Tucked in the heart of middle America is the fictional town of Springfield — a municipality home to an eclectic assortment of characters who’ve been around for over three decades with the sole purpose of making us laugh. Of course, the Simpson crew, a caricature of a modern semi-dysfunctional family, are the heart and soul of the eponymous TV series with a wide range of Springfield’s finest in supporting roles. The Simpsons have long been considered an icon of American television thanks to the series’ lengthy and impactful tenure on the small screen.
As a satire of modern civilization, The Simpsons often parodies real-world events, pop culture, celebrities, and notable figures. In fact, the series has often been regarded as a glimpse into the future as numerous instances within the show have oddly come to pass in the real world. Perhaps, there’s a bit of magic behind the show. Or maybe our world is just gradually becoming the outlandish and wild representations seen in cartoon satire. Regardless, there’s one thing The Simpsons series is known for and that is its parodies of popular movies. Some of the series’ best episodes revolve around film parodies, and these 10 absolute gems are some of the best in the show’s long history.
The Exor-sis – Treehouse of Horror XXVIII
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The annual Treehouse of Horror episodes are home to many of the best horror film parodies. In the 29th season, one segment is a clear homage to the 1973 horror classic The Exorcist. Entitled The Exor-sis, the segment begins with the eerie melodic chimes of the cult classic horror film, and we see that Homer has mistakenly ordered a Pazuzu statute from Amazon thinking it was pizza. He then becomes influenced by the statue and leaves young Maggie alone in the dark with the cursed relic.
Of course, Maggie becomes possessed and speaks with a deep demonic voice as she haunts the Simpson clan and enacts similar horror sequences from the film. The family ties her down to her crib as her head spins, and the crew eventually brings in a priest to attempt the fabled exorcism. It’s all good fun, however, and we even learn that Bart’s soul is already too dark for the demon to handle.
Planet of the Apes the Musical – A Fish Called Selma (season 7, episode 19)
Could you ever imagine a Planet of the Apes musical? Well, the Simpson crew hits the theater to witness the musical genius of Astronaut Taylor and Dr. Zaius in a reimagining of the original 1968 sci-fi film through song and dance. Marge’s sister Selma is bringing the family along to support her fiancé in his starring role as Charlton Heston’s character from the original film, Taylor. It’s quite a spectacle and the parody highlights the most memorable moments from the film while carrying a tune.
Just imagine actor Charlton Heston singing about his dismay over finding the remnants of the Statue of Liberty and realizing he’s actually on Earth. It’s peak Simpsons absurdity, and it’s great. Plus, the songs are catchy as hell and show off the show’s musical prowess.
Barthood (season 27, episode 9)
In case the episode’s cheeky title didn’t give it away, this parody is paying homage to the coming-of-age epic by director Richard Linklater, Boyhood. Of course, the focus is all on Bart. And just like Mason in Boyhood, Barthood spans age six to adulthood in Bart’s life. It depicts how he learns, grows, and develops relationships with those around him.
While the parody is humorous simply because the Simpsons, and particularly Bart, are central to this otherwise serious drama, there is also a level of sincerity as the episode poses a genuine framework for Bart’s growth and development based on the circumstances of his family and, in particular, the relationship he has with his father, Homer. Barthood may not be just a simple parody, but more of a love letter to the Linklater film it’s based on.
Bart Simpson’s Dracula – Treehouse of Horror IV (season 5, episode 5)
In 1992, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was brought from the pages of the author’s novel to the big screen by famed director Francis Ford Coppola. The fifth season and fourth iteration of the annual Halloween-centric Treehouse of Horror episodes featured a Simpsons re-imagining of Coppola’s take on the most famous vampire in modern history. Montgomery Burns brandishes the fangs and larger-than-life Dracula wig as he invites the Simpsons to his home in Pennsylvania for dinner.
After being turned into a vampire, Bart proceeds to change the rest of the neighborhood kids into vampires. The Simpsons resolve to kill Mr. Burns in order to reverse the curse on Bart and the rest of the vampires Burns has created. What winds up happening is nothing short of the zany antics we’ve come to expect from a show like The Simpsons.
The Debarted (season 19, episode 13)
Much like in the Martin Scorsese film The DepartedBart has to find a rat within his crew of friends who is obviously reporting on his pranks to Principal Skinner. A new kid, who appropriately looks like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan in The Departedis positioned by the principal to be the mole in Bart’s crew in an effort to bring down the prankster.
Like the film this episode spoofs, an homage ensues of Bart’s failed pranks to the backdrop of the Dropkick Murphys tune I’m Shipping Up to Boston. A game of cat and mouse follows as Bart attempts to sniff out the rat in his employ.
Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious (season 8, episode 13)
Mary Poppins can’t escape the reach of The Simpsons in this spoof on the Disney movie classic. After Marge suffers rapid hair loss from the stress of being the mother to three needy children — four if you count Homer’s buffoonery and negligence — she seeks help with household chores. In order to ease the stress Marge is experiencing from holding the Simpson household together, they welcome Shari Bobbins as a nanny to help with the day-to-day work around the house.
Just like Mary Poppinsthere are a few cheeky musical numbers. Though, instead of teaching the children to truly be better, she coaches them in the art of “half-assing” the cleaning of their rooms by sweeping junk under the rug and cramming clothes in the closet. In all fairness, she accuses the adults of doing it, as well. The children are just oblivious to it.
Two Dozen and One Greyhounds (season 6, episode 20)
There are a few Disney parodies happening in this particular episode. Of course, the title is a reference to 101 Dalmatians. However, the Simpsons’ family canine, Santa’s Little Helper, finds a mate, and their courtship begins much like Lady and the Tramp. They share spaghetti while out on the town. Fatefully, however, their love results in 25 baby pups that the Simpsons must attempt to take care of.
When the puppies become too much of a handful for the Simpsons to manage, they offer them up for free but attempt to keep them away from Montgomery Burns fearing that he’d be mean to them. Like Cruella de Vil, Burns steals the pups anyway to use their fur coats for clothing. Bart and Lisa hatch a plan to save the dogs in this ridiculous caper.
The Nightmare After Krustmas (season 28, episode 10)
Don’t be fooled by the episode’s title. This isn’t really a parody of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. This episode is focused on Krusty and a Christmas that he and his daughter spend with the Simpsons. During the endeavor, Reverend Lovejoy attempts to convert the clown to Christianity, which he seemingly does. Krusty is about to be baptized in a frozen river and the current pulls him under the ice.
When he awakens, he finds himself inside an ice castle much like Elsa’s from Frozen. Olaf and Sven approach and Krusty callously quips, “Oh, great, my death is a hacky parody of Frozen.” Olaf then morphs into the visage of his father who offers him some counsel. Still, the brief Frozen spoof is a hilarious touch to Krusty’s near-death experience.
You Only Move Twice (season 8, episode 2)
Perhaps one of the most notable action heroes and prominent spies in modern cinema is MI6 agent, James Bond. With strikingly unique movie titles, stories, and sinister villains there isn’t any doubt that the debonair British agent with a license to kill would be parodied by the likes of a comedy series like The Simpsons.
This particular episode is centered around Homer and a new job offer that he receives from Globex Corporation — a seemingly employee-focused company that offers their employees a place to stay in an idyllic community. Homer’s boss, Hank Scorpio, seems like a swell guy. But it’s soon revealed that he is a maniacal villain who concocts Bond villain-style schemes bent on world domination. Hank has an underground lair and even interrogates a Sean Connery Bond imitation named Mr. Bont. Homer, not realizing what’s at stake and only hoping to make his boss happy, tackles Bont before he can escape which allows Hank to off the heroic spy while further rewarding Homer as a faithful employee. There’s no shortage of Bond humor in You Only Move Twice.
Intrusion of the Pod-y Switchers – Treehouse of Horror XXIX (season 30, episode 4)
Of course, it’s hard to pick and choose from the bevy of Treehouse of Horror parodies throughout the life of The Simpsons series. But the Invasion of the Body Snatchers spoof is top-notch with a dash of meta humor to make this one of the more exquisite offerings. The Mapple corporation (which is a spoof on Apple), is releasing a new Myphone. Secretly run by aliens, the Myphones are meant to distract humans from the spores the aliens release into the atmosphere which seemingly kill civilians or place them in a catatonic state while a pod forms releasing a zombie-esque copy of each person.
Even as Jeff, the Comic Book Guy, succumbs to the spores, he makes an exhaustive observation stating, “Oh, great an homage to Body Snatcherswhich in itself was a rip-off of The Thing.” Bart quickly realizes something is up and that folks around town are actually zombies instead of their genuine selves. What follows is plenty of hilarity and obvious commentary on the nature of horror films like Body Snatchers.