Films Referenced on The Simpsons

by The Narrator Returns

Created 08/18/12

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Ah yes, everybody's favorite cartoon family for about 10 years (let's forget years 2000-now, shall we?). Not only were they hilarious, they expanded my film horizons. Here are some Criterion examples.

  • Forever immortalized as Martin Prince's arcade game of choice, with options like "'Tell Me More,'" "Trenchant Insight," and "Bon Mot."

  • The band was treated like real guest stars on the S3 episode, "The Otto Show," which makes it all the more tragic when their tour bus is crashed into.

  • As "Timmy O'Toole" reminds trapped in a well, a carnival breaks out on the scene, just like in this film. This is certainly one of the obscure references, and it just goes to show how smart the show was at its prime.

  • "You liked Rashomon."

    "That's not how I remember it."

  • In one of the greatest episodes the show has ever done ("Marge vs. the Monorail"), Mr. Burns is wheeled out to court muzzled and straight-jacketed, not unlike Hannibal Lector.

  • The S9 episode "Das Bus" is a riff on the film and the book it's based on, though I don't think William Golding intended to end his story with a deus ex machina.

  • When the Stonecutters decide Homer is the "Chosen One," the ceremony reduces him to childlike glee not unlike Puyi's, although Puyi had the defense of being three.

  • Grampa's breadroll dance might have won the heart of Mrs. Bouvier, but it also earned the wrath of copyright lawyers, who demanded he stop for legal reasons.

  • Of course, not all late-period Simpsons episodes are bad. The episode "Any Given Sundance" (which also has Criterion favorite Jim Jarmusch as a guest star) has Nelson's autobiographical film, which ends on an ambiguous close-up of Nelson's face.

  • In the all-time classic "Cape Feare," Sideshow Bob attempts to recreate Robert Mitchum's famous tattoos, though with only three fingers to write on, his read "Luv" and "Hat."


  • By slowlight
    January 07, 2013
    09:32 PM

    Has someone done a list of Criterion films which explicitly reference other Criterion films?
    • By Emmy
      January 08, 2013
      12:16 AM

      Like Un Femme et un Femme when Belmondo says he has to get home because Breathless in on tv. And I believe (in the same film) Belmondo also asks Jeanne Moreau how Jules et Jims is coming along.
    • By LyleG
      February 19, 2017
      01:04 AM

      Repo Man features a song called "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies. The music video for that song features actors Jack Nance (Eraserhead) and Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul). All three films are on criterion. That's the only connection I've found so far.
  • By Brett Rademaker
    January 09, 2013
    11:11 PM

    truly you are the king of kings
  • By Alexander
    January 10, 2013
    09:14 PM

    Koyaanisqatsi is referenced multiple times.
  • By brianoblivion
    January 12, 2013
    10:29 PM

    don't forget the space monsters that appear in every halloween episode were lifted directly from the alien under the arctic ice in "the atomic submarine"...
    • By The Narrator Returns
      January 13, 2013
      12:15 AM

      Wow, I never caught that Kang and Kodos were Atomic Submarine references. Thanks a bunch!
  • By Jonathan-B
    January 13, 2013
    03:43 PM

    So far my favorite list on this site.
  • By KazuhiraGraeber
    January 17, 2013
    12:19 PM

    One of the more recent episodes featured an igloo styled motel called "The Nook of the North", my bet a reference to Nanook. Also, same season, the Simpsons make friends with "hipsters" and their son has what is obviously a Tishiro Mifune poster on his wall. Yeah, the humor is lacking since 2000, but at least the references are still there. Good list.
  • By Marcus Hambright
    January 24, 2013
    07:35 PM

    I know it isn't a Criterion movie, but Homer is humming the song from La Dolce Vita in the Babysitter Bandit episode. A pretty cool reference, I think.
  • By aTouristOnEarth
    February 26, 2013
    10:02 PM

    Ah, the criterion for the most outstanding reference is the non-Criterion season seven musical "Stop The Planet Of The Apes I Want To Get Off." [humming: 'Dr. Zaius! Dr. Zaius!] [remembering: I hate every ape I see From chimpan-a to chimpan-z] Hmm, you know Heston is nowhere to be found here on Criterion.
    • By The Narrator Returns
      February 26, 2013
      10:10 PM

      Oh my god, I was wrong, it was Earth all along! I guess you've finally made a monkey out of me! I love you, Dr. Zaius!
  • By Tyler D.
    March 21, 2013
    02:12 PM

    After going through all fourteen pages on the aforementioned post about the Movie/Simpsons blog, I'm sort of surprised that Seventh Seal hasn't been referenced.
  • By futurestar
    April 02, 2013
    05:49 PM

    a wonderful and vast collection of well viewed. thanks for sharing and inviting us in.
  • By eleven
    April 14, 2013
    09:46 PM

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the multiple Gilbert & Sullivan (the Mikado, topsy-turvy) references featured in Sideshow Bob episodes
  • By SureShot
    May 23, 2013
    12:10 PM

    I've always assumed that "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" was a parody of "Ikiru". The plot is essentially the same as Kurosawa's film, but I thought that the Japanese restaurant at the beginning was a joking wink.
  • By reeCe
    October 18, 2013
    05:05 PM

    "I am Furious (Yellow)" from the thirteenth season
  • By Andrew a.
    November 19, 2013
    11:43 AM

    Hey and The game in the episode where homer lose his memory
  • By nightgoat72
    June 12, 2014
    10:12 AM

    There's an episode called "I am Furious Yellow," which is obviously a reference to I am Curious (Yellow).
  • By Eric Levy
    August 06, 2014
    12:33 PM

    Finally watched Rossellini's JOURNEY TO ITALY--probably the last place you'd expect a Simpsons reference, but this was unmistakable. There is a scene where Ingrid Bergman is driving along feeling sad about her marriage and seeing all these couples, just like Marge did in the Season One episode LIFE ON THE FAST LANE.
  • By Sean Ramsdell
    February 23, 2016
    04:19 PM

    Please do a Futurama list
  • By Naked_Island
    November 16, 2016
    10:03 AM

    The Graduate was referenced in the episode "Lisa's Substitute"
  • By LyleG
    March 11, 2017
    11:49 PM

    You forgot It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World in the episode "Homer the Vigilante" in which everyone in Springfield ravenously search high and low for a treasure hidden under a "T". Complete with multiple recreations of famous scenes (including the car in the river) as well as the actual score used.
  • By Criteriophile
    November 06, 2017
    09:09 PM

    In one episode, Homer asked Bart if he remembered what happened in New York City. Homer imagined a scene where he and J. J. Hunsecker were having an argument. Marge told him that is sounded like Sweet Smell of Success.