For the last thirty-three years, The Simpsons have been a cultural institution. The show has predicted real-world events long before they’ve come to fruition, has spawned a stable of classic jokes retold across generations, and has been a crucial lesson in the art of intertextuality.
While countless movies have been referenced over The Simpsons’ thirty-three seasons, some references stand out, particularly for their uncanny likeness to the source material. Some are even more well-known than the actual films they parody, leading younger viewers to seek out classic movies they might not have otherwise seen.
Psycho (1960) — “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” S02 E09
Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho follows the story of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the creepy owner of the Bates Motel. He has a passion for taxidermy and some serious mommy issues. Norman also tends to murder any woman that comes to the Bates Hotel, blaming the part of his personality that he calls his “Mother.”
The film’s most famous scene takes place in a shower where poor Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is stabbed to death by Norman. The Simpsons recreate this scene in Season 2, Episode 9, where Maggie hits Homer (Dan Castellaneta) over the head with a mallet after seeing Itchy do the same to Scratchy. The scene is set to the same screeching violins from the Psycho scene, with the running blood down the drain replaced with a tipped-over can of red paint from Homer’s garage.
Risky Business (1983) — “Homer The Heretic” S04 E03
Paul Brickman‘s Risky Business follows the story of Joel Goodsen (Tom Cruise), who decides to have a little too much fun when his wealthy parents take a trip away, and he is left with the house to himself. A whole heap of drinking, dancing, joyriding, and prostitution ensues, culminating in a stack of trouble for Joel.
Most people know the scene where Tom Cruise slides along the floorboards into the camera’s view, wearing nothing but his socks, underwear, and a button-down shirt. He dances around the house to “Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll,” basking in his freedom. Homer recreates this in Season 4, Episode 3, when he’s home alone while the rest of the family has gone to church. He dances around in his underwear and bear slippers to “Who Wears Short Shorts.”
‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990) — “Homer Scissorhands” S22 E20
Tim Burton‘s classic, Edward Scissorhands, follows the story of Edward (Johnny Depp), a young man created by an old inventor who died before he could give his prodigy real hands, leaving him with scissor blades for fingers. After being found by a door-to-door saleswoman, Edward is assimilated into society, where he has a knack for topiary and cutting women’s hair.
In Season 22, Episode 20, Homer discovers he has a similar gift to Edward when Lisa (Yeardley Smith) throws a paint pallet at her Aunt Patty, and Bart (Nancy Cartwright) worsens things by burning a hole in Patty’s hair with paint thinner. Homer takes his shears to his sister-in-law’s hair, crafting a masterpiece that makes him the most popular hairstylist in Springfield.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) — “Treehouse of Horror XII” S13 E01
Stanley Kubrick‘s groundbreaking sci-fi film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, tells the story of the Discovery One crew and their voyage to Jupiter. The spacecraft’s operations are controlled by the AI “HAL,” which eventually turns on the crew, turning off their life support and locking them out of the craft. They must manually deactivate HAL’s processor to regain control.
In Season 13, Episode 1, “HAL” takes the form of a smart home that controls the operations of the Simpson house. The AI, voiced by Pierce Brosnan, becomes enamored with Marge and attempts to kill Homer. The family works together to disable the AI, gifting it to Patty and Selma, who drive “Pierce” to self-destruct.
‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ (1991) — “Homer Loves Flanders” S05 E16
The sequel to 1984’s The Terminator, James Cameron‘s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, is arguably more popular than its first installment. The AI Skynet sends a T-1000 (Robert Patrick) terminator made of liquid metal back in time to kill resistance leader John Connor when he was a child. But the resistance is privy to the AI’s plan, sending an older model T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to protect the young boy.
InSeason 5, Episode 16, Homer takes on the characteristics of the relentless T-1000 when he becomes obsessed with Ned Flanders after Flanders takes him to a ball game and introduces him to his favorite player. The meme-worthy scene of Homer emerging, then melting back into the hedges is reminiscent of the T-1000’s ability to melt and shift into almost anything. Homer also chases Flanders’ car down in the same fashion the T-1000 chases John Connor’s car, down to the golf clubs Homer wedges into the bumper similar to the blades the T-1000 uses.
Goldfinger (1964) — “You Only Move Twice” S08 E02
Guy Hamilton‘s Goldfinger is the third installment in the long-running James Bond movie franchise, starring Sean Connery as the famous MI6 agent. In this film, 007 is on the tail of gold-smuggling super villain Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), who plans to contaminate the United States Bullion Depository.
Hank Scorpio (masterfully voiced by Albert Brooks), Homer’s eccentric new boss, takes on the role of Bond super villain inSeason 8, Episode 2. He is seen maniacally blowing up countries and shooting at enemies while surrounded by beautiful women. In one scene, Scorpio has a “Mr. Bont” strapped to a table with a laser working its way between his legs, much like Goldfinger has Connery’s Bond strapped to his laser torture table.
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) — “Bart’s Friend Falls In Love” S03 E22
George Lucas‘ Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the first installment in the Indiana Jones film franchise. In this film, Indy (Harrison Ford) is deployed to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis can get to it. The intricate golden chest ends up melting off the faces of the Nazis when opened and is then moved to a secret location for “top men” to study, i.e., stored in a dusty old warehouse.
In one scene, Indy attempts to recover a golden idol, replacing it with a bag of sand. He must outrun a boulder and slide under a closing stone door without forgetting his fallen hat, which he grabs from under the door just in time. Bart takes on the role of Indy in Season 3, Episode 22 when he steals a jar of coins from Homer’s dressing table, only to be chased by a nearly nude Homer all the way outside, where he slides under the closing garage door, nabbing his trusty red cap on the way out.
‘The Shining’ (1980) — “Treehouse of Horror V” S06 E06
Based on the novel by Stephen King and adapted by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family, who have been enlisted as off-season caretakers of the isolated Overlook Hotel. Jack begins to lose his mind under the influence of the supernatural forces that haunt the hotel and goes on a murderous rampage where he attempts to kill his family.
Season 6, Episode 6 is almost a play-by-play of the original film. The Simpson family are enlisted as winter caretakers of an old mansion, a ghostly bartender encourages Homer to kill his family, Bart has a psychic ability called “the shinning” (much like Danny Torrence’s (Danny Lloyd) “shining”), and Marge finds a typewriter with the words “feelin’ fine” printed on the page moments before she sees Homer’s repetitive scrawling all over the walls. Homer even reenacts the famous “here’s Johnny!” scene where Jack uses an axe to smash through the door.
‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992) — “Treehouse Of Horror IV” S05 E05
Francis Ford Coppola‘s adaptation of the famous gothic novel is one of the most well-known, if not the most hedonistic. Bram Stoker’s Dracula follows the story of Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves), a solicitor charged with the task of helping Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) acquire land in London. Harker travels to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, discovering that he is amongst the undead.
None other than Monty Burns takes on the role of Dracula in Season 5, Episode 5. The Simpsons are invited to his castle in Pennsylvania but are told to wash their necks beforehand. Mr. Burns appears in the gaudy red robes and elaborate hairstyle reminiscent of Gary Oldman’s Dracula. His shadow can act of its own accord like in the film, appearing to play with a yo-yo while Mr. Burns walks on.
‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) — “22 Short Films About Springfield” S07 E21
Quentin Tarantino‘s masterpiece Pulp Fiction tells the four intersecting stories of two hitmen, a boxer, two bandits, and a gangster and his wife. The film is broken up into seven narrative sequences, all with intertitles to signal a change in narrative. It’s violent, bloody, and features some great music in true Tarantino style.
Season 7, Episode 21 takes a similar approach, except there are twenty-two narrative sequences with some preceded by intertitles. Some stories intersect, while others are an almost exact parody of their source material. In the film, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) stumble into a pawnshop and are tied up and ball-gagged by the owner. The same happens to Chief Wiggum and Snake when they stumble into Herman’s antique store. Before this, the chief is seen walking across the street with a pink donut box exactly like Marsellus and even discusses how a Krusty Burger with cheese is called a Quarter Pounder with cheese at McDonald’s, resembling Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules’ (Samuel L.Jackson) “royale with cheese” conversation.
NEXT: Hello, Bart: ‘The Simpsons’ Sideshow Bob Episodes, Ranked