That Scene From ‘They Live’ (1988)

“Hey, have you seen this movie? What did you think about THAT SCENE?!” We have all used that phrase at one point during our discussions of movies with the other person’s eyebrows raising, “Oh yea, THAT SCENE!” You go on to pick that memorable scene apart by listing what you loved or didn’t like, how it made you feel and the impression it left on you. 

In this series, we will do just that. We will take a scene from a movie and discuss its impact on us. Some of these scenes may be frightening, weird, iconic, controversial, hilarious, and everything in between. Let us know your impression of the scene and the impact it left on you the first time you watched it down below in the comments. Enjoy!

 *Warning: May Contain Spoilers*

Movie: They Live (1988)

Scene: Alley Fight


Director: John Carpenter

Characters: Nada (Rowdy Roddy Piper), Frank (Keith David)


Nada is a drifter who is just trying to make a buck. He gets a construction and befriends a man named Frank who leads him to a place to live in a shanty town. Nada stumbles across a conspiracy that claims aliens enslaving the population and keeping them in a dream-like state. This confirmed when Nada discovers special sunglasses make the world appear black and white, but also reveal subliminal messages in the media to obey, consume, reproduce, and conform. The glasses also reveal that many people are actually aliens with skull-like faces.

Nada mocks an alien female and is then chased by other aliens until he is met by two police officers who happen to be aliens as well. He ends up killing them, steals their weapons, and ends up running into a bank where he sees several employees and others who are aliens. Nada then delivers one fo the best lines of all-time, “I have come here to chew bubble gum, and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubble gum.” He opens fire and kills several aliens.

He returns to an alley where there is a box of glasses and runs into his friend Frank who there to give him his paycheck but also afraid since he has been accused of murder. Nada wants Frank to try on the glasses to prove the alien conspiracy but Frank refuses. This brings us to our scene.



Six minutes. This damn fight goes on for six minutes and it feels like an eternity but I love it. There’s no music. No montage. No people cheering or Mickey yelling, “Get up you, bum!” Simply a brutal no-frills fight that seems as real as it comes for no real reason other than Nada wants Frank to wear the glasses but Frank doesn’t want to wear them. I know a lot of people have tried to put a number of different theories and meanings behind it but ultimately it is just a parody of the ultra machismo action of the 80s.

The longevity and the no real reason behind the fight is what makes it absurd and fantastic at the same time. In a decade full of one muscle-bound man destroying multiple baddies in a span of a few minutes, we get two regular schmo’s slugging it out to near exhaustion barely able to grunt words. The most important question, however, is how does Nada’s flannel shirt never come untucked?

What do you think of this scene? Did you find it intense and well done?

Author: Vincent Kane

I hate things.