First Draft: Five Must-Read Classic Holiday Movie Screenplays

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their children as he tries to make sure everything is in line, including the tree and house decorations. However, things go awry quickly. His hick cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark’s employers renege on the holiday bonus he needs.

Essential Holiday Movie Elements

The Christmas atmosphere is certainly ever-present, as are various tropes and cliches of the genre, but it’s the family element that is central to this classic. All that Clark wants is for his family to be together. He even wants to use his Christmas bonus to put in a pool for the family and relatives to enjoy. But while his love for his family shines, they are also the cause of nearly every conflict he encounters throughout the course of the film. They don’t get along, their idiosyncrasies clash, but in the end, they are family. Christmas hope is injected within the story as well, as the young visiting children yearn to experience true Christmas magic. That magic is subtle and specific to those children, but it’s there. Clark also gains a subtle redemption within the story after conquering the difficulties set out by his family. He is redeemed and celebrates with his family as the film comes to an end.

Interesting Screenplay Trivia

The movie is based on John Hughes’ short story Christmas ’59, the second Vacation story to be published in National Lampoon’s Magazine. The first was Vacation ’58, which was the basis for National Lampoon’s Vacation. Hughes wrote the script for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Click here to read the screenplay for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 

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1 Comment

  1. Tom Luca

    December 15, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Love this article, Thank You very much and I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season! Love reading MovieMaker. Only filmmaking magazine I read enthusiastically aside from American Cinematographer and Make-up Artist Magazine.

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