Universal Pictures | Release Date: November 4, 1988 CRITIC SCORE DISTRIBUTION
Mixed or average reviews based on 22 Critic Reviews
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Has its share of underthought or overwrought moments. The tone keeps shifting radically. It has some silly lines, plot lapses and goofball action scenes. But you can forgive the movie everything because of the sheer nasty pizazz of its central concept. [4 Nov 1988]
The looniest movie of the season and also one of the most engaging. [7 Nov 1988]
once Carpenter delivers his throwback-to-the-'50s visuals, complete with plump little B-movie flying saucers, and makes his point that the rich are fascist fiends, They Live starts running low on imagination and inventiveness. The big alley-fight scene between Piper and David, in which the former tries to punch some awareness into the latter and make him put on the X-ray sunglasses, is as contrived as it is brutal. And the ending isn't much. The acting has the good sense not to try to be anything more than two-dimensional, though, which keeps the entertainment value at a lively comic-strip level. As sci-fi horror comedy, "They Live," with its wake-up call to the world, is in a class with "Terminator" and "Robocop," even though its hero doesn't sport bionic biceps. [4 Nov 1988, p.52]
At his wittiest, Carpenter is very funny indeed, and the undisguised commentary of They Live is as entertaining as it is pointed. But at his clunkiest, Carpenter directs with all the deftness of a hod-carrier, and his set pieces drop like bricks -- wham!, plop! [9 Nov 1988, p.D6]
They Live has such a clever idea, it's disappointing that scenarist Frank Armitage and director John Carpenter did so little with it. It's like a ``Twilight Zone'' tale inflated from 30 minutes to 90. Or like a film made from a rough draft. [9 Nov 1988, p.C06]
Live dies around the time Carpenter allows 10 minutes of gratuitous Piper-David eye-gouging, an apparent bone to wrestling fans. Forget the amusing premise; a full crate of magic glasses couldn't make this a bearable movie. [7 Nov 1988]
From its eccentric score (a mix of spaghetti western and funky blues) to its bizarre casting (ex-wrestlemanaic Roddy Piper in the lead role), the flick leaves us off-balance and guessing. By the time we figure out there's not much to guess at, the credits roll by and the jig is up. [5 Nov 1988]
Mr. Carpenter has directed the film with B-movie bluntness, but with none of the requisite snap. And his screenplay (written under the pseudonym Frank Armitage) makes the principals sound even more tongue-tied than they have to. [4 Nov 1988, p.C8]
Typical of some of the absurd moments in this film is a long drawn-out fist fight between the hero and Frank, who almost kill each other because Frank is too proud to try on the magic dark glasses. It is completely stupid. [5 Nov 1988]