The film is a coming of age drama centred on four friends in 50s America who, after overhearing a conversation from local gang about finding the body of a missing boy, decide to go on a journey to find the body and become heroes.
An ode to my favourite film of all time, here are the reasons why everyone you should see Stand By Me.
1. River Phoenix.
This is a film filled with amazing performances which I will go on to later. But arguably the best is River Phoenix as the tough but sensitive leader of the gang, Chris Chambers. He gives a sensitive and mature performance especially in the scene where he tell his best friend Gordie about the adults in his life and how they have all let him down. This is a boy who can see how his life could turn out and wants to change it but doesn’t know if anyone will let him do so. It’s a breathtakingly turn by Phoenix and given his untimely death at a young age a tragic example of how good he could have been.
2. The chemistry between the four boys.
Stand By Me is essentially at heart a coming of age tale looking back on the last time the four main characters really spent together before life inevitably gets in the way. The four leads are amazing together, Chris the leader (Phoenix), Gordie the smart one (Will Wheaton), Vern the funny guy (Jerry O’Connell-no really!) and Teddy the weird, angry one (Corey Feldman). Despite each character being so different they make a believable group of friends and you want to come along on their journey. The actors were made to hang out together before filming so that their chemistry would be more believable and it works-I wanted to be part of their gang!
3. The kids actually behave like real kids!
They smoke! They swear! They argue about who would win in a fight- Superman or Mighty Mouse! (Ok I still have arguments like that even as an adult) I remember this being one of the first films I watched where the kids’ conversations sounded real. I was even more surprised that most of the dialogue in the film is taken almost word for word from the source novella The Body by Stephen King (one of his few non-horror works). Kudos to the director for keeping to the book and letting the kids actually speak like kids.
4. That Line
There are also so many good quotes in this film but one of the best and most quoted is Gordie’s epic line to Ace “ suck my fat one you cheap dime store hood”. Brilliant!
5. The train scene
While on their journey Vern and Gordie have to run over across a bridge to get away from an oncoming train. According to the DVD commentary the director Rob Renier couldn’t get the reaction he wanted from O’Connell and Wheaton. So he shouted at the boys to make them cry then set the cameras rolling. It’s no wonder they look genuinely upset. Even now the scene still makes me tense as I’m shouting for them to hurry up!
6. Kiefer Sutherland
This film, as well as The Lost Boys and 24, cemented my belief that Kiefer Sutherland is one of the coolest people ever! (On screen at least- having never met him in real life I cannot possibly comment on whether he is as cool off screen). He was only in his late teens when he filmed his breakthrough role in Stand By Me. He plays Ace, the local bully whose is also looking for the same body (and potential reward and fame as our heroes). He is menacing and threatening without going too over the top. See the scene where he first taunts Chris and Gordie, stealing Gordie’s hat belonging to Gordie’s deceased older brother, there’s no compassion or feeling there. He is the villain and we despise the character but something about Sutherland’s performance draws you to him and makes you compelled to watch what he’ll do next. Stunning.
7. The laughs
As I’ve said the boys conversations are not only realistic but funny and the whole film is full of these moments. The dreaded stories about Chopper the dog (“Chopper! Sic balls!”) and his reveal. The leeches-although probably not so funny when it comes to poor Gordie! One of the best moments is Gordie’s story he tells to the others about a young fat boy who enters a pie eating contest to take revenge on those around him. This manages to be disgusting and hilarious at the same time, while also establishing young Gordie’s talents as a storyteller and why Chris believes so much in him and his potential future.
8. The tears
For me, the scene that breaks my heart is Chris and Gordie’s talk of the future. Chris is trying to tell Gordie that he deserves better than the way his father treats him, telling him “I wish I was your father” because he cares so much about his friend’s future and doesn’t want him to waste his life away. Gordie in turns tries to make Chris see that he too could have a life away from his family and the people who don’t believe in him, leading to an emotional scene where Chris breaks down and cries, wishing he could go where nobody knows him. He doesn’t believe anyone would let him be different even if he wanted to. It’s a heartbreaking scene played well by both actors. Despite the drama and the laughs, the film doesn’t lose its emotional grip on you and if you haven’t cried at some point by the end of the film you’re probably dead inside.
9. The Music
As well as being my favourite film it also features my favourite song of the same name. A hit the first time around “Stand By Me” by B.E. King was an even bigger hit the second time around being rereleased in time with the film. It even got to number one here in the UK. A soulful, heartfelt song that sends shivers down my spine. The film is also full of great songs from the 50s to help get you into the era. I also love the part where the boys sing along to ‘Lollipop’ as they’re making their way along the tracks.
10. Its as good now as when I first saw it
I’ve seen this film many times since I was a kid and it still has the same effect on me now as it did then. If anything it gets more poignant as you can look back at your own childhood. You remember the friends you had, the adults that let you down and being able to enjoy the long days of summer before you have to grow up. It’s a film that about looking back and ultimately about friendship. It’s a classic film that deserves to be seen and remembered for generations to come.