With 31 seasons and counting on the air, The Simpsons is undeniably a television phenomenon. Both the longest-running American sitcom and animated program, the critically acclaimed cartoon is widely recognized as one of, if not the, best shows of all time for its humorous satire of everything from politics and pop culture to everyday family life.
In fact, throughout its nearly 700 episodes, creator Matt Groening and his team have been so on top of the country’s cultural pulse, they’ve even managed to predict several major historical events — along with a few less momentous happenings.
Here are 17 times The Simpsons made eerily accurate predictions about the future.
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Siegfried and Roy's Tiger Attack
Season 5, Episode 10: $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
Came true: 2003
After Springfield decides to legalize gambling, Mr. Burns opens a casino where German magicians Gunter and Ernst perform a routine, seeming to spoof the long-running Las Vegas Siegfried and Roy show. Tragically, a bit in which the animated duo is attacked by their tiger came to fruition 10 years later when Roy Horn was mauled on stage by a white Bengal tiger, leaving him partially paralyzed and ending the long-running production.
Season 6, Episode 8: Lisa on Ice
Came true: 2007
During a Springfield Elementary School assembly, Kearney asks fellow bully Dolph to take a memo to “Beat up Martin” on his “Newton” — Apple’s early attempt at a personal digital assistant. However, the machine translates the message into “Eat up Martha” instead, foreshadowing the common messaging errors people blame on iPhone’s autocorrect technology.
In fact, Nitin Ganatra, Apple’s former director of engineering for iOS applications, revealed in 2013 that the Simpsons‘ gag served as a rallying cry while developing the software for the iPhone’s keyboard. “If you heard people talking and they used the words ‘Eat up Martha,’ it was basically a reference to the fact that we needed to nail the keyboard. We needed to make sure the text input works on this thing, otherwise, ‘Here comes the Eat up Marthas,'” he told Fast Company.
Faulty Voter Machines
Season 20, Episode 4: Treehouse of Horror XIX
Came true: 2012
In a bit inspired by the 2008 presidential election, Homer tries to vote for Barack Obama only to have a voting machine record his selection as John McCain several times. Coincidentally, when it came time for Obama to run for a second term in 2012, video footage emerged of a Pennsylvania machine switching a vote from Obama to one for his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney. The machine was reportedly taken out of commission.
The God Particle
Season 10, Episode 2: The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace
Came true: 2012
The existence of the Higgs boson or “God particle” — a breakthrough that helps explain how everything in the universe has mass — wasn’t confirmed by physicists until 2012. But according to Dr. Simon Singh, the author of The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, after Homer decided to become an inventor in “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” he was pictured standing in front of a blackboard with an equation that predicted the mass of the yet-to-be-discovered particle.
“If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that’s only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is,” he told the Independent. “It’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered.”
NSA Spying Scandal
The Simpsons Movie
Came true: 2013
When the Simpson family is forced to go into hiding following their escape from the EPA biodome enclosing Springfield, the NSA locates Marge and the kids by listening in on one of their conversations. However, it wasn’t until six years after The Simpsons Movie hit theaters that Edward Snowden first blew the whistle on the government mass surveillance of Americans’ phone and Internet records.
Season 6, Episode 19: Lisa’s Wedding
Came true: 2014
When Lisa visits a fortune-teller at a renaissance fair, viewers are transported 15 years into the future to 2010 — a time when wristwatch communication technology exists. However, even the Simpsons’ future society was a little ahead of its time, as modern voice recognition-enabled smartwatches weren’t rolled out until 2014.
America's Ebola Outbreak
Season 9, Episode 3: Lisa’s Sax
Came true: 2014
This installment saw Marge offer to read a depressed Bart a book titled Curious George and the Ebola Virus. This moment was widely circulated during the 2014 American Ebola outbreak when YouTube user Thecontroversy7 created a video laying out a theory revolving around The Simpsons‘ predictive tendencies.
FIFA's Corruption Scandal
Season 25, Episode 16: You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee
Came true: 2015
Although the world football federation representative who asks Homer for help repairing the organization’s image isn’t explicitly named as a member of FIFA, his arrest turned out to be uncannily similar to those of the real-life FIFA officials who were arrested on corruption charges about a year later. Not to mention that the episode also correctly predicted Germany’s defeat of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.
Greece’s Debt Default
Season 23, Episode 10: Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson
Came true: 2015
When Homer appears as a guest commentator on cable news show Head Butt, a ticker runs across the bottom of the screen that reads, “Europe puts Greece on eBay.”
Of course, this was three years before Greece became the first developed country to default to the International Monetary Fund, plunging the country deeper into economic crisis.
The Nobel Prize
Season 22, Episode 1: Elementary School Musical
Came true: 2016
Bengt Holmström may not have won the Nobel Prize in Economics until 2016, but one Simpsons character was betting on him six years prior. In a scene from the season 22 premiere in which Martin holds up a scorecard depicting his Nobel Prize betting pool with Lisa, Milhouse and Database, the MIT professor is clearly marked in one of Milhouse’s squares.
President Donald Trump
Season 11, Episode 17: Bart to the Future
Came true: 2016
When Bart flashes forward into adulthood, viewers learn that Lisa not only becomes president, but inherits “quite a budget crunch” from her predecessor, Donald Trump. “The country is broke?” she asks her aides in one scene. “How can that be?”
At the time, the real Trump presidency was still 16 years away. However, in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, writer Dan Greaney explained the joke was meant as a warning to the country. “That just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom,” he said. “It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane.
Lady Gaga's Halftime Show
Season 23, Episode 22: Lisa Goes Gaga
Came true: 2017
Nearly five years before Lady Gaga descended from the roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium for the halftime show of Super Bowl LI, her Simpsons doppelgänger performed a song for the residents of Springfield while suspended in the air. The two Mother Monsters even wore similar silver ensembles for their shows.
Disney's Fox Takeover
Season 10, Episode 5: When You Dish Upon A Star
Came true: 2017
After a trip to Springfield, director Ron Howard pitches a screenplay that Homer wrote to producer Brian Glazer of 20th Century Fox. At the beginning of the scene, a sign can be seen at the Fox studio lot that reveals the company is now “A Division of Walt Disney Co.”
Cut to nearly 20 years later and this sale is officially underway, with the news breaking that Disney has reached a deal to acquire $66.1 billion-worth of Fox on Dec. 14, 2017.
Team USA's Olympic Curling Win
Season 21, Episode 12: Boy Meets Curl
Came true: 2018
Team USA’s men’s curling team defeated Sweden in a shocking upset at the 2018 Olympics that brought yet another Simpsons storyline to real-life fruition. Mirroring events from a 2010 episode in which Marge and Homer made it onto the U.S. mixed doubles curling team, the Americans came from behind in their Feb. 25 matchup with Sweden to capture gold at the Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Drogon's Fiery Rampage on Game of Thrones
Season 29, Episode 1: The Serfsons
Came true: 2019
A 2017 episode called “The Serfsons” saw Homer, Marge and the rest of the Simpsons gang find themselves in the kingdom of Springfieldia, an alternate fantasy universe that parodied many aspects of life in Westeros on Game of Thrones. There was even a fire-breathing dragon that burnt down the Serfsons’ village, much like Drogon (acting at Daenerys’ behest) ended up doing to King’s Landing in Game of Thrones‘ penultimate episode, “The Bells.”
The 2020 Experience
Season 4, Episode 21: Marge in Chains
Came true: 2020
If 2020 was a bingo card, The Simpsons could already have at least two squares ticked off. In the nearly 30-year-old episode “Marge in Chains,” not only does an unprecedented flu sweep through Springfield, but when the townspeople begin rioting to demand a cure for the virus, a swarm of killer bees that could be likened to the “murder hornets” that recently hit the U.S. unexpectedly come into the picture.
On the other hand, episode co-writer Bill Oakley told The Hollywood Reporter in March that any comparisons the storyline seems to invite to coronavirus are purely coincidental. “There are very few cases where The Simpsons predicted something,” he said. “It’s mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself. Most of these episodes are based on things that happened in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s that we knew about.”