A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.



(short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"), (screenplay) (as Frank Armitage)
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3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jason Robards III ...
Family Man
John Lawrence ...
Susan Barnes ...
Wendy Brainard ...
Lucille Meredith ...
Susan Blanchard ...
Dana Bratton ...
Black Junkie


Nada, a down-on-his-luck construction worker, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. Wearing them, he is able to see the world as it really is: people being bombarded by media and government with messages like "Stay Asleep", "No Imagination", "Submit to Authority". Even scarier is that he is able to see that some usually normal-looking people are in fact ugly aliens in charge of the massive campaign to keep humans subdued. Written by Melissa Portell <mportell@s-cwis.unomaha.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they're people just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 November 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

John Carpenter's They Live  »

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)


$13,008,928 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(4 channels)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Tommy Morrison's first movie See more »


When Nada is first hit and pushed through Holly's window, the TV is turned in slightly and blocks a part of the window, but in the next shot from inside of the home, the TV is now square with the wall and is out of the way of the window. See more »


Nada: I'm giving you a choice: either put on these glasses or start eatin' that trash can.
Frank: Not this year!
See more »


Referenced in The IT Crowd: The Final Countdown (2010) See more »


Down by the Riverside
See more »

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User Reviews

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
8 September 2001 | by (Portland, OR) – See all my reviews

They Live. Where to begin? Yes, it is goofy. Yes the production value is very low. Yes the action is standard. The guns never empty. The fights are poorly choreographed at times. But that, my friends, is not the point.

This film was an attack on the Regan era. An attack on the rampant consumerism of the 80's. But open your mind. Saying that it's just an attack on the 80's is merely shutting your eyes. Telling yourself that things have gotten better. Sorry to disapoint you, but they haven't.

Rowdy Roddy Piper puts on some sunglasses. The world changes. Billboards now say Obey or Sleep. Or Marry and Reproduce. Magazines no longer have articles or advertisements. They are blank white pages with said phrases upon them. Money now are white pieces of paper that say This is Your God. Boy oh boy are they right.

So watch They Live. Grab some beer and score some corn. Enjoy the cheese. Enjoy the great one-liners. But also pay attention to the lines that sum up the truth. Remember the point of the film. Then go outside. Re-enter the corporate world outside your door.

You won't need special glasses to see the truth.

401 of 481 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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