The Simpsons has had an impressive track record for predicting future events. A 1998 episode showed the 20th Century Fox logo with "A Division of Walt Disney Co" beneath it—19 years before Disney reached a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox's assets for $52.4 billion. And in 2000, the show presented an alternate reality where Donald Trump was in the Oval Office. Take a look at 12 other times Matt Groening’s dysfunctional family peered into their crystal ball—with surprisingly accurate results.
1. Tom Hanks gives the government a hand
In The Simpsons Movie, released in 2007, universally beloved actor Tom Hanks appears in a government-sponsored television ad encouraging people to visit a cratered area near Springfield and to think of it as a "new" Grand Canyon. "Hello, I'm Tom Hanks," he says. "The U.S. government has lost its credibility so it's borrowing some of mine." He later adds: "If you're going to pick a government to trust, why not this one?" (Hanks voiced his animated counterpart.) In 2022, Hanks appeared in a video commemorating President Joe Biden's first year in office, seemingly fulfilling the cartoon's prophecy that what America needs is the soothing presence of Tom Hanks to get them through some tough times.
2. The Siegfried and Roy Tiger Attack
Vegas stage magicians Siegfried and Roy had spent decades performing with their stable of tigers without serious incident. In 1993, The Simpsons used stand-ins Gunter and Ernst—clear parodies of the European duo—to express the writing staff’s doubts that their track record would hold up: One of their tigers attacks them while performing in Mr. Burns's ill-fated Springfield casino. In 2003, Roy Horn was mauled by a tiger while on stage, severing an artery and leaving him with partial paralysis. Horn maintained the tiger bore him no ill will.
3. The Don Mattingly Hair Scandal
In a 1992 episode featuring Mr. Burns trying to sandbag competing softball teams by hiring professional baseball players, New York Yankee Don Mattingly is seen being kicked off the squad by the nuclear power czar over his long hair. (The animated Mattingly had only neat sideburns.) A month after recording his part, the real Mattingly was fined $250 by the real Yankees for refusing to cut his hair.
4. Horse Meat
In 1994’s “Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song,” Principal Skinner is ousted from his seat after angering the superintendent. Unnoticed by his inspection: the fact that Lunchlady Doris prefers to prepare school lunches using giant tubs of horse parts. In 2013, several food producers in France, Sweden, and the UK were found to have distributed frozen burgers and other products that contained horse meat, an unwelcome additive they did not disclose on package labeling.
5. The 2016 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics
In a fall 2010 episode, Milhouse tries to impress longtime crush Lisa by contributing to a prediction sheet over who would win the Nobel Prize for Economics. His pick: Bengt Holmstrom of MIT. In 2016, Holmstrom was named a joint winner of the prize. (The episode’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Krusty the Clown, has yet to be honored by the committee.)
6. The FIFA Corruption Scandal
In a 2014 episode, Homer is petitioned by the head of an unnamed football (a.k.a. soccer) league to help foster a better image after allegations of corruption emerge; he’s quickly carried away in handcuffs. In 2015, FIFA, the world’s leading governing body of soccer, made headlines for a widespread scandal involving the arrest of seven FIFA executives for abusing their positions for financial gain.
7. The Lemon Tree Thief
During a 1995 rivalry with the residents of Shelbyville, Bart and his friends are puzzled by the disappearance of a lemon tree from within Springfield’s town limits. In 2013, a woman in Houston was similarly confused by the disappearance of her own lemon tree, which had been excavated from the ground and carted off. The victim, Kae Bruney, told local reporters that the thief was apparently too stupid to realize it was too late in the season to plant elsewhere.
8. A Baby Translator
Homer’s down-and-out half-brother Herb reversed his fortunes in a 1992 episode when his handheld baby-babble translating device became a sensation. In 2015, an app called the Infant Cries Translator purported to convert your child’s incoherent cries into something resembling speech. The app’s developers claim they analyzed the mewling of 100 newborns to help identify their particular diaper-related needs.
9. A Snake-Killing Spree
In the 1993 episode “Whacking Day,” Lisa Simpson is dismayed to see the town caught up in the annual tradition of hunting and killing overpopulated snakes. Beginning in 2013, Florida’s Everglades region sanctioned a real whack-a-reptile contest in an attempt to curb the area’s dangerous abundance of invasive Burmese pythons. Organizers used the less-sensational name “Florida Python Challenge.”
10. Cooking Grease Heists
In 2008, The New York Times declared “fryer grease has become gold” for its application as engine fuel after undergoing conversion and detailed a criminal who had siphoned nearly 2500 gallons of the stuff from a Northern California Burger King and other outlets. In 1999, Homer and Bart attempted a similar heist at the grade school’s cafeteria, before being stopped by Groundskeeper Willie.
11. The Three-Eyed Fish
Tri-eyed fish Blinky was pulled out of the water by Bart in a 1990 episode, a nod to the polluted environment surrounding Springfield’s nuclear power plant. In 2011, fishermen in Argentina caught a three-eyed specimen in a reservoir being fed water from a nearby nuclear power station.
12. Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI Halftime Show
Gaga's enthusiastic, airborne performance during the 2017 Super Bowl LI broadcast—the first game in the series's history to go into overtime—got rave reviews. It turns out she did a dry run in animation five years earlier. In a 2012 episode, Gaga (playing herself) soared over Springfield in a wire harness, much like she did in Austin's NRG Stadium. Of course, since Gaga was aware of what her cartoon counterpart did, maybe it was less a prediction and more inspiration.
A version of this story ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2022.