Every year, A Christmas Story plays on December 25th for 24 hours straight. Why? Tradition only goes so far. A timeless, high-quality story is what really makes a movie stand out.

In this article we will analyze A Christmas Story script so we can better understand why this particular film has lasted for so many years. Hopefully, we won’t shoot our eyes out along the way.

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A Christmas Story Script Breakdown - Jean Shepherd Headshot
A Christmas Story Script Breakdown - Leigh Brown Headshot
A Christmas Story Script Breakdown - Bob Clark Headshot

WHO WROTE TA CHristmas story SCRIPT?

Written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark

Jean Shepherd was a radio personality in the 1950s. He wrote a series of articles before he would eventually write A Christmas Story script, based on his semi-autobiographical book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. He passed in October of 1999 due to natural causes.

Leah Brown was a writer/actress known for A Christmas Story, American Playhouse and It Runs in the Family. She and Jean Shepherd were married until her passing in July of 1998.

Bob Clark was a writer/director, known for A Christmas Story, Porky’s and Baby Geniuses. He tragically passed in April of 2007 due to a car accident.

Script Teardown

STRUCTURE OF A Christmas Story SCREENPLAY

Here is the story structure for A Christmas Story screenplay:

Exposition

The Narrator introduces us to the world of A Christmas Story. A bunch of kids, including Ralphie, look through the display window of a toy store with awe. The one item Ralphie wants more than anything is the Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

Inciting Incident

Ralphie uses various tactics to make it apparent to his parents that he wants the Red Ryder rifle. His mother replies with a phrase that Ralphie will hear time and again: you’ll shoot your eye out.

Plot Point One

Ralphie, his little brother Randy, Flick and Schwartz walk to school. On the way, they hear an ominous LAUGH that fills them with terror. The boys take off in the opposite direction as fast as they can.

Plot Point Two

After a childish prank involving a triple dog dare, Ralphie is assigned a special theme for his next assignment. The teacher, Miss Shields, wants Ralphie to write about what he wants for Christmas. He sees this as another opportunity to express his desire for the Red Ryder Rifle.

Rising Action

Ralphie, Flick and Schwartz walk home after school. In an alley, they are ambushed by the local bully, Dill. Schwartz is apprehended and given a painful arm hold. Ralphie flees for his life.

Plot Point Three

After a lot of daydreaming, Ralphie finds out that his father has won a major prize. Father cracks open the crate and pulls out a lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg. Ralphie’s mother doesn't seem to care for it. Ralphie and Randy listen to Little Orphan Annie on the radio.

Midpoint

Ralphie and his family buy a Christmas tree. On the way back home, they get a flat tire. While helping his father change the tire, Ralphie says THE WORD. His mom puts a bar of soap in his mouth, so Ralphie blames Schwartz.

Plot Point One

On his way home, Ralphie opens up the mailbox and finally gets his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. Much to his dismay, the secret message was just a commercial. Meanwhile, Ralphie’s mom “accidently” breaks the leg lamp.

Rising Action One

Ralphie gets his theme paper back from Miss Shields. It’s a C- and warning: you’ll shoot your eye out. On his way home, Ralphie is attacked by Dill. At his breaking point, Ralphie loses all control and pummels Dill mercilessly.

Rising Action Two

Ralphie and his family go to the mall to see Satan Claus. Ralphie knows this is his last chance to get the Red Ryder Rifle. Santa says “you’ll shoot your eye out” and gives Ralphie a tap with his foot. Ralphie slides down defeated.

Build Up

It's Christmas morning and Ralphie tears  through his presents; no air rifle. Fortunately, Ralphie’s father pulls a miracle; there’s one last gift.

Climax

Ralphie finally got his Red Ryder Rifle. He takes the gun outback to shoot. The BB ricochets and hits his cheek, causing Ralphie to break his glasses. Meanwhile, the neighbor dogs bust in the house and eat the Christmas turkey.

Finale

The entire family has dinner at a Chinese restaurant. That night, Ralphie sleeps peacefully, clutching his Red Rider rifle.

A Christmas Story Quotes

A Christmas Story quotes are iconic

Part of what makes A Christmas Story script so great is its plethora of memorable quotes. Of course, great lines are even better when they advance the plot or build character.

The most iconic A Christmas Story quote is “You’ll shoot your eye out.” While used many times throughout the story, it was his theme paper, graded by Miss Shields, that affected him the most. We added the A Christmas Story script to the StudioBinder screenwriting software so we could isolate and dissect this scene.

Ralphie’s Breaking Point  •  Read Full Scene

Nobody likes a low grade on a paper they worked hard on, but this was especially painful for Ralphie. This was yet another rejection for him and his attempt to get a Red Ryder Rifle. With Christmas creeping ever closer, Ralphie was running out of time and out of patience; he couldn’t take it anymore. Which is why, in the very next scene, he attacks and pummels Dill the bully. 

A Christmas Story  •  The Fight

This is a great line used repeatedly to antagonize the protagonist, Ralphie. All of the A Christmas Story characters have great, memorable lines. Here are a few of A Christmas Story's best lines.

  • Only one thing in the world could have dragged us away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.
  • Meatloaf, smeetloaf, double beetloaf…
  • He had yellow eyes. So help me God, yellow eyes!
  • In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obscenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging in the space over Lake Michigan.
  • After a while, I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference is for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor, heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.
  • That's ridiculous! Jealous! Jealous of what? That was the ugliest lamp I ever saw!
  • You’ll shoot your eye out kid! Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas!
  • I can’t put my arms down!
  • I triple dog dare you!

A Christmas Story Relationship

A Christmas Story about relationships

On the surface, A Christmas Story script is about a boy that wants a Red Ryder rifle. Going deeper, this screenplay is actually about a boy’s relationship with his parents, especially his mom. At first, they constantly butt heads. From her rejection of the Red Ryder rifle, to putting soap in his mouth as punishment, Ralphie and his mom can’t seem to get along. However, something changes after Ralphie attacks the bully.

Ralphie’s Mom Covers for Him  •  Read Full Scene

Both Ralphie and his mom knew that dad would punish Ralphie for getting into a fight with a bully. So, out of love, she covers for her son and averts disaster. Ralphie is so touched he says (as the narrator), “From then on, things were different between me and my mother.”

A Christmas Story  •  Dad’s Gonna Kill Ralphie

Ralphie may have got his Red Ryder rifle for Christmas, but he also got his mother’s love. A great Christmas movie has got to have heart and this is solidifies A Christmas Story as a classic.

A Christmas Story Nostalgia

A Christmas Story has nostalgia

Part of what makes the A Christmas Story script so great is nostalgia. A Christmas Story characters are forever part of America's classic interpretation of the holiday. Most of us can remember a time when Christmas was the day we looked forward to most. The weather, the presents, family and friends all coming together for the most wonderful time of the year.

A Christmas Story characters encapsulate that childlike innocence. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the very first scene in the A Christmas Story screenplay. 

A Christmas Story  •  Christmas Nostalgia

Much of what makes A Christmas Story script so great is the use of vintage Christmas presents; no technology, just toys. Kids standing in front of the department store window, drooling at the sight of so many great toys. Scrolling through your Amazon cart doesn’t quite have the same effect.

A Christmas Story  •  Behind the Scenes

UP NEXT

Read and download more scripts

A Christmas Story is a timeless tale about a boy, his journey and a BB gun. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like The Princess Bride, Coco, and The Lion King in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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