Stand by Me 1986 Movie Scene Four friends about the cross the train bridge not knowing that the train is right behind them

Stand by Me [1986]

Widely considered as one of the best coming-of-age movies ever released, Stand by Me is a masterpiece everybody needs to see at least once. And this is coming from someone who has seen it for the first time just last week. Yes, it is true, despite being born in the eighties and loving all the classic movies from this decade, I haven’t seen this one. I consistently avoided it for unknown reasons. I felt it was outdated, depressing, and ultimately meaningless. The story is set during the fifties as we follow four best friends on a pretty macabre adventure. You see, one of them has heard that there’s a dead body of a young boy in the woods and now all four of them want to see that.

They’ll have to walk for two days if they want to get to that place in the woods. And the adventure begins. So, just think Lord of the Rings minus the ring and plus one dead kid. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Stand by Me is a movie based on Stephen King’s short story The Body. You can expect all the usual King stuff but without a horror element. You could argue that the horror is in the minds of these kids and young adults who also appear but more about that later. What you need to know, if you haven’t seen this movie, is that it’s short, gripping, and pacey. However, there are also all these additional and highly thought-provoking layers for you to enjoy and think about.

It’s interesting how this movie can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The main theme is friendship although all the coming-of-age stuff is also omnipresent. The first brush with the harsh realities of life happens during your teen years. And it stays with you. We also have this sense of adventure and a clear and satisfying story structure. Stand by Me is also a movie about life in general that helps you frame your own experiences and thoughts into a coherent pattern. It feels almost educational as it explores a variety of different and still very relevant issues.

The approach to these issues is honest, rational, and intelligent. It also doesn’t shy away from the ugly stuff. This brings us to the fact that a movie like Stand by Me simply would not be even considered for an adaptation today. Moreover, it certainly wouldn’t get the extraordinary director Rob Reiner who was willing to go there. To go where you might ask yourself right now if you haven’t seen the movie. Well, this morbid obsession with a dead body is the first clue that this movie is gangsta. Secondly, there will be a lot of swear words, kids smoking cigarettes, and bullying. And it will all be quite realistic for the year of our lord Cthulhu 1959, the year when the main story takes place.

I mean, we’re talking about an R-rated coming-of-age movie featuring four very young protagonists. And we will see their lives through an honest and unflinching lens that simply would not fly today with the money-grabbing studio execs. It was also so strange watching these four boys spend their childhood days without any form of technology. There are no mobile phones, computers, or any of the modern gadgets. Moreover, these boys live in a rural area, far away from the big cities. I kept thinking how this way of life is so visually different from my classic urban city upbringing. I say visually because most of the events and concepts from this movie can be translated into an urban environment.

It’s themes like this that make Stand by Me, a movie you can talk about for hours. It’s not just nostalgia porn for old people like I used to think it is. Of course, our young cast led by Wil Wheaton (Star Trek) was simply stellar. River Phoenix gave probably the best performance as tough Chris while quirky Corey Feldman and almost unrecognizable Jerry O’Connell were just as good. We’ve also got Kiefer Sutherland having a lot of fun with his psychotic bad-boy character. Finally, I have to add that Stand by Me feels like the first modern dramedy although I’m sure there are many others.

Director: Rob Reiner

Writers: Stephen King, Raynold Gideon. Bruce A. Evans

Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss

Fun Facts: Stand by Me features a infamous leach scene which also appears in the original novel. Stephen King said that the same thing happened to him while he was growing up in a rural Maine. During that same time period, young Stephen saw one of his friends get hit by a train and die instantly. Something that’s a key part of the plot in this movie. However, Stephen doesn’t recall this event from his childhood. Probably because of the trauma.


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