Beginning in December of 1989 and continuing through today, the Simpsons is the longest running scripted American prime-time series in history. Although some say the Simpsons have been in decline for years, we beg to differ. Jokes fly by at such a breakneck speed, it’s almost impossible for anyone to keep up with the myriad of movie references. There are plenty of YouTube sites pointing out the brilliance of the Simpsons each week. However, this is a movie-based blog and lucky for us it’s probably the thing the Simpsons does best.
From Hitchcock to Kubrick and Spielberg to Linklater, hardly any director can escape the Simpson spoof. This blog will reveal our five most beloved movie references leaving about 600 or more on the cutting room floor. One of the best places to find movie references is in the Treehouse of Horror episodes which began in season two and have remained a staple ever since. However, if you pay close attention, every episode contains at least one movie reference.
If you have listened to any Oh Brother episode, you know we are huge fans of the Godfather Trilogy. We even did an episode dedicated to Why You Should Love the Godfather: Part III. The Simpsons may not be fans of Part III, but they have proved over and over they are fans of the Godfather. In season three, episode 8 entitled Lisa’s Pony, we get our first look at the Simpson’s homage to the Godfather. As Lisa’s love for her father Homer seems all but lost, he decides to go against the advice of Marge and buy Lisa a pony. While Lisa sleeps, we get a shot-by-shot recreation of the infamous horse’s head scene from the original Godfather film. The sequence pans from a beautiful hedge maze outside to Lisa’s bedroom where she suddenly throws back her covers and lets out a curdling scream seeing a horse’s head in her bed. Instead of just a horse head, the camera widens to reveal Homer’s surprise for Lisa, her very own pony.
Our favorite Simpson reference to the Godfather comes in season 14, episode 9 entitled The Strong Arms of the Ma. After getting held up in the back of the Kwik-E-Mart, Marge becomes afraid to leave the house. After meeting up with an old neighbor, Marge decides to get into bodybuilding to better defend herself. We’re then treated to a recreation of one of Sonny Corleone’s greatest Godfather scenes. In the scene, Sonny chases down his brother-in-law Carlo after finding out he beat up his sister who accuses him of cheating. The Simpson spoof gives us a shot-by-shot recreation with Marge going after a bully in Corleone fashion complete with a trash can lid beat down.
Stephen King movies are always great source material for the Simpsons. A fan favorite is likely Homer doing his best Jack Nicholson impression in a fantastic spoof of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining renamed The Shinning. It comes complete with an axe wielding Homer busting through a door yelling “David Letterman” instead of “Here’s Johnny”. Oh Brother is going with a lesser-known Stephen King film The Dead Zone. During season 16, episode 1 Treehouse of Horror we get The Ned Zone. When Homer’s neighbor Ned Flanders realizes he is getting visions of the future and it’s up to him to shoot Homer and stop him from blowing up Springfield.
In season seven, episode 19 A Fish Called Selma everyone’s favorite Springfield movie star Troy McClure, voiced by the late Phil Hartman, stars in the blockbuster Stop the Planet of the Apes, I want to get off. This Planet of the Apes spoof includes one of the Simpson’s great musical numbers entitled “Dr. Zaius, Dr. Zaius“. Most fans of the Simpsons can sing the entire score from this episode.
In our very first Oh Brother episode, Top 5 Films, I revealed Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane as my favorite movie. Season five, episode 4 of the Simpsons brings us the Kane parody Rosebud. Like Welles’ Charles Foster Kane character, Charles Montgomery Burns pines for something from his childhood. The opening of the episode is another frame-by-frame spoof complete with exploding snow globe and Mr. Burns heard whispering the term Bobo. This sends his sidekick Smithers on a journey to find out what is Bobo? Turns out Bobo was a bear from Mr. Burns’ childhood that winds up in the hands of Maggie Simpson.
We conclude this blog with one of Oh Brother’s favorite directors, the aforementioned Stanley Kubrick. In season 26, episode 4 Treehouse of Horror XXV’s – A Clockwork Yellow. The episode starts with boys dressed in classic A Clockwork Orange costumes walking through a scene from Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut. During the episode, we get a shot of Homer as a monkey holding a bone as music from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey plays in the background. One of the best references is the Simpson’s Comic Book guy character dressed in gear straight out of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon exclaiming “I don’t even remember the movie this one is from?”. It ends with Kubrick telling his assistant to burn everything and “let’s start from the beginning” as he throws a scene marker in the air only to have it bounce off his head while exclaiming “ouch!”
These are just some of our favorite film spoofs from the Simpsons. Drop us a line and let us know your favorite film parodies. If this teaches us anything, it’s that we should never take ourselves too seriously. Listeners of our show know that’s never been a difficult thing for Dan and me. Doh!