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 drama adventure film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell. Based on the novella The Body, written by Stephen King, the title is derived from the Ben E. King song of the same name, which plays over the end credits. The film tells the story of four boys who go on a hike across the countryside to find the dead body of a missing child.


In 1985, after reading a newspaper article about the death of a man named Chris Chambers, author Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) recalls a childhood journey to find the body of a missing boy near the (fictional) town of Castle Rock, Oregon (Maine in the novella) over Labor Day Weekend in 1959. Young Gordie (Wil Wheaton) was a quiet, bookish boy with a penchant for writing and telling stories. He is rejected by his father (Marshall Bell) after the death of his football-star older brother Denny (John Cusack), who had paid more attention to Gordie than their parents did.

Gordie spends his time with three friends: Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), who is from a family of criminals and alcoholics and is usually stereotyped accordingly, even though he does not conform to the perceptions and stigmas; Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), who is eccentric and physically scarred after his mentally unstable father held his ear to a stove; and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell), who is overweight, timid, and often the target of bullying. Overall, all four of the boys, especially Gordie and Chris, are often the target of bullying, harassment, and theft by teenaged gang members Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chris' older brother, Eyeball (Bradley Gregg).

Vern overhears his older brother, Billy (Casey Siemaszko), and his friend, Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley), talking about finding the body of Ray Brower, who was killed after being struck by a train while picking blueberries in the woods. Brower was a boy whose disappearance and subsequent police search was a big news story in Castle Rock. Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern decide to embark upon a hiking journey following the local rail line to see if they can find Ray's body and become local heroes. On they day the boys are supposed to start their journey, Gordie and Chris are confronted by Ace and Eyeball, who steal Gordie's hat and threaten Chris with a lit cigarette when he insults Ace, but they are let go unharmed.

The boys set out, first encountering Milo Pressman (William Bronder) and his dog Chopper when they pause to fill their canteens from a well located in Milo's junkyard. When he confronts them for trespassing in his yard, Milo callously calls Teddy's father a "loony", causing Teddy to unleash his anger on Milo before the boys drag him away. Milo then threatens to make a phone call to their fathers for their antics, but the boys leave the junkyard anyway. They then walk along a train bridge, and Vern and Gordie are nearly run over by a passing train. At the end of the day, the boys set up camp and Gordie tells his friends a story that he made up about an obese, unpopular boy named Davie "Lard Ass" Hogan (Andy Lindberg), who gets revenge on his town for bullying him by making them vomit on each other during The Great Tri-County Pie-Eating Contest. Later on in the night, Chris talks to Gordie about the milk money he stole at school and tried to give it back and the teacher old lady Simons took it back, realizing she used the milk money to buy a new dress and Chris still got suspended for three days from school. Chris, knowning if he told the authorities at school what happened, they would never believe him. Chris reveals to Gordie his fear of being stereotyped as a criminal due to his alcoholic, lawbreaking family and becoming a failure as a result. The next morning, the boys continue by taking a short-cut through a swamp only to discover that it is infested with leeches. While hurriedly removing them from each other, Gordie briefly faints after finding one in his underwear, causing the other boys to wonder if they should go on. Gordie ends up being the decisive one and decides to continue, driven by his own personal need to see the dead body.

They locate the body, and it reminds Gordie that his father loved his brother more than him. At this point, Ace and his gang consisting of Eyeball, Vince Desjardins (Jason Oliver), Charlie, Billy, and two other hoodlums show up in their cars to take the body (and the credit for finding it). Ace gives the boys an ultimatum, but when Chris finally stands up for himself and insults him again, an incensed Ace pulls out his pocket knife, intending to murder him. Gordie comes to Chris' defense and threatens Ace with an M1911 pistol that Chris had stolen from his father. Ace, believing Gordie's warnings to be a bluff, attempts to talk him into giving him the weapon. However, when Ace comes to the realization that Gordie is serious, and that Ace and his gang are outgunned, they finally leave, but not before Ace vows to seek his revenge on the boys for their defensive actions. Gordie decides that no one will get credit for finding the dead body and reports it via an anonymous phone call to the authorities. The boys hike back to Castle Rock, say goodbye and expect to see each other the next week as seventh graders in junior high.

Gordie states that the friends drifted apart shortly thereafter. Vern got married immediately after high school, had four kids and became a forklift driver at a local lumber yard. Teddy tried to join the Army, but was denied entry because of his poor eyesight and ear injury. He eventually served a prison sentence and was now doing odd jobs around Castle Rock. Chris was able to stick it out and get by in the advanced classes with Gordie and later moved out of Castle Rock and became a lawyer. However, as revealed in the opening scene, Chris was stabbed in the throat and killed when he attempted to intervene in a fight in a fast food restaurant the week before the present day scenes took place. Gordie then finishes his memoir, and takes his son and his son's friend swimming.



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. Scenes that include the mailbox baseball and the junkyard scenes were filmed in Veneta, Oregon. The junkyard is still in operation. 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 a trestle was filmed at Lake Britton on the McCloud River Railroad, near McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, California.


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."[4]


The film's musical score was composed by Jack Nitzsche. On August 8, 1986, a soundtrack album was released containing many of the 1950s 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, with an average of $15,174 per theater. The film then had its wide opening in 745 theaters on August 22, and grossed $3,812,093, with an average of $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.[5]

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.[6]

King was very impressed with the finished result,[7] 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.[7]

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.[11]

The opening track to Welsh Post Hardcore band Funeral for a Friend's seventh album 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".


  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. ^ Stand By Me DVD Booklet, Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2000
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Stand by Me (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-01-06. 
  7. ^ a b Herman, Karen. Interview with Rob Reiner. Archive of American Television (November 29, 2004).
  8. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  9. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees
  10. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  11. ^ Paul, Alex (July 10, 2010). "‘Stand By Me’ festival slated". Albany Democrat-Herald. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 

External links[edit]