'Stand By Me' 4K Blu-ray Review: Rediscovering Your Youth (2022)

The Film

Made in 1986, Stand By Me feels a little dated now, in truth. Before its fans start hating on me, though, its obvious vintage merely enhances its charm, adding another dimension to the rich tone of nostalgia for the purity of childhood friendships that director Rob Reiner ports over pretty successfully from Stephen King’s classic The Body novella.

The relationship between the four young friends as they head off on foot in an epic (to them) quest to find the body of a dead local boy feels increasingly believable and moving the longer the film goes on, hitting plenty of universal themes along the way without feeling forced or preachy.

There’s added poignancy, too, from seeing River Phoenix giving the film its beating heart with a remarkably authentic and empathetic performance for such a young actor.

Stand By Me's iconic quartet.

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

Prior to watching this 4K Blu-ray review I hadn’t seen Stand By Me for at least a decade. Yet its staying power is such that even the disc’s beautifully designed static title screen was enough to put a lump in my throat.

Release details

Studio: Sony Pictures

What you get: Region-free 4K Blu-ray, Region A/B/C HD Blu-ray

Extra features: 8 deleted and alternate scenes; PIP commentary with Rob Reiner, Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton; Reiner audio commentary; retrospective documentary on the making of the film; Ben E King Stand By Me music video. Plus a MovieIQ feature that doesn’t seem to work any more!

Best sound mix: Dolby Atmos

HDR Picture options: HDR10

HDR 10 Mastering data: MaxFALL 166 nits; MaxCLL 3646 nits

Key kit used for this review: Panasonic 65GZ1500, Samsung 65Q90R, Panasonic UB820, Oppo 205.

Picture quality

After a slightly hit and miss start, Sony’s program of creating 4K digital masters from its old 35mm library now seems to be delivering consistently impressive results.

There are times - typically during bright exteriors - where the Stand By Me 4K Blu-ray image looks almost too good to be true. Not just as if the 33 year old film was made yesterday, but as if you’ve actually been transported through time and space to Castle Rock, and invited to join the rag-tag friends on their coming of age adventure.

A whole new meaning to 'catching the train'.

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

Some of this immediacy is down to the excellent detail and texture the 4K master has managed to recover from the ‘analogue’ film source, and some of it is down to a strikingly aggressive (in its peaks) but still natural-looking HDR grade that gives the film’s many sun-drenched exteriors a fantastically real-world quality.

The extent to which the HDR - and accompanying wide color - grade brings the gorgeous landscapes and settings to life really brings something extra to the film, both in terms of making the action feel more grounded in reality, and giving its timeless tale a fresh relevance to modern audiences.

The opening up of the film’s light range hasn’t led to any significant amounts of skewed coloring, either. The rich greens of the countryside, the blueness of the skies above and, most importantly of all, the increasingly grubby skin tones of the kids almost always look believable and natural. There’s none of that skewing of green towards yellow, or skin tones towards orange, that some early 35mm to HDR digital remasters suffer with.

Black levels, too, are beautifully done, looking deep but also detailed, and avoiding the ‘elevated’, grey look which again was once a noticeable issue with some early 35mm remasters.

If your 4K Blu-ray diet to date has chiefly consisted of ultra-clean, modern, digitally-shot stuff such as the recently reviewed Rocketman or Avengers: Endgame releases, then you should be warned that the Stand By Me 4K remaster isn’t afraid to show grain. And occasionally this grain can shift intensity a little, at which point it can become momentarily distracting.

For the most part, though, while the grain is more aggressive than it is on the HD Blu-ray master, it mostly feels like a pretty natural part of a 30-plus year old celluloid experience. It’s far less extreme than it was on some of Sony’s early 35mm-to-4K Blu-ray remasters, suggesting Sony has greatly refined its remastering process.

The occasional Stand By Me 4K shot looks a bit forced and out of kilter with the rest of the master. There’s a close up on Wil Wheaton at around 36:15 where his face looks distinctly out of focus, for instance. A shot of Wheaton and Phoenix just after, at around 36:29, sees the color grading suddenly shift slightly, leaving the two actors looking rather dull and brown. Skin tones occasionally look slightly peaky during the campfire sequence, too.

Drawing lots the old fashioned way.

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

Given the quality of the transfer generally, though, I suspect that at least the first two of these occasional issues are due to unfixable issues with the source negative rather than any issue with the 4K Blu-ray mastering process.

Stand By Me's 4K Blu-ray picture is delivered with MaxFALL (Maximum frame average light level) and peak brightness values of 166 nits and 3646 respectively. This is the most extreme difference between those two values I’ve seen, but it makes sense in the context of a remaster of a sun-drenched film that can support some pretty extreme highlights but where you don’t want to stray so far from the light levels of the 35mm source material that colors start to shift and distort.

The bit-rate on the BD66 disc runs typically between 60 and 70Mbps, with the occasional dips into 50Mbps lows and jumps to 80+Mbps peaks. These aren’t spectacularly high figures overall, but they seem plenty good enough to get the job done.

The only pity, really, is that Sony has turned to Dolby Vision or HDR10+ to potentially enhance playback on your TV with extra scene by scene image data.

One final fun detail about the 4K Blu-ray picture is that its extra detail makes it more blindingly obvious than ever that the actor sitting in the Land Rover during the film’s early exterior shot of it is a completely different actor (David Dukes) to Richard Dreyfuss, who appears when the sequence cuts inside the car.

He wasn't asleep or unconscious...

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

Sound quality

Sony has managed to create a Dolby Atmos mix exclusively for Stand By Me's 4K Blu-ray, despite the film only originally having a mono track. The HD Blu-ray, by comparison, gets a DTS 5.1 MA mix.

In some ways the new Atmos mix does more than you might expect. There’s some fairly constant use of the rear channels for ambient effects - gentle wind, birdsong, crickets chirruping and so on. And sometimes these effects creep upwards into the height channels too.

There’s a surprising sense of space in the mix given the original elements too, that manages to make effects, the score and dialogue all seem to exist in their own separate planes.

An entranced audience listen to Gordie's gross pie-eating contest story...

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

There’s even the occasional startling specific (rather than ambient) use of the Atmos height channels, such as when Teddy’s brother talks with his friend on the porch above Teddy’s head.

Occasionally the Atmos remixing feels a little forced, but for the most part it's sensitive enough to sound authentic rather than inappropriately reinventing the audio wheel.

It's still nice, though, to see Sony catering for purists this time round by providing the option in the 4K disc's 'languages' menu of playing the film with its original mono track.

Extra features

The only extras found on the 4K disc are a selection of eight alternate and deleted scenes. These have never been released before, and so count as essential viewing for the film’s fans. Even though some of the sequences are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them short.

The deleted scene of the boys separately preparing for their adventure, and the extended cut of the first part of the railway bridge sequence are particularly interesting. As is an unexpected alternate take of the ‘writer finishing his book’ scene, where the adult writer is played by David Dukes, not Richard Dreyfuss.

Stand By Me's extensive daylight exterior footage looks beautiful in HDR and wide color.

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

The other extra features are found on the HD Bu-ray that ships with the 4K one. This disc is the same one that came out to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary a few years back, so the features on it have been seen before.

First up, you’re supposed to be able to play the film using ‘Movie IQ’, which enables you to access extra online information and trivia on a scene or person involved with the film whenever the MovieIQ icon appears. I couldn’t get this feature to work on any of four different 4K and HD Blu-ray players I tried, though, making me suspect the Movie IQ servers have been shut down.

When it comes to features on the Blu-ray that actually work, a real highlight is a picture in picture commentary track featuring Reiner, Wheaton and Corey Feldman. The banter between the three is natural, snappy and at times surprisingly personal, as well as giving you some genuinely fascinating insight into the making of the film.

Note that you may need to manually activate the BD Secondary Audio feature on your 4K Blu-ray player to get the audio from the picture in picture commentary to work. If so, you will likely have to stop playback to access the Secondary Audio option on your player. Remember, too, to turn the Secondary Audio feature off again after you’ve listened to the picture in picture commentary, otherwise your normal digital audio playback could be affected.

The Stand By Me 4K Blu-ray box art.

Photo: Stand By Me, Sony Pictures

On Panasonic’s latest 4K Blu-ray decks, the Auto setting for the BD Secondary Video feature doesn’t work. You have to specifically set it to On.

Much more straightforward to access is a separate audio-only commentary by Reiner. This covers some of the same ground as the PIP commentary, and Reiner regularly lets plenty of seconds go by without saying anything. So this commentary is not as consistently engaging as the PIP one. There are just about enough extra background tidbits, though, to make it worth your time.

Perhaps the best feature is the 36-minute retrospective documentary about the film. Featuring input from Reiner, Dreyfuss, Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Wheaton, Kiefer Sutherland, and, especially usefully, Stephen King, this documentary provides plenty of nostalgia-tinged insight into the production. It doesn't include much contemporary behind the scenes footage, sadly, and the film clips are presented in 4:3 ratio. But the background provided by the various interviews is fascinating.

All that’s left beyond this is a music video for Stand By Me that includes Wheaton and Phoenix dancing with Ben E King (!), plus clips from the film.


Sony has delivered another strong 4K remaster of a classic 35mm movie. The picture quality is mostly impressive, and it’s nice to see Sony going to the trouble of turning up some new extras and a fresh Dolby Atmos mix for the 4K release, too.

If you found this article interesting, you might also like these:

'Rocketman' 4K Blu-ray Review: I Guess That's Why They Call It The 4K Blus

'Avengers: Endgame' 4K Blu-ray Review: Not Quite The Disc Fans Deserve

'Don't Look Now' 4K Blu-ray Review: Poetry In Motion

Disney Deploys 4K And HDR In Its Assault On Netflix And Apple

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