"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"
— The Writer
Stand by Me is a 1986 Coming of Age film directed by Rob Reiner based on the novella The Body (from the novella collection Different Seasons) by Stephen King. Set in the fictional Castle Rock, Oregon (Maine in the original story) in 1959, the film is told through the recollections of the main character, Gordie Lachance, now a freelance writer.The twelve-year-old Gordie (played by TV's Wil Wheaton) and his three friends journey into the woods near their home to look at the body of a boy named Ray Brower, who was struck by a train while picking berries. Through the boys' misadventures and conversations, the viewer learns about each character's personality. Each of the boys, for varying reasons, lives in the shadow of their fathers and older brothers. Gordie's talent for storytelling (as illustrated by his improvised short story 'The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan') pegs him as the most likely of the four to have a promising future.The film contrasts the four main characters, who are depicted as well-meaning and relatively virtuous, with a gang of bullies called the 'Cobras', who are led by local hood 'Ace' Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland).See 1995's Now And Then for basically the girl version.
Stand by Me contains examples of the following tropes:
Abusive Parents: Teddy's ear is disfigured due to his father's pressing it down on a hot stove in a drunken rage. Chris's father is also violently abusive and Gordie's is emotionally abusive.
Dawson Casting: Averted. All the boys are the same age as their characters or at least very close, except River Phoenix, who was fifteen. None of the older boys were under 20, Ace's gang, Gordie's brother, and Lardass.
Enforced Method Acting: Wil Wheaton has written several times on his experiences making the movie. In one scene that involved the boys running from a train, Wheaton and Jerry O'Connell didn't look scared enough, so Reiner started screaming at them to make them cry. Afterwards, he felt terrible about it and comforted both of them. And to ensure that the child actors really looked intimidated by his character, Kiefer Sutherland supposedly bullied them in real life (although Wheaton doesn't recall it happening to him). The scene with the leeches in Wheaton's hand and...other places, however, was not real.
Reiner also asked River Phoenix to think about the biggest moment an adult had let him down when he had to cry during the campfire scene. He got very emotional and Reiner comforted him for long afterwards, but it paid off: the take was by far the best and the one used in the final film.
Everybody Smokes: They're 12, but all of the main four smoke. Even the generally wholesome lead, and the timid chubby one.
The Fifties: Although the book takes place in 1960, the movie is set in the summer of 1959.
Framing Device/Nostalgic Narrator: The Writer (aka the adult Gordie, played by Richard Dreyfuss) recalls and narrates the events of the film after learning that Chris was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight at a restaurant.
Girly Run: Used by Wil Wheaton as an acting technique.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: This being the fifties, all the teens and kids smoke like chimneys with Ace and his gang naturally being the evil version. The amount of smoking is espcially surprising given that this is a Rob Reiner picture.
Groin Attack: If there are worse places on the human body to find a leech, we can't think of them. No wonder Gordie faints.
Gordie's parents barely can bring themselves to respond to his presence, and the novella makes it clear that this is not something that started after Denny's death - Gordie once swore at the dinner table just to see what would happen ("Please pass those goddamn spuds."), and the only response was his mother telling Denny that his aunt asked how he was doing.
Pinky Swear: Chris really really didn't know the gun was loaded.
Precision F-Strike: Sorta. He doesn't ACTUALLY say a swear, but the line is so spot-on that it FEELS like one of these.
Gordie: "Suck my fat one, you cheap dime-store hood!"
Sadist Teacher: One topic mentioned frequently throughout the first-half of the movie is how Chris stole money from the class. During a talk with Gordie, he reveals he'd given the money back to their teacher, but the teacher decided to spend the money on herself and still accuse Chris of stealing the money, knowing everyone would believe he did it due to his family's bad reputation.
Space Whale Aesop: The book definitely has this. Don't go looking for dead bodies or you will acquire a death curse. But then, the book The Body was written by Stephen King. The film Stand by Me would cause you to forget that it is based on a book written by the horror master himself.
Spared by the Adaptation: Vern and Teddy. Vern dies in a house fire in the book, and Teddy kills himself and others by driving drunk. Though alive in the movie, their lives have gone absolutely nowhere.note Although one could make the case of Vern actually just having a peaceful small-town life in the end, married, with kids, and a simple job.
The Unfavorite: Gordie's parents never show much affection to him, preferring Gordie's older brother. In flashbacks, it shows they didn't pay much attention to him, anyway. As it is, Denny (the brother) was the one who paid the most attention to him.
It's even worse in the book - Denny is a loving older brother in the movie, but in the book he doesn't interact much with Gordie, as they are 10 years apart in age, so there isn't much chance for it.