Having best friends makes life fun or bearable depending on where you’re at. Playing games, catching a movie, going out for the day or just eating together can be even more fun with friends. Being dumped, losing your job or getting sick are definitely more bearable with a friend around.
You feel great when friends have your back and stick up for you. Likewise, when you cheer your friends up and stick up for them it feels the same way. It’s a two-way exchange.
One of the top 80s movies and definitely one of the best movies about friendship is the fantastic Stand By Me (1986).
I was eight the first time I saw my best friend. She moved in next door to me and we started hanging out. Eating ice cream one day in my backyard I finished mine too quickly. Sitting on a swing my friend smiled at me and licked her ice cream while annoyingly making the mmmm sound. I couldn’t take it anymore and threw a ball at her face. A short silence and then loud wailing started as she ran crying to her Mum with a face covered in vanilla ice cream.
Over forty years later we’re still best friends. True Story.
Whenever I watch this incredible movie it always reminds me of old stories involving friends. There are a lot of top 80s movies out there and this little gem is one of them.
Gordie Grown Up
Sitting in his Land Rover looking sad adult Gordie (Richard Dreyfus) glances down at the newspaper headline for Wednesday 4th September 1985:
Attorney Christopher Chambers Fatally Stabbed In Restaurant
He begins to tell the story of the summer 1959. The first time he saw a dead body.
Four Friends In ’59
Taking down True Police Cases magazine from the shelf Gordie (Wil Wheaton) pays and rolls it up as he walks to meet his friends. A car passes playing Bobby Day’s “Rockin’ Robin”.
Playing knock knock whist in their tree house with Chris (River Phoenix) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) Gordie is soon knocked out of the game. Smoking and holding their cigarettes between the thumb and index finger Chris and Teddy start joking around and teases each other.
Narrating Dreyfus describes his two friends. Both having abusive fathers and consequently a difficult start in life.
“That’s not the secret knock,” they cry out in unison as Vern (Jerry O’Connell) knocks and enters the tree house. Vern tries to speak but is too excited and breathless. Telling them he has just run all the way from his house to tell them something boss.
Apparently, Vern hid his jar of pennies under the house and drew a treasure map to find them later. But his Mum threw the map out and he’s been looking for them for nearly 9 months.
Digging and searching under the house for the pennies he overhears his brother and friend talking about a dead body. They think it could be a local boy that everyone knows about that went missing.
Deliberating on how the missing boy got so far away they finally decide they will follow the train tracks to see the body. Well, all except Vern agree. They imagine becoming heroes and starring on TV when they tell the police where the body is. They tell Vern he may even get a medal. Grabbing Vern and rubbing his head play fighting he eventually decides to go.
Gordie starts to prepare for the adventure and shouts to his Mum and Dad from his bedroom window. “Where’s my canteen?” Hoeing the garden in a zombie like fashion his Dad replies, “It’s in Denny’s room“. His Mum continues hanging clothes on the washing line in silence. Gordie’s brother died just four months previous.
Gordie’s eyes search the room. Denny’s (John Cusack) bedroom is full of photos and baseball trophies. Gordie sees a photo of Denny smiling happily with his girlfriend and immediately has a flashback. Putting his Yankee baseball cap on Gordie’s head Denny tells him that it is now his.
Gordie’s Dad appears and Gordie comes back to present day. His wants to check that he found the canteen and then berates him for not having decent friends like Denny had.
Gordie meets up with Chris first. Taking Gordie to one side Chris pulls out a pistol from his rolled up sleeping bag. Taking it from his Dad’s bureau earlier he passes it to Gordie for a look over. Chris tells him that it’s not loaded but it fires off a bullet into a bin when Gordie takes it.
Extremely irritated because he thinks Chris lied to him and that he will get into trouble Chris earnestly tells him he didn’t know. Like true friends they make up quickly and seal it with a pinky swear.
Sauntering along in town the two run into Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chris’s (Bradley Gregg) older brother, a couple of local tearaways. Ace snatches Gordie’s cap and Chris calls him an asshole. Holding Chris down on the ground Ace threatens to burn him with a cigarette if he doesn’t apologise. Chris gives in but Gordie doesn’t get his cap back.
Being young boys and eager to get going on their journey they haven’t planned very well. Starting to argue between themselves because no-one thought about bringing food Gordie asks them what money they have. The new plan is pool their money and get some stuff from a shop nearby on the way.
Whilst following the train tracks they see a train coming in the distance. All of them climb off except Teddy, he wants to play train dodge. Standing on the track for far too long Chris runs to him and drags him off.
A massive argument starts as Teddy says he could have dodged and Chris shouts that he was trying to kill himself. A sad and telling part in the film as you’re not sure if Teddy was trying to end it all due to his home life.
Chris says, “Skin it” and they both touch palms and of course make peace.
Stephen King’s book The Body was the source for the movie and award winner Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally) the director.
Growing-up, family, grief, betrayal, bullying, fun, laughter. Great experiences and not so great. Life. But most of all this Stand By Me is about friendship.
If you’re thinking about watching this movie after reading my taster, let me know why in the comments below.
Or maybe you saw the movie a long time ago, would you watch it again? Tell me why.