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They Live (1988)

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A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.

Director:

John Carpenter

Writers:

Ray Nelson (short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning"), John Carpenter (screenplay) (as Frank Armitage)
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Popularity
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Cast

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 Lucille Meredith ... Female Interviewer
Susan Blanchard ... Ingenue
Norman Alden ... Foreman
Dana Bratton 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

4 November 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

They Live See more »

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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (4 channels)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?


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

Nada: Brother, life's a bitch... and she's back in heat.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ready Player One (2018) See more »

Soundtracks

Down by the Riverside
(uncredited)
Traditional
See more »

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User Reviews

 
elite, parasitic subsociety exploits American working class--reflects real American society?
25 June 2004 | by anonreviewerSee all my reviews

This movie is not so much about aliens who are hiding among us, but instead it taps into the deeply submerged suspicion held by most of us that we are being manipulated and taken advantage of by the elite of American society, by our leaders, by the rich, etc. Also, we sometimes feel that we are manipulated and programmed (in a subtle way) to respect hierarchical authority ( e.g., the "OBEY" subliminal command from the movie).

Some leftist thinkers might say that human societies are in a way being parasitized by the elite of their societies, and that the elite operate as a parasitic sub-society, living off of the lower classes. America might be said to be operated more in such a fashion (i.e., parasitized by the elite) than are the countries of western Europe. Obvious examples of this parasitic behavior are the "golden handshakes" and backscratching exchanged between corporate CEO's and the Boards of Directors of their companies. But it is far more pervasive than just that.

_They_Live_ uses the invisible alien elite as a proxy for our suspicions about how we are all being exploited by the elite of our real-life society, and how these elite are subtly programming us to accept this exploitation.

So, the major theme of the movie is not, as another poster correctly pointed out, about being manipulated to be good little consumers in a crassly commercial world. No, it is far more profound than that. Instead, it is more about how the working class Americans in _They Live_ are being exploited by the elite upper crust, who, in the movie, happen to be aliens, but who, in the real world, are a subsociety that use their collective power to exploit the rest of us.

Unfortunately, this movie sometimes has an unintentionally comic air to it. Still, the exploration of that theme is so rare in pop culture, and that theme is so profound, and reaches so far into what American society is, was, and is becoming, that this movie is a Must-See for anyone with an interest in politics and sociology.


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