A Christmas Story, the ever-quotable, iconic holiday movie about a young boy’s misadventures and Christmas wishes, is turning 40. Released on November 18, 1983, the movie stars Peter Billingsley as 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, and was directed by Bob Clark, whose credits included the holiday-horror flick, Black Christmas, and the raunchy teen comedy, Porky’s.
Presented as a series of vignettes that are narrated by adult Ralphie, the movie follows young Ralphie’s Christmas exploits as he hopes for a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas, despite being warned that he’ll shoot his eye out.
The movie is filled with memorable moments like Ralphie, his brother Randy (Ian Petrella), and friends Schwartz (R.D. Robb) and Flick (Scott Schwartz) trying to avoid local bully Scut (Zack Ward). Flick gets his tongue stuck to a frozen flagpole after being “triple dog” dared, and Ralphie receives an embarrassing pink bunny outfit from his aunt. Funny family situations also come up often with his father (Darren McGavin) winning a table lamp shaped like a woman’s leg, Ralphie dropping the f-word in front of his dad, and Ralphie often being comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon).
A Christmas Story was based on the stories that writer-actor-humorist Jean Shepherd performed on the radio. The tales he told were loosely based on his upbringing in Hammond, Indiana during the 1930s. He co-wrote the movie’s script, served as the narrator for adult Ralphie, and had a cameo in the movie as a man in line at the department store.
When it arrived in theaters, A Christmas Story was a sleeper film that got good reviews, but didn’t draw much of a crowd. With each passing holiday season in the ‘80s, its popularity grew until it became essential viewing in the pantheon of Christmas movies. Now, A Christmas Story airs dozens of times every November and December, and its now-grown up stars draw crowds of fans at pop culture convention appearances.