Movie: Stand By Me
Release Date: August 22, 1986
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland.
Tag Lines: “For some, it’s the last real taste of innocence, and the first real taste of life. But for everyone, it’s the time that memories are made of.”
Relevance: In August of 1986, I was preparing to enter my Sophomore year of high school. I wasn’t old enough to work yet, so I spent that summer doing what most kids my age did, slept. When I wasn’t sleeping I was usually hanging out with friends, which meant hanging out at each other’s houses, swimming or going to the movies. The group of friends I hung out with varied in ages and sexes, but that didn’t matter, we always had fun. For over six years we were almost inseparable. That group of friends was probably the only time I ever felt 100% accepted by a “gang.”
‘Stand By Me’ was a movie that I wanted to see before I headed back to school that year. I was a Stephen King fan and had already read his novel “Different Seasons” which included the novella “The Body,” which the film was based. At the time, I wasn’t too familiar with the actors and I only knew Rob Reiner as “Meathead” from the TV show “All in the Family.” Since then Mr. Reiner has become one of my favorite film directors. This is his third film of five included on my list of most influential movies of all time (see 251. The American President and 218. Misery for the first two films). I was very excited about the movie. Unfortunately, it was rated “R” and being only fifteen, I wasn’t allowed. So, I had to wait.
The movie was both a critical and box office success and also spawned a popular soundtrack which contained a lot of 1950’s and 1960’s pop songs. While I waited for the movie to be released for rental, I played and re-played my cassette of the soundtrack all of the time. Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” was heard booming out of my boombox a lot that Fall.
I am not exactly sure when I finally saw ‘Stand By Me,’ but I know that it was with that same group of friends at our church’s youth group meeting. I am guessing Spring or early Summer of 1987. The meetings were every Monday evening and at least once a month we had “movie night.” ‘Stand By Me’ was one of those movies. I was so excited to finally get to see the movie, but it was even nicer to be watching it with “the gang.”
The movie more than exceeded my expectations and I loved every second of it. I eventually watched it again with my family, and once it was available, it became a part of our family’s VHS collection. I watched it quite a bit and was also both entertained and moved. There was something that resonated in me about those four friends in the story. Although our “gang” never went looking for a dead body, we had a definite bond that was never broken during that period of time.
Today’s Thoughts: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
No truer words have ever been written, read or spoken. Now at forty-nine, I never have had a group of friends like I did back in the 1980’s. Sure, I have friends and acquaintances now, but it’s just not the same feeling as it was back then. That was true friendship and a real bond. Of the ten or so friends that were in our “gang,” I only keep in touch with one of them. Although I don’t see or talk to most of them, they will always hold a special place in my heart.
Watching ‘Stand By Me’ today was a bit emotional for me. The movie conjured up a lot of great memories of my friends and family. As much as I am happy and content in my life now, I do really miss those times.
Rob Reiner beautifully directed this gorgeous, nostalgic film. The cast, now all famous or infamous in their own right, were absolutely delightful to hang out with once again. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman are all fantastic. They were so believable as the four misfit friends discovering life and each other. John Cusack, always charming, is perfect in the very tiny, yet important role. And who plays a bad juvenile delinquent better than Kiefer Sutherland? He is the character I love to hate the most and he excels at it. The cast is rounded out beautifully with the narration, as well as a few scenes, by the impeccable Richard Dreyfuss.
‘Stand By Me’ is a movie that could be classified as a comedy, a drama, an adventure or a coming-of age film. For me, it is also a Kleenex movie. Every time I watch it I get choked up. Today, a little more than usual. It is a charming piece of art that I can only assume will resonate with generations to come.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Rob Reiner (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Rob Reiner (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Rob Reiner (nomination), Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans (nomiantion), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans (nomination).
Ways to Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play, DVD Availability.