The Princess Bride is a fantasy film wrapped in comedy and finished with a dash of romance. It blends all the elements so effectively that we can’t stop watching. In this post I will recite, in no particular order, the reasons I love The Princess Bride!
First, it has a great framing device. Here we are going to see a classic fantasy movie, and the very first shot is of a 1980s video game. We are then introduced to the sick boy (played by Fred Savage) who is visited by his grandfather to read him a story (played by Peter Falk). Several times throughout the story, the story is interrupted and the grandfather and grandson discuss the story. The first time, right before Wesley and Buttercup are about to kiss the first time, the grandson stops him and says, as if the grandfather had tricked him, “Is this a kissing book?” The grandfather reassures him that there are a lot of other great elements in the story. Later on, the grandfather himself stops the story when Buttercup is in the water and a giant Screeching Eel is about to eat her, and reassures him that Buttercup doesn’t get eaten when he notices the grandson is tensing up. But the grandson assures him he can handle it. Finally, at the end, the grandfather finishes the story and the grandson asks him to read it again tomorrow. His response: “As You Wish.” I love the fact that it went back to where it started, because some movies start with the framing device but never go back to it. There is an added level of satisfaction to see the characters that start the story finish it and show how they’ve been changed.
Secondly, has there ever been a more quotable movie? Wesley’s repeated response to Buttercup’s early requests, “As You Wish,” which really means, “I love you.” Vizzini’s repeated cry of “Inconceivable,” to which Inigo Montoya replies “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo’s line to the six fingered man is the classic, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” When Wesley, disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts, and angry that Buttercup was engaged to Prince Humperdinck, tells Buttercup, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” And who can forget the Impressive Clergyman, “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam.” It’s a testament to the script and the actors delivering the lines that there are so many memorable lines in The Princess Bride. Anyone who has seen the movie loves quoting it back and forth to each other.
Thirdly, the theme of true love triumphs over all actually applies here. Wesley loves Buttercup but is poor. So he goes out to seek his fortune to provide for her. When they meet again, Buttercup realizes that the Dread Pirate Roberts is actually Wesley (and Wesley realizing that Buttercup never loved Humperdinck), after he tells her, “As You Wish.” They go through the fire swamp and Wesley save Buttercups’ life from the ROUS’s (“Rodents of Unusual Size?” I don’t think they exist). But on the other side of the swamp Wesley is captured by Prince Humperdinck and tortured. Then Indigio and his friend Fezzik find Wesley and take him to Miracle Max, who tells him that Wesley might be only mostly dead. When asked the near-death Wesley what he was living for, Wesley sputters out, “true love.” His love of Buttercup is the only think keeping him alive. Later, as they are storming the castle, Wesley finds Buttercup just in time to convince her not to commit suicide. Every single thing Wesley does is for his love of Buttercup. He really will go to the ends of the earth and near death for her, and come out of it better than ever.
And finally, Inigo Montoya has one of the best subplots. As a boy, his father was murdered by the six-fingered man, Count Tyrone Rugen, one of Humperdinck’s henchmen. He tried to stop the man but he wasn’t strong enough. He vows revenge for his father’s death. When he meets up with Rugen in the castle, the duel does not disappoint. Rugen throws a knife and hits Montoya in the side. But with willpower and every bit of strength he has, Montoya recovers and starts winning the duel, all the while repeating his greeting that he had rehearsed to say to him. He finally defeats and kills the man who had killed his father.
But the biggest reason Princess Bride is so great is just that it’s fun to watch. The characters, the quotes, the medieval setting, all of it contribute to a fantastic movie that can be enjoyed over and over again.