With 2020’s Netflix remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rebecca, it’s clear that Hitchcock’s movies still have a significant influence on pop culture, film, and TV even 40 years after his death. He is one of those rare directors who comes along once in a while and changes cinema forever. Even long after his death, we still see the impact he has had on entertainment through countless references and homages. Here are 10 memorable pop culture references that keep his work alive.
10 Scream: “We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes”
We love to see the iconic ’90s slasher movie paying tribute to an even more iconic Hitchcock film. Wes Craven’s blockbuster hit is full of scary movie references throughout its runtime like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and so many more. So it only makes sense that Hitchcock’s Psycho would make a cameo at some point.
When Billy Loomis (who is a huge horror film fanatic) reveals he is one of the killers, he says, “We all go a little mad sometimes.” This famous line was said by Norman Bates, the famous villain with mommy issues we all know and love, at the very end of Psycho. Not only that, but Billy shares his last name (Loomis) with the husband of Norman Bates’s first victim, Marion Crane. Now, that’s definitely no coincidence. It’s safe to assume that Bates may have been an inspiration or role model to Loomis’s character, who loved horror films and was clearly a psycho.
9 Family Guy: “North By North Quahog”
The title of Family Guy’s season 3 opener is a dead giveaway that we may see a Hitchcock reference or two. The episode finds Peter stealing a script from Mel Gibson’s hotel room and being chased North By Northwest style. We even get a shot-for-shot rendition of the famous crop duster scene. Later in the episode, Peter saves Lois from Mel Gibson’s house, in another exact replica of the North By Northwest Mount Rushmore scene. It’s also worth mentioning the show’s producer, Seth MacFarlane, even did a Psycho-themed Oscars promo in 2013, so it’s no surprise that his show has a few Hitchcock homages throughout the series.
8 Horrible Bosses: Strangers on a Train
When you think of the plot of Horrible Bosses, it’s easy to make the connection to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. In fact, the movie does it for you. When Jason Bateman’s, Charlie Day’s, and Jason Sudeikis’s characters decide to murder their bosses, they meet with Jamie Foxx’s character, Motherf––r Jones. Mr. Jones calls himself a “murder consultant” and advises the three to kill each other’s bosses so the police don’t have a motive and they have a secure alibi.
When hearing this, Jason Sudekis’s character points out that this is just like in Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train. Charlie Day’s character, Dale, goes on to say that the movie stars Danny DeVito. The funny thing to note is that the movie Dale mentions is Throw Momma from the Train, a parody of Hitchcock’s film. So he was kind of half right. The movie’s plot is clearly inspired by Hitchcock, and it finds a hilarious way to explain that within the movie itself.
7 The (Not So Great) Hitchcock Remakes
Many directors have tried to pay tribute to Hitchcock’s films with their own version, yet very few (emphasis on very) have succeeded. The most recent Netflix remake of the 1940 film Rebecca received a sad 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics agreed it had nothing new to offer, standing in the shadow of the original movie. We won’t even mention the almost shot-for-shot 1998 Psycho remake starring Vince Vaughn because we pretend it didn’t happen. The 2007 modern remake of Rear Window, Disturbia, was fairly well-received by audiences and critics, but it still didn’t live up to Hitchcock’s greatness.
On the flip side, one of the highest-rated Hitchcock remakes is not even an actual remake but a parody. Mel Brooks’s High Anxiety is a funny spoof of many Hitchcock films, including Vertigo, Spellbound, and Psycho. In conclusion, can we all just collectively agree to stop making Hitchcock remakes unless they bring something new and fresh to the table? Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.
6 That ’70s Show: Hitchcock Halloween Episode
If you’re a Hitchcock fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this Halloween-themed episode of That ’70s Show. The entire 4th episode of season 3, titled “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die,” is a funny, light-hearted homage to Hitchcock films. At the beginning of the episode, Fez breaks his leg and ends up in a wheelchair. Then, much like James Stewart in Rear Window, he begins suspecting a neighbor may have murdered his wife while creeping around with a pair of binoculars.
The episode also spoofs Hitchcock’s The Birds when Kitty has a hard time feeding a neighbor’s creepy birds who don’t seem too friendly. There is also a Vertigo nod when Eric develops a fear of heights after almost falling from a roof, and we get a hilarious scene with Michael and Laurie reenacting the famous shower scene from Psycho. Last but not least, we see a funny parody of the crop duster scene from North by Northwest.
5 The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror Hitchcock Spoof
If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you know they love a good movie reference. The Simpsons pays tribute to great movies with a fresh and funny twist. The show has made tons of Hitchcock references over the years with spoofs of Vertigo, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, The Birds, and Rear Window.
One of their most popular Hitchcock-themed episodes is, of course, Treehouse of Horror XX. You can spot at least five Hitchcock movie references in this Halloween special, including a silhouette of Homer, a call back to Hitchcock’s TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Simpsons even included Hitchcock’s famous cameo appearance in this episode, which he was famous for, appearing in over 38 of his films.
4 Bates Motel: Norman Bates Origin Story
The main takeaway from this Psycho spinoff show is that you should never trust a man who likes to stuff dead birds for fun or stay in a shady motel by yourself. The character of Norman Bates became so popular that 53 years after Psycho’s premiere, the A&E network decided to do an entire show around his origin story titled Bates Motel. The show was very successful, and even Rihanna made a guest appearance, playing the iconic role of Marion Crane.
Bates Motel also re-created the famous shower scene—with a twist—and explored the weird and slightly (ok, very) creepy relationship between Norman and his mother, Norma. At the beginning of the series, we meet a relatively normal teenage Norman, and by the end of it, he becomes the psycho that stole America’s hearts.
3 Psycho Shower Scene: The Spoofs
Even people who have never seen the original 1960 film Psycho know about THE shower scene: the shadow behind the shower curtain, the knife slowly inching up on the other side of it, or the unmistakable musical score. This is without a doubt one of the most famous scenes in movie history, and the violence in it was highly controversial at the time.
So it’s no surprise that this is Hitchcock’s most spoofed scene. Even Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of the actress who played the victim, Marion Crane, re-enacted the scene. From cartoons like Looney Tunes to comedies like High Anxiety and modern remakes like the Bates Motel, here is a compilation of the many “Shower Scene” parodies.
2 The Beatles: “Eleanor Rigby” Inspired by Psycho Score
Yes, you read that right. Most people don’t know that the dark and “edgy” strings behind the popular Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby” were inspired by the Psycho musical score, known for its almost screeching sound. Now it’s important to note that the song itself was not inspired by Psycho’s score, but the melody and instrumentals were. In an interview, the Beatles’ producer George Martin reveals that when Paul McCartney suggested using strings for “Eleanor Rigby,” Martin drew inspiration from Hitchcock’s famous score.
If you listen to the song, you can easily make the connection between the two. “Eleanor Rigby” is a darker song than other famous Beatles tunes, so it’s no surprise that the instrumentals behind the lyrics were inspired by one of the greatest horror soundtracks of all time.
1 James Bond: North by Northwest Influence on Bond Franchise
Probably the least known but significant pop culture influence Hitchcock movies have had was on one of the biggest franchises of all time: James Bond. Some call North by Northwest the “first James Bond film” that isn’t actually a James Bond film. Even the author of the James Bond series, Ian Fleming, wanted the star of North by Northwest, Cary Grant, to star in the first Bond film. Grant was actually offered the 007 role after his performance in Hitchcock’s film but turned it down.
If you watch North by Northwest (which came out before any Bond film, of course), it’s easy to see the major influence on the iconic Bond movies. Grant played the slick, well-dressed, and charming ladies’ man running from danger in beautiful and exotic locations. This spy thriller had everything you see in any Bond film: suspense, espionage, a villain, and a mysterious, beautiful woman on our hero’s arm. So it’s no surprise that every Bond movie that followed uses the same recipe as its inspiration.