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They Live (1988)

R  |   |  Action, Horror, Sci-Fi  |  4 November 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 66,685 users   Metascore: 52/100
Reviews: 325 user | 167 critic | 10 from Metacritic.com

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:
Raymond St. Jacques ...
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


Who are they? And what do they want? See more »


Action | Horror | Sci-Fi


R | See all certifications »

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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?


Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey got his "obey" name from this film. See more »


When Nada takes Holly captive and forces her to drive, the passenger side door is unlocked, and then locked again, between shots. See more »


Street Preacher: Outside the limit of our sight, feeding off us, perched on top of us, from birth to death, are our owners! Our owners! They have us. They control us! They are our masters! Wake up! They're all about you! All around you!
See more »


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


I Love to Praise Him
See more »

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User Reviews

Extremely Underrated Thriller
24 January 2001 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

"They Live" is one of the most original and underrated sci-fi action movies i've ever seen. Eventhough the acting isn't spectacular, and by the end turns into a down right urban action movie, "They Live" is one of the most entertaining ever.

The plot is quite simple, Nada(Roddy Piper) a homeless drifter stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses through which you can see the world for what it really is, a communist type environment controlled by aliens, and then joins up with his buddy Frank(Keith David) to stop them. In the middle of all this there a lot of great one liners, a lot of harebrained action and one of the longest, and best, fist fights ever filmed.

The way John Carpenter directs really makes the film work. Everything seems downbeat and realistic. The acting of ex-pro wrestler Roddy Piper is better than expected but not too spectacular and Keith David isn't at all convincing. But none of that matters, the real reason to see this movie is just to be entertained and on that level is suceeds. My Rating is 8/10

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