Stand by Me: An essential teen movie


Stand By Me, the 1986 film directed by Rob Reiner, is a movie that brings viewers back to their childhood. It combines the elements of friendship, adventure and maturing from the perspective of a 12-year-old. 

The movie follows four boys–Chris, Gordie, Teddy and Vern–as they set out on a journey to locate the body of a missing teen in their small town in Oregon. They confront many obstacles along the way. Some are physical, like crossing an 80-foot-long railroad bridge high above a river. Others are mental, like coming face-to-face with the way the boys view themselves. 

This film has greatly impacted my life, opening up my eyes to the joy and tragedy of childhood. Every time I watch it I feel as if I’m peering into a looking glass of my younger years. This movie makes me laugh, cry, and most of all think about the construct of life and what being a kid is all about. It is the quintessential classic teen nostalgia movie.

Reiner and the actors who play the boys are able to convey these friendships of youth extremely well, whether it be the way the actors convey emotion and realness through their acting or specific moments throughout the film.

There are two moments from the movie that always stand out to me whenever I go back to rewatch it.

The first moment is during the part of their journey where the boys are taking a break in a junkyard. The four boys sit in the shade, attempting to spit water into a can, insulting each other in a joking manner, talking about girls and wrestling each other on the ground. “This is really a good time,” Vern says during this scene.  

The clip shows the simple but meaningful relationship that friends bring us–especially as kids. It’s a scene I’m sure most viewers, no matter their age, would be able to relate to when they were that age. Older viewers may watch Stand By Me and feel nostalgic for the “good old days” of life as a young teenager.

The second moment takes place when Vern, Teddy and Gordie are asleep around a fire in the woods where they are camped out while Chris is awake, keeping watch. Suddenly, Gordie wakes up from a nightmare and decides to stay up and keep watch with Chris. 

The two start a conversation, which eventually leads into a heartfelt and vulnerable moment, where Chris confides in Gordie about how he really feels about himself. 

“I just wish I could go to some place where nobody knows me,” Chris says to Gordie. 

It’s a deep and intimate moment between the two, an experience not common among boys of that age–being able to openly and without judgment express their feelings with each other. 

These two scenes demonstrate the friendships experienced during our youth. A real, raw and simple relationship that is arguably only found at that age. 

The latter being the line between child and teenager, swaying back and forth between the two like a pendulum, experiencing both sides. Stand By Me captures the moment before kids grow up and have to deal with adult matters. It shows kids being kids. 

That’s why I think it is such a timeless and thoughtful movie. It pulls the viewer in by appealing to the sense of nostalgia and melancholy this age brings people as they shift into the harsh realities of the world. It allows them to relive that sense of childhood that one can never go back to once it’s over. 

Stand By Me and the feeling it leaves the viewer with can be summed up with the last line of the movie.

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”