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 (Robin Wright), a simple yet incredibly beautiful farmgirl, and Westley (Cary Elwes), 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 above-mentioned giant) 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.")
Affectionate Parody: Pulls off the tricky balancing act between joyful appreciation and subtle (and not so subtle) parody.
Anachronism Stew: The story seems to be set in the late Rennaisance, and yet there is talk of the penal colony Australia. Australia was only discovered in 1606, and only used as a penal colony from 1780 onward.
Iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them, as the Man in Black is not trusted by Vizzini, so he can clearly not choose the wine in front of his opponent. (There is no such thing, but thenagain...).
Subverted. "Let me explain. (Beat) No, there is too much. Let me sum up."
Battle of Wits: Played straight (and yet for laughs) in a classic scene involving Vezzini, the Dread Pirate Roberts, two cups of wine and a vial of iocaine powder.
Best Served Cold: Inigo's quest for vengeance against six-fingered man Count Rugen.
The Big Damn Kiss: "Since the invention of the kiss there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind. The End." Played for ironic Character Development, since throughout the movie the kid has protested and insisted on skipping or editing all the kissy stuff, only to protest when Grampa complies for the final kiss.
The Big Guy: Fezzik. "It's not my fault I'm the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise."
Casual Danger Dialogue: Westley and Fezzik have a friendly discussion while fighting to the death. Fezzik keeps talking right up to the second he passes out. Westley and Inigo talk throughout their fight as well, but that's more the witty repartée you expect from a fencing duel.
Buttercup: *kisses the king on the cheek* The King: What was that 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.
Determinator: Inigo in his fight with Count Rugen. Stabbed repeatedly and still keeps coming. He will avenge his father's death.
Distressed Damsel: 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.
Distant Reaction Shot: During Westley's scream, they cut to several places throughout the kingdom, including Buttercup's room, then to Inigo and Fezzik, where Inigo immediately recognizes the cry of ultimate suffering.
Driven to Suicide: Buttercup after her wedding to Humperdinck, during which he revealed to her he'd had Westley murdered. Good thing Westley was only mostly dead and happened to be in the honeymoon suite waiting for her.
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. He returns the favour before killing 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.
Evil Gloating: Rugen halts Inigo's chase by throwing a knife into his stomach... and if he'd taken the opportunity to keep running, he might have got away. Instead he stops to gloat, and Inigo gets a Heroic Second Wind.
Exact Words: Westley's challenge in the Battle Of Wits is "Where is the poison?", not "Which glass is poisoned?".
Fakeout Opening: The film begins with the boy playing a video game.note He might be using a Nintendo controller, but the game is Hardball, apparently the Commodore 64 version, which never came out for the NES.
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.
Man in Black: What you do not smell is called Iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.
Humperdinck(sniffing the vial, later): Iocane! I'd bet my life on it.
Foregone Conclusion: The grandfather tells his grandson the ending of the story midway through the movie, although the specific details have been left out.
Flynning: The duel on the Cliffs of Insanity is an homage. The screenplay explicitly says they're Flynning as they have nothing personal driving their duel and are trying to have fun with someone who can fight as well as they can.
Genre Savvy: When Rugen tells Westley that he will be returned to his ship after being captured by the Prince, Westley says, "We are men of action. Lies do not become us." Rugen doesn't bother contradicting him.
One of the Brute Squad greets Inigo, who replies in the King's Spanish:
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...
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.
Shortly before the wedding:
Buttercup: You never sent those ships. Don't bother lying. [beat] It doesn't matter; Westley will come for me anyway.
A final 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.
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. He starts speaking in a typical raspy "Igor voice", then coughs and continues speaking in a perfectly normal voice with a slight Cockney accent.
I Gave My Word: Played straight by Inigo as Westley is trying to climb the Cliffs of Insanity. Twisted around when Prince Humperdink promises not to hurt Westley if Buttercup goes quietly (planning to let Count Rugen do it), but ultimately subverted when Humperdink mostly kills Westley himself.
I Know You Know I Know: See Battle of Wits. "...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!..."
Buttercup, a commoner, and Prince Humperdinck, prince, to the extent that it counts as a romance.
Buttercup is more middle-class than Westley, who is after all her family's farm boy. She initially considers him to be beneath her notice and all he says to her is "as you wish", before she realizes they're in love.
Ironic Echo: "I swear it will be done" (Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen).
A visual example, once again with Count Rugen: Every wound he takes during his duel with Inigo is somewhere that he previously inflicted. For those keeping score, that's both cheeks, right arm, left shoulder, and the stab to the belly.
Legacy Character: The Dread Pirate Roberts. Westley reveals that he is the fourth 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, "The Friends' Song." You can't help but smile when you hear it, especially in this scene:
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. Not to mention, of course, the gaping dagger wound to the stomach.
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 Humperdink charges into the Pit of Despair and cranks Rugen's life-sucking machine to its maximum setting.
Power Trio: Fezzik is the Id, Inigo is the Ego, and Westley is the Super ego.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Interesting case since the author himself adapted it to a screenplay. Many lines from cut characters are transplanted onto other characters. The stack of frame stories and unreliable narrations in the book, all focused on the reader-writer relationship is slimmed down to one simple frame story, removing most of the postmodernism and satire.
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." (when it's not cut out altogether, ruining the rhythm of the scene.)
Fred Savage shouts, "Jesus, Grandpa!" in exasperation, showing that he's fully invested in the story by now.
Sarcastic Confession: When Humperdinck's response to Westely's To the Pain speech is to call his bluff, he replies "It's possible, pig, I might be bluffing. It's conceivable, you miserable, vomitous mass, that I'm only lying here because I lack the strength to stand." (Subverted, though, as he then reveals that he's regained enough strength to stand up.)
Inigo: Offer me money. Rugen: Yes! Inigo: Power, too, promise me that. Rugen: All that I have and more. Please... Inigo: Offer me everything I ask for. Rugen: Anything you want... Inigo:I want my father back, you son of a bitch!
Secret Test: When Westley rescues Buttercup, his True Love, from her kidnappers, he doesn't reveal his true identity, in the hope of finding out whether she still loves him or not.
Westley's "man in black" outfit is a dead ringer for the costume Douglas Fairbanks Sr. wore in the original Mark of Zorro.
Fezzik asks the Man in Black if he's wearing a mask because he was burned by acid, a reference to Phantom of the Opera.
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.
Sword Pointing: Westley does it to Prince Humperdinck at the climax to make him surrender.
Westley: Drop. Your. Sword.
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). During filming, Cary Elwes encouraged Christopher 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.
Tom The Dark Lord: The previous Dread Pirate Roberts was actually not the Dread Pirate Roberts. His name was Ryan. His predecessor was Cumberbund. And the reason Westley had to change his name to the Roberts moniker is because "no one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley".
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. May be Justified. A few scenes earlier Inigo calls upon his father to "Guide my sword!", maybe Inigo was being protected by his father so that he could get revenge.
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 Sight: 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.
Vengeance Feels Empty: Once Inigo Montoya has killed his father's killer, Inigo's life is rather empty, although it's not really a lack of satisfaction but rather "That's everything on the to do list. Now what?"
Westly: You'd make a great 'Dread Pirate Roberts'.
However, in the book, the narration reveals that he loved the sight of the terrified face of the Count's corpse.
"As you wish!" as Roberts tumbles down the hillside.
Humperdinck is presented as a Jerk Ass for claiming Buttercup as a trophy wife and later imprisoning Westley to get him out of the way. However, he seems sincerely concerned that Guilder kidnapped her and plans to kill her... Then he reveals that he was behind Buttercup's abduction all along, as a pretext for a war with Guilder.
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.
Worthy Opponent: Inigo and Westley compliment each other's fighting style during their duel. Afterwards, Westley tells Inigo that "I hold you in the highest possible respect". After this scene they're best friends.
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".)
Inigo looking for the entrance to the Pit of Despair.
Vizzini is so busy playing I Know You Know I Know with the Man in Black that he completely ignores the notion that both glasses could be poisoned, especially as his first guess — that his opponent is immune — happened to be correct.
Grandson: Grandpa...do you think you can read it for me again tomorrow? Grandfather: As You Wish.