Can anyone believe it’s already been 10 years since The Simpsons released their first and only feature film, or that show is in its record setting 28th season? As a show that has stood the onslaught of more adult oriented programming like South Park and Family Guy, The Simpsons has a position in all of our hearts for setting the bar for all of those shows, while staying relevant and enjoyable.
Sure the show isn’t as good as it was in its first 10 seasons, but it still provides excellent social commentaries and satirises some fantastic elements of popular culture. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Simpsons Movie, we are going to look at some my favourite movie and television references The Simpsons have produced throughout the years.
Silence Of The Lambs
The infamous court scene where Hannibal Lecter is wheeled into the court room in his straitjacket and mask is directly adapted into the Season 4 episode Marge v The Monorail. Mr Burns is caught dumping toxic waste in parkland, resulting in mutated wildlife and plants. Burns then attend the court and is wheeled into the room in a costume identical to that of Lecter, to reinforce how the towns people perceive the centurion nuclear mogul. Lecter had actually appeared as a background character in several other episodes, such as where Homer is in the mental institution meeting Michael Jackson, and when auditioning for the role of Mr Burns in A Star is Burns.
The famous leg swap scene with Sharon Stone was imitated in the season 7 climax of the Who Shot Mr Burns? storyline. In part 2, Groundskeeper Willy is identified as a suspect and as a true Scotsman does, dons a kilt for the interrogation. Willy performs the same leg cross as Stone, but as per expectations, is not as well received by the Springfield police. Rather, they prepare to shoot him the next time he does it.
While this reference is not a direct movie reference, it is a spoof of the campy and lighthearted Batman ’66 series and its movie. During the season 7 episode Radioactive Man, movie executives are sitting around a table discussing that they want Radioactive Man to be more edgy and cool than the show in the 60’s. A logo spin later and we see Radioactive Man and Fallout boy facing the flamboyant fiend The Scoutmaster. His plot involves fighting the duo, and encouraging the use of nail scratching. Mayhem ensues with Pow!, Kazam! and Boop! captions appearing on the screen whenever a hit takes place, reminiscent of the silly fight scenes that took place in Adam West’s Batman. After the fight, they start dancing together. This is a homage to the famous Bat-Tootsie dance that occurred when Batman was fighting King Tut.
Another reference to Batman occurs in Season 5’s Last Exit to Springfield. Lisa has just had braces put in her mouth, not the modern kind but outdated and rusted jaw like creations. After the procedure, she asks for a mirror before breaking into laughter at the sight of her face. This is a homage to Jack Nicholson’s transformation into the Joker in Tim Burton‘s 1989 Batman film.
I absolutely love the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones 1993 movie, and it’s follow up U.S Marshals. It set the standard for what action thriller movies are meant to be when I was growing up. The famous scene where Ford’s Richard Kimble is wandering through sewer piping that leads to the opening of a dam and gets trapped by Jones’ Sam Gerard is spoofed in the Season 6 episode Lisa’s Rival. In the episode, Bart posted a picture of Milhouse on an America’s Most Wanted poster that leads to him being on the run from federal agents. While on the run, he is lead to a dam opening, trapped by an officer. Milhouse, like Kimble, decided it was better to jump than to be captured, and disappears into the mist below.
Season 5 is the pinnacle of Simpson’s seasons in my eyes, there were so many classic episodes and references. Another classic reference is to Terminator 2 in Homer Loves Flanders, Homer chases the Flanders’ car with two golf clubs trying to attach to the car to talk to his newest best buddy Ned Flanders. The scene is reminiscent of the T-1000 chasing Sarah Connor and the T-800 as they try to escape in the car. Terminator 2 is also referenced in another episode where a robotic Richard Simmons goes out of control booty shaking and is shot in the head by Smithers resulting in a hole in the eye that quickly heals over like the T-1000.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones won our hearts for kicking all sorts of ass and going on daring adventures. We first meet Indy trying to retrieve the gold idol in Peru, overcoming deadly booby traps to reach the prize. Upon grabbing the idol, a giant boulder is triggered that threatens to squash the titular hero, although Jones escaped in spectacular fashion. Fast forward to The Simpon’s Season 3 episode Bart’s Friend Falls In Love. Bart dodges dirty clothing on the floor to avoid waking Homer to grab his change jar. Unfortunately, Homer awakens and chases Bart down the stairs. Homer trips over and rolls down the stairs similar to the boulder in Raiders, and looking at the scenes side by side they are almost identical. Bart escapes as Homer crashes into the garage door, belly protruding greatly.
Hank Scorpio, has only appeared in one episode of The Simpsons, yet he helped create my favourite episode of the series. Seasons 8’s You Only Move Twice, saw Homer work for the secret super villain, albeit Homer was somehow unaware of his activities. Homer is trying to buy snacks from a vending machine while just behind him Scorpio has a captor named Mr Bunt, a play on Bond, attached to a table with a laser cutting up slowly. The scene is reminiscent of that in Goldfinger, only Bunt’s escape is foiled by Homer who tackles him.
There are seldom scenes more famous that the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This reference appeared in Season 2’s Itchy and Scratchy and Marge, with Maggie dropping a drill onto Homer’s head while in the garage. The scene cuts using the same angles and imagery being from the film, Homer grabs onto the curtains, a close up of Homer’s face and red paint flowing down into the drain. The Psycho music also appeared in the episode The Springfield Files when an orchestra on a bus pulls up alongside Homer who is drunk and lost in the woods on an eerie night.
The Godfather was referenced in the Season 3 episode Lisa’s Pony. The scene in question saw the camera pan from a beautiful morning outside to slowly venture into Lisa’s bedroom before setting on Lisa getting out of bed to notice a horse asleep in the bed. This is a direct reference to the Godfather scene where Jack Woltz woke up to a decapitated horse head in his bed. The scene is shot in the exact same sequence with camera transitions, only Lisa’s pony is alive and well.
The Godfather is also referenced regularly with Fat Tony and his crime family, along with his son Michael enacting various mafia stereotypes from movies. One particular scene with Michael shows him entering into his room and closing the doors slowly with his associates Jimbo, Kearny and Dolph. Again this is a reference to the ending of The Godfather.
Clint Eastwood‘s Dirty Harry has had several impersonations in Simpsons episodes, often reflecting the actor’s dark expressions and gritty manner. In the show, a serialised cop spoof McGarnagle spoofs up Dirty Harry in an obvious way, not only through the voice acting but the character’s likeness resembling Eastwood. One of the best scenes showing his empathetic side is where he tries to help a little boy Billy by getting him to give evidence against criminals as a witness, while also reminding the viewer that his name is McGarnagle several times. eThe next scene cuts to his inspector yelling at McGarnagle for encouraging Billy to give evidence as he was killed in a graphic manner, all while McGarnagle is eating a sandwich to his disgust. McGarnagle is just trying to eat lunch! McGarnagle.
McBain is another fictional character that has spoofed 80’s and 90’s over the top action movies based on the likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The clips often taking the ridiculous plots like appearing from an ice sculpt of the Venus de Milo and using terrible one liners reminiscent of those found in many of Arnie’s movies.
Friday The 13th
This more subtle reference stands out to my horror interests and took me so long to realise what was going on. In the Season 5 episode Boy Scoutz n’ The Hood, Bart joins the Boy Scouts and goes on a father/son rafting ride with Homer, Tod, and Ned Flanders. They get separated from the rest of the group who make it to their destination, which is a summer camp, safely. The group that made it to the camp are sitting around the fire telling ghost stories and hear noises, thinking it is wild pumas. The camera cuts to a first person view of something watching the campers making weird noises. Given the context of the summer camp and the ghost stories, that thing watching the campers is meant to be Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th. The sound being made from the bushes is the signature chi-chi-ah-ah from the movie series.
Treehouse of Horror
The Halloween specials have produced strong entries every single year. Many of them have taken to adapting core plot elements from many key horror films. Bram Stroker‘s Dracula and Stephen King‘s The Shining are key examples. The Shining stands out more directly as it is directly referenced by name in the episode, although Groundskeeper Willy calls it “The Shinning” to avoid legal rights. Key moments from the movie occur like the blood leaving the elevator, Homer writing notes on the typewriter and then breaking down the door with an axe screaming “Here’s Johnny”.While these are definitely not all of the movie references in The Simpsons, they are important moments for me personally. I remember researching the context of those references I didn’t understand, in turn being introduced to key cinematic experiences I might have otherwise missed. Treehouse of Horror got me familiar with horror franchises, while Moe talking to himself in the mirror in Burn’s Heir led me to see Taxi Driver. The movies that influenced the show were able to influence me. Many say The Simpsons should have ended a long time ago, and I partly agree, but as long as they can still reference movies creatively, newer generations of fans will also be able to learn and discover these important films as well.