As much as Rob Reiner's 'Stand by Me' is a coming of age story about a group of boys in a dusty Oregon town, it's also a reminder that allowing yourself to be vulnerable to life's experiences can change the path you travel for better, or sometimes, for worse. For Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell, it was also a time in their young careers where everything seemed possible -- and like the friends they play in the movie, some of them didn't make it, some did okay and others stumbled but carried on.
The 1986 film based on the Stephen King novella, 'The Body,' which tells the tale of best pals who make the journey to see the corpse of a boy they know, who's been stranded in the woods after a train accident. Vern (O'Connell) overhears his older brother talking about the macabre incident, and delivers the news to the group -- all of them convinced they'll become local heroes if they take a trip and make the discovery before the older guys get there.
As soon as we're introduced to the motley crew of characters, we quickly learn what their rank is amongst each other. Chris (Phoenix) is the tough-looking leader of the pack with a bad rep, who takes on a fatherly role with the gang. Vern's the token chubby kid with a heart of gold and a head full of rocks. Teddy's (Feldman) deformed ear is a result of his "looney" father's rage, and the eccentric, unpredictable boy seems to be following in his old man's footsteps. Gordie (Wheaton) is the pensive writer who has the best shot at a future, but has tethered himself to the ragtag team of "thieves and feebs" much to his father's dismay.
After lots of good-natured ribbing, talks about girls and a run-in with the local junk man, the boys start to set out along the train tracks toward their final destination. When they come across a lengthy, rickety, wooden bridge (100 feet above the water) they begin to debate taking another path, but it's miles out of the way. Teddy -- who tried to dodge a train moments earlier -- doesn't have the patience for that so he pushes past and takes off across the bridge. The rest follow behind, with Vern crawling like a baby. It's a quiet, tense moment of bravery for the guys who are suddenly faced with a roaring train hot on their tail.
After this scene the boys' courage continues to be tested, especially when they uncover the body in the woods. The train tracks marks the place where the group starts to realize that while they set out seeking adventure, everything beyond the clubhouse doors and backyard sleepovers is a lot bigger and badder than they initially realized. Not everyone can stand tall to face it, but the ones that do ... it changes their lives forever.