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Stand By Me

Year: 1986
Production Co: Act III Communications
Studio: Columbia
Director: Rob Reiner
Producer: Raynold Gideon
Writer: Raynold Gideon/Stephen King
Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Haim, Jerry O'Connell, Keifer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss

Ask any film magazine their favourite movies ever and this will be jostling for the top ten among stalwarts like Jaws, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption.

The whole premise of Stephen King's short story was the phenomenon of how close friendships are when you're a kid and how, at seeming lightning speed, the friends you would have died for become (as the film says) 'just faces in the hallway'. Few lines - or movies - so perfectly encapsulate how childhood friendship feels when you're a ragtag band of boys.

Add to that the nostalgic, small-town America of the sixties and the spirit of adventure that both plagues and sets free any 12-year-old boy and this film couldn't have failed except in the clumsiest of hands.

Gordie (Wheaton), Chris (Phoenix), Teddy (Haim) and Vern (O'Connell) are enjoying the last of their summer holidays. They're trying to stay out of the way of the fearsome bullies led by Ace Merrill (Sutherland), and Gordie's living in a private hell following the death of his older brother Denny (Cusack), who loved him but whose departure has left a seemingly impenetrable wedge between his grieving parents.

So he jumps at the chance of a camping trip with his friends, in reality a story they tell their parents as they go in search of the body of a kid struck by a train months before, figuring the notoriety will make them famous in town.

On the way however, they'll all face demons, prejudices and fears, bonding in a way only kids - in particular boys - can. It's almost easy to miss how much the performances of four gifted then-children prop up the whole movie. They and director Reiner make it look effortless, and their seamless success means you can sink right in, believe every sniggered swear word and every frustrated tear.

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