The film is based on John W. Campbell, Jr.'s novella Who Goes There?, which was more loosely adapted by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby as the 1951 film The Thing from Another World. Carpenter considers The Thing to be the first part of his Apocalypse Trilogy, followed by Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness. Although the films are narratively unrelated, each features a potentially apocalyptic scenario; should "The Thing" ever reach civilization, it would be only a matter of time before it consumes humanity.
On June 25, 1982, The Thing opened #8 in 840 theaters and remained in the top ten box office for three weeks. The lower-than-expected performance has been attributed to many factors, including Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was also released by Universal Studios around the same time and featured a more optimistic view of alien visitation, as well as another popular science fiction film, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, being released on the same day. However, The Thing has gone on to gain a cult following with the release on home video. The film subsequently spawned a novelization in 1982; a comic book miniseries adaptation, entitled The Thing From Another World and published by Dark Horse Comics, in 1991; a video game sequel, also titled The Thing, in 2002; and a prequel film with the same title on October 14, 2011.
- One theory suggests that the alcohol that the two survivors: Childs and MacReady were drinking at the end of the film while succumbing to the elements was actually gasoline from a molotov cocktail; this would be a way to determine which of them was really human, to see which one of them doesn't notice the difference. This means that Childs was really the thing, which is supported by how he lied about Blair's whereabouts. All MacReady can do is sit on and accept the mutually assured destruction of himself and The Thing (at least for the time being). Dark. This is usually regarded as one of the best fan theories.