Stand by Me (film)

Stand by Me

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 22, 1986 (1986-08-22)
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 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 Ben E. King's eponymous song, which plays over the ending credits, tells the story of four boys in a small town in Oregon who go on a hike to find the dead body of a missing child.


Author Gordie Lachance 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 is a quiet, bookish boy who likes to tell stories. His parents, grieving the recent death of Gordie's older brother Denny, neglect their youngest son. Gordie's friends are Chris Chambers, whose relatives are criminals and alcoholics; Teddy Duchamp, an eccentric and physically scarred boy; and Vern Tessio, who is overweight and timid.

Vern overhears his older brother, Billy, and Billy's friend, Charlie Hogan, discussing Ray Brower, a young boy who was reportedly struck and killed by a train. Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern decide to find Ray's body, hoping to become local heroes. Chris steals his father's M1911 pistol, and the boys set out, stopping at a nearby junkyard to drink from its water pump. The boys hang out in the junkyard for a while, while Gordie leaves to buy food for the journey. When Gordie returns, he sees his friends jumping the fence to escape Milo Pressman, the junkman, and his dog. Gordie escapes as well. Pressman, infuriated, threatens to call the boys' parents and calls Teddy's father a "loony"; Teddy attempts to attack Pressman, but the boys restrain him and they leave.

At nighttime, Gordie tells the other boys a story of Davie "Lard-Ass" Hogan, an overweight boy who is constantly teased and bullied. Hogan enters a pie-eating contest, but his goal was not to win, but to exact revenge. Prior to the contest, Hogan consumed a full bottle of castor oil and a raw egg. After eating several pies and briefly dominating the contest, Hogan vomits, inducing the vomiting of the contestants and crowd members, humiliating and embarrassing his tormentors.

After a series of misadventures and self-revelation, the boys locate the body. However, local hoodlum "Ace" Merrill and his gang, including Chris' older brother "Eyeball" Chambers, Billy Tessio, Charlie Hogan, and three other gang members, arrive in cars to claim the body and the credit for finding it. When Chris refuses to allow this, Ace draws a switchblade with intent to kill him, but Gordie intervenes with the pistol Chris had stolen. Ace and his gang leave and Ace vows revenge.

The boys agree to report the body via an anonymous phone call to the authorities and 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 Teddy and Vern 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 lumberyard. Teddy tried enlisting in the army but was turned down because of bad eyesight and an ear injury; he later served time in prison and now does odd jobs around town. Chris went to college and became a lawyer; when attempting to break up a fight in a fast-food restaurant, he was fatally stabbed.

After finishing the story, Gordie walks outside and drives away with his son and his friend.



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 Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railway. The line was abandoned 1990; the roadbed was repurposed as the Row River National Recreation Trail.

The scene where the boys outrace a steam train engine 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]

According to Reiner, Adrian Lyne was going to direct the film.[6]


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."[7]


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 oldies 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

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.[8]

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 91% of 53 surveyed critics gave the film a positive rating; the average rating was 8/10.[9]

Stephen King, whose novella this film was adapted from, was very impressed with the finished result[10] 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.





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.[14]


Dan Mangan's song "Rows of Houses" (2011) is based on this movie and takes the perspective of Gordie Lachance.[15]

Production company

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.[10]


  1. "STAND BY ME (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 12, 1986. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  2. 1 2 "Stand by Me". The Numbers. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  3. Wheaton, Wil (August 6, 2011). "All Things Considered". National Public Radio (Interview). Interview with David Greene. Meriden, Connecticut: WNPR. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
  4. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 Alex Paul, Bend Attorney Helped Drive 'Stand By Me' Train," Albany Democrat-Herald, July 20, 2016; special section, pp. S3, S8.
  6. Rob Reiner - Archive Interview Part 6 of 8 on YouTube
  7. Stand By Me DVD Booklet. Columbia TriStar Home Video. 2000.
  8. "Stand by Me (1986) - Box Office Mojo".
  9. "Stand by Me (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  10. 1 2 Herman, Karen (November 29, 2004). "Interview with Rob Reiner". Archive of American Television.
  11. AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees
  12. AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees
  13. AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  14. Paul, Alex (July 10, 2010). "'Stand By Me' festival slated". Albany Democrat-Herald. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  15. "Dan Mangan 'Row of Houses': Video for the Canadian singer-songwriter's new single 'Row of Houses'". Rolling Stone. September 27, 2011.
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