Stand by Me (film)

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Stand by Me
Stand By Me 1986 American Theatrical Release Poster.jpg
American theatrical release poster, August 1986
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by
Written by
  • Bruce A. Evans
  • Raynold Gideon
Based on The Body 
by Stephen King
Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Thomas Del Ruth
Edited by Robert Leighton
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 8, 1986 (1986-08-08)
Running time
88 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[2]
Box office $52.3 million[2]

Stand by Me is a 1986 American coming-of-age comedy-drama adventure film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell. The film, whose plot is based on Stephen King's novella The Body (1982) and title is derived from the Ben E. King's eponymous song, which plays over the opening and ending credits, tells the story of four boys in small town Oregon who go on a hike across the countryside to find the dead body of a missing child.


Author Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) writes about a childhood incident when he and three buddies undertook a journey to find the body of a missing boy near the town of Castle Rock, Oregon, over Labor Day weekend in 1959.

Young Gordie (Wil Wheaton) is a quiet, bookish boy with a penchant for writing and telling stories. His parents, grieving the recent death of Gordie's older brother Denny (John Cusack), neglect their youngest son. To cope, Gordie spends much time with his friends: Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), whose relatives are criminals and alcoholics; Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), an eccentric and physically scarred boy; and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell), who is overweight and timid, and thus the frequent target of bullying.

Vern overhears his older brother, Billy (Casey Siemaszko), and Billy's friend, Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley), discussing Ray Brower, a young boy who was reportedly struck and killed by a train. They want to search for the body, but Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern decide to follow the train tracks and find Ray first, to become local heroes. Chris steals his father's M1911 pistol, and he, Gordie, Vern, and Teddy head out.

The boys stop at a nearby junkyard to drink from its water pump. The junkyard owner is notorious around Castle Rock for owning a vicious and rarely seen dog, Chopper, famous for attacking certain parts of the human anatomy. The boys hang out in the junkyard for a while, then they send Gordie out to buy food at a nearby general store. When Gordie returns, he sees his friends jumping the fence. Gordie walks over to join them, but Milo Pressman (William Bronder), the junkman, spots him and sends Chopper after him. Gordie runs and jumps the fence, with Chopper in close pursuit, barely escaping the dog. The boys discover that Chopper is a small dog and could easily be overthrown by an adolescent. They tease Chopper, but Pressman arrives and calls Teddy's father a loony, inciting Teddy's rage and requiring the other boys to keep him from killing Pressman. Teddy is saddened by the insult, and Vern, Chris and Gordie console him.

At nighttime, Gordie tells the other boys a story of Davie "Lard-Ass" Hogan (Andy Lindberg), an overweight boy who is constantly teased and bullied. He was born with a glandular condition which made him obese, resulting in other kids and family members ridiculing and teasing him. Hogan enters a pie-eating contest, but his main goal was not to win, but to exact revenge. Prior to the contest, Hogan had consumed castor oil and a raw egg, as emetics, planning to vomit on one of the other contestants and trigger a chain reaction comprising every witness vomiting, including the bullies who had abused him earlier. After eating a fifth pie, he vomits, inducing the vomiting of all the crowd members, resulting in humiliating and embarrassing his tormentors. Gordie's friends are impressed with the story, but Teddy is disappointed with the ending.

After a series of misadventures and much self-revelation, the boys locate the body. However, local hoodlum "Ace" Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang, including Chris' older brother "Eyeball" (Bradley Gregg), Billy, Charlie, Vince Desjardins (Jason Oliver), and two other gang members, arrive in cars to claim the body and the credit for finding it. When Chris refuses to step aside, Ace pulls out his switchblade with intent to kill him and Chris' friends, but Gordie intervenes and threatens to shoot Ace with his pistol. Outmatched, Ace and his gang retreat, but not before Ace vows to exact revenge on the boys.

The boys agree to report the body via an anonymous phone call to the authorities. They hike back to Castle Rock and bid each other farewell until they see each other in a few days, at junior high school.

The present-day Gordie writes that while he and Chris remained friends, they drifted apart from the other two boys shortly after that day. Gordie notes how everyone's life turned out: Vern married immediately after high school, has four children, and drives a forklift at a local lumber yard. Teddy tried enlisting in the army but was turned down because of his ear injury and impaired eyesight; he had served some time in prison and now does odd jobs around Castle Rock. Chris went on to college and became a lawyer; when attempting to break up a fight in a fast-food restaurant, he was fatally stabbed in the neck.

The film ends with Gordie finishing his memoir after his son asks him, again, if he is going to take the boys swimming. After typing the memoir's last words into his computer, Gordie goes outside of his opulent home, and drives away with his son and his son's friend in his Series II Land Rover (109 inch LWB), indicating the author is financially successful.



In a 2011 interview with NPR, Wheaton attributed the film's success to the director's casting choices:

Rob Reiner found four young boys who basically were the characters we played. I was awkward and nerdy and shy and uncomfortable in my own skin and really, really sensitive, and River was cool and really smart and passionate and even at that age kind of like a father figure to some of us, Jerry was one of the funniest people I had ever seen in my life, either before or since, and Corey was unbelievably angry and in an incredible amount of pain and had an absolutely terrible relationship with his parents.[3]

Parts of the film were shot in Brownsville, Oregon, which stood in for the fictional town of Castle Rock. The town was selected for its small town, 1950s ambience.[4] Scenes that include the "mailbox baseball" game and the junkyard scenes were filmed in Veneta, Oregon. The junkyard is still in operation. The town fondly remembers the making of the movie in June and July 1985, in which approximately 100 local residents were employed as extras, and since 2007 has held an annual Stand By Me Day each July which has drawn international attendees.[4]

The campout/standing guard scene was filmed in Eugene, Oregon, just a few miles from Veneta. The general store is in Franklin, Oregon, just north of Veneta. Scenes along the railroad tracks were shot near Cottage Grove, Oregon, along the right-of-way of the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railway, now used as the Row River National Recreation Trail.

The scene where the boys outrace a locomotive across an 80-foot tall trestle was filmed on the McCloud River Railroad, above Lake Britton Reservoir, near McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park in California.[5] The scene took a full week of shooting, making use of four small adult female stunt doubles with closely cropped hair, made up to look like the film's protagonists.[5] Plywood planks were laid across the trestles to provide a safer surface on which the stunt doubles could run.[5]


In March 1986, Columbia Pictures, concerned that the original title, The Body, was misleading, renamed the film Stand by Me. According to screenwriter Raynold Gideon, " sounded like either a sex film, a bodybuilding film or another Stephen King horror film. Rob came up with Stand by Me, and it ended up being the least unpopular option."[6]


Jack Nitzsche composed the film's musical score. On August 8, 1986, a soundtrack album was released containing many of the 1950s and early 1960s classic rock songs featured in the film:

  1. "Everyday" (Buddy Holly) – 2:07
  2. "Let the Good Times Roll" (Shirley and Lee) – 2:22
  3. "Come Go with Me" (The Del-Vikings) – 2:40
  4. "Whispering Bells" (The Del-Vikings) – 2:25
  5. "Get a Job" (The Silhouettes) – 2:44
  6. "Lollipop" (The Chordettes) – 2:09
  7. "Yakety Yak" (The Coasters) – 1:52
  8. "Great Balls of Fire" (Jerry Lee Lewis) – 1:52
  9. "Mr. Lee" (The Bobbettes) – 2:14
  10. "Stand by Me" (Ben E. King) – 2:55


Box office[edit]

The film was a box office success in North America. It opened in a limited release on August 8, 1986 in 16 theaters and grossed $242,795, averaging $15,174 per theater. The film then had its wide opening in 745 theaters on August 22 and grossed $3,812,093, averaging $5,116 per theater and ranking #2. The film's widest release was 848 theaters, and it ended up earning $52,287,414 overall, well above its $8 million budget.[7]

Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 91% of 53 surveyed critics gave the film a positive rating; the average rating was 8/10.[8]

Stephen King, whose novella this film was adapted from, was very impressed with the finished result[9] and indicated, on the special features of the 25th anniversary Blu-ray set, that he considered the film to be the first successful translation to film of any of his works.




In 1987, following the success of Stand by Me, Reiner co-founded a film and television production company and named it Castle Rock Entertainment, after the fictional setting of the story.[9]

On July 24, 2010, a 25th Anniversary Celebration of the filming of Stand by Me was held in Brownsville, Oregon. The event included a cast and crew Q&A session, an amateur blueberry pie eating contest, and an outdoor showing of the film.[13]

The opening track to the seventh album of the Welsh post hardcore band, Funeral for a Friend, titled Chapter and Verse, makes reference to Stand by Me with the line: "I've sat and watched Stand by Me for the millionth time, it's a lifeline. I wish I was Chris Chambers, but in truth I'm more like Vern".

The song "Rows of houses" by Dan Mangan is based on this movie

In Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, Stand By Me is the film playing on the television set at the player character's house. The description reads, "There's a movie on TV. Four boys are walking down a railroad track." This reference is retained in the remakes Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen if the player's character is male; if the player's character is female, the TV is instead playing The Wizard of Oz.


  1. ^ "STAND BY ME (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 12, 1986. Retrieved August 15, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Stand by Me". The Numbers. Retrieved 2015-01-06. 
  3. ^ Wheaton, Wil (August 6, 2011). All Things Considered. Interview with David Greene. National Public Radio. WNPR. Meriden, Connecticut. Retrieved August 6, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Alex Paul, "The Resident Expert: Linda McCormick Can Tell You All About the Film 'Stand by Me,'" Albany Democrat-Herald, July 20, 2016; special section, pg. S2.
  5. ^ a b c Alex Paul, Bend Attorney Helped Drive 'Stand By Me' Train," Albany Democrat-Herald, July 20, 2016; special section, pp. S3, S8.
  6. ^ Stand By Me DVD Booklet. Columbia TriStar Home Video. 2000. 
  7. ^ "Stand by Me (1986) - Box Office Mojo". 
  8. ^ "Stand by Me (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-01-06. 
  9. ^ a b Herman, Karen. Interview with Rob Reiner. Archive of American Television (November 29, 2004).
  10. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  11. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees
  12. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  13. ^ Paul, Alex (July 10, 2010). "'Stand By Me' festival slated". Albany Democrat-Herald. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 

External links[edit]