National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

national lampoons european vacation poster 1985 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

Some nice locations

No plot for most of the movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:  National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Studio:  Warner Bros.

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  July 26, 1985

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


Be a Pig!

The Griswalds have won the big prize from Pig-in-a-Polk (one of the most popular TV game shows), and now they are headed to Europe. With a whirlwind tour of England and the continent, it could be Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), Rusty (Jason Lively), and Audrey (Dana Hill) best vacation yet…if they don’t end up killing each other.

Directed by Amy Heckerling, National Lampoon’s European Vacation was the second in the Vacation franchise.  Following National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983, it was written by the Vacation creator John Hughes and directed by Amy Heckerling. The movie was poorly received by critics and generally is considered a weaker entry in the franchise.

My family loved Vacation.  We had a copy of it from cable on VHS and watched it over and over again.  When the sequel was finally released, we saw it (I remember it was the first PG-13 movie I saw).  While it is no Vacation, there are still some fun parts.


Just a flesh wound!

The movie is unfortunately unbalanced.  The movie does have funny parts and some real good moments.  I don’t think a group of Americans can see a picture of London without someone saying “There’s Big Ben”.  Moments like the endless London traffic circle and Pig-in-a-Polk are memorable, but the laughs are more slapstick and goofy than the previous film.

Another issue is for most of the movie, there is no plot. They go to Europe and tour Europe…that’s it for most of the movie. At least for National Lampoon’s Vacation the plot was to get to Wally World; in European Vacation, the Griswalds are drifting aimlessly (and yep they spelled their name wrong…in the previous films and following films it was Griswolds). If they had a bogus story about them being followed by jewel thieves or something it would have worked better.

Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are still good as the parents, but the film was forced to recast Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) and Jason Lively and Dana Hill just don’t have the same comedic timing.  The movie also has small roles by John Astin, Robbie Coltrane, Moon Unit Zappa, and Eric Idle (in one of the film’s more memorable parts).


The hills are alive with the sound of Griswald!

Even though European Vacation is PG-13, it is one of those early PG-13 movies.  There is topless nudity, swearing, and f-bombs. If National Lampoon’s European Vacation had been released today, it would be Rated-R as a warning for parents since the other two films are more mild (although the original Vacation was Rated-R it only had one brief moment of nudity as opposed to a chorus line of girls dancing for a long time).  Apparently in 1985, kids were more sophisticated and smarter and could handle hearing a bad word and seeing breasts.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation is fun, but not very good. Watch it and enjoy the ’80s clothes and styles. It is a time capsule of the period and if you’re a kid of the ’80s, it is worth watching for that…you can’t help but cringe to see Rusty’s “cool” clothes. Watch European Vacation, but realize it is probably only for real fans of the series.  National Lampoon’s European Vacation is followed by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in 1989.

Related Links:

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Vegas Vacation (1997)

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

Vacation (2015)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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