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John Carpenter’s “They Live” Turns 25—-Now Put On the Damn Glasses


“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick as–.and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Thus spake Rowdy Roddy Piper in They Live–which is still the mother of all alien invasion conspiracy movies. The aliens are here, living among us. At the checkout counter. In the House of Representatives. Probably next door. “They” are pumping subliminal messages into our brains on TV, magazines, billboards. “They” are in charge.

Yes, it’s been 25 years since John Carpenter wrote and directed They Live in 1988. The movie takes up where Invasion of the Body Snatchers and It Came From Outer Space left off–especially for sci-fans who secretly yearned to be Political Science majors. That wasn’t enough to earn the movie great reviews. They Live had to thrive on video as a sleeper cult favorite. The suspense really inched up as young kids–who might’ve just wanted to enjoy an action film with Rowdy Roddy–found they were watching a dark political fantasy.

In the world of They Live, the cop next to the cop who’s aiming a gun at your face is not a cop at all. He’s an ET with plans to harvest Earth. Adding to that suspense was Rowdy Roddy Piper in the lead role of a major Hollywood production. That was uncharted territory for a wrestling star back then. He actually does a fine job as Nada–which is a big symbolic name on the order of Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi in Showgirls.

They Live is an amazing film that’s really held up over the years. Still, the most epic moment in the film doesn’t even involve aliens. John Carpenter basically lets the movie came to a halt as we watch Roddy Piper get into an epic brawl with fellow regular guy Keith David–who Roddy needs to convince about the alien conspiracy. All it takes is for Keith to put on these damn Ray-Bans and see the subliminal alien messages.

Check out the memorable brawl below and marvel at how both of these guys could probably pull off the same fight today. Then go rent They Live if you haven’t seen it. It’s torn from today’s headlines–maybe now more than ever…

COED Writer
Tony Sokol is a writer, playwright and musician. He has written for Silver Tongue, Wicked Mystic and other magazines. He has had over 20 plays produced in NYC, including Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera "AssassiNation: We Killed JFK". He appeared on the Joan Rivers (TV) Show, Strange Universe, and Britain's "The Girlie Show." He was born in Brooklyn, NY.