Stand By Me (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

An interesting coffee shop discussion might be started by asking, "Which book has been directly responsible for the most good movies?" Now, don't go trying to trick it out with some answer like Shakespeare's Fourth Folio, but think about it for a minute. I don't know the answer, but I sure have a good candidate to fan the conversational flames. In 1982, Stephen King responded to those who felt him nothing more than a genre writer by publishing a book called "Different Seasons," which consisted of four novellas, or which two were uplifting tales with no evil or supernatural elements. Those two have been made into all-time classic movies in the IMDb top 250, and another has been made into a pretty damned good flick. The two classics are The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, and the third, which is more similar to King's usual dark-toned pieces, is Apt Pupil. Trivia buffs may wish to note that the fourth story, as yet unproduced, is called "The Breathing Method," and it is the only supernatural story in the collection.

Shawshank is rated higher than Stand By Me on the IMDb list, but I think Stand By Me is a better film, if only because it is so much more genuine. Shawshank has some powerful moments but is, after all, artificial and a work of pure imagination. Stand By Me is real. It is, in essence, Big Steve's own childhood. I guess you probably know the general idea. Four twelve-year-old kids go on foot some 20-30 miles to find a dead body which they are not supposed to know about.

Maybe that specific story never really happened to Mr. King, but Stand By Me rings about as true as a work of fiction is allowed to do. It is, after all, a story which takes place in 1959 about four boys who were born in 1947. It's Stephen King's story, so you'd expect that description to fit him perfectly, but the rest of the team falls neatly into line as well. The director, Rob Reiner, was born in 1947. The actor who plays Stephen King as an adult, narrating the story about his youth, is Richard Dreyfuss, who was born in 1947. Everyone who was guiding the film knew what it was like to be 12 in 1959, knew what rang true and what did not, knew how the rooms would look, what the kids were interested in, how the kids would talk, how they would relate to the older bullies, and which songs they thought were cool. All of that shows. I was born in 1949, and I can attest that they got it right. At least three of the episodes in this film are virtually identical to things that happened to me when I was about the same age.

  • I had to cross a vertiginous railroad bridge in fear of an impending train. I was a total pussy, and ended up crawling part of the way like the fat kid in the film, although no train appeared.
  • I once got attacked by leeches on a boy scout hike. Unlike the kids in the film, I burned them off, and they were much smaller than the ones in the film.
  • And I conspired with my friend Mike Dwyer to take a very long trip without our parents' knowledge. We went on our bikes, and there were no dead bodies, but the film caught the essential spirit of our trek, even though Mike and I had, in fact, no purpose for making our trip in the first place. We didn't even have a destination. The only point was to see how far we could get by ourselves. The answer was "very far": to the Canadian border, some ninety miles away, although we had no provisions, no extra clothes, no camping gear, and almost no money. We kind of underestimated how much ground a determined kid could cover on a bike, and when we thought about it later, we realized that we could have gone much farther if we had planned better. We talked about someday driving our bikes to Boston, about 300 miles away, but we never did.

Stephen King obviously took real boyhood stories and ... well ... maybe he embellished them a bit. I suppose if I retold my own railroad trestle yarn in a short story, I'd also have the train arrive, because it isn't much of a story if it just ends with me being a pussy, afraid of heights, and relieved as hell to make it across.


Excellent film. Of course, I am the direct target audience for this film, so take it with a grain of salt if you will, but I like it very much.

A few notes on the writer and director.

Stephen King.

Back in the 1970s and early 80s, would you have guessed that Big Steve would become one of the greatest sources for quality films about real people in real situations? As of 1983, his only respected films were his horror/supernatural stories:

  1. (8.30) - The Shining (1980)
  2. (7.19) - Carrie (1976)
  3. (7.19) - The Dead Zone (1983)

Since that time, his best three films have been heartfelt mainstream dramas with no hint of the supernatural.

  1. (9.10) - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  2. (8.10) - The Green Mile (1999)
  3. (8.00) - Stand by Me (1986)

And they are three very good films indeed. Shawshank is currently rated #2 of all-time at IMDb, training only The Godfather. The other two are in the top 200.

Rob Reiner

I don't know what happened to Rob but his own career seems to be moving in the wrong direction.

Here is his complete filmography up until 1992:

  1. (8.20) - The Princess Bride (1987)
  2. (8.00) - Stand by Me (1986)
  3. (7.90) - This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
  4. (7.60) - When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
  5. (7.60) - Misery (1990)
  6. (7.50) - A Few Good Men (1992)
  7. (6.70) - The Sure Thing (1985)

And here are his results since then:

  1. (6.80) - The American President (1995)
  2. (6.31) - Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
  3. (5.51) - The Story of Us (1999)
  4. (5.42) - Alex & Emma (2003)
  5. (5.23) - Rumor Has It... (2005)
  6. (4.14) - North (1994)

In the late 80s, Rob was like Rumpelstiltskin in that he wove everything he touched into gold. His movies were not only critical successes, but they were box office smashes as well. My theory is that he was struck by lightning in 1993, or maybe he was hit on the head by a falling coconut, like Gilligan, and lost his memory of how to pick projects. Whatever the explanation, he suddenly pulled in with North in 1994, a complete fiasco, and a precipitous drop from the quality of his previous projects. Before that, his lowest-rated film was a very respectable 6.70, and his other six films were all major successes at 7.50 or higher. North scores a bottom-dwelling 4.14, and prompted Roger Ebert to write: "North is a bad film - one of the worst movies ever made. But it is not by a bad filmmaker, and must represent some sort of lapse from which Reiner will recover - possibly sooner than I will." Reiner never made another film that bad, but he never would recover. He never came come close to 7.50 again and since Y2K he has not even been able to reach 5.50. In fact, if you toss North out of the equation, you'll see a very disturbing trend in his chronological filmography over the past 20 years ...

  1. (8.20) - The Princess Bride (1987)
  2. (7.60) - When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
  3. (7.60) - Misery (1990)
  4. (7.50) - A Few Good Men (1992)
  5. (6.80) - The American President (1995)
  6. (6.31) - Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)
  7. (5.51) - The Story of Us (1999)
  8. (5.42) - Alex & Emma (2003)
  9. (5.23) - Rumor Has It... (2005)

Yup, except for the aforementioned North, every movie has been worse than the one before it!

I would love to see him get back on track, because I sure love his best four films, but it just isn't looking promising, is it? His last 7.5 film was 13 years ago, and his last "top 250" film was 19 years ago.



  • Commentary by: director Rob Reine
  • Exclusive 32-page collector's book
  • Exclusive CD soundtrack sampler
  • "Walking the Tracks: The Summer of Stand By Me" featurette including interviews with director Rob Reiner and author Stephen King
  • Stand By Me music video



The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 8.0/10 (Top 250 of all- time.)
  • It grossed $52 million on a $8 million budget.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a B, simply because it meets the objective criteria: it was a critical success and a substantial profit-maker as well. The fact that I like it personally really has nothing to do with the B grade, but I would score it high as well - let's say 3.5 stars on a traditional four-star scale, or maybe even four.

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