Movie Review: They Live


They Live is a 1988 action/sci-fi/horror film by one of the greatest directors of all-time, John Carpenter. I probably hadn’t seen this movie since the early 1990’s and after the all-too-soon passing of WWE Legend Roddy Piper, I really wanted to revisit this cult classic. So I sat down this morning and soaked in all of the mayhem and originality that came from this often-forgotten Carpenter film. And it was exactly as I remember it being when I seen it so long ago.

The movie stars Piper as Nada, a drifter who arrives in a new city looking for work. He gets a construction job, but with any money, he must spends his nights with the rest of the city’s poor and homeless. He soon finds a pair of sunglasses that reveals that many of the people in the city are aliens. These glasses reveal their true faces and their subliminal messages that are all over the city. He finally convinces his co-worker Frank, played by Keith David (The Thing), to wear the glasses and see the truth and they soon join a rebellious group that plans to eliminate the alien race. But the aliens will not go down without a fight and they far outnumber the rebellion. The fate of mankind soon rests on the shoulders of Nada and Frank and if they fail, the alien’s attempts to subdue the human race will continue.


They Live is a good movie that has its bright spots, but is far from one of Carpenter’s best efforts. It is far from being as memorable as Halloween, The Thing, or Big Trouble in Little China. But it is still a great movie and has many of Carpenter’s trademarks, such as the musical score and messages within the movie. Carpenter’s traditional score is present and like most of his movies, sets the tone throughout. Along with the musical score, Carpenter’s theme of the government and rich suppressing the poor is very detailed and done perfectly using the aliens as the superior class.

The movie is definitely not for everyone, but is a classic to see for any fans of Carpenter’s other works. I have enjoyed just about everything Carpenter has done and They Live is no exception. Added to the story and director’s trademarks are good performances by Piper, David, and Meg Foster. Foster has a smaller role as Holly Thompson, a woman who mysteriously enters Nada and Frank’s lives and her motives are unclear until the end. David, who plays Frank, is great in his role and worked great alongside Piper. And Roddy Piper, the wrestler-turned-actor, did great in his first movie role. I don’t think Piper ever matched his performance in this movie, but he always entertained inside the wrestling ring. And honestly, how could he ever match this performance after giving us this classic line:

Go check out or revisit They Live when you get the time and Rest In Piece Roddy Piper. Thanks for the memories.

Daryl Karpinski Jr.