The Daily Stream: IT Turns 5 Years Old And Has Its Young Cast To Thank For Its Continued Popularity

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "It" (2017)

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: This year sees the fifth anniversary of "It" making all the money in theaters and ushering in a new golden era of Stephen King adaptations. Pennywise's popularity is as strong as ever, as the movie instantly landed in Netflix's Top 10 when it arrived on the platform. But a recent rewatch really hammered home just how important the film's young cast was to its enormous success.

Why it's essential viewing

If you've been following along with my contributions to The Daily Stream, you'll probably have noticed I have a type when it comes to the movies I tend to recommend. There's a whole lot of "Steve" movies that tend to show up when it's my turn at bat. That's Stephen King and Steven Spielberg, the two Steves who helped raise me in the '80s and '90s.

I think if you're going to recommend an older title to folks, it's gotta be something you're passionate about, which is why you see me returning to the works of King and Spielberg a lot. Today's title is something a little odd because while this film is celebrating a significant anniversary this year, I'm finding it hard to wrap my head around it not being brand new.

Granted, in the five years since Andy Muschietti's 2017 adaptation of "It" came out, we got a quick sequel, and then the COVID-19 pandemic began, which permanently screwed with time for everybody on the planet, pausing life for long enough to make it feel like both many years were lost and also pre-pandemic life was just, like, a few months ago, right? Still, it's bonkers to me "It" is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

Stephen King is my favorite author, and "It" is my favorite of his books, so I was side-eyeing this adaptation all throughout its development and was just as elated as everyone else was when it turned out to be good. And not just good, but like, really damn good.

The clown is scary, but why is It scary?

People will point to Bill Skarsgard's turn as Pennywise, and that is a major factor at play, no doubt. His Pennywise is even more known and loved than Tim Curry's take on the character for the 1990 miniseries. The film version of that evil clown is still all over the place, and not just during Halloween. Head over to YouTube and you'll find some very funny people, like Maxamili, doing bits as Pennywise. It's a horror image even people who never watch horror movies recognize. That's when you know something has made its way to dominant pop culture status.

But having just revisited this first "It" recently, my big takeaway was you can thank the young cast for the success of the movie. The Losers Club consists of Bill, Richie, Eddie, Bev, Ben, Mike and Stan, small-town kids with real-life problems who also have a pesky little situation to deal with involving an ancient, shapeshifting child-killing clown.

The reason we care so much when the kids are in danger is because we care about them. Richie and Eddie make us laugh; Bill, Ben and Bev make us cry; Stan and Mike make us want to protect them from the cruelty of the world. Pennywise might be the flashy monster, but the reason he works beyond just a creepy design is because we see ourselves, our friends, and our family in the kids he's tormenting.

Richie, Eddie and Ben are the heart and humor of the Losers Club

Finn Wolfhard as Richie Tozier and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak carry a lot of the movie with their humor. Eddie's germ phobia is cranked up to 11, and Richie's smart mouth is going a mile a minute. The way they bounce off each other not only keeps the film entertaining, it also rings true. We all had friends like Eddie and Richie, and if you didn't, then maybe you WERE Eddie or Richie.

The kids all being tweenagers isn't coincidental. The whole story is about transitioning from childhood to adulthood. It's a coming-of-age story, except the catalyst in this case is a transdimensional murder clown and not a pledge to lose their virginity before summer's over. We've all been there, and I can speak from experience when I say King's characters are extra impactful when you're actually their age reading along.

I always saw myself as Ben Hanscom. Yes, I was a chubby kid, but I was also the quiet reader that felt things extra big. Sadly, I was never a poet so I couldn't pull a smooth move like "Your hair is winter fire, January embers. My heart burns there, too," but I absolutely related to the kid who loved from afar and quietly accepted that the object of my affection would have their eyes on far more good-looking classmates.

Ben's also a fierce protector of his friends, and he's smart and keeps his head in stressful situations, all qualities I strive for. Jeremy Ray Taylor embodies all this (plus a deep, dark secret love of New Kids On The Block) in the movie.

Beverly is the strongest of the group

You can't talk about Ben without talking about Bev. Beverly Marsh is one of King's strongest female characters. She's not just the group's tomboy crush, she is a fully fleshed out, complicated, sad, kind, empathetic, and kickass character. As written, Bev's the strongest of the Losers. She's the best aim with the slingshot and the one everybody trusts to make the final blow on the monster that's haunting them all.

Sophia Lillis absolutely rocks the portrayal, and she does it in subtle ways. Over and over again she is shown to approach people with kindness, a Herculean effort for most folks and especially outstanding for her given her horrible home life.

Andy Muschietti's version of the story doesn't have a slingshot, but Beverly's the first one to hurt Pennywise, jumping in at the last minute with a rusty iron fence post to save Eddie. That's her character. She can be scared, like any kid facing this kind of monster would be, but when faced with pure terror, she will still fight. She's even the first of the group to realize Pennywise feeds off fear and fights back mentally, not just physically, which hurts the thing even more than a spiked fence post to the face.

The leader and the cynic

Bill Denbrough is the de facto leader of the group, driven by what happened to his little brother (definitively killed in the book, possibly alive in the movie) and about as pure-hearted as a kid can be. The way Jaeden Martell plays him in the movie is quieter and nerdier than Jonathan Brandis' take in the 1990 miniseries, but it's just as authentic. He's a sad kid, but once again the love he has for his friends is the strength they need to vanquish the monster.

Stanley Uris is a tough character to play because he's the cynic of the group. His role is to be the rational one, which makes it extra powerful when he overcomes his fear, believes in himself and his friends, and helps defeat Pennywise. Wyatt Oleff finds his version of Stan somewhere between Richie/Eddie and Ben. There's a reason he's friends with these chuckleheads. He has a sense of humor, and in any normal childhood you can see why they'd gel as a group.

Stanley is one of the saddest characters in the story, and Oleff gets a great moment to really underline that when he's attacked in the sewer. And after he's rescued, he lashes out at his friends for abandoning him. He goes from anger to healing in this moment, which is the bond that gives the group the strength they need to survive the showdown a little later.

The glue that holds The Losers Club together

That leaves Mike Hanlon. I feel like the two Andy Muschietti movies do a disservice to this particular character, but that's no fault of Chosen Jacobs. He's just the last of the Losers Club to fall into place, and the movie doesn't seem to fully recover from the group seeming to solidify before he joins up.

Mike is a voice of reason, having witnessed the seedy underbelly of hatred in small town Derry in a way none of the other kids have. From racism to classism (he's the home school kid in the movie, from a poor farming family that lives in the boonies) and distrusting side eyes from adults all his life, Mike has possibly the clearest picture of the effects the evil living underneath Derry is having on the society around them. In the book he's also the glue that holds the group together, both as kids and as adults, which is a feeling I never got in the film.

In the sequel he's particularly sidelined with a decision to give most of his adult story to Ben for some reason I still don't understand.

It will live on for many generations to come

But the point is, The Losers Club is the reason "It" instantly charted in Netflix's Top 10 upon its debut (it was the No. 2 movie on Netflix at the time of this writing). The young actors brought a personality to the group that today's youth can relate to and the olds like me who are watching recognize from our own teen years.

A lot of credit is due to the way Andy Muschietti directed the kids, his wonderful framing and choice of quality department heads that really make this feel like a big, complete world. The score is wonderfully creepy, the cinematography is outstanding, and the editing is note-perfect, building tension that results in some genuinely skin-crawling horror set pieces.

But none of that matters if Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff and Jack Dylan Grazer didn't absolutely kill it as Bill, Bev, Richie, Ben, Mike, Stan and Eddie. They're the reason we care. They're the reason the movie is scary. And they're the reason it'll live on to celebrate its popularity for many significant anniversaries to come.