Christmas Vacation Christmas Vacation isn’t the first ‘80s film to show that things can go wrong during the holiday. Five years earlier, Gremlins happened. And a year before Christmas Vacation, two other movies were added to the list of all-time Christmas favorites, with Bill Murray putting a modern spin on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol in Scrooged and Bruce Willis starring in Die Hard, the action movie that isn’t really a Christmas movie (even though it is).
But where those movies depend on nefarious evil forces like ghosts, terrorists and possessed rodents, Christmas Vacation takes a look at the scariest thing of all: family. Up until that point, Christmas films were treated with a sort of reverence, pushing forth that narrative that everything about the holidays is merry and blissful. Hans Gruber could kidnap whoever he wanted and a hundred Gremlins could melt into a pile of green goo once the sun came up, but being with family and celebrating Christmas — those were sacred, wholesome things.