- Adaptation Displacement: The plot originally comes from a Science Fiction short story involving a man who can see the messages after being hypnotized. The aliens in there also eat humans.
- Anvilicious: In spades. Yet given the number of right-wing personalities who see the film as anti-liberal and anti-socialist, or even as anti-Semitic, it may have still turned out to be too subtle for some people.
- Cult Classic: Make no mistake, this movie isn't for everyone - it isn't the most fast-paced, the fight scene goes on a bit (maybe more than a bit), its social commentary isn't subtle - but it has a devoted following of both sci-fi fans and action fans. There's a reason you still see the OBEY signs everywhere.
- Harsher in Hindsight: The preponderance of mass shootings since the film's release can create some uncomfortable overtones to scenes where Nada bursts into crowded public areas and starts shooting at incognito aliens.
- Heartwarming Moments: After Nada has gunned down a bunch of aliens masquerading as cops, a human cop cowers before him. Nada tells him, "Beat your feet", allowing him to run away unharmed.
- Just Here for Godzilla: Old school Professional Wrestling fans, of course, watch to see Roddy Piper be an action hero.
- Memetic Mutation:
- The expression "I have come here to Chew Bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum" existed before this film, but virtually every subsequent use finds its ancestry to this film.
- The subliminal OBEY/CONSUME/etc signs have been remixed all over the place, notably into Shepard Fairey's OBEY GIANT campaign (which uses the likeness of Piper's fellow WWE wrestler André the Giant).
- This edit◊ is pretty popular among anti-bronies.
- Misaimed Fandom:
- Naturally, given that it's a film about shadowy elites ruling the world from behind the scenes, Conspiracy Theorists have taken a significant liking to it. Carpenter insists that it's a satire of '80s yuppie capitalism run amok, and has told neo-Nazi fans of the film (who read a specifically anti-Semitic meaning into it) to go piss right the hell off.
- A lot of conservatives read this movie as anti-socialist, mostly as an offshoot of "elites = liberals, liberals = socialists" line of thinking. Nevermind the fact that the whole thing is a criticism of an overly capitalist society (and, by Word of God, satire of the Reagan administration's consumerist society), and that the heroes are branded as Dirty Commies.
- [puts on sunglasses]: this film is unmistakably anti-globalist.
- Narm: Holly's wide-eyed nervous stare becomes this after a while, thanks to an infamously flat performance from Meg Foster.
- "Life's a bitch, and she's back in heat."
- The fistfight goes on so long, it becomes hilarious. Could be Narm Charm just as easily. Also entirely possible this was intentional!
- Older Than They Think: The plot revolves around creatures that have infiltrated the human race by making themselves look indistinguishable from us and posing as benevolent members of our society. With the help of at least one other human ally, our hero finds out about these grotesque foes, thereby learning how to identify them and how to protect himself and other humans. Eventually, he stumbles upon a secret meeting of the monsters (along with a human who was previously unaware of their existence). After one of the monsters at the meeting gives a speech detailing their plans, the hero discovers an enemy weapon that he hijacks to deal a debilitating blow to the inhuman enemies. Although he and the other human who witness the meeting have their lifespans severely shortened from the encounter, the hero considers it a worthy sacrifice since he enabled humanity to defeat the infiltrators...Yeah, sorry John Carpenter, but it looks like a certain other master of scares beat you to it.
- Paranoia Fuel: The whole point, in a way. That commercial you just saw on television ... just a commercial or a subliminal message telling you to "OBEY" and "CONFORM"?
- Signature Scene: The alley fight.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: By many people's assertion, there were a lot of things wrong with 1980s American consumerism.
- Special Effects Failure: A lot of the actors have to wear rubber masks that are completely inarticulate, especially the "What's wrong, baby" ending.
- Too Cool to Live: Nada and Frank.
- Values Resonance: The only things outdated in this film are the hairstyles.
- What an Idiot!: Nada is an everyman with little apparent education and limited skills. When confronted by a massive alien conspiracy in the heart of modern society, he simply starts shouting at people around him that he sees aliens and shooting at them. Some audience members might hope for a lead who acts more strategically, but this isn't that sort of movie.
YMMV / They Live