7.3/10
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They Live (1988)

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

Director:

Writers:

(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

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

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

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

4 November 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

John Carpenter's They Live  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$13,008,928 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(4 channels)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Another project in which John Carpenter was involved in around 1988 and 1989, after he finished They Live, was action thriller titled Pincushion. Script for the film was written by screenwriter John Raffo and later version of the script was co-written by Jeb Stuart, who wrote the screenplay for Die Hard (1988) a year before, and Carpenter also worked on the script. The script was described as "female version of The Road Warrior (1981)". The plot of the script took place in post apocalyptic America suffering a plague after a biological disaster, and it was about female mercenary whose job is to take a child cross-country to an emergency medical research center but she only has few days to deliver him, which makes her job race against the time. The boy - the title "pincushion"- had his blood medically altered at birth to develop into a vaccine against the plague. In the course of protecting the boy, female mercenary battles the minions of a corrupt military leader who wants custody of the boy for financial and political gain, and all the other enemies that she encounters along the way.

Carpenter was going to make the film for Columbia Pictures and he wanted Jamie Lee Curtis to play the main role, but Columbia producers wanted to cast singer Cher because of the contract they had with her, and once Cher was hired she and producers fired Carpenter and had the script re-written by other writers, only for entire project to end up being cancelled. Carpenter said in later interviews how Pincushion and another unproduced script, action zombie horror Shadow Company, are two films which he regrets he never got to make. Over the following years Pincushion script was being sold and bought by many movie studios who kept trying to get the movie made by having script re-written many times by other writers, directors such as John Woo and Rob Cohen were considered to direct the film, and actresses like Sharon Stone, Demi Moore and Madonna were considered to play the main heroine. The film however was never made, but even today the original script is considered by many people in movie industry to be one of the best unproduced movie scripts ever written. See more »

Goofs

As Nada pulls Frank to his feet and puts the glasses on him, Frank's sweater is pulled up, revealing his undershirt. In the next shot, the sweater is back in place. See more »

Quotes

Frank: Listen, man, I don't like anyone following me if I don't know why they are.
Nada: Well, I don't join up with anyone, unless I know where they're going.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Spartan (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Rock of Ages
(uncredited)
Music by Thomas Hastings
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady
Heard as one of the songs played on the church tape
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


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