They Live, a movie review

A movie review by: Lee Sonogan

(1988) 1h33min/Action, horror, sci-fi


The movie is described as a drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that aliens have taken over the Earth. A late eighties film made by legendary director John Carpenter. He is known for such movies as the movies Halloween, Escape from New York, Escape from L.A and this movie. Rowdy Roddy Piper, the eighties wrestler in the time of Hulk Hogan was cast as the main role.

John Carpenter wanted a truly rugged individual to play Nada. He cast wrestler Roddy Piper in the lead role after seeing him in WrestleMania III in 1987. Carpenter remembered Keith David’s performance in The Thing made in 1982 and wrote the role of Frank specifically for the actor. With a budget of 3 million, the movie made 13 million at the box office.

One of two major Hollywood studio science-fiction films released in the year 1988 that featured alien characters assimilated into modern-day society on the planet Earth. The films are Alien Nation and John Carpenter’s They Live. John Carpenter: Uncredited, as the voice that says “sleep”.

The line “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum” was ad-libbed by Roddy Piper. According to director John Carpenter, Piper had taken the line from a list of ideas he had for his pro wrestling interviews. Graffiti artist Shepard Fairey got his “obey” name from this film. The film is often cited by British author David Icke as John Carpenter’s best film.

The film is partially shot in black-and-white which involved only the scenes and sequences where the aliens were visible to the audience when characters are wearing sunglasses for most of the film. But this visual aesthetic ceases towards the end of the picture whereupon the aliens become visible in colour for the film’s final act.

Overall, things get crazy quickly as he is spotted straight away as he notices them while wearing the sunglasses. During the middle, there is a good action scene that leads to a positive to the character. The film has many themes of capitalism, communism and elitism, with many awesome speeches in it. Fun fact: All the various aliens throughout the movie, both male and female, were portrayed by stunt coordinator Jeff Imada. The ending has a longer action scene as they take the fight against the aliens. I recommend this movie to people who like original sci-fi concept movies. It is worth a watch and one of my favourite movies of the late eighties now.


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