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
Narrated by Peter Falk
Music by Mark Knopfler
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Robert Leighton
ACT III Communications
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(USA & Canada, theatrical and television)
Vestron Pictures
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 fantasy comedy adventure film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, and starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, 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 loved 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 initially achieved moderate success at the box office. Despite being a moderate success, the film received critical acclaim from film critics. Since its release, the film was successful in the home video market and later developed a much more substantial following as a cult classic.[1] This 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.[2]


In a frame story, a man (Peter Falk) reads a book to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). Scenes of the reading occasionally interrupt the main story.

A young woman named Buttercup (Robin Wright) lives on a farm in the country of Florin. Whenever she gives her farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes) an order, he answers "as you wish" and happily complies. Eventually, she realizes that he means "I love you"—and that she loves him too. Westley leaves to seek his fortune so they can marry, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who famously never leaves anyone alive.

Five years later, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), heir to the throne. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three outlaws: a Sicilian boss named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a giant named Fezzik (André the Giant), and a Spanish master fencer named Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who seeks revenge against the six-fingered man who killed his father. Two separate forces pursue them: Prince Humperdinck with a complement of soldiers, and a masked man dressed in black. The outlaws were actually hired by Humperdinck himself to make a pretext for war by leaving Buttercup's dead body on the shores of rival country Guilder.

The man in black catches up to the outlaws at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, where he defeats Inigo in a swordfight and knocks him unconscious. He then defeats Fezzik in hand-to-hand combat, choking him until he blacks out. Finally, he kills Vizzini in a battle of wits by tricking him into drinking poison, and so captures Buttercup. When he tells her he is the Dread Pirate Roberts, she becomes enraged at him for killing Westley and shoves him down a slope. As he falls he calls out "As you wish" and Buttercup realizes that the man is, in fact, Westley. Buttercup chases after him and learns that the previous Dread Pirate Roberts had offered his identity to Westley in order to be able to retire—which was also how that "Roberts" had acquired his identity.

The duo manage to cross the Fire Swamp with its fire spouts, lightning sand, and Rodents of Unusual Size, but are captured by Humperdinck and his sadistic six-fingered vizier Count Rugen (Christopher Guest).

Buttercup agrees to return with Humperdinck in exchange for Westley's release, but Humperdinck secretly has Rugen imprison and torture Westley in the Pit of Despair. Later, when Buttercup expresses unhappiness at marrying Humperdinck, he promises to search for Westley. Eventually Buttercup realizes he is lying and taunts him as a coward. Humperdinck, enraged, tortures Westley to his death.

Meanwhile, Fezzik finds Inigo and informs him of Rugen's existence. Inigo decides that they need the man in black's help to get into the castle. Hearing cries of anguish, they reach Rugen's torture chamber only to find Westley dead. But they take him to Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), who explains that Westley is "only mostly dead", and supplies a pill to revive him. With the wedding imminent, they give Westley the pill too early and he awakens partially paralyzed. Still, Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik invade the castle. Humperdinck drastically abridges the wedding ceremony and locks Buttercup into her chambers.

Meanwhile Inigo finds and duels Rugen. Seriously wounded early in the battle, he begins repeatedly reciting his long-rehearsed greeting of vengeance: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." This restores his focus and he finally slays his nemesis.

Westley finds Buttercup about to commit suicide, and assures her that her marriage is void because they never said "I do." Humperdinck confronts them but Westley bluffs him into surrendering, leaving him tied up, to contemplate his cowardice. Westley rides away triumphantly with Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik on horses that Fezzik conveniently discovers. As they leave, Inigo remarks that now that he has his revenge he isn't sure what to do next; Westley suggests he become the next Dread Pirate Roberts.

At last Westley and Buttercup share 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[edit]

Main story[edit]

  • Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man In Black, a farmboy, a pirate in black, and Buttercup's love interest.
  • Robin Wright as Buttercup, a farm girl, Princess of Florin, and Westley's love interest.
  • Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, heir to the throne of Florin, who becomes engaged to Buttercup.
  • Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, a Spaniard who has trained in fencing for twenty years to the point of fighting left-handed so as to prolong his duels. He seeks revenge upon Count Rugen for the murder of his father.
  • Christopher Guest as Count Tyrone Rugen, the vizier of Prince Humperdinck. He has six fingers on his right hand.
  • André the Giant as Fezzik, a giant and companion of Inigo.
  • Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, a self-described criminal genius of Sicilian origin and the employer of Inigo and Fezzik.
  • Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, the last miracle worker in Florin, who was fired by Humperdinck many years ago, and saves Westley's life to get revenge on the Prince.
  • Carol Kane as Valerie, Max's wife.
  • Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman, the clergyman at Humperdinck and Buttercup's wedding. He cannot pronounce "R"s or "L"s.
  • Mel Smith as The Albino, assistant torturer to Count Rugen.
  • Margery Mason as The Ancient Booer, a woman in Buttercup's dreams.
  • Malcolm Storry as Yellin, a soldier of Florin.
  • Willoughby Gray as The King, father of Prince Humperdinck.
  • Anne Dyson as The Queen, mother of Prince Humperdinck.


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] 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.[4] 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[5] — before Rob Reiner managed to secure funding from Norman Lear.[6]

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

The film was shot in various locations in the United Kingdom 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.[8]

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.[9]


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 co-written with Mark Knopfler. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards.[10]

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[edit]

The film was initially a modest success,[11] grossing $30.8 million at the United States and Canada box office,[12] on a $16 million production budget.[13]

Critical response[edit]

The film received critical acclaim from critics. Siskel and Ebert gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating on their television program.[14] Ebert also wrote a very favorable print review in his column for the Chicago Sun-Times.[15] Richard Corliss of Time said the film was fun for the whole family,[16] and later, Time listed the film as one of the "Best of '87".[17] Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the cast and the sweetness of the movie.[18]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 97% based on reviews from 63 critics.[19] Metacritic gives the film a "generally favorable" average score of 77% based on reviews from 20 critics.[20]


The Princess Bride was not a major box-office success, but after its release to the home video market, it became a cult classic. The film is widely regarded as eminently quotable.[21][22]

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.[23] 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]. It is considered one of the most rewatchable films of all time.[24]

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.[28]

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

In 2015 a collection of essays on the film was published entitled The Princess Bride and Philosophy.[29]

Post-theatrical release[edit]

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 Tony Award-winning composer Adam Guettel was working with William Goldman on a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride in 2006. The project was abandoned though, 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""The Princess Bride" becomes part of the Midnight Madness at the Rialto". Retrieved October 31, 2011. 
  2. ^ "50 Greatest Comedy Films". Channel 4. January 27, 2010. Retrieved October 30, 2011. 
  3. ^ Schlesinger to Direct West Work. Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 Sep 1973: d12.
  4. ^ Goldman, 2000 p 25-26
  5. ^ William Goldman, The Big Picture?: Who Killed Hollywood and Other Essays, Applause, 2000 p 189
  6. ^ Goldman, 2000 p 27
  7. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office The Princess Bride Film Focus". 
  8. ^ Reiner, Rob. The Princess Bride. DVD audio commentary. Directed by Rob Reiner. 1987; Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2001. (see Ch. 06, time 17:45)
  9. ^ Reiner, Rob. The Princess Bride. DVD audio commentary. Directed by Rob Reiner. 1987; Santa Monica, CA: MGM Home Entertainment, 2001. (see Ch. 08, time 25:40)
  10. ^ Allmusic "The Princess Bride" Check |url= scheme (help). Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  11. ^ Gray Streeter, Leslie (9 December 2007). "'The Princess Bride' Turns 20". The Palm Beach Post. [w]as a modest hit[...] 
  12. ^ "The Princess Bride (1987". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  13. ^ Clark, Mike (25 September 1987). "Reiner's 'Princess' is charming". USA Today. Despite a $16 million budget, [...] 
  14. ^ "''At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert'' review". Archived from the original on April 1, 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-05. 
  15. ^ Roger Ebert (October 9, 1987). "The Princess Bride". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  16. ^ Richard Corliss (September 21, 1987). "Errol Flynn Meets Gunga Din THE PRINCESS BRIDE". Time. 
  17. ^ "Best of '87", Time, January 4, 1988.
  18. ^ Janet Maslin (September 25, 1987). "New York Times review". 
  19. ^ "The Princess Bride (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  20. ^ "The Princess Bride". Metacritic. CBS. 
  21. ^ "‘Princess Bride’ Reunion, Thanks to Entertainment Weekly Magazine". Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Berardinelli's All-Time Top 100". January 4, 2002. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  23. ^ Savage, Sophia (February 27, 2013). "WGA Lists Greatest Screenplays, From 'Casablanca' and 'Godfather' to 'Memento' and 'Notorious'". Retrieved February 28, 2013. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
  26. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  27. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  28. ^ Breznican, Anthony (December 30, 2011). "'The Princess Bride' Comes Alive!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 7, 2012. 
  29. ^ Greene, Richard (et al.) (2015). The Princess Bride and Philosophy. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0812699142. 
  30. ^ Billboard (May 21, 1994), page 55.)
  31. ^ MGM Press Release: The Princess Bride (Blu-ray), Home Theater Forum, 2009-02-04.
  32. ^ "Itunes – Princess Bride". Retrieved October 31, 2011. 
  33. ^ Riedel, Michael (16 February 2007). "'Bride' Not to Be While Broderick Balks at 'Producers'". New York Post. Archived from the original on February 25, 2007. 
  34. ^ The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle | Board Game | BoardGameGeek
  • Goldman, William, Which Lie Did They Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]