There are rumors that suggest not everyone loves The Simpsons. But that’s got to be crazy talk, right? The Simpsons have been entertaining, teaching, and embiggening us for almost three decades. There’s so much to love about the show—the excellent cast, the compositions by Alf Clausen, the ever-changing writing staff, beer blasts, keggers, stein-hoists, AA meetings, and, most of all, the parodies.
The Simpsons' wonderful movie parodies have been fan favorites since the beginning. There are a lot of them—far too many for one list, actually. For this list, we tried to stick with parodies that go on for a full episode, or maybe the length of a Treehouse of Horror segment. A few of these parodies have been lumped together for the sake of expediency. If we missed anything, feel free to chime in in the comments section.
That being said, here are the 15 Best Simpsons Movie Parodies.
It can be argued that every animator today owes a debt to Walt Disney or Disney Animation Studios. The Simpsons has always acknowledged this, and have made countless references to Disney characters and films over the years. Earlier this year, Eric Goldberg created a masterful Disney-inspired opening couch gag that spoofed Disney features from Steamboat Willy through to The Jungle Book, Fantasia, and Cinderella.
As for individual episodes, "Shari Bobbins" flawlessly spoofed Mary Poppins, while "See My Vest" from "Two-Dozen and One Greyhounds" is legendary among fans. Just try singing a line around the office and see who chimes in. Ditto Homer’s suggestive song about living Under the Sea. Other notable Simpsons Disney parodies include "What do I think of the Pie?", "Steamboat Itchy', and most of the goings on at "Itchy and Scratchyland". In fact, all of the Chester J. Lampwick stuff is Disney-related. Since Disney Animation studios is still going strong, we can presume that Groening and the gang have many more Disney parodies in store.
Fans can argue the merits of Marvel versus DC until their voices are gone, but that won’t change the fact that Batman is awesome. Even when Batman was the silliest, campiest thing on TV, it was still pretty dang awesome. The creators of The Simpsons know that, which is why they’ve done quite a few Batman references over the years.
The first major one came in season 4, Episode 7 "Last Exit to Springfield". Lisa has to go to the dentist (who was supposed to be voiced by Anthony Perkins—sadly, Perkins succumbed to AIDS before recording his lines), where it turns out that she needs braces. The reveal of her new teeth mirrors Jack Nicholson’s Joker (from Tim Burton’s Batman) as he sees his new face for the first time. Gold! Later, Homer’s turn as “The Pie Man” has some decidedly Gotham-esque qualities, like the signal in the sky. But Mr. Burns's “Fruit Bat Man” came even closer to the Dark Knight that we know and love.
We haven’t actually counted, but we strongly suspect that nothing has been more parodied on The Simpsons than the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Principal Skinner and his mom have been compared to Norman Bates and Mother on several occasions—once even suggesting that their creepy mansion could be seen from Skinner’s office window at Springfield Elementary. Child-Marge and her mother were almost struck by a small plan a la North by Northwest. Maggie once used a mallet to “kill” her father in a perfect parody of Psycho’s shower scene. "Summer of 4’2” is a fave, and features Bart Simpson with a broken leg—basically turning his summer into Hitch’s Rear Window. Homer once picked Maggie up from Ayn Rand’s daycare center, amid a harrowing scene where babies replace The Birds. Watch for animated Hitchcock to walk by with two tiny dogs—the same cameo he had in the original film. And of course the Treehouse XX episode "Criss Cross" parodies both Dial M for Murder and Strangers on a Train.
12 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Over the years, some Simpsons fans have tried to deny that Rainier Wolfcastle is Arnold Schwarzenegger. We can’t see how. They’re both from Austria, both have identical accents they can’t seem to shed, and both make predominantly action movies. Arnold and Rainier are both Republicans, both drive Hummers, and are (or were, at least) both married to women named Maria.
For the first few seasons, both the title character of the McBain films was simply called: McBain. But after an utterly forgettable 1991 movie called McBain came out in real-life, Groening et al gave the actor the unforgettable name of Rainier Wolfcastle. It’s true that some of Wolfcastle’s movies bear elements of James Bond films—You Have the Right to Remain Dead, for example, or the similar film intros. It’s also true that if you splice all the McBain clips from the episodes together in order, they make an actual film. Honest!
One could argue that Wolfcastle is more versatile than Arnold, what with his having done stand-up comedy, getting his start in bratwurst commercials, and his harrowing turn in the film Help, My Son is a Nerd (it’s not a comedy).
11 James Bond
Like other action subgenres, The Simpsons has spoofed James Bond a handful of times. The stand out best of these, is "You Only Move Twice" (season 8, episode 2). After Waylon Smithers declines, Homer is recruited for a job by Globex corporation—a swanky new gig in a new town where Homer is totally valued for his skill. Their house is huge, the schools are better, and Marge has time to drink as much wine as she likes in the afternoons (turns out, that’s not very much).
We find out eventually that Homer’s awesome new boss, Hank Scorpio, is actually a Bond-style super villain. Scorpio (voiced by Albert Brooks) blows up bridges, threatens world leaders, and has a troupe of sexy ladies who can break necks with their knees, just like real Bond villains (and Sayid from LOST, but we digress). It sucks that he’s a criminal, because he’s a really considerate employer. Hank Scorpio was originally slated to be the bad guy in The Simpsons Movie. While Albert Brooks did voice the villain, Russ Cargill of the EPA just wasn’t as iconic or entertaining as Scorpio.
10 Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
When you want to give a full impression of a person, you can’t do that by telling just one story. In the Canadian cult-classic Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn Gould, they tell many different stories ranging from one minute to 10 minutes, giving a more complete impression of a single character. In the fine parody "22 Short Films about Springfield" (season 7, episode 21), we learn some great facts about Springfield natives old and new. No fan has been able to count all 22 segments though, so there may only be 18. This episode has many fantastic segments: Lisa gets gum in her hair and the whole town tries to help, Skinner makes “steamed hams” for SuperNintendo Chalmers, Smithers is stung by a bee, Apu goes to a hot party at Sanjay’s, Milhous saves a few lives (and some dignity, no doubt) in a Pulp Fiction-style trip to the Android’s Dungeon, and Nelson is schooled by a very tall man in a very small automobile. Wah Wah, right?
9 Heavenly Creatures
This one makes our list largely because it was shocking that The Simpsons would parody such a small, cult film. Sure, Peter Jackson is a household name now, but when he hired two then-unknown actresses (Melanie Lynsky and Kate Winslet) to star in a dark fantasy retelling of a real-life murder story, it was a huge gamble. The story of killers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme (the latter is now known as mystery novelist Anne Perry) is done here as "Lisa the Drama Queen" (season 20, episode 9).
In it, Lisa and a girl named Juliet (Emily Blunt) invent a fantasy world named Equalia where everyone is equal (except for them-- they are queens). As Lisa neglects the rest of life in favor of writing about Equalia, Marge decides that the girl’s friendship is getting out of hand. Odd, since Parker and Lisa were not exactly known for their wide circle of close friends. Bullies get involved and the whole thing falls apart. Eventually, we’re left with the haunting line, “Reality is for people who can’t imagine anything better.” Crazy talk? Perhaps. But we’ll take it.
8 Mob Movies
Ah, the mafia. Where else can fans root for the killers, the robbers, the guys doing all the bad stuff? The Simpsons have made many an homage to The Godfather and Godfather II, Goodfellas, The Sopranos, and even The Public Enemy. In season 3, episode 4, "Bart the Murderer", Bart starts working for Fat Tony (Joe Mantegna), an obvious cross between Vito Corleone and real-life mobster John Gotti. When Bart is accused of the murder of his school principal, the scene in court mirrors the trial scene of The Godfather II.
In season 13, episode 22, several members of The Sopranos cast voice characters who look a lot like them—as the “Jersey Muscle” of Fat Tony. In season 8, episode 11, "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", Homer enlists Fat Tony’s help in Marge’s pretzel wagon business. "Where is the money, when are you going to get the money, why aren’t you getting the money now…and so on. So please, the money!" This episode ends with a tumultuous fight between the Sicilian Mob and the Japanese Yakuza. Shockingly, everyone lives.
7 Lord of the Flies
Sometimes things seem too serious to be successfully parodied, but The Simpsons seems to take that as a challenge. In season 9, episode 14, "Das Bus" finds the children of Springfield Elementary lost at sea after a bus crash. At first, the kids are stoked to be alone on an island with no adults. Soon they realize that they’re also without food, lights, rules, toilet paper, or a way to get off the island. When the meager food supply comes up missing, Milhouse is blamed and put on trial. The real Lord of the Flies is rife with violence, even murder. There’s also the issue of “the monster,” a scare-tactic used by the dominant group to keep the younger kids frightened and controllable. Milhouse blames the monster for eating the missing food in an effort to maintain his freedom. "Das Bus" does a good job of maintaining the themes and look of both Lord of the Flies films. James Earl Jones narrates the end of the episode, which hilariously points out that it doesn’t really matter how the episode ends. We all know things will be back to normal next week. "And they were rescued by… oh, let’s say… Moe."
Season 27, episode 9 finds The Simpsons satirizing the award-winning Linklater film that took over 12 years to shoot. Boyhood focuses on a young man named Mason and follows some of the key events and relationships that shaped his life. Mason has to contend with his mother’s multiple marriages and moves, illustrating how adults don’t always realize or appreciate how these changes impact growing children. In "Barthood", the show poses some uncharacteristically realistic questions about Bart’s development as a person. How much impact does Homer’s terrible parenting (his disinterest in his children is not even exaggerated for the episode) have on Bart? How many times has he felt discouraged by Lisa constantly succeeding in school, music, occasionally sports, and life in general? When we look at Bart through the lens of a live-action child (obviously the episode is animated, but it takes on a more realistic tone throughout) we can’t help but feel bad for him. "Barthood" succeeds, not because it’s so funny, but because we can all feel what Bart is feeling—a rarity for The Simpsons.
For many Simpsons fans, the night of the new Treehouse of Horror episode might as well be Christmas. It’s a time for friends to gather, laugh, point out references, and imbibe intoxicants (only for the over-21 set, obviously). Treehouse of Horror IV features "Bart Simpson’s Dracula", which perfectly encapsulates the Francis Ford Coppola film that singlehandedly brought goth-culture screaming into the mainstream.
Homer and his family take an ominous journey to Mr. Burns’s country home in… Pennsylvania! There, they are asked to wash their necks, given goblets of blood, and eventually discover secret doors leading to ghastly discoveries like— washing machines! Seriously though, Burns is a vampire akin to Oldman’s portrayal of Vlad Dracul. As you’d think, Lisa finds out what’s going on right away, but can’t convince her family. And because Treehouse episodes aren’t actually cannon, Vampire-Burns reveals that he doesn’t actually know the name of the Simpsons' male child. "If it isn’t little… boy." The episode ends with nods to Salem’s Lot and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Fine parody all around.
4 A Streetcar Named Desire
Nearly every family-focused sitcom eventually shows someone trying out for a role in the local theatre. In this case, Marge auditions for a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire. The episodes features fun guest appearances from Jon Lovitz (director Llewellyn Sinclair) and the late, great Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz—who also plays Mitch.
What makes this parody especially apt isn’t that we learn that Ned Flanders played Blanche DuBois at his all-boys school. And it isn’t that Otto didn’t actually end up playing Pablo, nor is it Apu’s heart wrenching turn as the simple paperboy. No, it’s that Marge and Homer’s relationship bears some resemblance, at least to Sinclair, to that of the brutish Stanley Kowalski and the tenuously sane Blanche. Watch for the harrowing moment when Homer yells in the manner of a young Brando, "Hey Maaaarge! Maaarge!" It’s a damn sight more accurate than Ned’s failed attempts to call for Stanley’s wife, Stella. Aside from the insult to peanut butter brownies (a "bite of banality, indeed!) this is nearly a perfect parody.
3 Planet of the Apes
Troy McClure (Phil Hartman) is inherently funny, even if we’re not precisely sure which actor he’s supposed to be mocking. Troy has some kind of fish fetish, and his career is pretty much washed up at the opening of season 7, episode 19, "A Fish Called Selma". When Troy is seen in public with a human female, his career makes a comeback. After MacArthur Parker (Jeff Goldblum) gets involved, Troy finds himself cast as the lead in Stop the Planet of the Apes! I want to get off. As one could guess, it’s a very funny stage version that completely drains the original story of its horror and impact. Seriously, the “Help Me Doctor Zaius” parody of "Rock Me, Amadeus" is amazing. But the conclusion? "I hate every ape I see, from chimpan-A to chimpanzee…" is brilliant even if it does dilute the entire reveal that, "It was Earth all along…now you’ve finally made a monkey out of meeeee."
2 The Shining
As of last year, there have been 28 Treehouse of Horror episodes. With three stories per episode, that gives us 84 different 6-7 minute segments. After carefully considering every last one of them, "The Shinning" stands out as the absolute fave. (Pause for argument.) Of course, it spoofs Stanley Kubrick’s movie interpretation of The Shining, though I imagine Stephen King prefers The Simpson’s version to Kubrick.
Every aspect of the film is parodied, from the opening shot to the haunting music, the passage of the days to the sprawling hotel complete with maze, the snow to the ballroom, and the boy’s psychic friend (in this case, played by Groundskeeper Willie). It’s all good stuff. Marge swinging the bat at Homer may even be a shot-for-shot recreation-- until the scary face-making. The episode also has some of the best and most quotable dialogue of any Treehouse episode. Try saying "No TV and no beer make Homer something something," and wait. Someone in your vicinity will surely respond with, "Go Crazy? Don’t mind if I do!!!"
1 Cape Fear
Sideshow Bob has been a fan favorite since his very first appearance, when he was merely a large-footed sidekick framing his boss for a robbery. Solid writing and consistently epic voice work from Kelsey Grammer has made Bob one of the most memorable characters for decades. Season 5, episode 2, though, may represent Bob’s most shining moments. "Cape Feare" has the Simpson family in the Witness Relocation Program (with the hats and t-shirts to go with it) as they flee from a recently paroled Sideshow Bob.
In his efforts to kill Bart, Bob follows the family to their new abode, a houseboat a la both movie versions of Cape Fear. Bob’s portrayal mainly echoes Robert Mitchum’s turn as Max Cady, though the “LUV” and “HAT (long A)” on Bob’s fingers takes a jibe at Mitchum’s character in Night of the Hunter as well. This episode is great not just for the rakes (though how much do we love the rakes?) or the suspense, but because Bart manages to foil Bob all by himself, using Bob’s vanity against him as Bart asks to hear him sing the score of the HMS Pinafore. Yeah, it was a good thing they drifted by the brothel, where the entire Springfield police department happened to be. Wow.
Did we miss your favorite Simpsons movie parody? Tell us all about it!