The Princess Bride (film)

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Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, Revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles
Grandson: -sigh- It doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try to stay awake.

A 1987 movie adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 book of the same name, The Princess Bride is about the trials of true love in the Renaissance European nation of Florin. The story stars Buttercup, a simple yet incredibly beautiful farmgirl, and Westley, the farmhand she enjoys ordering around. Although they realize that they share the incredibly rare thing called “true love,” fate conspires to keep them apart, as Westley is lost at sea.

Five years later, Prince Humperdinck, who rules Florin in place of his elderly and doddering father, decides to celebrate the kingdom’s 500th anniversary by marrying Buttercup, who is still the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. Buttercup, knowing that the Prince is well within his rights and believing she can never love again anyway, reluctantly agrees.

In a plot against the throne, Buttercup is kidnapped by the criminal trio of Vizzini (the mastermind), Fezzik (the dumb muscle) and Inigo Montoya (the world’s greatest fencer, traveling to avenge his father) - but their steps are hampered by a mysterious man in black who seems determined to stop them at all costs. The subsequent adventures are madcap, iconic and brilliant.

The movie uses a Framing Device of a grandfather (Peter Falk) telling the story to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) with the boy complaining about the story at various points. (“They’re kissing again.”)

The Princess Bride is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in The Princess Bride include:

Miracle Max: Beat it, or I’ll call the Brute Squad!
Fezzik: I’m on the Brute Squad.
Miracle Max: (Double Take) You are the Brute Squad.

Buttercup: *kisses the king on the cheek*
The King: What was the for?
Buttercup: Because you’ve always been so kind to me, and I won’t be seeing you again, since I’m killing myself once we reach the honeymoon suite.
The King: Won’t that be nice? *calling up to the queen* She kissed me! Heeheehee!

Inigo: This is noble, sir. His wife is… crippled. His children are on the brink of starvation.
Miracle Max: Are you a rotten liar.
Inigo: I need him to help avenge my father, murdered these twenty years.
Miracle Max: Your first story was better.

“Well, I haven’t fought just one person for so long… You see, you use different moves when you’re fighting half a dozen people than when you only have to worry about one.”

  • Cool Mask: The Man in Black. It’s just terribly comfortable!
  • Creepy Monotone: Count Rugen, in terrifying contrast to the World of Ham around him.
  • Cruel Mercy: The To the Pain sequence.
  • Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Buttercup after being untied.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: During the Storming the Castle sequence, four palace guards charge our heroes. Inigo kills them in five. seconds. flat. Without ever taking his eyes off Count Rugen.
  • Damsel in Distress: Buttercup. She’s especially useless in the fight with the ROUS. C’mon, swing that branch, don’t just jab with it like a pool cue! Or, considering that the love of your life who you just found out wasn’t dead, might end up dead after all at the hands/teeth of this creature, you might want to pick up his sword, which is on the ground right next to you.
  • Derailed for Details: The kid in the Framing Device, occasionally. Sometimes asking to skip romance scenes or Get On With It Already.
  • Determinator: Inigo in his fight with Count Rugen. Stabbed repeatedly and still keeps coming. He will avenge his father’s death.
  • Double Take
  • The Dreaded: The Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Buttercup and the Ancient Booer.
  • Dueling Scar: Inigo Montoya has two scars down his cheeks, which is understandable, given his career as a swordfighter. They are later revealed to be a humiliation inflicted upon him at the age of eleven after the first time he tried to avenge his father’s murder by Count Rugen.
  • Dumb Blonde: Buttercup doesn’t come across as dumb so much as sheltered and naive, which makes sense, given she’s almost instantly transported from a tiny farm into royalty. She also lampshades it with some Self-Deprecation while she’s nailing Humperdinck with a pretty fair Kirk Summation.
  • Electric Torture: Vacuum, actually, but the trappings apply.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: The Impressive Clergyman.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even Count Rugen is aghast when Humperdinck gets his hands on the machine to torture Westley.

Count Rugen: NOT TO FIFTY!

Inigo: Excuse me… Excuse me… Fezzik, please?
Fezzik: EVERYBODY MOVE!
Crowd: *clears a path*
Inigo: Thank you.

  • Fairytale Wedding Dress
  • Fake-Out Opening: The film begins with the boy playing a video game. (He might be using a Nintendo controller, but the game is Hardball — looks like C64 version — which never came out for the NES.)
  • Faux Affably Evil: Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen.

Rugen: Your princess is quite a winning creature. A trifle simple, perhaps, but her appeal is undeniable.
Humperdinck: I know, the people are quite taken with her. It’s odd, but when I hired Vizzini to have her murdered on our engagement day, I thought that was clever. But it’s going to be so much more moving when I strangle her on our wedding night. Once Guilder is blamed, the nation will truly be outraged - they’ll demand we go to war.
Rugen: (looking for the secret passage in the tree) Now where is that secret knot? It’s impossible to find… (he finds it and the tree opens to reveal a hidden passage) Ah… Are you coming down into the pit? Westley’s got his strength back. I’m starting him on the machine tonight.
Humperdinck: Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.
Rugen: Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

    • Vizzini has shades of it too. He sometimes tries to come off as a smiling, magnanimous villain, but he's really just a slimy toad.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Parodied.

Man in Black: What you do not smell is called Iocaine powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.
Humperdinck (sniffing the vial, later): Iocaine! I’d bet my life on it.

Westley has been told he will be returned to his ship after being captured by the Prince.
Westley: We are men of action. Lies do not become us.
Rugen: Well spoken, sir.

Brute: Ho there!
Inigo: I will not budge. Keep your joder.

  • Give Me a Sign: While holding the sword his late father made, Inigo asks his father’s spirit to guide his sword and lead him to Westley. Then he closes his eyes while holding the sword out in front of him, and ultimately sticks it into a tree. Feeling let down and probably foolish, Inigo slumps down onto the tree. And then it opens up…
  • Goes to Eleven: Count Rugen, played by Christopher Guest. Actually a literal Goes to Elevenhe has eleven fingers.

Rugen: One day I might go as high as five, but I really don’t know what would happen.
(later) Not to 50!

    • Made especially awesome as Christopher Guest was the actor who portrayed Nigel Tufnel, who originated taking things to eleven with his amplifier. Rob Reiner was the director of both movies, but Rugen had eleven fingers in the book, long before This Is Spinal Tap came around.
  • The Good King: Unfortunately one so doddery that The Evil Prince is reigning for him.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • Inigo has Good Scars.
    • And Count Rugen gets Evil Scars! For bonus points they’re exactly the same wounds he’s inflicted on Inigo, from cheeks to gut. (And then he dies ten seconds later).
  • Hair of Gold: Both Buttercup and Westley.
  • Happily Ever After
  • He Will Come for Me: No less than three Will Come For Me moments.
    • A variation while Buttercup is held prisoner by the Man in Black.

Buttercup: No matter where you take me, there’s no greater hunter than Prince Humperdinck. He could track a falcon on a cloudy day. He can find you.
Man in Black: You think your dearest love will save you?
Buttercup: I never said he was my dearest love. And yes, he will save me. That I know.

    • While Buttercup is waiting for Westley to come take her away.

Buttercup: Any word from Westley?
Humperdinck: Too soon, my angel. Patience.
Buttercup: He will come for me.

    • A third variation, at the wedding.

Buttercup, hearing the sounds of fighting: Here comes my Westley now.
Humperdinck: Your Westley is dead. I killed him myself.
Buttercup: Then why is there fear behind your eyes?

    • Of course in the end, Westley doesn’t show up on time, causing Buttercup to almost have a Heroic BSOD: “He didn’t come…” Then he shows up after all, late for the wedding but Just in Time to face Humperdinck in the bedroom.
  • Heel Face Turn: Inigo and Fezzik, technically.
  • Henpecked Husband: Miracle Max, to an extent.

Valerie: Liar! Liar! LIIIAAAAAR!

The Grandson: “Wait, what did Fezzik mean, ‘He’s dead?’ I mean, he didn’t mean dead; Westley’s only faking, right?”

  • Home, Sweet Home: Westley wants to settle down with Buttercup.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: The Chatty Duel is the Trope Namer.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: Vizzini tells Fezzik “You were not hired for your brains!”
  • I Gave My Word: Played straight by Inigo as Westley is trying to climb the Cliffs of Insanity. Twisted around when Prince Humperdinck promises not to hurt Westley if Buttercup goes quietly (planning to let Count Rugen do it), but ultimately subverted when Humperdinck mostly kills Westley himself.
  • I Know You Know I Know: “…so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me! But you would have counted on my thinking that, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you!…”
  • Ice Queen/Defrosting Ice Queen: Buttercup goes from one to the other and back again throughout the story. She starts out cold, then defrosts when she realizes she’s in love with Westley, then freezes up again after he’s murdered by pirates, then defrosts again when he shows up.
  • Ignoring by Singing: Miracle Max’s response when his wife provokes him by reminding him of his treatment by Prince Humperdinck.
  • The Igor: The Albino.
    • Subverted: He starts speaking in a typical “Igor voice,” then coughs and continues speaking in a perfectly normal voice.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Fezzik during the storming of the castle.
  • Indecisive Medium: The film is about reading a book.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Princess Buttercup, while pretty, is far from the “most beautiful woman in the world.”
  • Insane Troll Logic: Visible throughout the Battle of Wits.

Vizzini: Because iocaine comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Man in Black: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

  • Instant Plunder, Just Add Pirates: The Dread Pirate Roberts, to be precise.
  • Inter Class Romance: Buttercup, a commoner, and Prince Humperdinck, prince, to the extent that it counts as a romance.
  • Ironic Echo: “I swear it will be done.” (Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen)
  • Karma Houdini: Prince Humperdinck.
  • King on His Deathbed: Prince Humperdinck’s father
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Buttercup tells Humperdinck that Westley will come for her, he looks straight at the camera and smirks in response.
  • Legacy Character: The Dread Pirate Roberts. Westley reveals that he is at least the third person to use the mantle in order to uphold the legend. Fezzik even briefly takes up the identity to scare a few guards in one scene. At the end of the movie, Inigo wonders what to do now that he got his revenge, and Westley passes the name to him.
  • Leitmotif: Skillfully done with Fezzik’s plodding slide trombone theme. You can’t help but smile when you hear it, especially in this scene:

Inigo: (drunk out of his mind) I. Am waiting. For. Vizzini.
Cue leitmotif as huge hands pick Inigo up
Fezzik: You surely are a meanie.

  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Inigo Montoya and Westley have a most cordial conversation before they fight.
  • Life Isn't Fair:
    • In response to the grandson’s protest at a certain (apparent) plot development, the grandfather simply says, “So who says life is fair? Where is that written?”
    • A similar sentiment is the line in both book and movie (though in very different contexts):

“Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

  • Living Legend: Less than the book. The Dread Pirate is the only legend present in the movie, though Inigo may inherit it and… improve upon it.
  • Look Behind You!
  • Marry for Love
  • Metafictional Device: Used, lampshaded and parodied everywhere.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Vizzini and the Man in Black, leading up to the battle of wits.
  • Mickey Mousing: Used throughout the movie to varying degree and effect, but the most noteworthy instance has to be Inigo Montoya’s fight against Count Rugen.
  • Minion with an F In Evil: Inigo and Fezzik. “I just don’t think it’s right, killing an innocent girl.” And of course “‘My way’ is not very sportsmanlike.”
  • Mobstacle Course: Inigo in a crowd until Fezzik shouts “Everybody MOVE!”
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: You see, there's this Spanish character...
  • The Napoleon: Vizzini.
  • Neutral Female: Buttercup is hilariously useless.
  • Never Say That Again:
    • Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck!
    • Also, Count Rugen: “Stop saying that!”
  • No Time to Explain: “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”
  • Noisy Nature: Shrieking eels.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Impressive Clergyman (British comedian Peter Cook), Miracle Max, and Valerie.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: In his final battle with Count Rugen, Inigo twice deflects sword thrusts into his shoulder and yet seems to show no visible effect from it.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Trope Namer. After Humperdinck kills Westley, his friends take him to Miracle Max, who diagnoses him as “only mostly dead” and thus a candidate for revival.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
  • Out-Gambitted: Go ahead and go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line if you are immune to a poison you are using.
  • Overly Long Scream: Westley, when Humperdinck charges into the Pit of Despair and cranks Rugen’s life-sucking machine to its maximum setting.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: It took As You Wish to realize it?!
  • Passing the Torch: Suggested in the film that Inigo will take Westley’s place as the Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • Person with the Clothing: The Man in Black.
  • Pet Rat: The goons hired by Prince Humperdinck whose job is to clear out the Thieves Quarter. Not to mention Vizzini and his crew.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Inigo Montoya has a scar on each cheek given to him by the man who killed his father which serves to strengthen his drive for revenge.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Dread Pirate Roberts, when he’s on screen anyway. Justified, as he spends a good deal of the time either not being the Dread Pirate Roberts, in the fire swamp, in the Pit of Despair, mostly dead, or trying to rescue Buttercup.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Sword whipping, actually.
  • Plot-Powered Stamina: Fezzik’s arms never get tired.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Part of Vizzini’s Batman Gambit that revolves around the aforementioned I Know You Know I Know.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Interesting case since the author himself adapted it to a screenplay. The book had far more characters (who were usually only important to one other character) who had great lines transplanted on to movie characters. (“Life hurts. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.” was said by Fezzik’s mother to her son in the book, not Westley to Buttercup.) However, William Goldman has a long and storied career as a Hollywood screenwriter, so he is better suited than most writers to adapt his work. In particular, it seems like he had a Fridge Logic moment near the end that he added into the screenplay — presumably Buttercup didn’t say “I do” in the book either, but Westley doesn’t think of that, instead just saying basically “Well, that’s okay, you won’t be married to him very long.”
    • The extraordinarily complicated stack of frame stories and unreliable narrations in the book, all focused on the reader-writer relationship (S. Morgenstern’s novel — in Florinese and in translation; the version Goldman remembers his grandfather telling him; Goldman’s opinionated summaries of sections he’s “cut”; the unflattering fictional “Goldman” narrating the outer layer, complete with unflattering family life; commentary by his copy-editor and an eminent Morgenstern scholar; the supposed ‘real’ history of Florin and Guilder, and of course the actual book) is slimmed down to one simple frame story, removing practically all the postmodernism and satire, for the movie. Hilariously, the fictionalized Goldman discusses and complains, in the book’s introduction, about the restrictions imposed by executives when adapting books for Hollywood; the real Goldman clearly knew exactly what he was going to have to do for the movie adaptation when he wrote the book.
  • Precision F-Strike: A single instance of “You son of a bitch” is the closest the film gets to an actual swear word. And even that ends up Bowdlerized when shown on TV, becoming “You son of a witch.”
    • Fred Savage’s “Jesus!” counts as this, too, especially having the context and emotion of a “WTF?”.
  • Prepositional Phrase Equals Coolness: The Cliffs of Insanity, the Man in Black, the Rodents of Unusual Size, and the Pit of Despair, just to name a few.
  • Pressure Point: Fezzik uses a Vulcan Neck Pinch on Buttercup.
  • Pretext for War: The plot behind Buttercup’s kidnapping.
  • Prince Charmless: And Murderous!
  • Psycho for Hire: Count Rugen
  • Punch Clock Villain: Inigo and Fezzik.

Inigo: I work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.

Humperdinck: Someone has beaten a giant. There will be great suffering in Guilder if she dies…

Fezzik: Why are you wearing a mask? Were you burned by acid or something like that?
Man in Black: No, it’s just that they are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

  • Shown Their Work: In the duel between Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo Montoya. Bonetti's Defense was once famous among English swordmasters, though mostly as a target of criticism. Capo Ferro, Thibault, and Agrippa are well known sword masters. Ridolfo Capo Ferro and Camillo Agrippa wrote books available at amazon.
  • The Slow Walk: Inigo during his final duel with Count Rugen. Justified because he was seriously injured at the time.
  • So Beautiful It's a Curse: Buttercup. Her beauty is enough to get her promoted to future queen, except the Prince threatens to kill her if she refuses. And he’s planning to kill her anyway. In fact, if she were slightly less beautiful, the whole conflict wouldn’t have happened.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: Inigo gets his revenge, but he spent all his adult life in pursuit of it. What should he do? Fortunately Westley passes on the mantle of The Dread Pirate Roberts to him.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Roberts saying “As you wish”, reveals himself to be Westley.
  • Sparing the Aces: The Man in Black would no sooner kill a genius than shatter a stained glass window.
  • Stealth Pun: At the end of the movie, when Inigo wonders what to do with his life:

Inigo: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.
Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.

Inigo appears to accept the offer, or at least be considering it. What the viewer has likely forgotten by this point, though, is that the Dread Pirate Roberts’ ship is named The Revengewhich would put Inigo right back in the Revenge business.
  • Stop Saying That: Count Rugen, verbatim, to Inigo Montoya.
  • Storming the Castle[1]
  • Stunned Silence: Buttercup to Westley after he praises the Fire Swamp.
  • Swashbuckler: Not a completely pure example of the genre, but containing many, many of its elements.
  • Sword Fight: The “Chatty Duel.” One of the best sword fights on film. (see I Am Not Left-Handed)
  • Take a Third Option: Vizzini attempts this during the battle of wits. Unfortunately for him, so did the Man in Black, and rather more successfully.
  • Tap on the Head: The Dread Pirate Roberts to Inigo (swordhilt) and Fezzik (stranglehold), Count Rugen to Westley (swordhilt), and Fezzik to the albino (fist) and the shrieking eel (fist).
    • Averted during filming, as indicated on the DVD commentary: Cary Elwes encouraged Chris Guest to hit him hard when Rugen knocks Westley out; as a result production shut down for the day while Elwes was rushed to the hospital.
  • Tempting Fate

Buttercup: [While in the Fire Swamp] Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.'s?
Westley: Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist…[Westley is attacked by a R.O.U.S.]

    • In this example, Westley is clearly just trying to assuage her fears, as he’s looking over her shoulder at about three of them shortly before he says the line.
  • Terrible Trio: Vizzini, Inigo, and Fezzik are either an example of this or Three Amigos. Because Vizzini is a cad, but Fezzik and Inigo are mostly good, but on the other hand Inigo and Fezzik both help to kidnap Buttercup and, oh Never Mind! Later becomes heroic when someone gets slapped with iocaine powder.
  • Theme Naming: Florin and Guilder are different names for the same medieval European coin. Currency with those names is still in use today.
  • Thicker Than Water
  • This Is Sparta: Drop. Your. Sword.
  • Try and Follow: The Fire Swamp and the Cliffs of Insanity.
  • Two-Faced Aside: When Buttercup asks Humperdinck to promise he’ll return Westley to his ship:

Humperdinck: I swear it will be done. [aside to Count Rugen] Once we’re out of sight, take him back to Florin and throw him in the Pit of Despair.
Count Rugen: I swear it will be done.

  • Unconscious Objector: Inigo’s arm seems to block Count Rugen’s coups de grace independently. At that moment, “conscious” wouldn’t fairly describe Inigo, who seems ready to Go Into the Light.
  • Undead Author: The Dread Pirate Roberts takes no prisoners. (In the original novel, it’s explained that this doesn’t mean he kills everybody: he kills anybody who resists, but anybody who hands over their valuables without resistance gets to go free — and spread the word, so that the next set of victims are less likely to resist.)
  • Unreliable Voiceover: “Fezzik took great care in reviving Inigo.” This is said as Fezzik shoves Inigo’s head into alternating basins of hot and cold water. Repeatedly.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sound: All of one person other than the main characters seems to notice the eerie, overlapping scream that’s loud enough to be heard all over Florin. And he just turns his head slightly before walking on, all of the other peasants blithely ignoring it. Of course, Inigo has to tell Fezzik to stop and listen before the giant acknowledges it, so it might simply not be as loud to the characters as it is to the viewers.
  • Video Credits
  • Villainous Breakdown: As Inigo refuses to die, and slowly gains the upper hand on Rugen in their duel, Rugen first becomes shaken, then demands that Inigo “Stop saying that!”
  • Villainous Friendship: A Type I; Humperdinck trusts the Count completely, the Count worries for the Prince’s health, and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
  • Wall Slump: Inigo has a famous one after Rugen stabs him… several times.
  • Wham! Line:
    • “As you wish!” as Roberts tumbles down the hillside.
    • Humperdinck is presented as a Jerkass for claiming Buttercup as a trophy wife - though he seems sincerely concerned that Guilder kidnapped her and plans to kill her - and later imprisoning Westley to get him out of the way. Then he reveals that he was behind Buttercup’s abduction all along, and was trying to frame Guilder for it, and will instead murder her on the wedding night and frame Guilder for that instead.
  • Who Are You?

Inigo: Who are you?
Man in Black: I am no one of consequence.
Inigo: I must know.
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
Inigo: (shrugs) Okay.

  • You Fight Like a Cow: The famous Inigo/Westley duel, but with compliments instead of insults. (In most DVD editions, that chapter is titled “The Chatty Duelists.”)
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: Inigo looking for the entrance to the Pit of Despair.

Grandson: Grandpa… do you think you can read it for me again tomorrow?
Grandfather: As You Wish.

  1. “Think it’ll work?” “It’ll take a miracle.”