"I have come to kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of bubble gum."
- John Nada (Roddy Piper)
Los Angeles Times - 11/04/1988
"...Carpenter and his team seem to be having lots of fun. THEY LIVE, one of his best films, has the paranoid buildup of THE THING or HALLOWEEN..."
Entertainment Weekly - 05/23/2003
"...With this goofy bit of sci-fi, Carpenter reached the height of subversive absurdity..."
Total Film - 10/01/2000
"...John Carpenter's last decent film is cartoonish, high-concept sci-fi with a heavy hint of politics..."
John Nada (Roddy Piper) is a quiet loner, a drifter who gets work where ever he can find it. While working on a construction site in L.A. and sleeping in a vagrant community at night, John stumbles upon a secret society of alien beings who pose as wealthy and powerful people in human society. John joins a rebel group commited to exposing this conspiracy, and becomes their reluctant leader and the only hope of the human race. Former wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper is outstanding as the unassuming hero, playing the role with understated shock at what he uncovers and stubborn courage when he confronts it. Director John Carpenter laces the film with his trademark blend of humor and horror, making aliens that are hideously arrogant, greedy, and easy to hate, while the humans are confused and desperate in their struggle against them. The world looks a little different at the end of THEY LIVE, and one will never look at billboards, money, or sunglasses the same way again. The film contains the longest, and perhaps most realistic, fist fight in film history. Paying homage to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the film was based on the short story EIGHT O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING by Ray Nelson.
Aimless drifter John Nada finds work as a construction worker in Los Angeles, where a wide gulf separates the upper classes from the working classes. After donning a pair of special sunglasses, Nada discovers that many of society's elite are not humans, but aliens who control humanity through subliminal messages. Now he's the only one who can save the Earth from these villainous invaders.
The fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David lasts over eight minutes, making it the longest single fist fight scene in cinema history outside of boxing movies. The fight was intended to last under a minute, but Piper and David really started to fight during the sequence. Director John Carpenter thought it looked, so good he kept most of it intact.
Frank Armitage, the credited writer for THEY LIVE, is really John Carpenter.
THEY LIVE was former pro wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper's first starring role in a film. He said it was much easier than wrestling.
The infamous "chew bubblegum and kick ass" line was improvised by Roddy Piper.