108 of 113 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2007
I think most of you are missing the point of the film here, its a social commentary, the aliens were an allegory for corporate greed and capitialism at the expense of personal freedoms and human rights. It was made in the 80's, Reagan era, when these things were being pushed aside in favour of power and a money making screw everyone else culture.
Personally, I think it is brilliantly done, Piper is a pretty good actor (for a ex wrestler) and the tongue in cheek script and direction makes sure its doesnt get too caught up in its own message. Although, having said that, the message is pretty loud and clear by the time the two heroes get into the alien base and find out humans are collaborating with them, just for a guaranteed increase in their investments.
Keith David is great also, the pointlessly long and over the top fight scene between the two is one of the best thing about the film, just a bit of fun interjected into a serious film. The scene now has cult status, and was immortalized by Southpark, in the episode `cripple fight' where Jimmy tries to get Timmy to put on a silly hat. Brilliant stuff.
The film could have done with a bigger budget, but I still rate it as a classic, with a message that is perhaps even more relevant today; what with the political propaganda machine even more powerful and insidious than ever, and people even more stupid, it seems.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a well made and clever, late eighties sci-fi pic, directed by John Carpenter.
Roddy Piper plays Nada (the Spanish word for "nothing"), a thirty-something unemployed nomad, who lives out of a rucksack. He comes to Los Angeles looking for work, and ends up labouring on a building site, with a temporary bed in a homeless settlement. He soon starts noticing everybody's extreme obsession with TV (the modern equivalent would be the obsession with smartphones and tablets), and an all-pervading hunger for material goods and wealth - most would simply call it market capitalism.
Late one night, Nada discovers a hidden cache of very special sunglasses, and when he starts wearing a pair, they reveal the secret of why the folk of Los Angeles are so enamoured of the gogglebox and the hunt for ever more material possessions...
The American middle-classes are having their behaviour influenced and controlled by subliminal messages, issued by unseen other-worldly forces, but whenever Nada dons his special specs, the horrific truth about this uber-capitalist society becomes all too apparent. It's then left to Nada, with a little help from a very skilfully wielded shotgun and sub-machine gun, to try to save the day...
This movie is clearly an allegory for the bad side of the American Dream, about people having a tunnel vision focus on the acquisition of wealth and possessions, but having a relatively empty existence in terms of spirituality and togetherness. The tale of Nada, i.e. an outnumbered but heroic and resilient man, taking arms against a sea (or don't see) of troubles, vaguely mirrors Kurt Russell's rebellious and reluctant saviour in Escape From New York. The film certainly benefits from one of John Carpenter's trademark, minimalist synth soundtracks, whilst Roddy Piper gives a suitably fearless, sceptical and stoic performance in the lead role.
All in all, this is an imaginative and entertaining action sci-fi flick, which starts out a little slow but soon builds up a good head of steam. The film does have a very slightly dated eighties feel and vibe about it, but overall, it's still an absorbing, gripping and satisfying flick. Recommended.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
They Live is directed by John Carpenter who also adapts the screenplay form the short story Eight O'Clock in the Morning written by Ray Nelson. It stars Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster. Music is by Alan Howarth (and Carpenter) and cinematography by Gary B. Kibbe.
Unemployed drifter Nada (Piper) wanders into the city looking to find work, but upon finding a unique pair of sunglasses he sees a different world to everyone else. It's a world frequented by an alien race who are using the Earth for their own nefarious means.
See The Truth!
Carpenter does subversive sci-fi and it's a whole bunch of fun. Stripped back it's evident that They Live is Carpenter's wry observation on the politico posers who endorse the rich getting richer and everybody else sliding down the pole; to where they stop nobody knows! It's also a blatant paean to the glorious years of the 1950s when paranoia based sci-fi schlockers and creaky creature features ruled the air waves. It's also a wonderfully macho driven action movie, laced with comedy as well. You can rest assured there will be plenty of shooting, punching, dodging and spoken lines to make you smile.
Piper is no Kurt Russell, but we shouldn't hold that against him because he fills the role nicely. With muscular frame, 80s hair and a quip on the tongue, he is most assuredly a Carpenter leading man for the 80s. Alongside him is the reassuring presence of Keith David, himself a beefcake and also one of the coolest muthas on the planet. It's easy to believe that these two can save the planet, even after nearly beating each other to a pulp during a prolonged side-alley fight sequence, where Carpenter doesn't miss a chance to parody professional wrestling. While away from the beef, Meg Foster gets the lead lady role, with those amazing eyes nestling in perfectly with the world Carpenter has created.
Carpenter does political? Yes, but it's not the be all and end all of his intentions. He wanted to make an action sci-fi schlocker with sly politico undertones as motives. And that's exactly what he did. Joyously so. 8/10
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2013
One of those films that you've just got to have.
I suspect that this is so near to the truth than most would care to even imagine.
It includes the longest ever fight scene in it, and the reason why it was included is a statement of how asleep everyone is.
Even when he was trying his hardest to get his friend to take a look at what he could see through those glasses, he wouldn't put them on and the fight ensued. It is a perfect example of just how asleep everyone is today, and you will fight to keep it that way rather than just put on those glasses and take a look at what is right under your noses.
As more and more of you start waking up, you should buy this film.
David Icke does a whole hour on the 'moon' these days in his live shows, i think he may have been watching this movie.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2008
I personally can't wait for this movie to be released again.I'm looking forward to the Blu-Ray in particular.This is my favourite John Carpenter movie and i think in this day and age for me anyway the message in the movie becomes clearer and clearer.It really is a great reflection of western society in particualr and how our brains are manipulated 24/7 365 days a year by commercialism and things that have no real importance in the grand scheme of things.Well back to the movie and what a great performance by Roddy piper and also Keith David.My favourite line in the movie is when piper goes into a bank and declares:"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass.....and i'm all outta bubblegum"!!
I emplore anyone who is reading this and has not seen this movie to give it a go.Well definetely for me a 5-star movie quite frankly there has been nothing that has come close to it in it's 20 years.
Long live John Carpenter,granted he has made some crap in his later years but still i would love him to do a sequel!!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
The two-picture deal he struck in the late 80s that produced the underrated Prince of Darkness [DVD]  and They Live was pretty much the last spurt of creativity from John Carpenter before his mojo went walkabout (presumably it's living it up somewhere with Argento and Romero's similarly long AWOL mojos). Along with The Arrival [DVD], which saw aliens funding their colonisation of Earth by stock market manipulation, it's one of the best invisible invasion films since the 50s, at once rejoicing in its pulp origins and taking smart satirical swipes along the way.
Pro-wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper makes a surprisingly good actor as the down-on-his-luck everyman hero, travelling from city to city with his tools looking for work, the kind of guy who still believes in America, follows the rules and is just waiting for his chance. Unfortunately this is the 80s and he's another victim of the reality of Reaganomics, where, just as today, wealth trickles up, the middle class are downwardly mobile and even having a job isn't enough to keep some of the working class from being homeless. If this sounds like the film's a political tract, Carpenter never made any secret that it was, albeit one with a great satirical sci-fi spin - the reason for this downward spiral is that the rich and powerful don't just regard themselves as different to the rabble, they ARE different, and they ain't from Cleveland: alien invaders who have been here for years, grabbing all the best jobs and most powerful positions, stripping the planet of its assets before moving onto the next. For years they've been brainwashing the human race with signals sent through television sets that hypnotize them into seeing what they want them to see and hide their true form. It's only through wearing special sunglasses that you can see the subliminal messages and commands hidden behind posters and street signs. Not only that, but the real world is actually black and white because "They've colorized us!"
Naturally Piper finds out, no-one believes him and he finds himself on the run with initially sceptical co-worker Keith David, briefly hooking up with the few dregs of human resistance - most humans who find out immediately sell out to the aliens for their own slice of the American dream - before making a do-or-die last stand against the rapacious corporate raiders. All of which is done with surprising wit and energy as the film gradually moves from its state of the nation opening to look behind the curtain, getting a head start on end of millennium angst along the way and probably reaching more people with its message than many a more worthy issue film because it doesn't forget to be fun. There's also great stunt choreography from Jeff Imada in the days when you could still tell what was happening in a fight scene, which is helpful when the film's most celebrated setpiece is a ridiculously but entertainingly prolonged fight scene in an alley where Piper tries to persuade David to just try the sunglasses for himself. For the most part the film does a fine job of hiding its low budget, with only a raid on a shantytown looking a bit underpopulated at times, and the tight hour-and-a-half hour running time works in its favour, keeping things relatively lean. Political commentary has rarely been this much fun.
Shout Factory's Region A-locked Blu-ray offers a satisfying 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a sharp image with good colour and clear definition. It's not perfect - there's some occasional slight pulsing that makes you wonder if there aren't some subliminal messages encoded on the disc - but after some of the poor previous releases it's like seeing the film through a Hoffman lens and it's certainly the best its looked on any home video format. There's a good selection of extras too, including the enjoyable audio commentary Carpenter and Piper recorded for Optimum's European DVD release, the original making of featurette, new interviews with Carpenter, Keith David, Meg Foster, Jeff Imada, co-composer Alan Howarth and cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe, footage from the TV commercials seen in the film, stills gallery, TV spots and original trailer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2014
‘They Live’ is a masterpiece. No, not a masterpiece of acting, nor storytelling or even originality. It’s basically a masterpiece of a B-movie. In B-movie terms... this is the ‘Godfather’ Parts 1, 2 and 3.
We join a vagrant (played by a wrestler no less!) who stumbles onto an alien plot to take over the world. He decides that ain’t gonna’ happen! And he does it in style.
I could mention the numerous classic (yet completely cheesy) lines. I could also mention the truly ridiculous fight scene that transpires about half way through the film (and was so brilliantly parodied in ‘South Park’). And I could mention that They Live was directed by the master of horror in the seventies/eighties John Carpenter. However, you don’t need to know any of that. All you need to have in order to enjoy this film is an appreciation for the slightly dumb, the slightly daft, the slightly over-the-top and the ability to suspend your disbelief for an hour and a half so that you can really cheer the good guys on in their quest to rid the world of this corporate alien menace.
No brain cells required. Just sit back, crack open the popcorn (chewing bubblegum is optional) and watch the aliens get their collective a$$ kicked by ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2014
Saw this at the cinema when it came out and still love it. Possibly one of the greatest movie lines..."I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass and I am all out of gum"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2008
Another of John Carpenter's great successes, this film turns the paranoia of the 50's science fiction film on its head. Instead of outsiders coming and attempting to disrupt the status quo, in this film the status quo is the whole problem, as aliens have taken over right to the very top. Only Roddy Piper stands between them and continued domination of American society.
Piper makes for another of Carpenter's very likeable heroes, very much in the mould of Snake Plisskin, and the supporting cast is uniformially excellent.
A little gem of a movie.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Director 'John Carpenter'who has brought us chiller's such as 'The Thing' 'Christine'
'Village of the Damned' and more recently 'The Ward' explores manys worse
fears in this movie 'Aliens' beings among us.
Drifter 'John Nada' a construction worker by trade stumbles across a chapel and
notices a false wall behind which stacks of boxes.
The law clears the area which homes the homeless in temporary shelters and
captures those that seemingly to 'John' represent the Church.
When the situation calms in the area 'John' returns to the church, curiosity having
got the better of him, he removes the panel in the false wall he'd noticed earlier
to see what the boxes hold, much to his surprise they are full of sunglasses.
However they are no ordinary shades, when he puts a pair on it reveals the advertising
boards reading stuff like 'Stay asleep' 'Obey' ect....take them off the boards return
to what he's allways thought them to be, suddenly when wearing them some of the
people he looks at are not human, even television channels have these beings as
The aliens are controlling humans in a hypnotic manner, what is 'John' to do, very
soon the aliens realise he can see them for what they are, 'John' now becomes
chased and hunted soon finding that normal humans cannot all be trusted.
'John' had made one friend after arriving in town, 'Frank' he seeks him out as a
prospective ally, however initially 'Frank' a family man doesn't want to know which
leads to a bruising fight between them, 'John' needs 'Frank' to try the Glasses on.
The film becomes more intense as the two, again friends try to find help, some
decent action scenes and special effects given it being a pre-c,g.i movie (1989)
Certainly a decent 'John Carpenter' movie that should hold your attention from
start to finish supplying plenty of action and perhaps a touch satire.
The picture and sound quality is pretty good.
Features include -
*Commentary by 'John Carpenter' and 'Roddy Piper'
*Featurette - The Making Of
*John Carpenter - Profile
*Roddy Piper - Profile
*Meg Foster - Profile
There are many that believe that we are unique despite the size of our
own 'Galaxy' with all it's 'Stars' and 'Planets' not to mention the vastness
of our ever growing Universe.
Like many I believe if not living among us, they could well have visited us
in the past perhaps aiding the ancient civilisations to achieve what we
still cannot explain maybe up to 5000 years ago.
Could it also be possible that the 'Gods' of the ancients were 'Alien'
I also don't rule out the possibility of more, maybe many more Universes
beyond ours (nobody knows just how big a space is out there ?)
Just a thought.....The Film -worth a spin.