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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 65,280 users   Metascore: 52/100
Reviews: 322 user | 165 critic | 10 from

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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Cast overview, first billed only:
Raymond St. Jacques ...
Jason Robards III ...
John Lawrence ...
Susan Barnes ...
Wendy Brainard ...
Lucille Meredith ...
Susan Blanchard ...
Dana Bratton ...


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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


Action | Horror | Sci-Fi


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



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?


The movie is based on Ray Nelson's short story "Eight O'clock in the Morning," of which the story's central character, George Nada, dies at the end due to a heart attack at 8:00 in morning. In the movie, the character George Nada is played by pro wrestler Roddy Piper. On July 30th, 2015, twenty-seven years after (They Live), Roddy Piper died of a heart attack. See more »


As Nada and Frank are trying to get to the roof of the television building, they go down a hall as a particular worker is running away from them. In the next shot, the same worker is even closer to them than before. See more »


Nada: I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum.
See more »


Referenced in Duke Nukem 3D (1996) See more »


I Love to Praise Him
See more »

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User Reviews

Clever sci-fi film with current cultural relevance
14 December 2004 | by (The land of the Bunyips) – See all my reviews

An unemployed man in the 80s (of the WWF variety, complete with Mel-mullet) shows up in the big city looking for work, American Dream intact. He finds a "Hooverville"-like (perhaps Reaganville!) community that takes him in and finds work in construction. He notices that several of the providers are ostensibly up to no good and hold meetings at the local church. He stumbles upon a secret door and finds a stash of...80s sunglasses! After the community is destroyed by the police, our baffled working-class hero pops on a pair of the glasses, which allows him see the world as it really is, and wake up out of his sleeeepy false consciousness! Was Carpenter reading up on his Marx? Maybe! Either way, this sci-fi/action flick is fantastic, cheesy, and clever. "They Live" was obviously influenced by the excess of the 80s, but doesn't come across as dated and actually seems very relevant to the current cultural climate in the US. There are various flaws (namely, the creepy-in-a-bad-way Meg Foster and her character), but overall this is an excellent, amusing, and entertaining film. My Rating: 9.5/10

135 of 162 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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