This is the story of four twelve year olds living in a small town in the year 1959, whose lives were changed by a chance adventure that they embarked on at the end of an indolent summer. The four boys were Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell). The boys had their own treehouse with its special club rules, including a secret knock, and spent their time in meaningless arguments, playing games, or just hanging out. Although on the surface they are typical pre-adolescent boys, you soon find out that underneath their normal bravado and enthusiasm, each of them have problems at home to deal with. Gordie’s older brother Denny (John Cusack in one of his first film appearances) was recently killed in an auto accident, and his parents have not handled it well.
They mope around their house and continually ask Gordie (who is an aspiring writer) why he isn’t more like his brother, who was a popular athlete in town. Gordie’s best friend, Chris, who is intelligent, brave, and the natural leader of the group, has an alcoholic father, who constantly beats him, and an older brother who is a delinquent. Everyone in town figures that Chris will follow in their footsteps, so he is very much afraid of what his future will be.
Teddy is the son of an emotionally disturbed war veteran who has abused him all his life. In his mind Teddy cannot accept his situation, so he has created a fantasy world in which his father is an All American war hero instead of an inmate in a mental hospital. Vern is on the chubby side, somewhat uncoordinated, and is constantly the butt of jokes. Vern’s older brother likes to push him around when he is there, and so Vern spends a fair amount of time hiding out. Yet Vern ends up being the catalyst of the story. He accidentally overhears his older brother describe the location where he is pretty sure that the dead body of a missing boy from the town that everyone had been looking for actually lies. This gives him a chance to be important in the pecking order of the club, and he brings this information to the other boys.