Vacation movies, especially those that are in the comedy genre, are a staple of the film industry, and for many of us, they have become favorites that we can’t help watching time and time again.
A classic vacation movie is one that helps you to relax on those special occasions and tends to be focused on families trying to make the most of difficult circumstances, especially over Christmas and Thanksgiving, and some of the most popular movies ever made are in this genre.
Those based in the winter make us yearn for warm and cozy fireplaces and usually, on occasion, make use of stock footage if it’s not snowing adequately enough for the scene they are trying to shoot.
Some vacation movies are actually solely about the trip itself and may not even be connected to a specific vacation period, but that doesn’t make these any less entertaining and, at times, very thought-provoking.
Here is a selection of great vacation movies that will brighten up even the most sullen and annoying day.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
This film, part of the long-running National Lampoon series, focuses on the antics of the Griswolds, a very dysfunctional family led by hapless dad Clark, played expertly by Chevy Chase. It’s an 80s classic and has some of the most iconic scenes in comedic cinematic history.
The Griswolds decide to travel across the country in order to visit the world-famous Walley World, driving from Chicago all the way to California. On the way, many hilarious incidents occur, including the death of Aunt Edna and her dog.
They stay in a series of crummy motels, and much bickering ensues, culminating in when they finally arrive at Walley World, it’s closed. Spoiler Alert, this leads to Clark taking attendant John Candy hostage as he forces him to open the theme park up just for his family.
If you haven’t enjoyed the movie before then, we highly recommend it, especially over vacation.
Richard Curtis is very much the master of British comedy, and this ensemble piece sees a number of characters preparing for Christmas. Hugh Grant puts in a solid show as the cool Prime Minister, and Liam Neeson plays a grieving dad whose step-son is in love with a singer in his school band.
Meanwhile, Colin Firth is a struggling writer who catches his girlfriend cheating on him with his brother, leading him to continue his writing overseas, where he (of course) falls in love with a maid.
The film is a tour de force in terms of the many intertwined hilarious elements, but perhaps the real gem comes in the form of Emma Thompson’s performance as an aging wife who discovers her husband, Alan Rickman, is having an affair with a work colleague, leading to a famous scene where she breaks down as Joni Mitchell is playing on the CD player.
There is precisely the right balance of comedy and pathos, and it’s a movie that has become a much-watched movie all around the world.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
John Hughes is perhaps best known for The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but arguably Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is one of the writer/director’s greatest achievements and is a vacation movie that hits you right in the feels.
Steve Martin is a high-flying businessman who needs to get home for Thanksgiving, and John Candy is the shower curtain ring salesman who he’s stuck on a hilarious adventure that sees the pair taking all manner of forms of transportation in order for the pair to make it to their final destination.
Over the course of the movie, we learn much more about each lead character and their motivations. The pair also develop a bond, and the final scene, which will no doubt bring a tear to the eye, is the ultimate pay-off that is a crucial reason why the film is so special.
The movie is comedically pitch-perfect but has some very tender moments that offset this hilarity flawlessly.
Another movie from John Hughes and one that sees Kevin (Macauley Culkin) left at home as his entire extended family flies off to Paris over the Christmas holidays. The eight-year-old is at first delighted to have the house all to himself and is living it up while his family, now stuck in Europe trying to get back, are panicking.
A further hammer in the works arises when hapless thieves Harry and Marv, played exquisitely by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, decide they are going to rob the house, thinking that it’s empty for the holidays.
Kevin dreams up myriad ways to keep the pair out of the house, some of which are ingenious and others just plain sadistic (thinking specifically about the crushed Christmas baubles and the barefooted duo).
Directed by Chris Columbus, who went on to direct the first of the Harry Potter series, does a great job of blending comedy and action, leading the whole movie to have a very classic feel, and that’s perhaps why the film still enjoys success to this day, with new generations being introduced to the film to this day.