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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Stand by Me can be found here.
Writer Gordon "Gordie" Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) narrates the story of how, years ago in 1959 when he was 12 years old, he (Wil Wheaton) and his three friends Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) set out to see the body of a dead boy, Ray Brower (Kent W. Luttrell), missing in the woods around Castle Rock, Oregon.
Stand by Me is based on the novella "The Body" by American horror writer Stephen King. It can be found in King's 1982 collection of short stories titled Different Seasons.
While Vern was under the porch looking for a misplaced jar of pennies, he overheard his older brother Billy (Casey Siemaszko) and Billy's friend Charlie Hogan (Gary Riley) talking about how they found the body after dumping a stolen car. So Billy and Charlie are hesitant about reporting it.
Towards the beginning, Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland) steals Gordie's hat, given to him by his recently-deceased older brother Denny, and walks off with it. There's a reason you never see it again. According to the behind the scenes documentary, Wheaton asked the director (Rob Reiner) why he doesn't get his hat back. Reiner replied that Ace threw it away around the corner. Sutherland's initial instinct was to put it on, but Reiner told him that his character would never mess up his hair.
It occurs when the boys are sitting around a campfire, and Gordie tells the story of a blueberry pie-eating contest when David "Lardass" Hogan (Andy Lindberg) got his revenge by eating pie after pie and then barfing it all over the other contestants, who barf on each other, causing the audience to start barfing on each other, too. It may help to know that the "vomit" was made from blueberry pie and cottage cheese.
When Gordie, alone, sees the deer and decides to keep it to himself until his adult life, it has been debated what this means. Two examples often suggested are: (1) After all the bad things in the lives of the four boys—the death of Gordie's brother and the treatment from his parents; Ace and his friends; Teddy's abusive father; Ray Brower's death; etc.—the deer represents that some things in the world are still beautiful and this gives him hope. He wanted to keep it to himself so that nobody could debunk his theory. (2) Gordie has spent the entire trip in the constant company of his friends, not doing or saying anything that isn't seen/heard by the others. The deer is the one thing that is personal to him from the entire time they are searching for the body.
As described in the book, a "goocher" is getting all tails when flipping coins (all heads is a "moon"). It is supposed to be extraordinary bad luck to get a goocher.
The boys decide that an anonymous phone call to the police is the best way to report the body so that no one takes the credit. They return to Castle Rock, humbled by their experience. Gordon narrates what happened to his friends. Vern married out of high school, had four kids, and is now a forklift driver at the Arsenault lumberyard. Teddy tried several times to join the army but his poor eyesight and ear injury kept him out. He served some jail time and is now performing odd jobs around Castle Rock. Chris enrolled in college courses with Gordie and eventually become a lawyer, but he was killed while trying to break up a fight in a fast food restaurant (the news article Gordie was reading at the start of the film). In the final scene, Gordon's son asks whether they can go swimming now. Gordon finishes his manuscript and joins his son.
Those who have both seen the movie and read the novella say that director Rob Reiner stays fairly close to King's story. Most of the differences are very minor. The biggest difference noted is that, in the book, it is Gordie who pulls Teddy off the tracks when he is trying to dodge the train, and Chris (not Gordie) who is holding the gun at the end. Also in the book, Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) does get revenge on the four kids—which is not mentioned in the movie. The characters' endings are different, too. Chris does get killed in the way that was described in the movie, but the way that Vern and Teddy end up is different. Vern dies in a fire, and Teddy dies in a car crash. Ace is the only one who is still around, but is a fat drunk. Finally, Gordie's Chico story isn't included in the movie.
Following is a list of the songs from Stand by Me in the order that they were played:Rockin Robin* (1958, by Bobby Day) is played when the boys are sitting in their clubhouse.Great Balls of Fire (1957, by Jerry Lee Lewis) is played when Ace is playing mailbox baseball.Let the Good Times Roll (by Shirley and Lee) is played when the boys are sitting in the junkyard.Book of Love* (1958, by The Monotones) is played when Ace and his friends are parked outside of an empty farmhouse.Lollipop (1958, by the Chordettes) and Everyday (1957, by Buddy Holly and the Crickets) are played while the boys are walking on the railroad tracks on Day 1.Come Go With Me (1957, by The Del Vikings) and Come Softly to Me (1959, by The Fleetwoods) are played when the boys are sitting around the campfire.Hushabye* (1959, by the Mystics) is played when the boys are walking along the tracks on day 2.Get a Job (1957, by the Silhouettes) is played when Ace and friends are in the poolhall.Yakety Yak (1958, by The Coasters) is played when Ace goes head-on with a truck.Stand by Me (1960, by Ben E. King) is played when the credits roll at the end of the movie.In addition, the boys themselves sing Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home (1959, by the Impalas) while sitting in their clubhouse and The Ballad of Paladin, the theme song from the 1957-1963 TV series Have Gun - Will Travel while walking along the railroad tracks.* = Not included on the soundtrack album
Many people have noted that Stand By Me reminds them of Now and Then (1995), in which four friends gather for the birth of a baby and reminisce about their childhood years together. People have also likened Stand by Me to The Goonies (1985), in which a group of friends who call themselves Goonies find a treasure map and go looking for it. Similar movies that deal somewhat with the coming-of-age theme include Sommersturm (2004), in which two rowing buddies are forced to question their friendship when they meet some girls at summer camp, and Crazy (2000), in which a handicapped boy switches schools and must face growing up. There's also Mean Creek (2004) in which a group of kids intent on exacting revenge on a bully come to see the bad kid in a new light. Finally, people have mentioned another Stephen King movie, It (1990), in which a group of losers come together years later to battle their own childhood scars along with a supernatural creature that is threatening the complacent town of Derry, Maine. Some can also compare this movie to The Sandlot (1993), in which a group of friends bond over their adventures on and off the baseball field. 12 and Holding (2005) and Yosemite (2015) may be of interest as well.
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