Stand By Me Ending Explained – How does the movie compare to the book?

Stand By Me Plot Synopsis

Stand by Me is hands down one of the best movies of the 80’s, in this writer’s opinion. Based on Stephen King’s novella ‘The Body,’ and directed by Rob Reiner, it details the story of four twelve-year-old boys who go in search of Ray Brower, a boy their age.

However, this isn’t a boy who has simply gone missing. The boys hear that Brower is dead and this rather ghoulish premise is the catalyst for the journey they undertake to find him.

The film features a fantastic cast of young actors who went on to have mostly successful acting careers.

Future Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton stars as Gordie Lachance, a sensitive young soul who is struggling to deal with the recent death of his brother Denny (John Cusack).

The highly talented River Phoenix is Chris Chambers, one of Gordie’s loyal best friends, but a boy with a bad reputation due to his family background. Jerry O’ Connell is Vern Tessio, an overly-enthusiastic youngster who is often the butt of the other boys’ jokes.

Rounding off the quartet is Corey Feldman who stars as Teddy Duchamp, a rather screwed-up kid whose father is taking residence in a mental hospital.

Together the boys venture into the woods to find Brower and learn more about each other, themselves, and the cruelty of the world in the process.

Do the boys find the body?

Yes, but not before having a fair few adventures first. They meet the town’s most feared dog at a junkyard, fall foul of Ace Merril (Kiefer Sutherland) and his gang of small-town lowlifes, and almost come to a nasty end while crossing a train track.

As they camp out in the woods, Gordie, who is a keen writer, tells his friends a made-up story about “Lardass” Hogan, a fat kid who gets revenge on his bullies at a pie-eating contest.

And while walking together, they talk about such things as the TV shows they like, the families they have become estranged from, and the futures that await each one of them.

Oh, and they also ask each other such questions as: “If Mickey is a mouse, Donald is a duck, Pluto is a dog, what is Goofy?” It’s an interesting question!

It’s a familiar tale of childhood bonding and it’s sure to resonate with many of us.

However, despite the often jubilant nature of their trip, the shadow of Ray Brower and his death hangs over them. When they eventually find the body, it gives them cause to think about the fragility of life, although Ace and his gang turn up to distract them from their sorrowful thoughts.

How does Stand By Me end?

The film ends shortly after the boys find the body. After their run-in with Ace, where Gordie turns a gun on the cruel thug, they head home.

As they reach their home town of Castle Rock (the location of many a Stephen King story), they say their goodbyes to one another.

After the incredible and sometimes harrowing adventures they have had, these farewells are quite emotional (for the viewer at least), and there is a real sense that they have been through something life-changing.

As they all go their separate ways, the older Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss), reveals the future of each of the boys through his narration.

What happens to the boys after their summer?

After leaving school, Vern got married, had four kids, and went to work in a lumber yard.

Teddy tried to join the army but because of his eyesight and ear injury, was denied entry. He eventually ended up in prison but later found work doing odd jobs around Castle Rock.

Gordie and Chris both moved out of the town after doing advanced classes together. Gordie became a writer and Chris became a lawyer.

Sadly, we learn Chris lost his life after getting stabbed to death when trying to break up a fight.

Knowing the real-life fate of River Phoenix, the death of Chris is now quite poignant. However, in King’s book, he wasn’t the only one of the boys to meet a sad end.

How does Stephen King’s novel differ to the movie’s ending?

King’s story is very similar to the film although there are a few small differences along the way. Vern is less of a comic figure in the actual book, Gordie’s brother died in a different way than that mentioned in the film, and there is a scene where the boys think they see the ghost of Ray Brower in the woods.

However, the major differences come at the end when the fates of each character are revealed.

While the future of Gordie and Chris is the same as that mentioned in the film, the same isn’t true for Vern and Teddy.

We learn that Vern was later killed in a house fire after a party, and Teddy was killed in a car accident while under the influence of alcohol.

It’s a good thing the film ended on a more hopeful note, despite the tragic end of Chris.

As it’s mostly an uplifting film, partly because of the wonderful 50s soundtrack, to have learned that three of the boys later died would have been an incredible downer.

As such, it’s easy to understand why the screenwriters of Rob Reiner’s movie decided to change their fates.



Thanks for reading our Ending Explained article! What did you think of the ending? Have we missed anything? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “Stand By Me Ending Explained – How does the movie compare to the book?”

  1. Hey Nuna, I didn’t know that either. I just Googled that comparison and found out you’re right! It’s quite bizarre really. Thanks for mentioning it!


  2. Thanks Meems! I appreciate your kind feedback. Stand By Me is one of my favourite films so I had a good time revisiting it!

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