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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.



(short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"), (screenplay) (as Frank Armitage)
1,717 ( 185)

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3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Lawrence ...
Susan Barnes ...
Brown Haired Woman
Black Revolutionary
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


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

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,827,000, 6 November 1988, Wide Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(4 channels)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was made and released about twenty-five years after its source short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson had been first published in 1963. According to John Carpenter, this movie was also based on an Eclipse Comics comic-book adaptation of this story. See more »


When the money, from Nada's point of view, changes from regular bills to the "THIS IS YOUR GOD" bills, the folds in the paper are different and there is one less bill. 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 »


Referenced in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: ...In America (2006) See more »


I Love to Praise Him
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User Reviews

One of the Coolest and Underrated Films of the Late 1980's.
2 September 2005 | by See all my reviews

John Nada (Roddy Piper) comes to L.A. to search for a Job. On the same working place, when he finds a job. John meets Frank (Keith David), Frank asks John to come along. Where Frank stays with poor people and a place to rest. Once he gets there, John watches television and sees some subliminal reporting by a scientist. The scientist is trying to get an important message on television by using frequency. John knows, there is something unusual going on at a house nearby. After a small band of cops are beating these poor people trying to find, where does that frequency is coming from. The next day, John goes to the house nearby and he finds one thing an open box. That box was hidden in the wall and when John open that box. He finds nothing but sunglasses. When he takes one of them, John sees a whole different world. A Bizarre look of L.A. in black & white with images full of subliminal advertising messages are visible though special glasses. Then he notice the only purpose of these glasses are the civilians are mixed with aliens population amongst them!

Directed by John Carpenter (Assault on Precient 13, Ghosts of Mars, The Thing-1982) made a extremely well made film mixed with action/sci-fi elements and a refreshing scene of humor. Piper is good here, he has some memorable scenes with some funny dialogue. The film's best line from Piper is "I come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass but i'm all out of bubble gum". There is also an unforgettable scene with Piper and David, when Piper asks David to put the glasses on. When David refuses to put them on. Piper and David get into a very funny fistfight scene that turned into a classic scene. The film might have a few flaws, only depending a matter of personal taste. The Alien Make-Up effects are extremely awful but intentionally funny. The film ends with a great pay-off. The film is hilarious at times and always fun to watch. Since this film like most Carpenter's works become a Cult Classic.

DVD has an sharp anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) transfer and an good-Dolby Surround 2.0 Sound. Too Bad, Universal didn't release a Special Edition of this landmark independent film. The DVD from Europe, Carpenter and Piper recorded an running commentary track for this film in a two disc special edition. When in the U.S. get out Special Edition ? DVD doesn't have no features. This is a amusing satiric sci-fi adventure. Underrated to be sure, the film ages well despite awful alien make-up. Based on a Short Story by Ray Faraday Nelson titled "Three O'Clock in the Morning". Screenwriter "Frank Armitage" is actually director Carpenter. Panavision. (****/*****).

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