The Best Chevy Chase Movies and TV Shows

Deal of the Century Chevy Chase movies

Chevy Chase gives fans much to admire. The first breakout star SNL ever produced, Chase exited Lorne Michaels' sketch comedy series for a lucrative career in Hollywood, going on to star in some of the biggest, most successful movies of the 1980s.

Like many standout SNL cast members, Chase maintained his own unique style of comedy throughout his lengthy career in the film and television industries, delighting audiences with his blend of dry-witted sarcasm and ludicrous, out-of-nowhere pratfalls. Though Chevy Chase movies and shows often enjoy a warm reception, Chase remains a controversial figure for many fans around the globe, having gained a reputation for his combative off-screen personality–something that no doubt played a huge role in his meteoric rise and periodic falls.

From his breakthrough performances in Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation to his celebrated comeback on NBC's cult favorite Community, check out some of the greatest Chevy Chase movies and TV shows, ranked from best to worst.

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Few Chevy Chase movies have more acclaim than National Lampoon's Vacation. The first in a five-part series, 1983's original Vacation film remains the best of the bunch, featuring Chase at the absolute top of his game.

Portraying the idiotic yet well-intentioned Clark Griswold, Chase's clear-headed suburban dad embarks on a cross-country road trip with his family for “America's Favorite Family Fun Park,” Walley World. As the trip gets underway, Clark transforms from enthusiastic optimism into maniacal obsession–a hilarious metamorphosis that makes National Lampoon's Vacation acelebrated road film.

Fletch (1985)

Fletch 1985 Chevy Chase
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Aside from the Vacation series' Clark W. Griswold, viewers know Chase for his fictional alter ego as Fletch, the dashing, industrious, and precocious Los Angeles journalist in the 1985 film of the same name.

Donning a variety of disguises and pseudonyms in his investigations, Chase's Fletch feels like a humorous caricature of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe – a private detective in over his head. Cutting the tense situations he finds himself in with humor and charisma, Chase's mouthy protagonist trapezes through Fletch with ease, mocking most of the goons opposing him and winning over more neutral parties with his irrevocable charm.

Community (2009)

Chevy Chase community
Image Credit: National Broadcasting Company (NBC).

From 1990 until the tail end of the 2000s, Chase's career hit an all-time low, ushering in a wave of forgettable films often released to scathing reviews from critics. In 2009, though, Chase enjoyed a major career resurgence thanks to his starring role on NBC's Community, a meta-fictional sitcom that blended numerous cinematic genres into one massive series.

In the context of the show, Chase portrays Pierce Hawthorne, an elderly student at Greendale Community College known for his vindictive personality and non-P.C. jokes. A return to form for Chase, his role on Community provided a breath of fresh air to his later career–even if his public battles with showrunner Dan Harmon made his tenure on the series somewhat short-lived.

Caddyshack (1980)

Caddyshack Chevy Chase
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Foul Play may have ensured Chase's successful transition into the film industry, but Caddyshack established him as one of the most recognizable comedians of his generation. As the spaced-out, non-comfortative country club golfer Ty Webb, Chase's offbeat personality pairs well with Webb's characterization, allowing him to stand apart from the older, more conservative members of Bushwood.

A dramatic precursor to the eccentric Fletch, Webb catches and holds audiences' attention throughout most of Caddyshack, including several remarkable scenes with Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Warner Bros e1699490170616
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

After the decent if unremarkable National Lampoon's European Vacation, Clark Griswold and his irritable family returned for the 1989 holiday film, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The second best in the Vacation franchise, Christmas Vacation falls along the same lines as the original entry in the series, tracing Clark's growth from enthusiasm over the holidays into full-blown hysteria as his attempts to rein in Christmas end in chaos.

A modern classic in the holiday genre (and among Chevy Chase movies), it may lack the same far-reaching scope as its predecessors, but it nevertheless showcases the abundant hijinks of the extended Griswold family.

Saturday Night Live (1975)

SNL Chevy Chase
Image Credit: National Broadcasting Company (NBC).

Perhaps an obvious choice to some, it's impossible to take anything away from Chase's career-making stint on Saturday Night Live. Within the span of just under two years, Chase solidified an unparalleled position on Lorne Michaels' fledgling sketch show, becoming the first of many breakout stars SNL produced over the years.

With his quick wit, deadpan delivery, and random bursts of slapstick comedy, Chase won renown from viewers during a pivotal point in the show's production history. Whether portraying the smug anchor of “Weekend Update” or an accident-prone Gerald Ford, Chase became one of the main attractions audiences tuned in every Saturday night to see.

Foul Play (1978)

Foul Play 1978
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Exiting Saturday Night Live at the start of the show's second season in 1976, Chase took his tentative first steps into the film industry, appearing in 1978's romantic comedy, Foul Play. While a daring career move, such a risky maneuver paid off well for the former SNL cast member, earning him his only Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor.

A hilarious love letter to the classic thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, Chase's performance as police lieutenant Tony Carlson owes plenty to his bumbling character work on SNL. However, his magical chemistry with co-star Goldie Hawn proved his versatility as a competent leading man proficient in comedy and romance.

Seems Like Old Times (1980)

seems like old times
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Two years after the release of Foul Play, Chase found himself opposite Goldie Hawn once again with 1980's Seems Like Old Times. A riotous romantic comedy crossed with a crime caper, the movie acts as a contemporary take on the screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s, with Chase's performance taking liberal inspiration from self-assured personalities like Cary Grant and Clark Gable.

Though the plot itself is threadbare at best, Seems Like Old Times comes loaded with comedic sequences that will leave viewers' sides in stitches, with Hawn, Chase, and co-star Charles Grodin thriving in their respective roles.

Funny Farm (1988)

Funny Farm
Image Credit: American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

The final film of respected New Hollywood director George Roy Hill, Funny Farm‘s plot and characters seem very similar to the underlying narrative of National Lampoon's Vacation. In it, Chase and his on-screen wife (Madolyn Smith) portray a New York couple who settle down in an idyllic Vermont town. Though enthusiastic about the prospect of the move, the couple's quirks soon earn the ire of their new residents, with every attempt the couple makes to leave a good impression only making things worse.

Though burdened with a dull plot, Chase excels at playing his Clark Griswold-esque lead character, making Funny Farm one of his last great films of the 1980s.

Three Amigos! (1986)

Three Amigos
Image Credit: Orion Pictures.

After drifting through developmental limbo for around half a decade, Steve Martin got his script for Three Amigos! running in the mid-'80s, using it as a vehicle for himself, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase. As the titular Three Amigos, each man in the trio displays their comedic proficiency when it comes to sight gags, sarcastic one-liners, and Abbott and Costello-esque back-and-forth bickering.

Even if the finished film takes little advantage of its talented cast, Three Amigos! lives on as a celebrated cult classic in and of itself, thanks in no small part to the camaraderie of Martin, Short, and Chase.

Spies Like Us (1985)

Spies Like Us
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In 1985, Chase reunited with one of the most diverse SNL alums in the form of Dan Aykroyd, the two starring in the comedic espionage thriller, Spies Like Us. A loose parody of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's Road to… movies, Spies Like Us opened to mediocre reviews from critics in 1985, although its critical appreciation has since warmed with time. Now considered a cult classic among contemporary audiences, fans of the film continue to single out Chase and Aykroyd's comedic chemistry as a pair of lackluster C.I.A. agents as the movie's greatest characteristic (that and the endless cameos, that is).

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Memoirs of an Invisible Man Cover
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

As Chase rounded out the '80s, the critical achievements of his earlier career gave way to an increasing number of disappointing films, like 1988's Memoirs of an Invisible Man. Directed by cult film director John Carpenter, Memoirs of an Invisible Man hinges on a promising enough premise: a freak accident renders an unambitious stock analyst (Chase) invisible. Far from exploring that plotline to its fullest, much of Memoirs unfolds like a bland parody of the original Invisible Man, containing little humor and an even less intriguing narrative.

Fletch Lives (1989)

Fletch Lives
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Four years after his sensational cinematic outing on Fletch, Chase returned to the role in the 1989 sequel, Fletch Lives. Though the prospect of seeing Chase's most famous character might have excited audiences at the time, Fletch Lives boasts very little of the same fine-tuned humor of its predecessor. Bigger and bolder yet yielding middling results, Chase's smug attitude wears thin in Fletch Lives, with most of his jokes mean-spirited and disparaging rather than mischievous or even, for that matter, funny.

Hero (1992)

Hero
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Throughout the first half of his career, Chase made a habit of appearing in minor supporting roles in several comedies. In the case of 1992's Hero, Chase has an uncredited role as Deke, a television news director and the employer of Geena Davis's idealistic news reporter. A thin role on paper, Chase taps into the larger-than-life personality of his cinematic counterpart, portraying him with exaggerated grandeur and a cynical worldview. Despite being an otherwise overlooked addition to his filmography, the above-par quality of the film makes it one the better Chevy Chase movies of the 1990s.

Nothing but Trouble (1991)

Nothing but Trouble
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

A strange comedy horror that parodies several well-known horror films from the previous decades (Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, especially), Nothing but Trouble is far from a great film. Rooted in more juvenile gross-out humor and pale attempts at scares, it's a mediocre movie that critics in 1991 dismissed and audiences tried hard to forget about in the decades since.

Still, one has to admire Nothing but Trouble‘s ensemble cast–Chase, Demi Moore, John Candy, and Dan Aykroyd–each of whom give it their all as their off-kilter characters, even if it's not enough to save this abysmal horror show of a film.