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


Who are they? And what do they want? 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?


After finishing the film, John Carpenter was going to direct an action horror film Shadow Company sometime around 1989. Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, movie was to be produced by Walter Hill (who also co-wrote some of the script) with Kurt Russell in the main role. The script was about group of US Special Forces soldiers who died during the Vietnam War. Years later, after their bodies are brought back, the soldiers, who were members of an Army project involving dark experiments, rise up from their graves, raid the armory from nearby Army base, and attack the town in which they were buried, killing everyone in it and wiping it off the ground during Christmas night. Due to some problems in pre-production, the movie was never made, although original script has gained cult following from fans of Carpenter, Black and Dekker. See more »


Nada peers through the blinds during the night police raid. Outside, it's daytime. See more »


Frank: I've walked a white line my entire life, I'm not about to screw that up.
Nada: White line's in the middle of the road, that's the worst place to drive.
See more »


Referenced in Honest Trailers: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2014) See more »


Rock of Ages
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

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

88 of 122 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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