The Princess Bride (film)

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The Princess Bride
Princess bride.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by
Screenplay by William Goldman
Based on The Princess Bride 
by William Goldman
Music by Mark Knopfler
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Robert Leighton
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 25, 1987 (1987-09-25)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16 million
Box office $30.9 million

The Princess Bride is a 1987 American romantic fantasy adventure comedy film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, and starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant and Christopher Guest. Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, it tells the story about a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by befriended companions along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. The story is presented in the film as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), thus effectively preserving the novel's narrative style.

Released in the United States on September 25, 1987, the film is number 50 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies", number 88 on The American Film Institute's (AFI) "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" list of the 100 greatest film love stories, and 46 in Channel 4's 50 Greatest Comedy Films list.[1] In 2016, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry, being deemed as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."[2]


In the framing story, a man (Peter Falk) reads a book, The Princess Bride, to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). Scenes of the reading occasionally interrupt the main story; for example, when the boy tells his grandfather to skip the parts that include kissing.

Buttercup (Robin Wright) has grown up on a farm in the Renaissance Era, in the (fictional) country of Florin. She mercilessly orders around the farmhand, Westley (Cary Elwes), but he only replies "As you wish" to her every whim. Buttercup eventually comes to understand that this is his expression of love, which she then comes to return. Westley leaves to seek his fortune so that they might marry, but Buttercup learns that Westley's ship was attacked by the legendary Dread Pirate Roberts, who is infamous for leaving no one alive. Accordingly, Westley is presumed dead.

Five years later, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), the Crown Prince of Florin. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a trio of bandits: a Sicilian boss named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a giant named Fezzik (André the Giant), and a Spanish master swordsman named Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who is seeking revenge against his father's murderer, whom he knows to have six fingers on his right hand. These three are in Humperdinck's employ and have been ordered to kill Buttercup once in Guilder, Florin's enemy, as a pretext to start a war. The four are soon followed by a man dressed in black, and Vizzini orders Inigo and then Fezzik to kill him. The man in black bests Inigo in swordplay, knocking him out with the butt of his sword, then chokes Fezzik unconscious in hand-to-hand combat, and finally tricks Vizzini into drinking lethal poison during a battle of wits, and thereby frees Buttercup.

Buttercup, believing the man in black to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, tries to escape and pushes him down a steep hill, but when he shouts "As you wish" as he falls, she realizes he is her beloved Westley and throws herself down the hill after him. As Westley escorts her back to Florin across a hazardous bog called the Fire Swamp, he explains that though he was captured, the previous Roberts, intrigued by Westley's pleas for mercy and his stories about Buttercup, befriended Westley and trained him in fighting and swordsmanship, and after secretly revealing that he was not the original Roberts (he inherited the title), he eventually retired and bequeathed the title to Westley. Humperdinck, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) and their men eventually capture Westley and Buttercup and take them back to Florin; Humperdinck later tells Buttercup he has let Westley return to his ship, but in reality Rugen and the Albino (Mel Smith) are torturing Westley in a secret laboratory called the Pit of Despair, using a torture machine to drain the life from him. When Buttercup tells Humperdinck that he is a coward and that she still loves Westley, Humperdinck locks her in a suite, rushes to the Pit and, ignoring Rugen's warning, engages the machine at its highest setting, sending a screaming Westley to his death.

Fezzik, having reunited with a drunk Inigo in a nearby village, has learned that Rugen is the six-fingered man Inigo seeks, but, with the castle secured for Humperdinck's wedding, believes they need the Man in Black's (Westley's) help to invade; whom they trust due to the honorable way he defeated them previously. Fezzik sobers up Inigo, they stumble upon the Albino, and Fezzik inadvertently knocks him unconscious when trying to receive information on Westley and Rugen. Westley's dying screams lead them to the Pit, and they recover his body, bringing it to Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), a bitter and destitute apothecary whose confidence had been shattered due to his banishment from the castle by Humperdinck. Max notes that Westley is "only mostly dead", but sustained by true love, and provides a potion (in the form of a chocolate-covered pill) that brings him back to life. Outside the castle gate, Inigo and Fezzik give Westley the pill; he quickly begins to recover, and comes up with a plan to defeat the castle guards and get into the castle itself.

Hearing the commotion outside, Humperdinck panics and orders the priest to declare him and Buttercup married. Having scared the soldiers off, Inigo, Fezzik and Westley make their way into the castle corridors and are intercepted by Rugen and his men; Inigo quickly dispatches the men and introduces himself to Rugen:

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Rugen beats a cowardly retreat with Inigo in pursuit; leaving Westley in the hallway, Fezzik runs to help Inigo, who ultimately confronts Rugen. Rugen injures Inigo multiple times, but strengthened by his determination to exact revenge, Inigo overpowers and kills Rugen. Meanwhile, Westley somehow finds his way into the honeymoon suite and stops Buttercup just as she is about to kill herself; Westley points out to her that because she did not say "I do", the ceremony was not properly completed; therefore, the marriage is not valid. When Humperdinck arrives ready to kill him once and for all, Westley bluffs being at full health and forces Humperdinck to stand down and turn over Buttercup; she ties him to a chair and they all leave him alone with his cowardice.

As Buttercup, Westley, Inigo and Fezzik prepare to leave (on four white horses Fezzik found), Inigo wonders about what he will do with his life now that he has fulfilled his vow; Westley suggests he take up piracy saying "You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts."

In the framing story, the grandson allows the grandfather to read on about Westley and Buttercup sharing a passionate kiss. As the grandfather finishes the story and prepares to leave, the boy asks him to read the story again the next day. The grandfather smiles and replies, "As you wish."


Framing story

Main story


There had been many attempts to turn the novel into a film. In 1973, 20th Century Fox paid Goldman $500,000 for the film rights and to do a screenplay.[3][4] Richard Lester was signed to direct and the movie was almost made, but then the head of production at Fox was fired and the project was put on hiatus. Goldman subsequently bought back the film rights to the novel with his own money.[5] The movie almost got financed several times over the next decade—at one stage in the early 1980s Christopher Reeve was interested in playing Westley[6]—before Rob Reiner managed to secure funding from Norman Lear.[7]

The Cliffs of Insanity are actually the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland.

The film was shot in various locations in Great Britain and Ireland:

Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin learned to fence (both left- and right-handed) for the film (reportedly spending all their free time during the production practicing with fencing instructors Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond, and with each other). They actually performed all of the fencing in the sword fight scene, although stunt doubles were used for the two somersaults.[9]

Popular professional wrestler André the Giant had undergone major back surgery prior to filming and, despite his great size and strength, could not support the weight of Cary Elwes during their fight scene or Robin Wright for a scene at the end of the film. For the wrestling scene, when Elwes was pretending to hang on André's back, he was actually walking on a series of ramps below the camera during close-ups. For the wide shots, a stunt double took the place of André.[10] When he was apparently carrying Wright, she was actually suspended by cables.[11]


The original soundtrack album was composed by Mark Knopfler, and released by Warner Bros. Records in the United States and Vertigo Records internationally in November 1987. The album contains the song "Storybook Love", performed by Willy DeVille and produced by Mark Knopfler. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards.[12]

In his audio commentary of the film on the special edition DVD, director Rob Reiner said that only Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits could create a soundtrack to capture the film's quirky yet romantic nature. Reiner was an admirer of Knopfler's work but did not know him before working on the film. He sent the script to him hoping he would agree to score the film. Knopfler agreed on one condition: that somewhere in the film Reiner would include the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) baseball cap (which had been modified to say "USS Ooral Sea OV-4B") he wore as Marty DiBergi in This Is Spinal Tap. Reiner was unable to produce the original cap, but did include a similar cap in the grandson's room. Knopfler later said he was joking.


Box office

The film was initially a modest success,[13] grossing $30.8 million at the United States and Canada box office,[14] on a $16 million production budget.[15]

Critical response

The Princess Bride received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's consensus states: "A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh."[16] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[17]

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating on their television program.[18] Ebert also wrote a very favorable print review in his column for the Chicago Sun-Times.[19] Richard Corliss of Time said the film was fun for the whole family,[20] and later, Time listed the film as one of the "Best of '87".[21] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the cast and the sweetness of the film.[22]


The Princess Bride was not a major box-office success, but it became a cult classic after its release to the home video market. The film is widely regarded as eminently quotable.[23][24]

In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted The Princess Bride the 38th greatest comedy film of all time. In 2006, William Goldman's screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 84th best screenplay of all time; it earned the same ranking in the Guild's 2013 update.[25]broken link The film was selected number 88 on The American Film Institute's (AFI) "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions" listing the 100 greatest film love stories of all time. BBC Radio 5's resident film critic, Mark Kermode, is a fan of the film, frequently considering it a model to which similar films aspire.[citation needed].

American Film Institute lists

In December 2011, director Jason Reitman staged a live dramatic reading of The Princess Bride script at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with Paul Rudd as Westley; Mindy Kaling as Buttercup; Patton Oswalt as Vizzini; Kevin Pollak as Miracle Max; Goran Visnjic as Inigo Montoya; Cary Elwes (switching roles) as Humperdinck; director Rob Reiner as the grandfather; and Fred Savage reprising his role as the grandson.[29]

In 2013, director Ari Folman released a live action/animation film, The Congress, directly referencing the film and starring Robin Wright herself as a digitally cloned actress.

Post-theatrical release

In North America, the film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1988 by Nelson Entertainment, the latter being a "bare bones" release in unmatted full screen. New Line Home Video reissued the VHS in 1994.[30]

The Criterion Collection released a matted widescreen version, bare bones version on laserdisc in 1989, supplementing it with liner notes. In 1997 Criterion re-released the Laserdisc as a "special edition". This edition was widescreen and included an audio commentary by Rob Reiner, William Goldman, Andrew Scheinman, Billy Crystal, and Peter Falk; excerpts from the novel read by Rob Reiner; behind the scenes footage; a production scrapbook by unit photographer Clive Coote; design sketches by production designer Norman Garwood; and excerpts from the television series Morton and Hayes, directed by Christopher Guest.

By 2000, MGM had acquired the US home video rights to the film (as part of the "pre-1996 Polygram film library" package) and released the film on VHS and DVD. The DVD release featured the soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 with the film in wide and full screen versions, and included the original US theatrical trailer. The next year MGM re-released the film in another widescreen "special edition", this time with two audio commentaries—one by Rob Reiner, the other by William Goldman—"As You Wish", "Promotional", and "Making Of" featurettes;[clarification needed] a "Cary Elwes Video Diary"; the US and UK theatrical trailers; four television spots; a photo gallery; and a collectible booklet.

In 2006, MGM released a two-disc set with varying covers—the "Dread Pirate" and "Buttercup" editions. Each featured their respective character, but had identical features: in addition to the features in the previous release were, the "Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas", "Love is Like a Storybook Story", and "Miraculous Make Up" featurettes, "The Quotable Battle of Wits" game, and Fezzik's "Guide to Florin" booklet.

Another year later, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film, MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (whose parent company 20th Century Fox continues to hold all US rights to the film except for US home video rights) released the film with flippable cover art featuring the title displayed in an ambigram. This DVD did not include any of the bonus features from the older editions, but had new short featurettes and a new game. A Blu-ray Disc was released on March 17, 2009, encoded in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Special features include two audio commentaries, the original theatrical trailer and eight featurettes.[31]

In 2007, the film was released for download in the iTunes Store.[32]

The film is also available in Region 2 where it is published by Lions Gate Entertainment. Its extras are the theatrical trailer and text filmographies.


It was announced that composer Adam Guettel was working with William Goldman on a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride in 2006. The project was abandoned in February 2007 after Goldman reportedly demanded 75 percent of the author's share, even though Guettel was writing both the music and the lyrics.[33] Some of Guettel's music for the production has since surfaced in concert performances and workshops.[citation needed]

In 2008, PlayRoom Entertainment released The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle, a board game based on the film.[34]

The Princess Bride Game is a casual video game developed and published by New York game development studio Worldwide Biggies.[35][36]


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  • Goldman, William, Which Lie Did They Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000

Further reading

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External links