The Simpsons is, without a doubt, the greatest television series ever made. It may have declined in quality in the past few years, but by and large, there has never been a TV series that has as brilliant captured society in such a sharp and satirical way and made so many people worldwide laugh so loud as The Simpsons.
The writers of The Simpsons always know the perfect time to throw in a movie parody – it’s one of the few elements of the series that’s been consistently strong throughout its entire three-decade run. And the animators have a knack for recreating the exact right camera angles and shots to pull off the homage.
Whether it’s an affectionate parody or an all-out attack, The Simpsons has featured some truly brilliant movie spoofs over the years. Here are the 15 best.
15. The Fugitive
In the episode “Lisa’s Rival,” Bart rats out Milhouse to the feds for crimes he didn’t commit, just for kicks. It seems like a throwaway gag as the FBI are spying on Milhouse in the schoolyard. But then later in the episode, we see this carried on. Bart’s little irresponsible prank has had terrible repercussions.
We see Milhouse standing at the end of a dam drainpipe, being held at gunpoint by an FBI agent who looks exactly like Tommy Lee Jones and it becomes a whole different little storyline within the episode that parodies The Fugitive. Milhouse denies committing the crime and the agent repeats Jones’ iconic line from the movie: “I don’t care.”
Then Milhouse turns and jumps down the waterfall and into the misty, murky waters below. It’s just like The Fugitive, except Harrison Ford never said, “Ow, my glasses!”
14. Cape Fear
Cape Fear is a fiercely thrilling, very dark movie starring Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte and directed by Martin Scorsese. Okay, that was the remake and the original had Robert Mitchum in the lead role as Max Cady, but the remake is the one that everybody remembers. The Simpsons episode “Cape Feare” was one long parody of Cape Fear, as recurring guest character Sideshow Bob (voiced yet again by Frasier Crane himself, Kelsey Grammer) is released from prison and sets out to exact his revenge on the mischievous kid who put him behind bars: Bart Simpson. The episode spoofs many key iconic scenes from the movie, like the shot of Max/Bob walking out of the prison gates right up to the camera and Max/Bob smoking a cigar and laughing hysterically in a movie theater, disrupting everybody in there. It’s yet another case of the animators of The Simpsons recreating iconic shots from cinematic history perfectly.
Only the writers of The Simpsons would be able to mine comedy gold out of a premise as thin and ridiculous as Homer coming across a crashed sugar truck and stealing a stash of sugar with an aim to make a boatload of cash from it. Scarface is a gangster movie about the rise and fall of a Miami drug kingpin named Tony Montana, who snorts and sells piles of cocaine.
At one point, Tony sums up his ambitions by saying, “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”
In Homer’s case, it’s sugar, and as he struggles to keep his eyes open while keeping watch over his coveted mountain of sugar, he mumbles, “In America, first you get the sugar. Then you get the power. Then you get the women.”
12. The Graduate
Like many other comedy shows, sometimes when The Simpsons gets a hold of a really high profile guest star, they can’t help but throw in a wink to the audience. They might have them say their most iconic catchphrase or sing a song they’re famous for. More often than some of the other shows, though, The Simpsons can resist these little nods to the audience.
When they got Dustin Hoffman to play Lisa’s substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom, however, they couldn’t resist including a reference to Hoffman’s breakout hit, The Graduate. In The Graduate, Hoffman’s character is propositioned by a mature, sexually promiscuous teacher named Mrs. Robinson.
He says (often misquoted), “You’re trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson. Aren’t you?” This happens in The Simpsons, too, except it’s Mrs. Krabappel, The Simpsons’ resident mature, sexually promiscuous teacher. To top it all off, we get that iconic shot through the leg recreated, Simpsons-style.
11. Beauty and the Beast
The plot of The Simpsons episode “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” is a parody of the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians, as the evil Mr. Burns tries to get a hold of Santa’s Little Helper’s litter of puppies in order to make a new suit out of them, and Bart and Lisa work to stop him.
Bart/Lisa storylines are among the greatest in The Simpsons, because they have really terrific chemistry and the mix of Lisa’s genius and Bart’s stupidity is a comedy gold mine. But the most inspired moment in “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” isn’t a Bart moment or a Lisa moment, and it’s not even a spoof of 101 Dalmatians.
It’s a parody of the song “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast, except it’s not as cute, because it’s called “See My Vest” and it features Burns bragging about all the dead animals his clothes are made of.
Given its legacy as the best movie ever made – Roger Ebert wrote that it’s “probably on more lists of the greatest films of all time than any other single title, including Citizen Kane” – Casablanca has been parodied by just about every single person working in comedy, and the writers and animators of The Simpsons are no different.
In one episode, Bart and Lisa find a film reel featuring the original ending of Casablanca. They took a beautiful, iconic screen gem, considered by many to be a perfect story, and completely bastardized it for ludicrous comic effect. In the original ending, Ingrid Bergman leaves her old lover Humphrey Bogart behind, gets on a plane, and flies away, leaving him alone and depressed.
But in The Simpsons’ alternate ending, Bergman parachutes out of the plane to rescue Bogart from Adolf Hitler, who’s been hiding in Sam’s piano the whole time, and then they get married. Bart prefers this ending.
9. Rear Window
In the season 6 premiere “Bart of Darkness,” Homer buys the Simpson family a pool for the backyard and all the neighborhood kids are coming over every day to hang out with Bart and Lisa, and it’s shaping up to be the best summer ever. But then Bart breaks his leg and is confined to his room for the rest of summer, and it becomes the worst summer ever.
When he’s stuck in his room with nothing but a telescope, he begins to suspect that his neighbor Ned Flanders is a murderer, just like in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, starring a paranoid James Stewart.
Another great moment of parody in this episode is the way that while Bart takes on the James Stewart role from the film, Stewart himself is watching Bart through his telescope, getting paranoid about him. It’s very meta.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
The opening scene of an episode of The Simpsons is always a beautiful thing. They’re not quite at the point of setting up a story yet – they simply want to get the audience laughing. And in the season 3 episode “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love,” they really went nuts with it.
It’s a shot for shot remake of the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which sees Indiana Jones going into an ancient temple and stealing a precious golden artefact, then getting chased out of there by a bunch of shooting arrows, a huge boulder, and a native, artefact-worshipping tribe.
In The Simpsons’ version, Bart steals Homer’s change jar, only to be chased out of the room and followed down the stairs, not by a giant boulder, but by his tumbling overweight father, who then runs out onto the lawn as Bart hops on the school bus.
Although substitutions were made like the change jar instead of the golden idol, the garage door instead of the stone temple door, and Homer in his briefs with a rake instead of the indigenous, spear-wielding tribespeople, this remake was so close to the original – the camerawork, the score, even the lighting – that the producers had to get permission from Steven Spielberg to do it.
The most iconic moment in James Bond history is the moment in Goldfinger when the titular villain has 007 strapped to a table with a laser beam slowly making its way up between his legs to his crotch.
In The Simpsons episode “You Only Move Twice” (the title itself being a play on another Bond movie, You Only Live Twice), Homer is given a seemingly great job in a seemingly idyllic town by a charming and friendly man named Hank Scorpio who turns out to be a maniacal Bond-esque villain.
Homer walks in on an exact recreation of the Goldfinger scene, completely clueless as to what’s going on, and tackles the gentleman spy as he tries to escape. The spy (called Mr. Bont) is then taken off and killed off-screen by a firing squad. Trust Homer.
The episode “Last Exit to Springfield” is famous for its “Dental plan! Lisa needs braces” moment, which shows just how long Homer’s brain takes to comprehend things (a very, very long time), but there are also some really great movie parodies in there.
There are references to Citizen Kane, Moby Dick, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Godfather Part II, and even Yellow Submarine (“Look, it’s Lisa in the sky!” says Paul; “No diamonds, though,” says George). But the best film reference in the episode comes when Lisa is fitted with the only big, hideous, rusty braces that Homer can afford without the power plant’s dental plan.
It’s an homage to the scene in the 1989 Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton in the title role, where Jack Nicholson’s Joker is unveiled by a terrified surgeon, complete with the mirror request.
5. The Godfather
In one of the earliest scenes in the cinematic masterpiece The Godfather, a man wakes up to find a horse’s severed head in his bed. It’s one of the most iconic (and bloodiest) scenes in the history of cinema. So, naturally, when Homer decides to buy Lisa a pony to make up for a past mistake, the writers couldn’t resist turning it into a homage to that scene.
Homer has left the pony as a surprise present in Lisa’s bed, and the moment that she wakes up and realizes it’s there – the camera angles, the musical score, the way Lisa screams in terror – is a perfect, shot for shot remake of the scene in The Godfather.
There’s another great Godfather parody in The Simpsons, when Bart is pelted with snowballs when stepping off the school bus in “Mr. Plow,” which is based on the scene where Sonny Corleone is shot at a toll booth.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
“Homer Loves Flanders” may just be the greatest episode in the history of The Simpsons. It certainly is funny enough, what with Homer destroying Flanders’ car and the moment where he retreats back into the bushes that has since become a legendary GIF.
And it’s a great premise, too – Homer finally spends some time with Ned Flanders, the neighbor who he hates, and realizes that he actually loves him. So, they become best friends, which Ned enjoys for a while until he realizes how annoying and insufferable Homer really is. After that, he starts trying to avoid Homer, but like the T-1000, Homer doesn’t give up.
Flanders is desperately trying to drive his family away from Homer as Homer chases his car down the street, all set to the music from Terminator 2.
3. A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange is both one of the most controversial novels of all time and one of the most controversial movies of all time. The novel, by Anthony Burgess, and the movie, by Stanley Kubrick, both tell the story of a young rebellious criminal named Alex DeLarge as he goes through the reform system of a dystopian Britain of the future.
In one scene, his reconditioning by the fascist regime is put to the test as he reaches for a woman’s breasts and then curls up on the floor, shaking with terror. Alex has been conditioned to fear the object of his desire.
The same thing, shot for shot, happens to Bart in the episode “Duffless,” when Lisa makes him her science project, except Bart is reaching for cupcakes, not boobs. Still, it’s very suggestive with the cherries on top.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
One of the most classic Simpsons episodes, “Deep Space Homer,” sees Homer and Barney being trained as astronauts by NASA. Homer is the only one who actually makes it to space, and this of course leads to disaster.
The episode opened up the writers (who are obviously cinephiles) to a wide variety of references across the cinema of science fiction, but no movie is parodied as brilliantly in “Deep Space Homer” as Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There’s a really great take on 2001’s “Dawn of Man” sequence as Bart throws a marker pen into the air that transitions into a satellite in outer space, but the greatest reference to the movie in the episode is Homer floating around the ship, eating potato chips, set to Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube.”
1. The Shining
The Simpsons’ take on The Shining (sorry, The Shinning) is a pitch perfect parody of a classic of horror cinema. The original movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick and based (very loosely) on the novel by Stephen King, follows Jack Torrance as he takes a job looking after a Colorado hotel over the winter season, and subsequently descends into madness and tries to murder his family.
Trust The Simpsons to find the humor in that as they send Homer into the middle of nowhere to look after Mr. Burns’ mansion. What makes Homer go insane is the lack of TV and beer at Burns’ house.
The hallmarks of Kubrick’s film are twisted for comedy so perfectly, like the title cards announcing the days as the family drives out to the mansion or the way that passive moviegoers can never remember the full line, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
Homer says, “No TV and no beer makes Homer something something,” and then Marge suggests, “Go crazy?” and Homer yells, “Don’t mind if I do!” As with most Simpsons movie parodies, the animators recreate some of Kubrick’s most iconic shots perfectly.