For about as long as I can remember, the first movie I watch each holiday season after putting up the tree and decorating the house is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Not only is it one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, as well as the best entry in the Vacation franchise, it has become a tradition that gives the season a little extra cheer and a heavy dose of sarcasm, stress, and eventual breakdowns.
After watching Chevy Chase find the biggest tree possible, get stuck in the attic, and give one of the best on-screen meltdowns in the history of movies more times than I can count, I’ve become obsessed with its classic lines and spit them out all the time. Like all the time. Here are what I consider the best National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation quotes…
‘Looks Great. Little Full, Lotta Sap’
The “Griswold Family Christmas Tree” is essentially another member of the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation cast with its very own arc that plays out throughout the movie. One of the best moments in the tree’s short time spent with the family comes early in the movie when Clark (Chevy Chase) finally cuts the ropes keeping the behemoth together, which causes its limbs to fly about and break multiple windows.
With the tree fully extended (except for the top, which is still held down by the ceiling), Clark lets out this unforgettable line. I’d say it’s more than a little full, and the scene in the bedroom minutes later shows the full extent of the sap situation.
‘Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass. Kiss His Ass. Kiss Your Ass. Happy Hanukkah.’
John Hughes’ script is full of digs at corporate America, and one of the best scenes falling into this category is the one where Clark is tasked with making a report on his new semi-permeable, non-osmotic crunch enhancer for his boss, Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray). What’s great is the way this scene ends.
The insertion and delivery of “Kiss my ass, kiss his ass, kiss your ass” is a nice touch that shows Clark’s disdain for middle management and the corporate world. But at the same time, he brings it back around to be nice to the last guy in line.
‘Take A Look Around You, Ellen. We’re At The Threshold Of Hell’
Everyone loves a good, old-fashioned Clark Griswold meltdown, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation gives us one of the best in the franchise. I’ll go into the earlier part of Clark’s rant after receiving a Jelly of the Month Club subscription instead of his customary bonus in a bit, but I just have to talk about the “Threshold of Hell,” before it’s too late.
I’ve been in this very situation so many times over the years. My attempts to hold back the existential crisis and madness and stress of holidays have failed and I’m left telling my wife and kids that we’re doomed.
‘And Why Is The Carpet Wet, Todd? I Don’t Know, Margo!’
Todd (Nicholas Guest) and Margo Chester (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Clark’s yuppie neighbors, don’t get a lot of time on screen, but they sure do make the most of it. This is especially true when the couple comes home to find their home stereo system destroyed (thanks to an ice spear from the Griswolds’ gutters) and their carpet mysteriously wet.
Any time a kid spills something on the floor (or I step in pee), I’m quick to yell to my wife, “And why is the carpet wet, Carmen?” and we just start laughing until our fears and anxieties disappear.
‘Grace? She Passed Away Thirty Years Ago’
If you want to talk about a character with a perfect batting average in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, look no further than Aunt Bethany (Mae Questel), Clark’s elderly aunt who isn’t all there. During the disastrous Christmas Eve dinner scene, Bethany, who “wrapped up her damn cat,” is asked to say grace, aka “the blessing.” Her confused response moments later saying that that family member passed away 30 years ago is classic, and though brief, adds so much to an already great sequence of events.
‘Can I Refill Your Eggnog For You? Get You Something To Eat? Drive You Out To The Middle Of Nowhere And Leave You For Dead?’
Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his tribe showing up nearly halfway through National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation turns a great movie into a classic in an instant and leads to some of the best moments from there on out. One of those moments – a one-on-one conversation between Clark and Eddie in the Griswold home – always makes me laugh.
One thing I love about the movie is how certain lines just keep going and getting more absurd. What starts as a simple favor in this case quickly devolves into Clark saying a dark joke about his dimwitted cousin-in-law that is played so subtly.
‘Merry Christmas! Shitter Was Full!’
Everything about the “Shitter was full” scene is a treat. A stinky treat, but a treat nonetheless. The music, the look on Eddie’s face as he dumps all kinds of human waste into a storm gutter, and Todd smelling the scene before witnessing it, all work in concert to create an unforgettable moment. I quote Eddie whenever I pass by folks emptying their toilets at campgrounds, which is more than you’d think.
‘Burn Some Dust, Here. Eat My Rubber!’
It doesn’t take long for Clark Griswold to give us our first “Clark Griswold” moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and boy is it something? Not only is Clark the aggressor in the situation, he’s the one driving like a maniac. And what better way to show off his attitude of always thinking he’s right even when he’s in the wrong by messing up the “burn rubber, eat dust” line?
‘That’s Pretty Low, Mister! If I Had A Rubber Hose, I Would Beat You’
The whole not getting a Christmas Bonus situation at the end of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is as funny as it is distressing, especially for those who treat an end-of-the-year bonus as part of their salary. Hell, even the police officer thinks Frank Shirley is a cheapskate for going through with his plan to save a couple of bucks, which is why he says this hilarious line.
‘We’re Gonna Press On, And We’re Gonna Have The Hap, Hap, Happiest Christmas Since Bing Cosby Tap-Danced With Danny Fucking Kaye’
I’m a sucker for movie meltdowns. Tom Hanks has some classics as does Chevy Chase, especially whenever Clark Griswold has his unavoidable freakout in each of the Vacation movies. And as someone prone to flipping my lid over the holidays, as anyone who knows me will attest, this one hits home. I mean, the “hap, hap happiest Christmas” part is great enough but the “since Big Cosby tap-danced with Danny Fucking Kaye’ at the end is just the chef’s kiss of meltdowns. It’s just the gift that keeps on giving.
Whenever I rewatch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation I find something new to love, so there’s a good chance I’ll be looking back on this list in the coming years to add those beloved quotes I forgot.