Stand by Me (1986)
Some of my most sacred childhood memories involve walking the local railroad tracks, most of the time with my dad trailing not that far behind. I grew up in the early to mid 90s, so it was not quite the same odyssey that the characters in this movie experience, but I get very fond nostalgia flashbacks whenever I think about this film. This is one of those universal movies that is for us, what Mark Twain’s Huck Finn was for the generation a hundred years before us. The story involves four childhood buddies who go on a pilgrimage to find the body of another missing kid. Along the way they are hounded by a local gang of teenage layabouts lead by a young Keifer Sutherland. This movie flows perfectly, like a lazy river, and each repeated viewing brings something new to appreciate. River Phoenix often gets the deserved praise for his performance of the young James Dean in training role, but all four young actors here equally pull their weight. Will Wheaton is technically the main protagonist and does a fine job, but Corey Feldman to me was the most relatable character because I knew so many kids growing up that I could relate to him. This movie has become a rite of passage for American youth, and the scenes here are so classic you can just refer to them by name such as the pie contest scene, the leech scene, the bridge scene, the junkyard scene etc, and vivid memories will instantly bubble up. Movies like this are the very definition of epic masterpiece.