[[quoteright:350:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/they-live-alien_2737.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:350:"They are our masters! They're all around you! All about you! Blinding us from the truth!"]]

->''"THEY LIVE, WE SLEEP."''
-->-- '''Resistance Graffiti'''

''They Live'' is a 1988 action movie directed by Creator/JohnCarpenter, and inspired by Ray Nelson's short story "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" and its comic book adaptation "Nada."

John Nada is a drifting construction worker, played by wrestler "Rowdy" Wrestling/RoddyPiper. He arrives in a new town, and finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see that not only are aliens living among us, they have hidden [[SubliminalSeduction subliminal messages]] urging humans to conform, consume and reproduce in all media. Nada sets out to make sense of what the sunglasses are showing him, leading to several action scenes, and an incredibly long fist-fight with Nada's construction worker friend, Frank (Creator/KeithDavid). Eventually, Frank and Nada find an underground movement set on exposing the aliens and freeing humanity, and join in their efforts.

While in the U.S. it's mainly considered another cheesy actioner from TheEighties, the movie is an intriguing exercise in criticizing the Reaganomics and the deregulatory liberalism of the decade through one of its pet products: the (apparently) brainless action/scifi movie. In Europe, lots of critics have sung praises of this movie, often quoting the "put on the glasses" brawl between Rowdy and Keith as one of the best one-on-one physical duels ever committed to cinema and was parodied shot for shot in an episode of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' and replicated (with Creator/KeithDavid AsHimself) in ''VideoGame/SaintsRowIV''. The movie also sports [[ChewBubblegum that one particularly awesome line]], which has been borrowed, quoted and subverted many times over, and was the inspiration for an ''Series/AreYouAfraidOfTheDark'' episode about a prankster who finds X-ray specs that allow him to see aliens living among humans.

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!!'''The movie provides examples of:'''

* AdaptationExpansion: It's based on a short story. A "true" adaptation would have made this a short film.
* AnAesop: Rampant consumerism is very bad!
* AuthorTract
-->'''Creator/JohnCarpenter''': I began watching TV again. I quickly realized that everything we see is designed to sell us something... It's all about wanting us to buy something. The only thing they want to do is take our money.
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler:Nada wins, but he and Frank both die. Though it gets sweeter when [[DefiantToTheEnd he flips them off before dying]].]]
* BlackDudeDiesFirst: When the Resistance is raided, the Resistance's black armorer gets gunned down as soon as they enter. [[spoiler:Frank is killed by Holly to reveal that she was working with the aliens all along.]]
* BlindSeer: The blind priest, who is somehow able to relay the resistance's transmissions through speech.
* CapitalismIsBad: This film was made by John Carpenter to criticize the effects of the Reagan Administration on American society in regard to the increase of materialism.
* ChewBubblegum: The TropeMaker. And it was an [[ThrowItIn ad-lib]].
-->'''Nada''': I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum.
* CreepyBlueEyes: Par for the course whenever Meg Foster is cast. Perhaps they should have realized that [[spoiler:Holly was TheMole]] after seeing those eyes..
* TheCynic: Exemplified by Frank in a very well done exposition scene with Nada. Establishing Frank's pessimism, and Nada's hope for the future.
* DefiantToTheEnd: [[spoiler: Nada goes out like a {{Badass}}.]]
* DeliberatelyMonochrome: Used to indicate when Nada is seeing reality through the sunglasses.
* DirtyCommies: What the police have been told LaResistance is
* DoesThisRemindYouOfAnything / TakeThat: UsefulNotes/RonaldReagan's TheEighties. The alien political ad even begins with the speaker talking about it being a "new morning in America," one of Reagan's most famous quotes
* DyingMomentOfAwesome: [[spoiler:At the end, Nada is faced with the choice of joining the aliens or blowing up the transmitter, exposing them to the world at large. He decides "Fuck it", and blows it sky high, knowing full well that this will get him killed. After being shot, he still manages to flip the aliens off right before he dies.]]
* TheEighties: If Carpenter is right, we can blame the whole decade on the pernicious influence of an alien conspiracy and their human collaborators. Also, according to Carpenter, the extra long fist fight was put in to deliberately avoid the invincible action hero that was so prevalent in the 80's.
* EvilAllAlong: [[spoiler: Holly.]]
* EvilIsVisceral: Skinless blue aliens.
* FlippingTheBird: Nada gets one right before the ending.
* GadgetWatches: The aliens' wristwatches, which work as a communication device and as an emergency teleporter.
* GraffitiOfTheResistance: Nada finds graffiti reading 'They Live, We Sleep', referring to the Resistance's knowledge of Aliens that rule over humanity.
* GrievousBottleyHarm:
** Holly forces Nada out of her house by hitting him in the head with a bottle and making him [[DestinationDefenestration crash through a window]].
** Averted later during the brawl between Nada and Frank; Frank tries to break a bottle for an improvised sharp weapon, but it shatters completely.
* GroinAttack: Nada does it to one of the two alien police officers he fights, and it occurs a few times during the back-alley fight between Frank and Nada.
* TheHeroDies: [[spoiler:Nada himself at the end. His sacrifice ends up saving the world however.]]
* HeroicSacrifice: [[spoiler:Nada himself destroys the alien transmitter to free mankind, knowing full well that he'll be shot and killed by the aliens in response.]]
* HostileTerraforming: The premise is that aliens are "turning our world into theirs". However, this was only ''[[WildMassGuessing speculation]]'' from one resistance member as to what their motives were, which the audience never actually ''does'' find out. It's also contradictory since they were capable of surviving on Earth ''anyway''.
* {{Homage}}: Carpenter has confirmed that Frank's last name, Armitage, is in honour of TheProfessor in Creator/HPLovecraft's ''Literature/TheDunwichHorror''.
* ICanRuleAlone: After he discovers the conspiracy, Nada is offered at least twice to join the aliens. However, both times they either don't mean it, or it's not really plausible. The two aliens disguised as cops are only saying it to get Nada to a quiet place where they can kill him, and [[spoiler:Holly]] offering it at the end would never work out, since at this point Nada had already killed dozens of aliens and would obviously be killed in retaliation.
* InvisibleAliens: The aliens broadcast a signal that makes them look human, and their messages look like ordinary billboards or pieces of paper.
* KarmaHoudini: The Homeless Drifter who was complaining about The Bearded TV Hacker interrupting his show constantly, somehow gets recruited by The Aliens to help them in their continued subjugation of Earth. When John Nada and Frank accidentally stumble into an underground base of operations and into a fancy dinner party attended by both The Aliens and their human collaborators, he assumes they were recruited as well and gives theme the grand tour. Eventually they try to kill him for betraying humanity, [[BeingGoodSucks he responds that all he's done is picked the winning side and asks them what's wrong with wanting a piece of the good life.]] He then escapes by using his wristwatch which is actually a communications and teleportation device to [[ScrewThisImOuttaHere disappear]]
* KillEmAll: [[spoiler:By the end of the film, Holly, Frank and Nada himself were dead.]]
* LargeHam: Not much, but when the action kicks in Roddy Piper and Keith David can be quite funny.
* LaResistance
* LeftHanging: The masquerade is irretrevably broken, but now what? The aliens still hold the reigns of power and control the media, as well as some being romantically involved with humans.
* LesCollaborateurs: The wealthy elite of society are secretly cooperating with the aliens, including [[spoiler:Holly]].
* MadeOfIron: Nada, the sheer amount of damage he takes throughout the movie does little to slow him down. Granted, he is TheDrifter.
* MassHypnosis: The aliens use a TV station to broadcast a signal that keeps human beings from seeing the truth. They also use actual TV broadcasts to send specific messages.
* TheMole: [[spoiler:Holly.]]
* NoNameGiven: The main character's name is never revealed in the film, as John Carpenter thought of him as an entirely anonymous manual laborer. He is credited as "Nada," which means "nothing" in Spanish.
* NonActorVehicle: Roddy Piper.
* OverlyLongGag: The fight scene.
* PlatonicCave: A partial example, in which radio signals are beamed into our brains, causing us to see things inaccurately.
* ProperlyParanoid: Well, it plays straight the whole pot of [[ConspiracyTheorist conspiracy theories]] at once...
* RatedMForManly: The fight alone is worth it.
* RuleOfSymbolism: Nada and Frank's fight, besides being a {{Subversion}} of the InvincibleHero trope, could also be considered as a metaphor for the difficulty in changing a person's ideology, and the inherit struggle people will go through to stay in their comfortable pre-existing ideology.
* SelectiveObliviousness: Frank, mostly because he's just trying to stay out of trouble.
* SeeThruSpecs: The sunglasses allow anyone wearing them to see the aliens and subliminal messages.
-->''"Put the glasses on! PUT 'EM ON!"''
* ShoutOut:
** One of Nada's earlier lines in the film is ''[[Film/TheGodfather "I believe in America"]]'' - and if anything, it's more grimly ironic here than it was the first time...
** The special sunglasses are called "Hoffman lenses", presumably named after anti-corporate activist Abbie Hoffman.
* SurveillanceDrone: [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THLT5iJldk0 Flying little drones]] that are invisible to regular people.
* TakeThatCritics: The second-to-last shot; after [[spoiler:the aliens' satellite is destroyed and reveals their true faces]], the shot shows [[NoCelebritiesWereHarmed alien proxies]] for Series/SiskelAndEbert who are criticizing violence in films by directors like George A. Romero and Creator/JohnCarpenter. This is almost certainly in good humor, since Creator/RogerEbert was one of the few critics to champion Carpenter's ''Film/{{Halloween 1978}}'' and helped launch Carpenter's career.
* TitleDrop: Provided textually. Nada comes across some street graffiti stating "They Live. We Sleep." It refers to the aliens who are secretly ruling mankind.
* TookALevelInBadass: Nada learns to use all kinds of firearms, evolving from a normal placeholder into [[TheGunslinger a gunslinger]].
* TrashcanBonfire: There are a number of these burning at night in the homeless camp where Nada finds shelter.
* UseYourHead: When Nada tries to hit Frank on the groin, Frank blocks and he has to headbutt him instead.
* WeirdnessCensor: In the ChewBubblegum scene, notice how the crowd is reacting not to the man with the shotgun bursting into the room, but his declaration of his lack of gum.
* WideEyedIdealist: Nada, interestingly enough (in the beginning anyway).
* WrestlerInAllOfUs: The famous fight ends with a suplex. {{Justified|Trope}}, since it was, of course, Wrestling/RoddyPiper.
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