426 user 216 critic

They Live (1988)

4:54 | Clip
They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live.


John Carpenter


Ray Nelson (short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"), John Carpenter (screenplay) (as Frank Armitage)
1,075 ( 440)
3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Roddy Piper ... Nada
Keith David ... Frank
Meg Foster ... Holly
George 'Buck' Flower ... Drifter
Peter Jason ... Gilbert
Raymond St. Jacques ... Street Preacher
Jason Robards III ... Family Man
John Lawrence John Lawrence ... Bearded Man
Susan Barnes Susan Barnes ... Brown Haired Woman
Sy Richardson ... Black Revolutionary
Wendy Brainard Wendy Brainard ... Family Man's Daughter
Lucille Meredith ... Female Interviewer
Susan Blanchard ... Ingenue
Norman Alden ... Foreman
Dana Bratton 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:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Tommy Morrison's first film. See more »


The alien at the magazine stand gets his change twice. See more »


Nada: You, you're okay. This one: real fuckin' ugly.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The screenplay writer for "They Live" which is credited to "Frank Armitage", does not exist. John Carpenter used many pseudonyms when giving credit to his works in films. With his vast amount of work that he did himself, (directing, producing, writing and composing the musical scores), he did not want to appear to be braggadocios and vain by having his name appear over and over in the credits of his movies. See more »


Featured in They Live: Woman of Mystery (2012) 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 »

User Reviews

Cheap Sunglasses...
6 May 2020 | by azathothpwigginsSee all my reviews

Ever wonder why people line up in droves to follow the latest fad? What causes us to scurry about like ants, or conform like willing slaves? Why do we obey and consume like mindless drones? The answer is right here in THEY LIVE.

Director John Carpenter strips off the facade, and shows us the ugly truth. A secret invasion force has crept in and assumed control, having inserted themselves among us as we marched blindly along. Now, posing as "normal" human beings, these impostors hold positions at the highest levels of government! This certainly explains the synthetic nature of politics, doesn't it?

Now, subliminal messages hidden in the constant din of commercials have hypnotized us into walking trances, and made us easy prey. We are finished!

THEY are everywhere! THEY are our true masters!

This movie captures both the paranoia and dark humor of a society tamed and controlled by alien overlords, without even knowing it. Roddy Piper plays the working stiff who accidentally uncovers the conspiracy behind everyday life.

So, grab some sunglasses and look around. THEY have been here for a very long time...

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

4 November 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

They Live See more »


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,827,903, 6 November 1988

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (4 channels)| Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Atmos

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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