They Live: Obey

Posted by Scott

I came across some screencaps from John Carpenter’s 1988 They Live over at the excellent I love Hotdogs blog today (you may remember ILHD from the film titles post) and was immediately struck by the “Obey” scenes. Looks pretty familiar right? Cool to see the inspiration for Shepard Fairey’s Obey Giant campaign, looks like a terrible movie though. Although Roddy Piper cameos are always welcome.

42 Comments Leave A Comment


Diego says:

October 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Cameo? I’m pretty sure Roddy Piper was the star of that movie. That still makes it a terrible movie. But what a ‘tremendously awesome’ terrible movie it is.


kenny says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Roddy Piper was the star, and I think he brought his bubble gum with him. Movie was horrible but in such a good way. You almost need to see it.


Tom Muller says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:04 pm

They Live is an awesome movie. Carpenter at his best.
Best drawn-out fight scene in cinema and of course it gave us the immortal line “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum!”


RA_OUL says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm

This is crazy! I was just looking at this yesterday when I clicked on the Vintage Film Titles post under the Featured Posts section. I remember seeing the post when you first put it on the blog but the image in the section really caught my eye. I went through the entire site and picked 3 movies to watch and They Live was one of them only because I remember Shepard Fairey talking about how he was influenced by the film in a video on youtube e few years ago. I skipped through the movie and it looks hilarious. Maybe over winter break I’ll watch the whole thing for kicks.


Ben says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:15 pm

An absolute classic, both cheesy and brilliant. I’m pretty surprised this is the first time you’ve come across it – you should watch it and let us know what you think!


Bas says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Haha, once saw a part of this for a television course at the university of Amsterdam. Not because of it’s esthetics or something, but to illustrate Marxist theory in a simple way. It looked very eighties in a pretty bad way.


Mark C. says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:45 pm

“…looks like a terrible movie though. Although Roddy Piper cameos are always welcome.”

Lol, I couldn’t have put it better myself! The film does indeed looks cheesy, but I loved “Rowdy Roddy” back then!


Mark C. says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:47 pm

By the way….thanks for providing the link to I Love Hotdogs; I’d never heard of it before now. It’s a really cool site. I’m particularly fond of their coverage of “The Warriors”. I…*LOVE*…that film!!!


Scott says:

October 2, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I surprise myself with lack of movie knowledge all the time. I literally just saw the godfather like last year. I suck at movies big time.


Bee-rye says:

October 2, 2009 at 3:31 pm

The movie’s worth a viewing. It is definitely cheesy, but it brings attention to some class struggle issues in the form of “aliens” which are basically just people who want to keep the status quo at the expense of the meek and downtrodden.

Diluted Marxism mixed with camp and spiced with suplexes.


S.Bros says:

October 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Though often categorized as horror, this is more science fiction… if you had to label it. Campy? You bet… it was the 80’s but yeah, like Bee-rye says, it is an interesting take on class and consumerism as distraction and fetter. The glasses allow people to see “reality” – things as they really are.

Definitely worth viewing… once you get past the first 20 or 30 minutes the underlying message of the film makes up for what to some may be an unpalatable kitsch factor. You can view the entire flick on

Worth the time.


Leigh says:

October 2, 2009 at 6:26 pm

They Live is a fantastic b-movie style film, in fact it’s probably my favourite film. You really must watch it, loads of fun and Roddy Piper actually suits the role.


Scott Hansen Wannabe says:

October 2, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Scott, I’m blown away. I can’t believe you’ve never seen They Live before. It is …. one of the best B films in existence. So good you want to call it an A movie. … and Rowdy Roddy Piper isn’t a cameo – he’s the star bro. I would love to see a remake… but you just couldn’t beat the original. In a coincidence, I was d/l’ing pictures from this the other day for typeface/design ideas. In another coincidence, someone copied the title text “They Live” graffiti, on a bar bathroom wall I saw just last night.

Weird. … maybe Roddy Piper is trying to communicate with us. … send us a message.


Chris says:

October 2, 2009 at 11:34 pm

“Scott, I’m blown away. I can’t believe you’ve never seen They Live before. It is …. one of the best B films in existence. So good you want to call it an A movie”

I second that… out of any set of accomplished designers I’d expect you for sure to be up on this…especially because of the type involved. And what do you mean terrible… the movie OWNED…. like every other film between ’50 and ’99 with a semi sci-fi plot, the actors sucked… but this movie OWNED


ciaran says:

October 3, 2009 at 12:38 am

Loved this film as a kid, regardless of how B-movie it was. The 9 minute long back alley fight scene between Roddy Piper & Keith David was re-created in South Park for Jimmy & Timmy with their cripple fight.


Merr says:

October 3, 2009 at 2:02 am

Terrible movie? Not at all as everyone says!

A bit slow at first but then there’s the longest, most useless and most hilarious fight sequence ever!!

And at least it has a strong message, which many, oh so many nowadays movies lack.




Keith Rondinelli says:

October 3, 2009 at 7:01 am

Scott, I consider “They Live” to be one of the more subversive mainstream motion pictures of the last 30 years. It’s actually very strong, almost revolutionary social commentary posing as a B sci-fi movie. Sure, some of it is a bit cheesy, and the music and other elements haven’t aged well, and the ending is for shit, but it’s pretty damn brilliant, like others have said. A true cult film….


John says:

October 3, 2009 at 7:16 am

man, john carpenter is a master… Gotta appreciate it for what it is. Shephard fairy on the other hand.. Well, he’s good too I suppose…


brian says:

October 3, 2009 at 12:14 pm

has shepard fairey had an original thought in his life?

‘inspiration’ to fairey is ‘mindless appropriation and theft’ to the rest of the world. how does he get away with it?


koneyn says:

October 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

This film is so true that it hurts :) Maybe not so much about the aliens, haha, but the part about propaganda is on the spot.

Just seen it again a few weeks ago, really worth watching!


Francisco says:

October 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I remember i saw this movie when i was living in Chile. I was too young to remember it, but i remember the weird alien faces. it freaked me out.



kerk says:

October 3, 2009 at 7:35 pm

well i found also one of his illustration to be “stolen” from other original work. in fact that original work is part of creative campaign (not some photo stock stuff)


Anonymous says:

October 3, 2009 at 7:36 pm

OBEY is such a great word.When said in person it has so much potential it’s ridiculous. I also love the way it looks on paper…almost Russian…Ukraine,…Eastern Block son…


Tardlovski says:

October 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm

you guys are crazy to say they live is a terrible movie. it’s amazing. yes it has it’s cheese moments, but it’s classic status.

-ps…i used to hate on shepherd but really i think he’s one of the cleverest dudes out there. now i find it very amusing to see people hating on him with the thinnest critiques you can imagine. personally i think his politics are a better target if you really want to waste your breath.


Neil Hamilton says:

October 5, 2009 at 2:07 am

On the subject of JC, I watched Escape from New York last night and was blown away….forgot how classic a movie it was. The bleak futuristic outlook that JC conjures up matched with an excellent retro synth soundtrack make for a real atmospheric feature film…they just cant make them the was they used to


aaron rayburn says:

October 5, 2009 at 9:44 am

Rowdy Roddy Piper is the main character, not a cameo. And Shephard admits to the inspiration in his supply and demand book. It’s in the first 20 or so pagers.


David says:

October 6, 2009 at 1:01 pm

To all the people calling Fairey a hack/plagiarist:

Have you ever noticed that you never see any well-established, respected artists criticizing Fairey, including the artist whose blog you are reading? Your comments are obvious jealousy of his success. You all wish you had come up the idea to “rip off” a design and get famous/rich from it like he did. He’s the most easy-to-hate artist currently living, why don’t you go pick a less obvious target or actually do something constructive.


Fredee says:

October 7, 2009 at 8:06 am

Yeah! Here’s an original idea: Try ripping off an unknown, you know like a hobbyist or someone, well, unknown! Plenty of them post stuff on Flickr and other sites like that. Some of them have websites and portfolios and stuff. Anyway, there must be thousands, no, millions of such unsuspecting fools! And here’s the best part: they won’t have a clue, and they’ll never know! Yee haa! …….


glen says:

November 10, 2009 at 8:21 am

Saw They Live in the theater when it came out back in the day. Horribly good (or goodly horrible). About on the same level as CHUDD (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers), starring the wirey-haired Joe Pesci sidekick from Home Alone.