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The Simpsons and Classic Movies

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Jessica, Queen's Square | June 1, 2017

Throughout its almost thirty-year record breaking run, the animated show The Simpsons has changed the pop culture landscape. Even if you’re not a fan, you would recognize those yellow characters anywhere. As The Simpsons has influenced pop culture, its own creation was influenced by the classics that came before. 

Let’s take a look at the classic movie references in The Simpsons in particular. If you are not as well-versed in classic movies as the writers and creators of The Simpsons, these references can go right over your head. For me, growing up watching The Simpsons, these references never made sense to me.  Why? I saw The Simpsons before I had even heard of the movies it was referencing!

If you’ve always wanted to know what jokes you’ve been missing throughout the years, here are a few classic movies you should check out.

Citizen Kane movie coverCitizen Kane:  There is probably no film more referenced in The Simpsons than Citizen Kane.  At the end of his life, titular character Kane utters one word “Rosebud” before dying.  The reporter tasked with covering his death takes it upon himself to discover the meaning of this mysterious word by examining Kane’s life.  From scenes parodied shot for shot, to an entire episode referencing Kane’s dying words (an episode aptly named “Rosebud”), Citizen Kane is essential viewing for any Simpsons fan, or movie fans in general.  
 
2001 movie cover2001: A Space Odyssey: This film is filled with iconic scenes that many shows, not only The Simpsons is fond of referencing. The Simpsons has made dozens of references to the most recognizable aspects of this film. The sun rising behind the earth, the “dawn of man”, the monolith, even specific music cues from the film, pop up in various episodes. Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Watch this classic film and you’ll be surprised at how many moments seem familiar!
 
Rear Window movie coverRear Window: I could have chosen any of Alfred Hitchcock’s films as The Simpsons has made reference to several of them over the years.  However, I’ve chosen Rear Window as The Simpsons dedicates an entire episode to the tale of a wheelchair bound man who sees a murder take place in the building next door. Watch the original movie, then watch The Simpsons parody “Bart of Darkness”.
 
Music Man movie coverMusic Man:  Originally a stage musical, The Music Man follows the exploits of a con man who, through song and dance, convinces small towns to give him hundreds of dollars claiming to offer something that will benefit their town. If that sounds familiar to you, it was the basis for The Simpsons episode “Marge vs. the Monorail”. The author of this episode Conan O’Brien (yes that Conan O’Brien, he worked as a writer before getting his late night show) even cites The Music Man as the inspiration for this episode. 
 

I’ve chosen to focus on The Simpsons, but dozens of television shows, books and even other movies reference classic films. If you feel like you’ve been missing out, check out the rest of the movies in our classic film section!  Or if you want to watch classic Simpsons we’ve got you covered there too with our collection of the early seasons. Share your favourite movie references below!