Frustrated, they stop at the Grand Canyon; when Clark cannot convince a hotel clerk to cash a personal check, he takes cash from the cash register behind the clerk's back and leaves the check. Leaving, they find that Aunt Edna has died in her sleep. They tie the deceased to the roof of the car, wrapped in a tarpaulin. When they reach Norman's home, they discover he is out of town and leave Edna's body at the back door. Clark eventually meets the Ferrari-driving blonde beauty at a hotel and goes skinny-dipping with her in its pool, but they are discovered by the family before anything untoward can transpire. Ellen forgives Clark, and the couple goes skinny-dipping as well.
Despite the family's misfortunes and the begging of Ellen and the kids, Clark becomes obsessed with reaching Walley World. They finally arrive the next day, only to find that the park is closed for the next two weeks for repairs. Finally slipping into madness and realizing that all his efforts have been for nothing, Clark buys a realistic-looking BB gun and demands that park security guard Russ Lasky take them through Walley World; Ellen and the kids follow, attempting to placate Clark. Eventually, an LAPD SWAT team arrives, along with park owner Roy Walley. Roy understands Clark's impassioned longing to achieve the perfect vacation, bringing back memories of his own childhood years ago. He decides not to file criminal charges against the Griswolds and lets the family - and the SWAT team - enjoy the park as his guests.