They Live (1988)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: A politically subversive blend of horror and sci fi, They Live is an underrated genre film from John Carpenter.


Movie Info

A homeless drifter discovers a reason for the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor: a conspiracy by non-human aliens who have infiltrated American society in the guise of wealthy yuppies. With the help of special sunglasses that reveal the aliens' true faces and their subliminal messages ("marry and reproduce," "submit to authority"), our hero tries to stop the invasion. This satire of Reaganomics and the "greed is good" era also has one of the funniest (and longest) fight scenes in … More

Rating: R
Genre: Drama , Horror , Mystery & Suspense , Science Fiction & Fantasy , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Ray Nelson, John Carpenter
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 10, 2000
Runtime:
MCA/Universal Pictures

Cast


as Holly

as Gilbert

as Bearded Man

as Brown-Haired Woman

as Black Revolutionary

as Family Man's Daughte...

as Female Interviewer

as Foreman

as Black Junkie

as Rich Lady

as Well-dressed Custome...

as Depressed Human

as Arab Clerk

as Blond-Haired Cop

as Neighbor

as Scruffy Blond Man

as Passageway Guard

as Passageway Guard

as Male News Anchor

as Female News Anchor

as Young Female Executi...

as Woman on Phone

as Pregnant Secretary

as 2nd Unit Guard

as Security Guard

as Naked Lady

as Security Guard

as Male Ghoul

as Female Ghoul

as Bearded Man
Show More Cast

Related News & Features

Matt Reeves Hired for They Lives (Non-) Remake
– Deadline Hollywood Daily
They Live All Over Again
– Hollywood Reporter

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Critic Reviews for They Live

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (9)

As a movie, They Live is lethargic. As election propaganda, it's terrific.

Full Review… | August 6, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

John Carpenter's They Live has cult favorite written all over it, and part of the reason is the way it regenerates the cheap, juicy, surprisingly potent sci-fi of the 1950s.

August 6, 2013
Boston Globe
Top Critic

They Live is the looniest movie of the season and also one of the most engaging.

Full Review… | October 10, 2012
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

The joke is in the material; the idea itself is funny and daring. And some time soon, They Live suggests, with grim, knowing wink, the joke may be on us.

Full Review… | October 10, 2012
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A fantastically subversive film, a nifty little confection pitting us vs them, the haves vs the have-nots.

Full Review… | June 4, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

All in all, an entertaining (if ideologically incoherent) response to the valorization of greed in our midst.

Full Review… | June 4, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for They Live

Probably one of the most overlooked and underrated films by Carpenter yet possibly his most clever. All his own work and a quite beautiful look at how paranoia and fear within an ever decreasing economy can be exploited for a good story.

Now I'm not saying all Americans are suspicious conspiracy theory doom mongers but this film exposes that ever present trait whilst also scratching at the notion of constant gross consumer consumption, greed and subversive subliminal messages touching on hypnosis and domination.

To be honest the whole idea just shows how some Americans (including Carpenter) think most of the time, always looking over their shoulder and suspicious.

As for the film its a romp that just keeps going and you wanna know how it ends. The start is slow and dull, it takes time to get going but once Nada finds the sunglasses of truth things get really interesting in a good way. I love how Carpenter made this film, its dated but still looks great as it has that nice B-movie look which is mainly down to the budget. Think of it as an unintentional result that happens to fit the whole films concept perfectly. Classic 50's alien B-movie fluff enhanced with time.

The whole idea is really very clever and imagined so well. We see the alien corrupted world controlling the now unaware obedient humans in their daily lives through the black and white shades Nada finds. Without the shades the world appears normal, an illusion created to blinker or fog human eyes.

The aliens only appear when the shades are on and boy do they look creepy. Even though its obviously a simple mask the makeup and design is superbly created and really gives an eerie effect. That skeletal skull look with those quite scary eyes!

I have always been surprised with the great performance by Piper also. The guy was a WWF wrestler at the time for Gods sake yet his acting here is great, just perfect. He really carries off the suspicion and awakening of the story to a tee. As for his character of Nada...all I can say is the guy certainly has an element of Jack Burton if you ask me.

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

I also like how this film isn't predictable. It keeps you guessing and you're never sure how it will end or who will survive.

The subtle political jabs, crazy ass humour and out n out action is a curious blend but like Carpenter's 86 film 'Big Trouble in Little China' he manages to pull it off with ease and create another cult on his filmography. A great comicbook tale of mindless media/advertising supremacy on an Orwellian alien monitored Earth.

'Brother, life's a bitch... and she's back in heat'

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phubbs1
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

½

"They Live" is one of those films where you can recite all the negatives about it with ease. Bad acting, subpar special effects, clunky dialogue, heavy-handed plot all should add up to a horrendous film, but as any connoisseur of film knows "They Live" is one of the most admired B-movies (or cult films) to come out of Hollywood.

That's because "They Live" has its tongue firmly planted in cheek. Despite John Carpenter's attempt to tell a very important story and deliver a very important message he does it in such an absurd way that there's no opportunity for "They Live" to let that potentially heavy-handed plot to feel ponderous to get through. Does the message leave much of an impression post-viewing? No. But this mix of sci-fi and horror is easy to enjoy. It's a simple premise and after the plot kicks in, it's all about destroying any ugly-faced alien no questions asked.

Then you have the presence of one of the most nonsensical and infamous fight scenes you'll see. Roddy Piper and Keith David fight for five minutes for no reason other than a pair of glasses. There's no rational reason why the two of them are beating each other up but they keep fighting and keep fighting. But in this film, that's OK.

There's also dialogue written with the 80s penchant for funny, out of nowhere one-liners. The most infamous for "They Live" being "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum." Both the fight sequence and the line of dialogue have been homaged and referenced in numerous entertainment vehicles such as "South Park" and Duke Nukem games.

"They Live" is one of those films you've gotta see if you appreciated B-films in any way. It's a great example of how to walk that line between serious and absurd and walk that line perfectly.

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The Gandiman
Tony Gandía

Super Reviewer

It's like Network with a sci-fi twist, a remake could expand the ideas of the film, but considering how shitty every single remake of Carpenter's movies have been i say we rather stick to this one. It's a lot of fun and Piper fits the lead role perfectly.

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DragonEyeMorrison
Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

They Live Quotes

– Submitted by Mike B (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Scott E (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Scott E (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Jed G (2 years ago)

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