Stand by Me is three decades old this month and still delivers a heavy dose of warm, fuzzy nostalgia; a world of treehouses, campfire stories and pinky swears. Following a group of friends from a small town in Oregon who march along train tracks in search of a dead body, it reminds you of a time before iPhones and Pokémon Go, when staving off boredom meant singing “Lollipop” till you were blue in the face or telling gross-out stories about people projectile vomiting over each other. Ah, to be young again.
Rob Reiner’s romantic portrait of boyhood is the summer adventure you want to relive over and over (except for the dead body part, perhaps). Gordie, Vern, Chris and Teddy are the friends you want to call up, if only to trade insults about each other’s mothers. But Stand by Me isn’t the only coming-of-ager that captures what it’s like to be a kid during summer – the hangouts, the in-jokes, the secret knocks and handshakes. We’ve dug up some others that are sure to hit you with deep pangs of nostalgia.
The Sandlot (1993)
Set in the long, sweaty summer of 1962, The Sandlot is about a young loner who moves to a new town and befriends a group of baseball obsessives. When they’re not playing ball they’re scoffing their faces with s’mores, chewing tobacco like they’re Babe Ruth, and perving over local lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn. It was an innocent time. A time when the biggest insult you could hurl at another boy was that he played ball like a girl. The Sandlot shares much DNA with Stand by Me, from the costume design (striped T-shirts and high-top Converse) to the tree house hangout and the protagonist’s corny voiceover. Oh, and let’s not forget the projectile vomiting. Be warned.
Now and Then (1995)
To some, Now and Then is the female version of Stand by Me; a gender-swap movie before gender-swap movies grabbed all the headlines. It, too, flashes back to a scorching summer. Four girls are saving up for a tree house and are plotting revenge on the Wormer brothers, the boys who pummelled them with water balloons. Through all the adventures – truth or dare games, séances in the cemetery, stealing boys’ clothes when they’re skinny-dipping – the girls forge cast-iron relationships. Not least because of a near-death experience in an unforgiving storm. Look out for Brendan Fraser as the Vietnam vet who’s clearly smoked too much weed.
Over the Edge (1979)
Kurt Cobain called it the film that “pretty much defined my whole personality”, and you can see why. Over the Edge is a fiery movie about what suburban boredom can elicit. It’s also about hanging out with your buddies during a hot summer and pissing off your parents. That may sound decidedly more destructive than Stand by Me – as if Gordie and Vern weren’t square enough – yet Jonathan Kaplan’s youth-gone-wild tale shares its sense of freedom and adventure: kids heading out into the American night with meagre provisions strapped to their backs. If the boys from Stand by Me grew up 20 years later, you suspect this is what they’d be getting up to.
12 and Holding (2005)
The main difference with 12 and Holding is that it’s set in the present day. But like Stand by Me it’s about a boy coming to terms with the death of his brother – and it, too, features a tree house. That’s where the brother dies. He’s burned alive when a local bully tosses a Molotov cocktail up there. Following the funeral, each of the boy’s friends grapple with their own anxieties and desires – an overweight boy becomes obsessed with slimming down, a young girl is infatuated with a much older man. Like Stand by Me minus the rosy retrospection and innocence, 12 and Holding, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael Cuesta, frames three outsiders, all fed up with their dysfunctional families, all pumped full of hormones.
Little Fugitive (1953)
Black Converse high-tops. Denim jeans. Striped T-shirts. It’s as if the wardrobe department from Stand by Me lifted threads directly from Little Fugitive, the 1953 film about a young boy who ends up alone on Coney Island following a practical joke by his brother. Whereas Rob Reiner’s film looks at 50s kids through a nostalgia-tinted lens – all bubblegum pop and cherry-flavour Pez – this is an actual time capsule of that decade. Directed by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, and credited as one of the key influences on the French new wave, Little Fugitive employs non-actors and a naturalistic on-the-street style, like a grainy Bruce Davidson street snap brought to life. In that respect, it’s far less glossy than Stand by Me. But there’s that same air of adventure; kids free from the shackles of their parents. And there’s that indelible image of a boy tiptoeing along a curb, balancing like River Phoenix on the railway tracks.