While Stephen King might be known for writing terrifying stories that later get adapted into horror films like The Shining and It, the world’s most famous horror writer has also written a handful of delightful literary classics, including the semi-autobiographical novella The Body, which was developed into a film by Rob Reiner called Stand By Me.
The classic film, Stand By Me, remains one of the best Stephen King adaptations, and it’s now streaming on Netflix.
This coming-of-age story isn’t scary like most of King’s other works; instead, it’s charming, real, and relatable. And for those who haven’t seen this cinematic classic — or who have seen it and want to revisit it again — this 1986 feature film is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Stand By Me is a timeless exploration of friendship, self-discovery, and the transformative power of youthful bonds. The film takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Oregon, in 1959 and boasts a stellar cast, including Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell.
At its core, Stand by Me is a narrative framed by nostalgia, as writer Gordon “Gordie” Lachance reflects on a fateful adventure from his childhood. Gordie, along with his best friend Chris Chambers and two other buddies, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio, embarks on a journey to find the body of a missing boy named Ray Brower.
The young boys hear a rumor of where the body might be and see this as an opportunity to become local heroes, setting out on a hike that leads them through a series of physical and emotional challenges. Along the way, they encounter the adventures that make up the majority of Stand By Me’s plot as they confront local hoodlums, face the dangers of a railroad bridge, and endure a leech-infested swamp. These trials meet the promise of any good coming-of-age story as their experiences strengthen their bonds and lead to profound moments of self-discovery.
As the boys navigate the perils of their journey, Stand By Me delves into their individual struggles and insecurities. Gordie, portrayed by Wil Wheaton, grapples with feelings of neglect from his parents, who are still mourning the loss of his older brother, Denny. River Phoenix’s character, Chris Chambers, bears the weight of his family’s tarnished reputation stemming from a stolen school fund incident.
Stand By Me made $52 million at the box office, blowing away its budget of $8 million, and has remained a cultural touchstone ever since.
Corey Feldman brings to life Teddy Duchamp, a boy scarred by his abusive father’s actions during a wartime incident, and Jerry O’Connell plays Vern Tessio, who stumbles into the adventure but finds his own voice and courage in the process.
These characters’ growth and the deepening of their friendships make Stand By Me one of the best coming-of-age stories of all time. Gordie’s journey, in particular, is a poignant exploration of a young boy’s quest for self-esteem and his passion for writing. As a pillar of support, Chris encourages Gordie to pursue his dream despite his father’s disapproval. Through these meaningful relationships, the boys find their identities and grow into young men.
As Stand By Me’s narrative unfolds, we witness both the adventure and its aftermath. In the present day, Gordie, now an adult and a successful writer, reflects on the fate of his childhood friends. Vern and Teddy went their separate ways after junior high, with Vern embracing family life and Teddy facing setbacks in his attempt to join the Army. Chris, the beacon of hope and strength, pursued higher education and became a lawyer but met a tragic end while trying to intervene in a fight.
Stephen King considers Stand By Me to be his favorite movie adapted from his own work, and it’s also director Rob Reiner’s favorite film that he’s done.
It’s the closing words in Stnad By Me that stay with the audience long after the screen has been turned off. Gordie says, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” summarizing the universal sentiment that the friendships created during adolescence hold a special and irreplaceable place in one’s heart.
While Stand By Me received mixed reviews after its release, it was a box office success and has gone down in history as one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time. It’s also Stephen King’s favorite movie adapted from his work, and the author was so moved by the film that after watching it, he famously had to take 15 minutes to compose himself before remarking on it. Additionally, it’s also Rob Reiner’s favorite movie out of his own filmography.