A Christmas Story is a 1983 American Metrocolor Christmas comedy film directed by Bob Clark, and based on Jean Shepherd's semi-fictional anecdotes in his 1966 book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, with some elements from his 1971 book Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. Now a Christmas season classic in the United States, it is shown numerous times on television, usually on the networks owned by the Turner Broadcasting System. Since 1997, a marathon of the film titled "24 Hours of A Christmas Story" has aired annually on TNT and/or TBS, comprising twelve consecutive airings of the film on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day each year.
The film earned director Clark two Genie Awards. In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Nine-year-old Ralphie Parker wants only one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and "this thing which tells time" (a sundial). Ralphie's desire is rejected by his mother, his teacher Miss Shields, and even a Santa Claus at Higbee's department store, all giving him the same warning: "You'll shoot your eye out."
Christmas morning arrives and Ralphie dives into his presents. Although he does receive some presents he enjoys, Ralphie ultimately is disappointed that he did not receive the one thing he wanted more than anything. After it appears all of the presents have been opened, Ralphie's father, who is referred to throughout the film as "The Old Man," directs Ralphie to look at one last present that he had hidden. Ralphie opens it to reveal the Red Ryder gun he wanted.
Ralphie takes the gun outside and fires it at a target perched on a metal sign in the backyard. However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off. While searching for them, thinking he has indeed shot his eye out, Ralphie accidentally steps on his glasses and breaks them. In order to cover for the fact that he accidentally broke his glasses, Ralphie tells his mother that a falling icicle was responsible for the accident. His mother, not having seen what actually happened, believes him.
The film ends with Ralphie lying in bed on Christmas night with his gun by his side. A voiceover by an adult Ralphie states that this was the best present he had ever received or would ever receive.
Although Ralphie's BB gun desire is the main plot point of the film, there are several other stories contained in the film. Among them:
- Ralphie and Randy's father wins a "major award" in a contest, but does not know what it is until it is delivered to the Parker home. The prize is a lamp in the shape of a woman's leg wearing a fishnet stocking, which was derived from the logo for Nehi (pronounced "knee-high") pop, a popular soft drink of the period. The Old Man is overjoyed by the lamp, but Mrs. Parker does not like it and a feud over it — referred to by adult Ralphie as "The Battle of the Lamp" — develops and results in the lamp's "accidental" destruction.
- The Old Man also fights a never-ending battle with the malfunctioning furnace in the Parker home. His frustrations cause him to swear quite often, including one profanity-laden rant that the adult Ralphie says "is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."
- Still another source of frustration for The Old Man is the dogs that belong to the next door neighbors, the Bumpuses. The Bumpuses own "at least 785 smelly hound dogs" that harass The Old Man whenever he comes home from work. On Christmas Day, the dogs ruin the family's Christmas dinner by romping through their kitchen and eating their turkey. This results in the family having dinner at a Chinese restaurant instead.
- Ralphie and his friends Flick and Schwartz are tormented by the neighborhood bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill. Ralphie eventually snaps and beats up Farkus.
- Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker
- Jean Shepherd as adult Ralphie (voice)
- Ian Petrella as Randy Parker
- Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Parker
- Darren McGavin as Mr. Parker (The Old Man)
- Scott Schwartz as Flick
- R. D. Robb as Schwartz
- Zack Ward as Scut Farkus
- Yano Anaya as Grover Dill
- Tedde Moore as Miss Shields
- Jeff Gillen as Santa Claus
In the DVD commentary, director Bob Clark mentions that Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of the Old Man; Clark expresses gratitude that he ended up with Darren McGavin instead, who later appeared in several other Clark films. He cast Melinda Dillon on the basis of her similar role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Peter Billingsley was already a minor star from appearing in many commercials and co-hosting the TV series Real People; Clark initially wanted him for the role of Ralphie, but decided he was "too obvious" a choice and auditioned many other young actors before realizing that Billingsley was the right choice after all. Ian Petrella was cast immediately before filming began. Tedde Moore had previously appeared in Clark's film Murder by Decree and was the only onscreen character from A Christmas Story who was played by the same actor in the sequel, My Summer Story. Jeff Gillen was an old friend of Clark's who had been in one of his earliest films.
The screenplay was written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. Several subplots are incorporated into the body of the film, based on other separate short stories by Shepherd. Shepherd provides the film's narration from the perspective of an adult Ralphie, a narrative style later used in the dramedy television series The Wonder Years. Shepherd, Brown and Clark all have cameo appearances in the film: Shepherd plays the man who directs Ralphie and Randy to the back of the Santa line at the department store; Brown – Shepherd's wife in real life – plays the woman in the Santa line with Shepherd; Clark plays Swede, the neighbor the Old Man talks to outside during the Leg Lamp scene.
Release and reception
Broadcasting and home video release