A likable film punctuated by standout performances, Stand by Me is an interesting variation on the standard coming-of-age period film. Based on a short story by Stephen King, Stand by Me deals with preteen concerns instead of teen ones. Director Rob Reiner successfully keeps the nostalgia and sentimentality in check; and he places a remarkable amount of faith in his young cast. Of the four leads, River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton deliver sensitive, complex performances which belie their age. Jerry O'Connell and teen heartthrob Corey Feldman round out the cast, and Kiefer Sutherland and John Cusack appear in small but memorable roles. For Reiner, the film was a significant shift in tone after the comedies This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and The Sure Thing (1985). It marked his first attempt at more serious fare; his success with the comedy drama of Stand by Me would pave the way for his later hits, When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Misery (1990).
"I think 'Stand by Me' has endured for 30 years because it appeals across generations of viewers," Wheaton told TheWrap. "When I was a kid, it was a movie about friendship and adventure and forming relationships expected to last the rest of your life. As an adult it's still about those things. But then the world seems as vast and infinite as it also seems very small and uncomplicated. As you get older you see how different things really are. When you watch as a kid -- the film is about the moment of becoming an adult ... but you don't become adult, really, for about another 15 years."
Reiner has stated that his childhood home was not observantly Jewish, although he did have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony;  Reiner's father Carl has acknowledged that he himself became an atheist as the Holocaust progressed.  He identified himself as having no religious affiliation on the January 13, 2012, episode of Real Time with Bill Maher and as an atheist.   Reiner later told Huffington Post contributor Debra Oliver that while he rejected organized religion, he was sympathetic to the ideas of Buddhism .