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.

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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:
... Nada
... Frank
... Holly
... Drifter
... Gilbert
... Street Preacher
... Family Man
John Lawrence ... Bearded Man
Susan Barnes ... Brown Haired Woman
... Black Revolutionary
Wendy Brainard ... Family Man's Daughter
Lucille Meredith ... Female Interviewer
Susan Blanchard ... Ingenue
... Foreman
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:

Obey or else - alien invasion of the subliminal kind... 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  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

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

Gross USA:

$13,008,928
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(4 channels)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

After Nada tells the primping alien woman "That's like pouring perfume on a pig," the actor's alien hand glove ends before her sleeve, revealing her bare arm. See more »

Quotes

Female Interviewer: Last place of employment?
Nada: Denver, Colorado. I worked there for ten years and things just seemed to dry up. They lost fourteen banks in one week. So, well...
Female Interviewer: There's nothing available for you right now.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in MythBusters: Bottle Bash (2010) 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

 
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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