They Live (1988)

We’re back at you this week after a short delay (our bad), but check out this new format! It’s cleaner and gets to the point faster because we don’t let the other two bozos chime in with their “opinions” or whatever. Now, as for the actual review, They Live is John Carpenter’s 1988 ode to fightin’ the powers that be. Starring Rowdy Roddy Piper, this movie is a non-stop string of kills and one liners as our hero tries to take down aliens posing as the rich and powerful trying to control us. Check out the trailer below, and then continue on down for a brief run through of the movie. But watch out for spoilers, as those abound.

Reviewed by: Jack


Plot Synopsis

Our boy Rowdy Roddy wanders into LA as a drifter and is able to scrounge up a job on a construction site. After some shirtless shots of him construction-ing various things (how else are you gonna blast those traps?) he accompanies Frank (played by Keith David fresh off his role in The Thing) to a shanty town where he engages in various homeless merriment.

Classic 80s movie heroes right here.

Classic 80s movie heroes right here.

But things quickly turn as some high-tech sunglasses reveal the true form of the aliens hiding in the bodies of the rich and powerful. Roddy’s character takes a drastic dive toward the angry and one-liner-y, and bam! The rest of the movie is all fucking-up aliens and settling for kickin’ ass because you ran of the bubblegum you came here to chew.

Carpenter knew how to tell a motherfucking story.

Carpenter knew how to tell a motherfucking story.


Eventually our heroes make it to the radio tower that’s broadcasting the signal brainwashing the masses. They manage to take down the tower in an epic gunfight, but tragically die in the process. Roddy manages to give the finger one last time before shuffling off this old mortal coil. Maniac, we hardly knew ye.

Pour some out for Roddy. Do it. Do it now. I don’t care you if don’t have a drink. Go get one and pour some the fuck out.

Pour some out for Roddy. Do it. Do it now. I don’t care you if don’t have a drink. Go get one and pour some the fuck out.

What the Movie Does Right

This movie is a tour de fucking force of alien slaughtering and fist-pumping one-liners. It's really incredible. Even if the movie were simply a loosely strung together series of Roddy Piper one liners and gun-downs it would work, but it’s actually more than that. Carpenter’s satire is pretty on point with this one, and the Orwellian world he creates here is on par with works that weigh much heavier in the world of literature. And I have to say, with the fucking state the government is currently in, something struck a special chord for me on this viewing. Oh yeah, and there’s a full five fucking minutes of pro-wrestling-style combat between Rowdy Roddy and Keith David. Five minutes. That is not an exaggeration. It’s incredible.

What the Does Wrong

Carpenter got the Orwellian dystopia thing right, but got many other aspects of the story very wrong. Roddy’s character, for example, turns on a damn dime to transition from happy-go-lucky carefree drifter guy who simply abides, to calling old ladies “fucking ugly” and blasting up banks with a machine gun. There’s no middle gear here at all. Also, for all the death and mayhem, there’s no blood to speak of at all. That’s something that feels like it should be there in this one.

Ratings (1-10)

Story: 6 - Like I mentioned up above, the story here is pretty good. It didn’t need to be much more than an excuse for Rowdy Roddy to spew exquisitely quotable lines and shoot aliens, but dammit it was. Now is it perfect? No. But it is good.

World-Building / Immersion: 2 - It is difficult to stay immersed in this one. The one-liners are awesome, but they don’t draw you into the film enough to overlook the obvious WWE moves, plethora of continuity errors, or Rowdy Roddy’s greasy fucking mullet.

Scare-Factor: 2 - This is not a scary movie. I suppose the concept of being controlled and brainwashed by the rich and powerful is slightly concerning, but isn’t that kind of just how the actual world works?

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 4 - The effects here are okay. I know the shitty look to the aliens was on purpose, but that doesn’t mean I can bump the score up any. Ultimately, I think they serve the movie as intended, and then it gets brought down a little for how bad the stunt-fighting is (not talking about the alley scene this time).

Overall: 5 - This movie is way more fun than this score indicates. Have a bunch of beers, grab some friends, and toss this on to scream along to it. Or hell, just admire Rowdy Roddy’s glorious traps. Whatever floats your boat. Personally, I’ll be doing both.