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They Live movie titles

Contributed by Toshi Omagari on Oct 31st, 2017. Artwork published in
November 1988
.
    They Live movie titles 1
    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.

    They Live movie titles 2
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.
    They Live movie titles 3
    License: All Rights Reserved.
    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.

    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Twentieth Century.

    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    STAY ASLEEP is set in Tempo. OBEY is unidentified. Fonts In Use reader Robie notes that Classroom JNL by Jeff Levine is a match. This font wasn’t released before 2009, though.

    Twentieth Century Ultrabold.
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Tempo

    They Live movie titles 8
    Universal Pictures. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Typefaces

    • Albertus
    • Twentieth Century
    • Tempo

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    5 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).

    4. AmazingRobie says:
      Oct 2nd, 2019  7:37 pm

      The unidentified font in the image above of an open magazine which reads 'OBEY’ is 'Classroom JNL’ by Jeff Levine.

      www.myfonts.com/fonts/jnlev…

    5. Oct 2nd, 2019  7:42 pm

      Hi Robie, thanks for your comment! Classroom JNL indeed looks like a match. The catch is that this digital font was not released before 2009. It might be based on the same source, though. Levine writes:

      A set of old die-cut cardboard letters and numbers used by teachers directly on bulletin boards or for tracing was the inspiration for Classroom JNL. In turn, these letters take their cue from typefaces such as Franklin and earlier wood type designs.

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