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.
“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:
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).
Contributed by Stephen Coles
Contributed by Anna Giedryś
Contributed by Tessa van der Waals