They Live (1988) Review


After watching John Carpenter’s The Thing I thought I’d watch another one of his films but this time decided to give a watch to something I’ve not seen before, given that it stars Roddy Piper and I’m a big wrestling fan this one was the only choice I really had! Also this won the vote for the review I should post next so here it is.

“I enjoyed most of the film and as a wrestling fan it’s great to see a wrestler who is actually good in a film!”

Budget: $4,000,000 (estimated)

Trivia – 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.

Trivia – The eponymous scene in South Park: Cripple Fight (2001) was taken blow-by-blow from the fight between Frank and Nada in the alley.

So the film starts with Nada (Roddy Piper) a homeless construction worker who’s background we don’t really know anything about. He ends up in LA looking for work and manages to find it on a construction site, after meeting fellow worker Frank (Keith David) Nada is kind of stand offish towards him but Frank ends up taking him to a local shanty town type place where most of the construction workers live.

There’s a small church across the road which Nada watches suspiciously, he then sneaks in one day and finds that the choir noises are really recordings and something else altogether is going on there. Then one night there’s a police raid on the church which ends up being bulldozed down, Nada revisits the place and finds a pair of cheap looking sunglasses. He takes a walk and keeps one pair before stashing the rest, upon wearing the glasses he sees things in black and white and what he sees is horrifying.


Upon wearing the sunglasses these are the embedded messages that Nada can see

As he wanders the street he can see that advertising boards have messages embedded in them that he can only see through the sunglasses. Things like obey, conform, consume, and general consumer messages but more frighteningly he can see peoples true faces, these true faces are in fact aliens. They discover he can see them and he is attacked but manages to fight them off ending up killing a few of the aliens. He tries to tell Frank what has happened but Frank doesn’t believe him as he’s a murderer on the run, after what was a very well planned and quite nasty fight scene Nada gets the glasses on Frank.

It’s from here that the pair decide to try and stop the aliens who appear to be well dressed and in positions of financial power. They go out to find the people who made the sunglasses this leads to the discovery that some people are in cahoots with the aliens in exchange for power and money. Nada and Frank along with the rebel type group head out to try and stop and expose the aliens.


“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum”

The Good

Piper is fantastic as the tough man drifter, I’ve read that Carpenter wanted a rugged man to play the part of Nada and after seeing Piper at Wrestlemania that’s who he wanted. Along with a part wrote with Keith David in mind, these two main characters really act their parts well. The story is well executed and it’s the small things really make it worth watching the subliminal messages in the advertising  I loved. If you’re into the whole Lizard People rule the earth in human form then you’ll love this film.

The Bad

I didn’t like the female lead in the film who ends up with Nada after he kidnaps her to escape the police. Apart from the fight scene between the main stars I felt some of the action was a bit off, that’s not to say that there weren’t some really good action scenes, just that a few felt a bit dated.

It’s well worth a watch, I enjoyed most of the film and as a wrestling fan it’s great to see a wrestler who is actually good in a film!

Overall Score



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