It's All about the Journey

A Definitive Ranking of the Griswold Family’s Adventures in the Vacation Franchise

Clark Griswold

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Since 1983, Clark Griswold has come to represent all of our dads. (Maybe literally: Watch the Vacation movies again and you’ll realize that he wanted to have an affair soooo bad. Thanks for ruining our family, dad!)

Regardless of its wishfully adulterous protagonist, the Vacation film franchise is an all-time classic, and each of the six movies — except for two, but we’ll get to that — offer a different sort of off-the-rails, family fun charm that has yet to be replicated because it feels authentic. It’s rare for a family trip to go as awry as the Griswolds’ do, but the frustration, sexual yearning, desire for order and short shorts are all storied elements of the trips we went on as children.

We’re basically trying to rank our own children here, but below is how we believe the Vacation movies to stack up against each other. (Note: We’re not counting the new Vacation reboot/sequel thing currently in theaters. Let us know where that one fits in with the rest of the franchise in the comments.)

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

Clark and Ellen Griswold are nowhere to be found in this movie, which was a made-for-TV vehicle for Randy Quaid that came out in 2003. Uncle Eddie’s family gets shipwrecked on a deserted island. Uncle Eddie loses a game of tic-tac-toe to a monkey…you get the idea. Monty Python’s Eric Idle is in it, so that’s something.

5. Hotel Hell Vacation

Okay, technically this isn’t a movie: it’s literally a 15-minute advertisement for HomeAway.com from 2010. As you can imagine, Clark and Ellen go to a bad hotel and have a bad time. At the very least, seeing white-haired Chevy Chase makes us imagine the possibility of a Vacation story starring his Community character Pierce Hawthorne.

4. European Vacation

The Vacation sequel takes the Griswolds through London, France, Germany and Italy with predictably wacky results. The best parts of this film offer something that none of the others do: a look at Clark as a typically obnoxious American tourist, thinking he has Europe all figured out while a pervy waiter checks out his underage daughter or his wife inadvertently stars in a porn flick.

3. Vegas Vacation

The family’s Las Vegas adventure, which holds a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is criminally underrated. Critics thought the film was the final gasp of a dying franchise, but really, there’s so much going on: Clark and Uncle Eddie digging up dollar bills in the desert, Rusty unable to stop winning cars, and Clark blowing the family’s money at the casinos. He should have known to never go in against a Sicilian.

2. Christmas Vacation

Though technically a stay-cation movie, the Griswold family still has plenty of hilarious holiday-themed adventures in this outing. From rabid squirrels in their Christmas tree to runaway sleds, the seasonal misfortunes pile up to uproarious effect, culminating in what may be the greatest movie freak-out of all time. While ranting about getting a membership to the Jelly-of-the-Month club instead of a big fat check for his Christmas bonus, Clark throws awkward dad insults like “snake-licking” and “dog-kissing” into the mix, and ends on a perfect note: “Hallelujah, holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”

1. National Lampoon’s Vacation

It’s hard to argue against the movie that established the monolithic franchise. The road to Wally World is paved with all sorts of mishaps that are so memorable, the new movie is basically redoing all of them. It also has a bunch of great subtle jokes, like Rusty downing his “first beer” like a creatine-filled college freshman at a frat house during rush week.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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