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They Live movie titles

Contributed by Toshi Omagari on Oct 31st, 2017. Artwork published in
November 1988
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    They Live is among the best films that use typography for storytelling. The aliens are invading the earth, constantly sending subliminal messages to humans hidden in advertisements. Aliens themselves are taking over the planet on site, disguised as humans. The protagonists learn the truth after wearing a special pair of sunglasses that reveals the disguise.

    The hidden messages are done in bold sans serif. Lettering in matte paintings are done by hand but props are using typefaces, either Tempo or Twentieth Century (despite one might think of Futura as primary example of geometric sans, it seems to never appear), or several unidentified condensed grotesques. The typography seems to reflect corporate advertising of the ’70s and ’80s, where strong bold sans was a common sight, and brilliantly ties into Carpenter’s commentary on consumerism.

    The film opens and ends with Albertus, John Carpenter’s staple typeface. Titles and opticals by Pacific Title.

    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.

    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Twentieth Century.

    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    STAY ASLEEP is set in Tempo. OBEY is unidentified.

    Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 12.57.57.png
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.


    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.


    • Albertus
    • Twentieth Century
    • Tempo




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    3 Comments on “They Live movie titles”

    1. Nov 2nd, 2017  9:59 am

      The ‘G’ suggests that the signs (“No independent thought”, “Consume”) indeed are in Twentieth Century Ultrabold. Tempo Black is different. Photo-Lettering, Inc.’s version of Twentieth Century was named Futura Graphic. It recently came up here.

    2. Nov 2nd, 2017  11:45 am

      “Consume” is indeed Twentieth Century (caption fixed), but I think “STAY ASLEEP” is set in Tempo, because there was another sample which appears to be set in Tempo (I did not upload it due to the six images limit). “THIS IS YOUR GOD” around 3:10 in this video: 

    3. Nov 2nd, 2017  12:04 pm

      Oh, I see! Thank you, Toshi. I have readded Tempo to the typeface credits and also appended an image for “THIS IS YOUR GOD” (Sh, the limit of six images is not a hard one, rather a recommendation).

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