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They Live (1988) Review

“They Live” is a 1988 American science fiction action horror film directed by John Carpenter, starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. The film centers on an everyman who discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it truly is: a place controlled by aliens who are intent on enslaving humanity.

They Live is arguably one of John Carpenter’s greater movies, certainly in my humble opinion and i hold a lot of his works in high regard. The movie is loaded with socio-political commentary. It came out in the late 80’s when Regan-ism ruled the roost in America, it seems reasonably obvious that the movie serves as an expression of how John Carpenter felt about the way in which society was. It manages to straddle being a relatively mindless action/sci-fi flick with being a very thought provoking thriller simultaneously. One of the marks of Carpenter at his best.

Roddy Piper’s performance is pretty damn solid, he brings across the frustration, helplessness and anger of his characters situation well. He really just looks the part, through and through. Keith David also puts in a good show as his buddy and reluctant convert to the new reality. There’s one fight scene between the two that just goes on and on and on and on for what seems like forever. Those who’ve seen the movie will know what I’m talking about, it just go’s on for a laughably long time. It doesn’t really detract from the movie in a big way but really it should have been edited back, even if just by a little.

Scares wise the movie is just light, it isn’t a horror, although it potentially has the power to make you a little paranoid. Gore wise it’s light also. So if your in the mood for seeing some cool sci-fi that’ll entertain you as much as making you think, then your in luck, They Live has everything you need. It’s a classic, plain and simple.

“They Live” is an underrated gem that deserves to be more widely seen. It’s a smart, funny, and action-packed film that delivers on its premise in a big way. The acting is solid, the direction is tight, and the special effects are still impressive today. This is a must-see for fans of Carpenter’s work, and for anyone who loves a good sci-fi action movie.


Nada, a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of special sunglasses. He puts them on and sees the world for what it really is: a place controlled by aliens that are disguised as humans, and are intent on keeping humanity under the thumb.

Nada is appalled at the discovery, and sets out to warn others and fight back against the aliens. He teams up with a fellow rebel, Frank, and together they begin a crusade to expose the aliens and free humanity from their control.

They Live is a thrilling ride that takes the fight to the aliens in a battle for the future of humanity. With action, humor, and an iconic performance by Rowdy Roddy Piper, They Live is a must-see for any sci-fi fan.

Movie Details

Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Ray Nelson
Actors: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster
Release Year: 1988