In 1991, Thelma & Louise was billed as a female buddy flick, when in truth it was a feminist revolution on screen — one so powerful that it still resonates today. Along with a meaningful on-screen message was an off-screen story equally as compelling. Thelma & Louise was written by a woman (Callie Khouri) and starred actresses who were not classic ingénues (Sarandon was 45 years old and Davis was 35 years old) in the Hollywood tradition.
The beauty of the film was more than just its on-screen story about strong women who think about their lives and desires, especially the ones that don’t include men. Thelma & Louise gave us a window into the souls of forceful characters who had agency and influence over their own destiny.
The film impacted, and continues to impact, pop culture — even today.
In an episode called, “Get Your Kicks on Route 666” Norm, Frasier, Sam and Cliff take a road trip.
Dr. Frasier Crane: [about Frasier, Sam, Norm and Cliff taking a road trip] We’re all dropping our inhibitions, we’re going to go out and find our manhood on the open road.
Sam Malone: Yeah, like men.
Cliff Clavin: Yeah, like men, we be.
Dr. Frasier Crane: Real men.
Norm Peterson: Yeah, like those chicks on Thelma and Louise.
2. The Simpsons
Thelma & Louise must have had a considerable impact on the writers since aspects of the film were used multiple times in episodes over the years. Here are our three favorites:
“Marge on the Lam” (1993) (2:12 minutes in)
Marge and her new pal, Ruth Powers, form a Thelma and Louise type bond which ends with the inevitable high speed chase, except the women stop in time.
In “Homer Alone” (1992), Marge takes a much-needed break from her motherly duties by spending time at the spa, Rancho Relaxo. While there, she turns on the TV where Troy McClure (voiced by Phil Hartman) says, “The finest R-rated movies Europe has to offer. Oooh la la, today’s selections are…”
Then we see:
In “Screaming Yellow Honkers” (1999), when Homer buys an SUV made for women, he gives it to Marge, who discovers her inner road rage. Chief Wiggum pulls Marge over for a traffic violation and tells her to “can the sweet talk, Thelma and Louise.”
3. American Dad
“A Ward Show” (Season 7)
Stan and Francine force Roger to be Steve’s legal guardian so they can go on vacation to the world’s largest water park. When Roger is too much for Steve, he befriends Principal Lewis. When both of their lives end up in a downward spiral, Principal Lewis tries to drive he and Steve off the Grand Canyon, pulling a Thelma & Louise, but they are saved by Roger’s love:
“When you love someone hard enough, you always know where they are.”
4. Law & Order
In “Point of View” (season 3), a woman is arrested for killing a man in self-defense, who she claimed tried to rape her, but Brisco and Logan suspect it was a mob hit. The drama of it all prompts D.A. Adam Schiff to have this exchange with prosecutor Ben Stone:
Ben: “You want me to drop it?”
Adam: “They gave Thelma & Louise an Oscar. Without more, I’d call it a day.”
5. The Professional
In this critically acclaimed film about a seasoned hitman, Léon (Jean Reno) and his 12-year-old apprentice, Mathilda (Natalie Portman), there are several scenes where Léon tries to dissuade her from following in his footsteps.
Mathilda: I’ve decided what to do with my life. I wanna be a cleaner.
Léon: You wanna be a cleaner?
[passes her a gun and bullets]
Léon: Here, take it. It’s a goodbye gift. Go clean. But not with me. I work alone, understand? Alone.
Mathilda: Bonnie and Clyde didn’t work alone. Thelma and Louise didn’t work alone. And they were the best.
6. Mystery Science Theater 3000 a.k.a. MST3K
It is a given that any show that makes fun of movies as much as MST3K does must have Thelma & Louise references. Clearly, Tom, Joel, Mike, Crow and Servo are such huge fans of the film, they mention it several times over the years. Here are just a few:
Mystery Science Theater 3000: “It Conquered the World” (1991)
Tom: Think that’s Thelma or Louise?
Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Crash of Moons” (1992)
Joel: Thelma & Louise: 1999.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Radar Secret Service” (1993)
Servo: Hey, Thelma and Luigi.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Teen-Age Crime Wave” (1994)
Mike: Thelma and Louise and Steve.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: “Village of the Giants” (1994)
Crow: Oh, this is where Thelma and Louise landed!
7. Boys on the Side
In the film Boys on the Side (1995), Jane (Whoopi Goldberg) is an unemployed nightclub singer who meets up with Robin (Mary-Louise Parker) for a ride share to California. When they pick up Holly (Drew Barrymore) escaping a violent drug-dealer, Jane says, “I am not going over a cliff for you two [girls].”
In “The Getaway, Almost” (1995), Roseanne and Jackie’s shopping trip turns into a road trip when they pick up a hitchhiker (Jenna Elfman).
Jackie: I’ll take our picture, just like Thelma and Louise.
Roseanne: Well, I do look like Geena Davis, and you look exactly like Harvey Keitel.
9. 3rd Rock From The Sun
In the episode “Angry Dick” (1996), Dick convinces everyone that if they get to know their neighbors, they can learn more about humans. So Sally (Kristen Johnston) decides to get to know Patty Muller (Lois Foraker).
Sally: So, does Frank know you’re with me?
Patty: No, I told him I was setting a perm. Does Dick know you’re with me?
Sally: No, I injected him with a sedative. I’ve got at least two more hours.
Patty: Oh, we’re like Thelma and Louise, except we just came to the supermarket; we haven’t killed anyone.
Sally: It’s early yet.
10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In the season 2 episode “Ted” (1997), Buffy’s mom is bringing home a new boyfriend, Ted (John Ritter), who is not quite what he seems. After Buffy defeats Ted, she and her mom decide to forget about their ordeal with a night in.
Joyce: Do you want to rent a movie tonight?
Buffy: Sounds like fun.
Joyce: Just nothing with horror in it. Or romance. Or men.
Buffy: I guess we’re Thelma and Louise-ing it again.
In an episode called “The Dealership” (1998), Jerry is looking for a new car while Kramer goes on a test drive with Rick, the car dealer.
Rick: Oh, this is amazing! Oh, I’ve never felt so alive!
Kramer: Yeah, well, all right. I’m satisfied. We better get some gas.
Rick: What? Well, we can’t stop now.
Kramer: What do you mean?
Rick: We have to keep going — all the way back to the dealership. That was the plan.
Kramer: There was no plan.
Rick: Well, let’s make it the plan! Let’s just… go for it! Like Thelma and Louise.
Kramer: What, they drove to a dealership?
Rick: No, they drove off a cliff.
(Kramer eyes Rick, frightened)
Kramer: You are one sick mama. I like it.
12. Family Guy
Family Guy has done many musical parodies and homages to “Road to…” films. In “The Road to Rhode Island” (2000), Brian and Stewie sing, “We’re quite a pair of partners like Thelma and Louise.”
(:41 seconds in)
13. Starsky & Hutch (2004)
When Starsky (Ben Stiller) and Hutch (Owen Wilson) decide to drive off the jetty and land their car onto a boat, the dialogue they use is the same as when Thelma and Louise go over the cliff.
Hutch: Things could go pretty wrong…
Starsky: Keep your eyes on the road. Listen to me, Ken. If we don’t make it, this. You know, us…
Hutch: It’s been good.
Starsky: It’s been great.
14. Rent (2005)
Thelma and Louise even influenced Broadway musicals. In Angel’s number “Today4U” on stage and in the film, she sings the line, “Just like Thelma and Louise did when they got the blues / Swandove into the courtyard of the Gracie Mews.”
(the line starts at1:39)
15. How I Met Your Mother
“Best Prom Ever” (2006) is an episode where Lily and Robin crash a high school prom to check out a potential band for Lily’s wedding. Since the girls are planning a night out, the guys decide to do the same:
Marshall: We should just go out and get freaking weird!
Marshall: ‘Cause you can be a bad, bad man and I’ll be an outlaw.
Barney: Hey, Thelma, Louise, y’all don’t drive off no cliffs now, y’hear?
In a 2009 episode called “Savior,” Clark is ready to start his training at the Fortress of Solitude to become Superman, while Chloe and Dr. Emil Hamilton try to make scientific sense of the time-space distortions.
Lois says that Chloe, “Played Thelma and Louise with the Creature from the Black Lagoon,” referring to Davis Bloome, the human camouflage for Doomsday.
17. Parks and Recreation
During season 3, episode 16, named “Lil Sebastian,” Tom convinces Jean-Ralphio to start a production company. When it’s a hit, Jean-Ralphio has a brilliant idea:
Jean-Ralphio: You’ve gotta join the company. I’m the bank, you’re the money.
Tom: I know, Jay, but it will be a big leap.
Jean-Ralphio: Then, I will take that leap with you. I’m Thelma; you’re Louise.
18. 30 Rock
In “What Will Happen to the Gang Next Year?” (2012), Chriss tells Liz that there are only three kinds of women over 40 who are still single: crazies, uggos and bailers. He deduces that she is a bailer. When he finally makes a grand gesture to show his love, they have the following conversation:
Liz: I won’t bail on you.
Criss: You won’t bail on me!
Liz: Have you ever had a girlfriend willing to Thelma and Louise with you?
Criss: No, never, but c’mon, Bonnie and Clyde, I’m a boy.
Tina Fey loves the Thelma & Louise references so much she uses it again in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in “Kimmy Makes Waffles!” when
Lillian says, “This is getting a real ‘Thelma & Louise’ vibe.”
19. The Vampire Diaries
When Elena Gilbert is playing darts at the Mystic Grill in an episode called “The Walking Dead” (2013), Rebekah approaches her, but Elena tells her, “I get that we had our Thelma and Louise thing back when.” Sadly, now Elena had her humanity switched off so they are “not friends.”
If that is not enough, here is a list of movies that reference Thelma & Louise: