Stand by Me (1986)

Four adolescent boys strike out in search of a missing contemporary in a baby boomer coming-of-age story told with assured, nostalgic charm.

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Alternative titles

  • The Body Working


“These boys are very knowing... They’re like a pastoral support group, quick to perceive signs of trouble and lay gentle, firm hands on needy shoulders. That’s what softens everything in this movie, purifies it, makes it lyrical and synthetic.”
Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, 1986
Most Stephen King adaptations trade on thrills and chills (Carrie, The Shining, Misery), but a few adeptly transfer his nostalgic and sometimes sentimental but affecting tales of characters facing less supernatural adversity. The outstanding example is Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me.

Set in 1959, the bittersweet picaresque tale follows four well-delineated and well-cast young adolescent friends (Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell) who set off across country in search of the corpse of a boy their age, killed by a train. The film appealed immediately both to baby boomers approaching middle age, who saw their young selves in the film’s characters, and to their children’s generation, struck by a story of loyal friendship. It has remained popular ever since.

Stand by Me is part of a cycle of mid-1980s pals’ adventure yarns including The Goonies (1985), also with Corey Feldman. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is the most notable non-supernatural Stephen King adaptation.

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