I saw the movie "Vacation" (2015) on DirecTv last night.

I consider the new movie to be a sequel to the original film (National Lampoon's Vacation, 1983), since the plot revolves around the character Rusty who is the son of the character named Clark (played by Chevy Chase in the original; he has a minor role in this new movie). Rusty is now grown up with a family of his own.

However I have been seeing many references to the new movie being called either a reboot or remake. That just seems wrong. At least I know it's not a prequel.

I consider sequels to be several movies in chronological order; examples are "Rocky" through "Rocky ∞"; and "Star Wars IV" followed by the prequels "Star Wars I" through "Star Wars III".

As far as I know, remakes generally apply to a single movie, and reboots to a series. In both cases, they start over from scratch.

Examples of remakes include "Psycho", "Cape Fear", and "Total Recall". A reboot indicates a complete overhaul of the original material; examples are "Planet of the Apes", "Superman" and "Batman".

The second through fourth films in the "Terminator" series were all sequels. I had considered the most recent one, "Terminator Genisys" to be a reboot (because of the alternate timeline) but a couple of commenters have challenged that.

Although the overall storyline is similar to the original (the Griswolds go on vacation to Walley World), the new film is not a remake (IMO) since it skips to the next generation of the family (so this film and the previous one can comfortably co-exist), and has almost all new scenes -- the one exception being the girl in the Ferrari. It is also not a reboot, again since it takes place after the original film and is consistent with the esarlier one.

Here is how the critics weighed in on this; I disagree with all but the last two:

Which is it?

  • 1
    Yeah, they keep calling those recent TV show revivals 'reboots' too. :( Clearly the word has lost all meaning...
    – Walt
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:36
  • Then on the other hand (generally speaking, I haven't seen it myself yet), the question is if does reference the story, themes and specific scenes on the original well enough to be considered a sequel and a remake. But then again, this might be argued about many sequels that copy the formula of the original suffciently accurately. If you then also add the terms homage and parody into the mix, it starts to get confusing. Does it reference the original in a specific intent to honor/deconstruct it?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Nov 8, 2015 at 22:59
  • @NapoleonWilson There are some callbacks (like the Ferrari scene), but this is hardly a shot-for-shot remake. BTW, I thought about throwing 'spin off' into the mix as well, but I think we're confused enough. ;) [Plus I don't think that fits either]
    – Walt
    Nov 8, 2015 at 23:09
  • 5
    "Terminator Genesis" was a reboot. Arguably wrong. Reboots don't deal with previous events. Also, Genisys, not Genesis.
    – cde
    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:07
  • 1
    @cde and Andy -- I modified my answer based on your comment.
    – tcrosley
    Nov 9, 2015 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


From an NPR interview:

[Vacation's] Co-writers and co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein say the R-rated movie is not a reboot or a remake, but very much a sequel.

"We've been very clear from the get-go, even with the studio, that we had no interest in trying to remake the movie that National Lampoon made in the '80s 'cause it's just so good that we wouldn't wanna tamper with it. It just works," Jonathan Goldstein tells NPR's Arun Rath. "And so we felt it was organic to bring it to the next generation."

I think it's also safe to say what it isn't:

[Reboot:] In serial fiction, to reboot means to discard all continuity in an established series in order to recreate its characters, timeline and backstory from the beginning.

The movie Vacation does not discard all previous continuity. It is not a reboot. A remake's definition is a bit looser (it's basically any reimagining of a source material), but this is not a shot-for-shot remake. It contains a few callbacks to the original film (like the red Ferrari scene) but also different characters, scenarios, locations and dialogue. So if the creators say that this is a sequel, I'll take their word for it.


As a matter of terminology, Vacation is a sequel. The terms you use can be easily defined to differentiate them:

  • Sequel A film/show dealing with, or connected to the events of the primary film/show. Continuity between the two are intact. A Prequel falls under this, continuity wise.

  • Remake A film retelling the same story as the previous version. Slight changes, update to time period, new actors. Continuity is not intact between them, but nothing is really changed, as the same story is told.

  • Reboot A film using the same characters, but most often not the same story. All continuity is discarded. Single movie reboots do exist (Fantastic Four, Superman Returns).

  • Spin Off A film that takes a single thread or character of the primary film, and develops its own, unconnected plot.

Vacation not only directly references the events of National Lampoon's Vacation, the entire plot is put into motion by it.

  • Nice summary. You left off prequel (I'm just trying to be complete). Star Wars I is obviously a prequel to IV. Is II both a sequel to I and still a prequel to IV at the same time?
    – tcrosley
    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:39
  • 1
    A prequel is the same as sequel, as far as continuity is concerned. And yes, II is a sequel and a prequel.
    – cde
    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:55
  • I would even use a term like "revival" for a dormant series brought back for a long awaited new chapter in a series
    – m1gp0z
    Aug 10, 2018 at 14:21

First of all, we're talking here about National Lampoon's franchise. So all questions about sequel/remake/reboot categorization are kinda moot by definition (but well-answered by others).

National Lampoon was a humor magazine than spawned dozens or films. They are related - sometimes by characters, sometimes by location and sometimes just by a sense of humor - but it's rather loose relationship. Some, of course, are more tightly knit together (eg telling the saga of Griswold family), but categorizing them as sequels or spinoffs is very difficult. Just because relationships between them vary so much, you're forced into arbitrarily deciding between remake and reboot based on continuity inconsistencies - when creators never really cared about continuity.

This particular example (Vacation 2015) is actually 5th(!) in National Lampoon Vacation sub-series. And it was originally indeed planned as a remake, but eventually during it's development it was turned into a proper sequel instead (hence Chevy Chase reprising Clark). So, not even creators of one film could really make up their minds, only adding into confusion.

You also need to take into account that reboots and remakes are very fashionable recently, so some people might incorrectly report sequels as re***s, just to make it sound more cool.

  • 3
    Oh, yes, silly OP, forgetting that comedy franchises are inherently immune to the idea of "continuity." Just because the Vacation series is part of the National Lampoon franchise doesn't mean they can't be sequels to one another, and just because the filmmakers originally considered making a reboot doesn't mean that they can't "make up their minds". Nov 9, 2015 at 17:24
  • @KyleStrand Nope, only the National Lampoon kind of comedy indeed is immune to the idea of continuity. And when someone starts one thing and ends up with another - that's my definition of "can't make up their minds". Final product may be one thing, but people like journalists tend to judge through their expectations.
    – Agent_L
    Nov 9, 2015 at 19:15
  • 1
    Are you serious? Why is National Lampoon (which, as far as I can tell, is little more than a brand name) inherently immune to continuity? What famous work hasn't undergone major evolution between conception and execution? Nov 9, 2015 at 19:17
  • @KyleStrand I don't understand how your comments can be used to improve my answer.
    – Agent_L
    Nov 10, 2015 at 13:27

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