It doesn't matter when you grew up, Stand by Me is the quintessential coming of age film that makes everyone feel nostalgic. Everything from the soundtrack, to the campfire tales, to the summery forest setting captures perfectly the innocence the four boys whose friendship is put through the gauntlet when they embark on a quest to find the body of a missing child.
The influence of the film is is still strong today as we see Stand By Me referenced, honored, alluded to and straight up stolen from. We're going to take a look at 5 examples of how the legacy of Stand by Me lives on in film and TV today.
1. Stranger Things
Netflix's latest hit show, Stranger Things, is a perfect example of mixing influences together. Everything from E.T to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Twin Peaks has been drawn from in the awesome new show from the Duffer Brothers. A lot of the story framework seems to have been lovingly nodding to Stand by Me. The story of three boys (not four, I know) on the pursuit of their missing friend Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). In fact, to audition for the roles the boys actually read lines from Stand by Me, encouraged to emulate and embody the iconic characters. The boys on Stranger Things scare each other over games of Dungeons and Dragons rather than campfire tales but the feeling is the same.
Jeff Nichol's coming of age film sees two young boys (again not four, I know) gallivanting around the bayou, avoiding their parents and their schools. The fun stops suddenly as the discover an escaped convict, Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on a remote Island. Together, they decide to help him avoid the police and vigilantes and reunite him with his lover (Reese Witherspoon).
Nichols has definitely watched River Phoenix's performance as Chris in Stand by Me as one of the young boys, Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), is almost a carbon copy of the character. Both have been labelled as troublemakers by the locals because of a drug dealing brother and both play the troubled, don't-put-me-in-a-box teen so well. It looks as though the hair and costume were also pinched from Stand By Me.
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3. The Simpsons
Arguably one of the longest running shows ever, The Simpsons manages to stay relatively fresh by being the ultimate reference and parody machine. You know you have made it into the pop culture hall of fame when The Simpsons has parodied you: from Shakespeare to Orange is the New Black and literally everything in between. Stand By Me is no different as it was referenced in a particularly dark episode of the Simpsons where Homer visits a hypnotherapist who tricks him into revisiting his 12 year old self. Homer uncovers a repressed memory and can't stop screaming until it's revealed through a flashback that when he was roaming the woods with his three buddies (Lenny, Carl and Moe of course) they discovered a dead body in a quarry.
4. Kings of Summer
John Voight Robert's The Kings of Summer was a breakthrough hit at the 2013 Sundance film festival. The story of three young teenagers who venture into the woods to build a house and create their own rules free from the control of their parents and society in general. The director was convinced that the charm of Stand By Me was the chemistry between the kids and it was essential that he use that as a springboard:
"From the initial stages of me being involved in the movie, I always described it as a post-modern Stand By Me That was a generation of kids who could do that stuff, our generation can’t, we’re incapable wusses who’d never survive out there."
5. Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow
Rob Reiner's classic film exported a slice of American culture across the world and its influence wasn't restricted to just America. Arguably one the most important games ever, the original Pokemon (versions Red, Blue and Yellow) released in Japan for the Gameboy back in 1996 (recently celebrating its 20th anniversary) drops the gamer into the perspective of a young boy on the verge of starting a great adventure, setting out into the wild to carve a place in the world for himself. As you are beginning your adventure, before you leave the safety of your house, your character looks to the TV and, lo and behold, there is a nice, subtle reference to Stand by Me as you are about to set off.
Stand By Me hit a nerve and broke ground on new ways to represent young boys dealing with the turmoil of growing up. The forest itself is a symbol of freedom from parents and society that constantly comes back time and time again. The characters need to prove that their no longer boys by scaring each other, showing their grit and living without rules. It's a rare feat to create a film that so many people can relate to but Rob Reiner has created something timeless that still has the power to make people feel warm and fuzzy about their own childhood memories. I'm sure it wont be long before we see a remake attempt in the works.
What are your favorite Stand By Me references in pop culture?