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)
1,406 ( 225)

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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?


Roddy Piper was reported to have complained to producers when a pair of sunglasses he stole failed to reveal any aliens with the exception of those on set. See more »


The angle of the sun continually changes during the alley fight. See more »


Frank: We can't be the only ones who can see, we've got to find the people who made these.
Nada: Yeah, if any of them are still alive.
See more »


Featured in The Go to Guy: Peter Jason on John Carpenter (2016) See more »


I Love to Praise Him
See more »

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User Reviews

Highly Underrated
14 January 2005 | by (MS Gulf Coast) – See all my reviews

I have to say something here. This movie is actually very good. It was a mixture of sci-fi and political and sociological imagery. I thought the fact that the turncoat working with the aliens that were brainwashing the public was employed in the media was a brilliant way of showing how the media moguls consider us to be sheeple and use their power to persuade any way they see fit. This movie was actually quite well down, considering it did not have a blockbuster budget.

I would rather watch this than waste my time on the Matrix, which I think is a complete waste of time. The main plot of the movie was Nada discovering a worldwide conspiracy that used subliminal messages to "herd the sheep". Is this not a metaphor of what we see ever day? The media, commercials, billboards, etc, use subliminal messaging to encourage the actions of the public at large.

John Carpenter did a wonderful job. Roddy Piper's acting abilities were definitely above average, which is a lot more that I will ever to be able to say about anything Keanu Reeves has ever done. As usual, Keith David turned in a great performance. The reason this a cult classic is because it is a very good movie that requires the watcher to think.

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