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The story here is ridiculously simple. A guy named Nada, who is a
drifter of sorts, finds a very special pair of sunglasses that enable
him to see past the facade of society and at the disturbing truth that
it hides. The result is a brilliantly executed film that walks the fine
line between utter hilarity and all out horror.
There are many memorable scenes in "They Live" but the one that sticks most would have to be the one when Nada sees downtown Los Angeles through the sunglasses. The bleak and hopelessly dystopian view is all the more shocking that most people don't know about and, as a result, have accepted it. Rather they have been conned into accepting it, but the difference is just the same. The pessimism of the film is balanced with some great black comedy. The scene where Nada walks into a bank is simply priceless. The video game "Duke Nukem 3D" even took the immortal one liner from that scene for its own use years later. Having played that game back in junior high school, I had no idea that it was actually from this film. Interesting is the fact that "Duke Nukem 3D" and video games like it fall into the very category of things that this film is clearly against. Another great thing is the film's ending. The ending manages to combine action-hero badassness (is that even a real word?) with great comic timing and still be intelligent enough to leave you thinking.
Funny, exciting, and daring this is a very important movie that all should see at least once. --- 9/10
Rated R for violence. Ages 13+
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
They Live is one of Carpenters best, it deals with our culture and how
things we don't even know about are secretly controlling out lives,
They Live sadly wasn't a box office success which it should of been
since it's a original movie, the film has a great score like other John
Carpenter movies, it has great acting, cool effects, freaky alien
make-up and great action, Roddy Piper is great as the main character
and says some memorable lines like "I've come here to chew bubblegum
and kick a** and I'm out of bubblegum", the fight scene in the alley is
a cool. They Live is based on a Short Story called Eight O'Clock in the
Morning, the screenplay is written by John Carpenter using the name
The film sees a drifter named John Nada going into the city for some work, he soon finds work at a construction sight and finds a place to live with the help of a worker named Frank. Strange things keep happening with TV's a broadcasts are constantly held warning people about what's really going on in the world, John finds something strange going on in the church and decides to check it out, inside he finds that a group of people are broadcasting the messages here, at night they're all suddenly attacked by Riot Officers. John escapes and the next day goes into the church to investigate some more, he soon finds a box containing sunglasses, he decides to take one and when he puts it on he sees what the world is really like. Signs, money, books all tell us what to do but we don't even see it, devices are on traffic lights, small ships fly over monitoring everyone and the people who really control us are Aliens that are disguised as us. After causing a disturbance in a store John is confronted by Police officers who are also Aliens, after killing them he takes there weapons and goes into a bank where he finds more of them and shoots them all before escaping, John holds a women named Holly Thompson hostage and she takes him to her house but when he is distracted she knocks him out the window. On the run from law John meets up with Frank who doesn't want to get involved. After a fight Johh shows him what the world is like with the glasses, soon it's up to them to try and stop the Aliens from controlling our planet.
They Live is a underrated sci-fi classic that should be seen. Check this out. 10/10
They Live(1988) They Live is another nice feature from John Carpenter.
They live among us. A drifter(Roddy Piper)is looking for a job and
lands one in construction. He befriends a fellow worker(Keith David)and
finds a place to stay. Our hero notices strange television frequencies
and a nearby church that has some shady activity. After acquiring some
odd sunglasses, he sees things that cannot be seen before. With the
glasses sees the alter image of every thing. Things are not what they
seem. Our hero now has the very fate of the world in his hands.
Piper is an okay actor with limited dialog, Keith David is pretty good here. The story is original and interesting. One real treat here is a really downright awesome back alley brawl. That has to be the toughest fight scene ever.
The look of the evil beings for 80's standards are pretty cool looking. Fiendish and grotesque. The movie also has some surprises as well. The ending is quite a surprise too. I personally liked it.
The Last Word: Interesting. I'll agree that They Live is very underrated. Not a masterpiece, but I had fun watching. The original story is the main highlight. Piper is a likable hero, and the movie does not overstay it's welcome. I recommend They Live. Watch and enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've just been running through John Carpenter's late '70s and '80s films recently and this is my favorite. There's a lot of cheesy moments and the film is quite dated, but most of the flaws of the film add to They Live's overall charm. The premise is hilarious--that the rich and powerful are ugly aliens that are plotting the demise of those less fortunate. In the middle of the film is a long, hilarious fight scene. As another reviewer noted, the femme fatale lead is meant to be a knock-out but she looks more like a robot. The subconscious messages (which the characters can only view with special sunglasses) of billboards and commercial signs in the film are a bit simple-minded but still very effective. Lacking almost all of the horror elements that make up most of Carpenter's films, this film is a straight up sociological sci-fi satire of 80s America.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
They Live came at a strange time for John Carpenter. The commercial
misfire of Big Trouble In Little China and the back to basics Prince Of
Darkness left him looking for a new project. They Live was the
outgrowth of a low budget, around $4 million, and a pre-existing love
for B-movies. Carpenter's love of B-movies is well noted, not least by
his direct re-workings of The Thing and Village Of The Damned . They
Live profits from his obvious passion.
L.A. the near future, John Nada (Roddy Piper) is a working class labourer that comes to town to find the work that has eluded him around the country. He discovers, via a pair of treated sun-glasses produced by an underground rebel force, that humans and the planet earth are being exploited by aliens that hold all seats of Political and social power. One of the movies best features is the visual differentiation from the everyday world and the alien reality. Shown in black and white point of view shots of Piper's character the underlying messages in advertising, newspapers and even money are strikingly exposed in black lettering. The most impressive element of this visual style is that many of the black and white POV shots are matte paintings.
Another of the real strengths of the movie, surprisingly perhaps, is Piper's turn as Nada. He is never short of convincing whether he is portraying the fear of the situation he finds himself in or spitting one liners as he blows away aliens. He has said that his own experience of homelessness helped him create Nada. His performance is supported in the best possible way by the always watchable Keith David as Frank, Nada's labourer friend who he turns to for help. Meg Foster's performance as Holly Thompson is less impressive but not all the blame can be put on her as her role as Nada's captive, then love interest isn't well written or substantial. Her character moves the plot forward but does little to add to it.
The action is acceptable and typical in its 80s style, lots of gun fire and bodies, but that and the uneven tone, from social satire to lines like "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum" (a Piper ad-lib), work against what is an interesting and somewhat rare, anti-Reagan '80s action movie. While the film may have been improved by a slightly more serious tone the lighter elements do hold some pleasures. The near ten minute fight scene in which Nada tries to convince Frank to put on the glasses and see what is going on is hilarious, just when you think it is over they get down to more scrapping. It puts you in mind of The Fast Show sketch The Longest Fight and is just as amusing. The last shot of the movies also has to be seen to be believed but I'll let you find that out for yourself.
Guilty pleasure or not, it doesn't really matter as many have discovered They Live ranks amongst Carpenter's best movies.
An interesting sideline, the commentary track on the DVD release is excellent and includes the director and Roddy Piper whose stories about the filming of the movie and his position in the world of professional wrestling at the time are fascinating. As many fans of John Carpenter know, his commentaries are always good value. This one is no different.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
They Live (1988) was another classic science fiction-action film from
John Carpenter. The eighties were a great time for this legendary film
maker. Some of his best work was made during this era. Professional
Wrestler Roddy Piper stars as Nada, a homeless day laborer who becomes
a hero by accident. Keith David co-stars as his running buddy.
Earth has been slowly invaded by aliens under the guise of conservative Reganites. They have repressed the have nots and corrupted those who are willing to sell out their friends and neighbors. The aliens use a form of mind control to not only brain wash the masses but it's also used to cloak the aliens true identity. They pollute the environment to make the air more breathable. Nada stumbles across a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses (During a routine police raid on homeless camps) that allows it's wearer to go beyond the sophisticated alien cloaking device. Shocked by what the world has become, he tries to get his friend to wear them. After a lengthy fist fight, his buddy is convinced and joins him to find those who made the glasses.
The two hide out in a flophouse until things cool down. It's there that they met the few remaining members of the human underground. They're planing a raid on the local television station (that's where they think that the satellite feed from the aliens is coming from). But before they can execute the plan, a informant has ratted them out from their hide-out. Only a handful of fighters escape the raid. Nada and his buddy head for the Television Station. Nada fights his way to the top of the building only to be betrayed yet again. Before he's gunned down by a police helicopter, he fires his pistol into the transmitter. Dying, Nada sees it blow up right before his eyes. Now everyone wakes out of their alien induced slumber and sees the aliens for what they're truly are.
Awesome film. I wished John Carpenter continued to make such violent and cheesy action fantasies. But he had to sell-out to continue his career.
First off this movie is by probably one of my favorite (if not my
favorite) directors John Carpenter. I grew up watching this movie and
about a year ago I re-rented it cause I hadn't seen it since I was at
least 9 or 10 and I was just stunned. Movies aren't made like this
anymore. It explores a question held by the truly analytical people of
this world who question the subliminal messages in the media of our
society. This movie takes it one step further and adds the element of
maybe some of the these law makers/media folk are actually aliens from
another planet trying to hypnotize us. The idea of this movie is just
amazing and the scenery is spectacular. The comic underlying fits
incredibly well with this movie (the comments Roddy Piper makes are
This is going a little far, but this movie also reminds me of the Megadeth album "Peace sells......but who's buying". I don't know if Carpenter was a megadeth fan, but this cd is practically the soundtrack to the movie. The album has a lot to do with social questioning and even at the end of one of "The Conjuring" he says OBEY, just like in the movie.
I might have gone off on a little tangent, but I really enjoyed this movie. If you are a fan of Alien/sci-fi/political questioning type movies, then definitely go out and rent or even buy this movie.
I saw this movie in the theater when I was 16, and its underlying meaning was not lost on me even then. This is, hands down, the single most important mainstream commentary on international politics- and the sorry mental state of the general populace- ever made, even more creative and pointed than George Orwell. It is a blistering indictment of the power elite in this country and others- greed and love of money and power knows no geographical boundaries- and is a testament to the power of the arts to convey important messages that would be banned for their "controversiality" if they were not wrapped in the guise of, oh, say, a B- science fiction movie. If you have never seen this movie, then please, PLEASE go rent it. It is not difficult, it requires very little stretch of the imagination to ascertain what the filmmakers were really trying to say. It is simply a bold, inventive, ingenious political statement of the sort few are brave enough to make. "Halloween" notwithstanding, it is also John Carpenter's finest film, and on top of all of that, it contains the greatest mano-a-mano fight sequence ever put to film. One of my favorite movies of all time. Should be one of yours, too.
Well, what can I say about this movie? Absolute cult classic! John Carpenter follows on from 'Big Trouble in Little China' with this masterpiece of modern action movies. I was lent the DVD over a year ago, and to my sad admission, let it sit on a shelf for more than 6 months.....big mistake. Being a person who prides himself on his knowledge of 80s action movies, the fact that Id missed this one really makes me hang my head in shame. You might at first be forgiven for thinking that this is meant to be a spoof...and I still do! The acting is ludicrously poor, the action is (of course) over the top and the plot jumps from one scene to the next with no explanation as to how or why. Ever wanted to see two grown men having a fight using proper wrestling moves in a back alley?! Or hear the immortal line "I came here to kick *ss and chew gum...and I'm all out of gum"? Look no further ladies and gentlemen. And if you really want a treat, get the DVD - the commentary from Rowdy Roddy and John Carpenter is worth the money alone. Hilarious! They really don't make 'em like this anymore.
After the not so great success of Prince Of Darkness which was a good
Carpenter made this film. They Live which is about an loner who discovers
these pair of sunglasses that show the world for what it really is. The
Beginning starts off very strong and humorous, the middle does slow
with a silly sub-plot but does have a very funny and cool 7 minute fight
scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David. The ending is short but gives
plenty of room to make up your own thoughts. A very original premise and a
very original and fun movie that are underrated and have been copied many
times over the years.
10 out of 10
"Hey what's wrong baby?"
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