‘A Christmas Story’: 35 reasons why we still love the holiday classic, 35 years later

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Fans of ‘A Christmas Story’ can now stay in the iconic house overnight. The starting rate is $495 a night for up to six people.
USA TODAY

Get out your ridiculous pink bunny onesies: Nov. 18 marks 35 years since “A Christmas Story” premiered in theaters. To help celebrate, we’ve done something that should earn a major award: We’ve rounded up 35 reasons why the holiday film about a boy who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas is still worth watching.

1. “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

It’s the classic line that Ralphie hears whenever he expresses his desire for  “a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.” His mom says it. His teacher says it. Even the mall Santa says it. And now, everyone says it.

2. You can even sing the movie’s most famous line.

Thanks to “A Christmas Story: A Musical” on Broadway, there’s now a song and tap number associated with the line.

3. Yes, there was a Tony-nominated musical.

And it was good! USA TODAY gave it three stars.

4. There was also a live TV musical on Fox.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t great. We gave it one-and-a-half stars.

5. Peter Billingsley, aka Ralphie, is still happy to be connected to ‘A Christmas Story.’

He executive produced the Broadway musical, made a clever cameo as elf Ming Ming in “Elf” and was a producer on “Four Christmases.”  

6. It incorporated the F word in a PG-rated movie.

“Oh, fudge, only I didn’t say fudge,” explains Ralphie, recounting the time he accidentally muttered a cuss word when he dropped bolts for a spare tire on the side of the road. (TV’s “The Good Place” has followed the movie’s “cursing without cursing” example by having characters say “mother forker” and “bullshirt.”)

7. Ralphie took soap in his mouth like a champ.

After cursing about the tire incident, Ralphie barely gags when he has to bite soap as his mother watches. In a voiceover, we hear about the differences in soap tastes. Then, we get a dream sequence of Ralphie going blind from soap poisoning.

8. He finds a brilliantly sneaky way to share his wish list. 

Ralphie wasn’t skilled at working “Red Ryder BB gun” into casual conversation, but he was stealthy when it came to inserting an ad for his dream gift in his mother’s magazines. Unfortunately, the subliminal message didn’t take.

9. You can spend the night at Ralphie’s house in Cleveland.  

The house from the movie is open to tours and can be seen online anytime: There’s a live-shot of the property“A Christmas Story” museum right across the street displays props, costumes and other memorabilia. 

10. The leg lamp is iconic.

The Old Man’s surprise package has become a pop-culture icon and unofficial mascot of Cleveland.

11. Now every little thing is “a major award!”

A letter or a box in the mail? You can call it a “major award” or a “major prize,” thanks to Ralphie’s dad.

12. “Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian.”

This quote from Ralphie’s dad has forever changed the way we read package labels.

13. The leg lamp inspired one of the best-ever Halloween costumes.

Josh Sundquist, the motivational speaker and Paralympian who has become famous for wearing costumes that are perfect for amputees, became an Internet sensation when he dressed as the leg lamp.

14. There’s even a “manly” leg lamp.

That’s thanks to Paul Jackman, who, on his YouTube channel, constructed a version of the lamp that has thicker base and boot.

15. “I triple dog-dare ya” became law.

After being triple dog-dared by Schwartz to lick the frozen pole, Flick did as he was dared. He licked the frozen pole and got stuck, and now none of us can back down from superlative dares.

16. ‘MythBusters’ indeed confirmed that tongues can get stuck to frozen poles.

“When the temperature drops, cold metal can draw heat out of your tongue’s saliva and freeze its water content, basically transforming your spit into a kind of superglue,” according to the Discovery series

17. Flick’s tongue was actually suctioned to the pole.

Scott Schwartz, who played Flick (no, he didn’t play the character Schwartz; that was R.D. Robb), didn’t get his tongue stuck to a cold pole. Instead, he put his tongue over the top of a tiny hole that sucked in air.

18. The movie inspired cold-tongued copycats. 

Improv Everywhere re-created the memorable tongue-on-flagpole scene on a subway. Many pranksters have pretended to stick their tongues on poles as a joke. Political cartoonist Marc Murphy used it to make a comment about Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and plagiarism.

19. Flick and his frozen tongue taught us a lesson in friendship.

He didn’t rat his buddies out after the fire department separated him from the flagpole.

20. “Eat like a piggy!”

Thanks to Ralphie’s mom, we now know the genius and hilarious way to get a kid to finish his dinner. Ask him to eat like a piggy.

21. Ralphie’s mom is a quiet hero of the film.

As played by Melinda Dillon, Ralphie’s mom knows how to get her kids to eat, whether to withhold information from her husband and when to burst into a fit of laughter. Also: Did you notice she left Ralphie’s bully Scut Farkus on the ground? Savage. Which reminds us …

22. Ralphie conquered his bully.

After Ralphie and his friends take regular beatings from Scut and Grover Dill, Ralphie finally lets Scut have it. And then Ralphie cries. 

23. “The Old Man” is loving but cranky.

Darren McGavin, who died in 2006, played Ralphie’s father, who is always called “The Old Man” in the film. He has flaws, including a temper and little patience for dinnertime, but he’s a realistic dad who wants to make his family happy and is excited to get timed while he changes a spare tire. He ultimately does something for Ralphie that he knows his son will like: He gets him the Red Ryder BB gun.

24. Randy is all of us preparing for winter weather.

Layering is important! Sure, multiple jackets might make your arms stiff and a face scarf might make it hard to breathe, but at least you’re not cold! Something Randy could’ve used: a nose warmer.

25. That “deranged Easter Bunny outfit.”

That bunny onesie with the bunny slippers is ridiculous. Aunt Clara really outdid herself with that Christmas gift for Ralphie.

26. It’s so popular, you can even buy your own bunny onesie.

If you need some new, obnoxious loungewear, Walmart and Spirit Halloween sell versions of it. There’s even a confusing dress version.

27. There’s ‘A Christmas Story’ race for a cause.

Here’s another good time to wear a pink bunny onesie. The annual 5K/10K is Dec. 1 in Cleveland. You can also do a “virtual race” anywhere. 

28. Ralphie’s sequins in that dream sequence are Lady Gaga-worthy.

Did she use his cowboy jacket and hat as inspiration for “Joanne”?

29. They eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant, like many Jews.

As many people who don’t celebrate Christmas know, Chinese restaurants tend to stay open Dec. 25, so it’s a great place to have a meal that day. For the Parkers, however, eating there was a last resort because dogs ate their turkey.

30. The movie features the iconic voice of Jean Shepherd.

Shepherd, the radio personality, narrates the movie as the elder Ralphie and wrote the book the film is based on. He died in 1999. 

31. Shepherd has a cameo in the film.

Fun fact: He plays the man who tells Ralphie and Randy to get into the back of the line to see Santa.

32. The director also makes a cameo.

Director Bob Clark, who died in a car accident in 2007, has a small role as Ralphie’s neighbor who’s very curious about the Parker family’s new leg lamp.

33. The movie became a sleeper hit.

“A Christmas Story” had a small budget and only did OK at the box office. It made about $20 million in 1983, behind forgotten movies including Richard Gere’s “Breathless” remake and John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s “Two of a Kind.”

34. It’s a holiday favorite on TV.

TNT and TBS have aired marathons of “A Christmas Story,” introducing the movie to younger audiences.

35. It shows an authentic family story.

Many holiday films before “A Christmas Story” sugarcoated what life was like during the holidays. In reality, there are dark sides to Christmas: the commercialism, the stress of preparing food and gifts, the fact that usually someone is unhappy with the holiday plans. “A Christmas Story” brought those ideas to light, comically.

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