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The Best Simpsons Opening Gags

If The Simpsons had to be described in a single word, it would be "prolific." For more than three decades, America's most beloved animated family has sung, danced, and "Doh'd!" their way across screens every week. Not only do the residents of Springfield make viewers laugh, they also make them reflect upon societal trends and topics. Everything is covered and nothing is taboo — which is exactly what keeps The Simpsons relevant and refreshing.

Fans particularly enjoy the series' legendary opening gags. With the airing of each new episode, audiences eagerly anticipate what lines Bart Simpson will write on the chalkboard, and especially what the next "couch gag" will be. In an effort to curate their awesomeness, we've gone through all 684 Simpsons opening gags with a fine-toothed comb. Whether they involve taking trips into the past, performing parodies of omnipresent pop songs, or creating epic crossovers with other shows, these are the best Simpsons opening gags to date.

What the future holds

There have been plenty of Simpsons episodes that explore what the future might hold for its characters. Likewise, the show's opening gags also experiment with this concept.

Don Hertzfeldt's incredibly odd vision of what the series could look like in its 800th season is one extreme example. His couch gag, which precedes "Clown in the Dumps," sees the Simpsons become fleshy blobs with computerized voices, demanding viewers buy merchandise and worship a mysterious lunar deity who apparently holds sway over this version of Earth. The opening gag for "Homer's Paternity Coot" is similarly zany. The Simpsons sit on the couch as normal, then a camera flashes, setting off a series of family portraits spanning 2006 through 2013. Various characters are swapped in and out of place, Bart and Lisa begin puberty, and eventually, the entire family is replaced by robots. Perhaps The Simpsons might consider exploring non-dystopian futures some day?

Peering into the past

The Simpsons' opening gags love to journey into the past. Everything from the scientific process of evolution to the ebb and flow of United States history has been explored.

"The Great Louse Detective's" intro sees the all-important remote control send the family hurtling into the past. They tumble through the Stone Age, a gladiator tournament at the peak of the Roman Empire, and finally, back to the present day. "Homerazzi's" gag shows a single-celled Homer evolving into present-day Homer. Fully human, he walks through the front door ... only for Marge to ask what took him so long. "Grampy Can Ya Hear Me" takes the concept more seriously, depicting the Simpsons family as they might have appeared at the turn of the 20th century. Impoverished and burdened with endless potato peeling, they decide to pursue life in America — with their precious couch in tow, of course.

Subverting the format

The Simpsons is no stranger to subverting the very format of its opening gags. "Simpsons Christmas Stories" offers one particularly playful example: In place of an opening sequence, a newspaper spins into frame, blaring a front-page headline: "COUCH GAG THRILLS NATION." Below is a black and white photo of the Simpsons, already seated on the couch.

A old-fashioned cinematic intro opens "The Old Blue Mayor She Ain't What She Used to Be." The family, rendered in black and white, "speak" in silent movie-style title cards. The three kids head off to work in the coal mines (via the designated children's entrance, of course) accompanied by a dramatic organ score. The final card proudly proclaims the sequence to have been filmed in "Simpsorama."

Sometimes there are even couch gags during episodes, as can be seen in "Cape Feare" and "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace." Those are so subverted, they don't even count as opening gags anymore!

Crossovers with other shows

Have you ever wondered what would happen if your favorite animated characters crossed paths with the Simpsons family? There's a strong possibility the crossover you're imagining has already taken place in an opening gag, as it turns out. How many crossovers are we talking about? Well, to name a few cartoons that have been featured in a couch gag before, we've seen the likes of Futurama, Adventure Time, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, Bob's Burgers, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show put in a Simpsons appearance.

One of the most iconic crossover couch gags to date features the titular two characters from Rick and Morty. The dynamic duo accidentally crash into the couch at the beginning of "Mathlete's Feat," obliterating the family into nasty yellow goo. In an effort to save this "national treasure," Rick sends Morty on an epic mission to another dimension, where he replicates the family using DNA samples, a Simpsons family portrait, and a super-advanced alien printer.

Parodies of other shows and movies

As in the show itself, there is a rich trove of parodies to be found in The Simpsons' couch gags — especially of other TV shows and movies.

It would be exhaustive to list them all: The Flintstones, Dragnet, The Brady Bunch, Breaking Bad, The Powers of Ten, The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Cheers, Avatar, Succession, The Hobbit, and Cats make up only a small portion of the many parodies The Simpsons has pulled off in its intro sequence. Some do stand out, however: The Game of Thrones couch gag from "Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart" is a fan-favorite, complete with Thrones' iconic music, Springfield structures rising from the ground via geared mechanisms, and three-eyed crows flying over the nuclear plant. There have also been a number of excellent Disney parodies, most notably the "Musicville: A Silly Simpsony Cartoon" gag, which precedes "The Kid is All Right." It takes its inspiration from Disney's 1935 Silly Symphony short, "Music Land," and sees the characters reimagined as musical instruments, holding an epic battle between classical and jazz.

Winter holidays

Winter is the most wonderful time of year — in large part because of all the holiday specials fans get to enjoy from their favorite shows. The Simpsons does not disappoint in this capacity, both in terms of full episodes and opening gags. Their holiday-themed intros have treated audiences to renditions of everything from Springfield as an advent calendar to a parody of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

One of the best Simpsons holiday intros ever made comes from the episode "White Christmas Blues." The classic Simpsons intro is reimagined as a wild ride through a North Pole version of Springfield. Homer toils away in Santa's workshop, Maggie and Marge ride home in a sleigh driven by Santa's Little Helper, and the family assembles at the end for a Victorian-style portrait. Fans get glimpses of everything from Mr. Burns as the White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia to Comic Book Guy celebrating Festivus. It's as jam-packed with goodies as any Christmas stocking.

Treehouse of Horror episodes

Simpsons fans aren't just treated to Christmas specials — the infamous Treehouse of Horror episodes celebrate Halloween as well. These episodes are bizarre, morbid, and completely fantastic. Since the Treehouse of Horror episodes aren't considered canon, the consequences of each eerie story don't carry over to other episodes — which means they can get truly, deeply weird.

This weirdness begins with their opening gags. One of the most memorable is from "Treehouse of Horror XXIV" and is directed by the legendary Guillermo del Toro. As anyone familiar with his work might have guessed, he loaded it with more horror references than one can count. Bart writes "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," with Stephen King next to him. When Maggie is scanned at the cash register, it reads "666," instead of "No Sale." As Bart skates down the street, he passes various spooky authors including Edgar Allen Poe and Ray Bradbury, the latter of whom is posed next to one of his creations, the Illustrated Man. There are plenty of references to del Toro's own work as well, most prominently Pan's Labyrinth. Trust us, Mr. Burns as the Pale Man is an image you'll not be forgetting any time soon.

Guest animators

Over the years, numerous animators have been brought in to put their own spin on The Simpsons' opening gags. Acclaimed animator Bill Plympton has contributed several intros, including the bizarre and gorgeous "Homer's Face Couch Gag." Similar in weirdness and whimsy is the gag produced by Sylvain Chomet, director of The Triplets of Belleville. His sequence, which precedes "Diggs," is an overt series of jokes about Chomet's native France: Homer snacks on escargot, Lisa plays the accordion, and Bart assembles a DIY pate kit, which contains a live goose.

Polish animator Michal Socha brought a very different style to his couch gag for "What to Expect When Bart's Expecting." Depicted as stark silhouettes traveling through a bright red human body, the family bounces through the stomach, drinks atop the liver, and lands, finally, on the brain. It's somehow simultaneously beautiful and deeply creepy.

"My Fare Lady" might take the cake for guest artist couch gag, however, with a truly epic 16-bit version of the opening sequence, concocted by Australian pixel artist Paul Robertson. Bart's chalkboard message might read "PIXEL ART IS NOT REAL ART," but this sequence proves how untrue that is.

Comics, costumes, and superheroes

The Simpsons has parodied quite a few superheroes in its day, especially in its couch gags. A Batman-themed sequence sets the stage for the episode "Today, I Am a Clown," complete with each character assembling in a Batcave-style living room. The opening gag for "The Girl on The Bus" ups the superheroic ante considerably: Maggie manages to make the destructive power of Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet adorable, although the rest of the family may not agree, having been snapped into dust. Turns out, all the big purple tyrant wanted was a seat on the couch. In the intro for "The Caper Chase," Marvel fans are treated to seeing the family as various X-Men characters — along with a cameo by Stan Lee, in which he exclaims, "There's nothing too short that I can't cameo!" Believe it or not, Maggie actually makes a pretty convincing (if tiny) Wolverine.

Anniversaries and other notable dates

Some Simpsons opening gags celebrate milestones achieved by the show itself, such as anniversaries, the end of a season, or other dates of note. Some of these intros are far longer and more elaborate than others — take season five's inaugural episode, "Homer's Barbershop Quartet." This intro features three couch gags in one: The family first collides and shatters like pottery, then collides and meshes together into a gross, fleshy mass, and finally collides ... and explodes.

The intro to "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" features a montage of couch gags from 1992 through 1995. As the first shot proudly blares, it's "THIRTY-THREE PERCENT NEW FOOTAGE," spanning everything from a Vegas-style revue to a parody of the work of M.C. Escher.

The 500th episode is celebrated by the entire Springfield community in the opening gag of "The Daughter Also Rises" ... only for Lisa to point out that it's actually the 499th episode. Oops. Moe sadly shakes his head, stating that "Fox won't do this again." Not to worry: The actual 500th episode does indeed get its own special intro.

Savagery against the Fox Network

The Simpsons are renowned for their continual stabs at the Fox Network — so much so that Fox even asked the show to cool it on the attacks. This is also a long-running theme in the series' opening gags.

In the intro to "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song," the family can be seen furiously stomping on a Fox graphic that appears in the lower right-hand corner. The opening gag for "Elementary School Musical" celebrates the show's 22nd season with a Fox executive giving Maggie a cupcake ... only to walk away while eating it.

Perhaps one of the most savage couch gag attacks against Fox can be found in "MoneyBART," storyboarded by legendary street artist Banksy. The seated family turns out to be a picture in a sweatshop, where workers are producing Simpsons animation cels and other merchandise. It is then revealed to be taking place inside a prison-style 20th Century Fox building.

Museums and art

Not even high art can escape a drubbing from The Simpsons. Take the opening gag from "That '90s Show:" the camera zooms out from the seated family, revealing they are a painting hanging in a museum. A sentence is painted below their feet: "This is not a couch gag," in French. This is, of course, a parody of Rene Magritte's famous work, The Treachery of Images.

That's not the last you see of art and museums in Simpsons opening gags. The family is depicted as a prehistoric tar pit exhibit, complete with a log "couch," in the intro to "The Devil Wears Nada." We also see the family break into the Smithsonian in "Homer Scissorhands." Museums aren't always edifying, either: Homer's visual perception is warped into a distorted, Picasso-style world after visiting a modern art museum in "Trust But Clarify." 

Things get a little meta when it comes to art-themed opening gags as well. Matt Groening's live-action hand can be seen spinning a screenshot of the family around until the paint smears in "Realty Bites."

Homages to music

Music plays an important role in many creators' lives, and the geniuses behind The Simpsons are no exception. Several opening gags feature parodies and homages of various songs and albums. In "Super Franchise Me," the opening sequence parodies Cat Stevens's Tea for the Tillerman, the track itself playing in the background. "The Fat Blue Line" opens with another parody, this time of Queen's legendary Wimbledon performance.

Several album covers from The Beatles' discography are parodied in "Every Man's Dream," ending with the family being run over by a double-decker bus while recreating the Abbey Road walk. They're parodied again in "Bart After Dark," which shows Springfield residents on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

"To Surveil With Love" keeps things a lot more modern in comparison: It re-imagines the opening sequence as a music video, set to the raucous strains of Kesha's party anthem, "Tik Tok."

The couch lives

One long-running theme of The Simpsons' opening gags plays with the idea of the couch being a living, sentient creature. Sometimes this is monstrous, as in "Marge's Son Poisoning," in which all the couches in Springfield turn into monsters who swallow their owners. Most of the time, however, it's just absurd, as in "Take My Life, Please." That episode's gag shows the family running in to sit on the couch, only to find that it's missing. It then leads them on a wild chase into outer space.

The family also chases after the couch in "The Squirt and the Whale" — but this time, through articles of The Springfield Shopper. The family finally succeeds in luring the couch back home with a classified ad that reads "YELLOW FAMILY SEEKS COUCH — ALL IS  FORGIVEN."

In "No Loan Again, Naturally," the family finds their couch beaten and torn beyond repair. They hold a funeral in its honor, then go to a "Couch Ranch" to bring a new one home.

Creative adaptations

Simpsons opening gags have not only been reimagined by guest artists — they've also been adapted from animation into other mediums. The intro for "Midnight Towboy," for example, features a couch gag created entirely from LEGO bricks, which must have been an intricate labor of love.

"Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife" features one of the most memorable opening sequences of all: The animated scene is reimagined as a live-action sequence. It was filmed in Orpington, Kent, and initially created as a promotion for Sky One, a British TV channel. The sequence had already become an internet hit before it aired preceding "Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife." Tragically for fans, this intro was only played on the episode's initial air date. Since that time, this gem has been replaced with a different, not nearly as awesome couch gag. At least it's always accessible on the internet.

Character dreams and fantasies

Some of The Simpsons' opening gags are sequences of the character's own vivid imaginations at work. The couch gags for "Love Is in the N2-O2-Ar-CO2-Ne-He-CH4" and "Daddicus Finch" are both dream sequences Homer has while napping on the couch: The first sees the couch set off on an international escapade, while the second envisions the family as mer-people, giant, sentient atoms, and figures in a woodcut.

In an intro called "Roomance," created by Bill Plympton, audiences get a look into the minds of the Simpson family's furniture. Their couch and television set have a shared dream, in which the TV bounces playfully on the couch. Both of them envision a laugh-filled time together — but all of that comes crashing down when the TV trips on her own wire. She crashes to the floor and lies in a broken, smoking heap. Oops. This is why The Simpsons can't have nice things.