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  • Writer's pictureAllan Major

They Live 1988 Reviewed

Featured Image For They Live 1988 Reviewed.   Movie poster for They Live featuring a close-up of a man’s eye and sunglasses reflecting an alien face and a cityscape.
They Live (1988): The world is not what it seems. Unveil the hidden invaders controlling humanity in this chilling sci-fi horror where reality is a nightmare.

In the smog-choked dystopia of 1988 Los Angeles, where Reaganomics had hollowed out the working class and the Yuppie dream reigned supreme, John Carpenter unveiled a B-movie masterpiece that would transcend its humble origins to become a cult classic: "They Live."

Key Takeaways From This Film

  • The illusion of choice: The film critiques consumerism and the idea that our choices are truly our own. The aliens use subliminal advertising to manipulate the masses, creating a false sense of freedom and individuality.

  • The power of the media: The aliens control the media to maintain their power, highlighting the importance of media literacy and critical thinking in a world saturated with information.

  • The importance of questioning authority: Nada's refusal to accept the status quo and his willingness to fight back against the oppressive system are key themes in the film.

  • The hidden nature of power: The aliens' ability to blend in with society and their control over the media demonstrate how power can be hidden and insidious.

  • The dangers of conformity: The film warns against the dangers of blindly following the crowd and urges viewers to think for themselves and challenge societal norms.

  • The value of community and collaboration: Nada and Frank's partnership showcases the power of working together to overcome adversity.

  • The resilience of the human spirit: Despite the bleakness of the situation, the film ultimately offers a message of hope, suggesting that even in the face of overwhelming odds, the human spirit can prevail.

A woman looks afraid while watching "They Live" (1988).
Her fear grows as "They Live" reveals a world of hidden horrors, where nothing is as it seems.

Roddy Piper, the charismatic pro-wrestler seeking to support his family beyond the ring, stars as Nada, a drifter who stumbles upon a pair of sunglasses that reveal a chilling truth. The world is not as it seems. Behind the billboards and magazine covers, subliminal messages manipulate the masses. The elite are not human, but skull-faced aliens, their true forms hidden unless viewed through the special sunglasses.

The sunglasses become Nada's weapon in a guerrilla war against the unseen oppressors. He is joined by Frank, played with stoic intensity by Keith David, in a fight that takes them from the streets of L.A. to the aliens' TV station, where the mind control signals originate. Their mission: destroy the satellite and free humanity from the insidious grip of consumerism and conformity.

"They Live" is more than an action movie with a sci-fi twist. It is a scathing critique of Reagan-era consumerism, a prescient warning about the omnipresent nature of subliminal advertising, and a darkly humorous exploration of the "other" lurking among us.

Carpenter, known for his genre-bending films like "Escape from New York," crafts a world that is both outlandish and eerily familiar. His Los Angeles is a city of stark contrasts, where gleaming skyscrapers cast long shadows over homeless encampments, and where the promise of prosperity masks a sinister reality.

Piper, though understandably typecast as the tough guy, brings a surprising depth to Nada. He is not just a hero, but a symbol of the marginalized, a man pushed to the brink by a system rigged against him. His famous line, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum," has become a rallying cry for those who refuse to be controlled.

A man looks afraid while watching "They Live" (1988).
The unsettling truths of "They Live" send chills down his spine, exposing the eerie reality lurking beneath.

I'm All Out of Bubble Gum

Keith David's Frank is the perfect foil to Nada. Initially hesitant, he is drawn into the fight by a sense of duty and loyalty. The bond between the two men, forged in the crucible of their shared struggle, is one of the film's most touching elements.

Meg Foster, as Holly, adds a touch of humanity to the otherwise bleak landscape. Her initial collaboration with the aliens is driven by desperation, but she ultimately chooses to side with Nada and Frank, her conscience awakened by their unwavering determination.

The film's most iconic scene, a brutal, five-minute alley brawl between Nada and Frank, is a masterclass in filmmaking. It is not just a fight, but a metaphor for the struggle against conformity. Every punch, every grapple, is a desperate attempt to break free from the mind control that has ensnared them.

"They Live" is not a perfect film. The special effects are dated, the dialogue can be clunky, and the plot has its share of holes. But its flaws are part of its charm. It is a B-movie that punches above its weight, a low-budget spectacle that resonates with audiences decades after its release.

In a world increasingly dominated by corporate interests and manipulative advertising, "They Live" remains as relevant and thought-provoking as ever. It is a film that challenges us to look beyond the surface, to question the messages we are bombarded with daily, and to fight for our freedom, even when the odds seem insurmountable. In the words of Nada, "The world is yours...just take it."

And that is They Live 1988 Reviewed. Another classic horror movies that still resonates here today.

Stay tuned for more horror movie reviews

If You Liked They Live You Might Also Like These Films

  • The Matrix (1999): Like "They Live," "The Matrix" unveils a hidden reality lurking beneath the surface of our perceived world. It explores themes of control, illusion, and rebellion against a powerful system.

  • Brazil (1985): This dystopian satire by Terry Gilliam shares "They Live's" critique of bureaucracy, conformity, and a dehumanizing society. It presents a darkly humorous yet chilling vision of the future.

  • RoboCop (1987): Paul Verhoeven's action-packed cyberpunk classic delves into similar themes of corporate control, media manipulation, and the dehumanization of society, albeit in a more overtly violent and satirical manner.

  • Videodrome (1983): Another David Cronenberg masterpiece, "Videodrome" explores the disturbing intersection of media, technology, and body horror, raising questions about the power of images to shape our reality and our perception of self.

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): This remake of the 1956 classic taps into similar fears of conformity and the loss of individuality, as alien pod people replace humans with emotionless duplicates.

They Live 1988 Reviewed FAQs

Q: What is "They Live" about? 

A: "They Live" is a 1988 cult classic science fiction action horror film directed by John Carpenter. It follows Nada, a homeless drifter played by Roddy Piper, who discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveal the hidden truth about the world. The sunglasses allow him to see that aliens have infiltrated society, disguised as humans, and are using subliminal messages to control the population.

Q: Who plays the lead role in "They Live"? 

A: Roddy Piper, a former professional wrestler, plays the lead role of Nada, the drifter who uncovers the alien conspiracy.

Q: What is the significance of the sunglasses in the movie? 

A: The sunglasses are a key plot device in "They Live." They allow the wearer to see through the aliens' disguise and the subliminal messages they use to manipulate humans. When viewed through the glasses, the aliens appear as skeletal figures, and the hidden messages in advertisements and media are revealed.

Q: Why is "They Live" considered a genre film? 

A: "They Live" is considered a genre film because it blends elements of science fiction, action, and horror. It explores themes of social commentary, consumerism, and political satire, making it a unique and thought-provoking film within its genre.

Q: What is the famous line associated with "They Live"? 

A: The famous line from the movie is, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum," delivered by Nada before engaging in a brawl.

Q: How is the fight scene in "They Live" depicted? 

A: The film features an iconic, extended fight scene between Nada and Frank (played by Keith David) that lasts nearly six minutes. It's a brutal, no-holds-barred brawl that has become legendary among fans for its intensity and realism.

Q: Where can I read user reviews for "They Live"? 

A: User reviews for "They Live" can be found on various platforms, including IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd, and other movie review websites and forums.


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