They Live (1988)

A couple of weeks ago I saw John Carpenter performing in Helsinki. I started rewatching some of his films.

John Carpenter performing in Helsinki

Last night I watched cult classic They Live. I was shocked to find out that Roddy Piper died last summer, so sad. I was watching his They Live interviews on youtube not knowing he passed away.


Normal working guy Nada (Roddy Piper) is a drifter who wanders into town. He finds a job at the constructing site and stays at the shelter. One day he finds  sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is: society is controlled by the media & government by aliens who live among us.

Roddy Piper in They Live

I loved the idea of the film.John was ahead of the time making this film. There weren’t movies like these back then. In the late 90s, Fight Club & Matrix were released that dealt with whole”red pill awakened” theme.

Carpenter┬┤s script was based on a short story Eight clock in the morning” by Ray Nelson. Carpenter was inspired by the Reagan era and whole 80s greed & money obsession.


They Live is the Matrix of the 80s. A man takes the red pill and thing aren’t the same after that.

What I loved about the lead character is that he is a regular blue collar working guy who minded his own business.There is a scene where he says “I believe in America, I follow the rules”.When he gets the glasses he becomes enlightened. His whole perception of the world changes.


Roddy Piper’s character walks around the city seeing hidden messages like “Stay asleep” “Don’t question authority “No independent, though” “Watch TV” “Consume”. He sees aliens walking among normal people. His mind is blown, he wakes up to a reality. Construction pal Frank (Keith David) joins him on the quest .

The most famous memorable scene from the movie is when Piper enters the bank and delivers is famous line:


Like most Carpenter films the score is composed by the man himself with Alan Howarth. The guitar theme is memorable, after the movie it played in my head.

This was Roddy Piper’s first feature film, it’s too bad he never became a bigger star. He had charisma & tough man looks. He reminded me of Chuck Norris.


Keith David is great as Frank, the 5-minute fight scene between Roddy & Keith is epic.

The Budget was 4 million dollars which is amazing what they accomplished on screen. Carpenter is a talented director, he delivers great films on a limited budget.

They Live was 2 weeks number 1 at the box office after it disappeared from theaters. It’s not hard to see why movie like this challenges us to think.

It has become a cult classic since then, I regard it as Carpenters best films.
They Live is a smart, clever sci-fi action flick that has great moments. It has a message in it and it’s a great fun film. What more can you ask?

Rest in peace Roddy,I hope you are out there somewhere kicking ass and chewing bubblegum.

Rent it on Amazon.


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