They say there’s no such thing as a perfect movie, but I argue anyone who says so hasn’t seen Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. This movie was released in 1987 and has been capturing hearts ever since. While I technically grew up watching this movie, it actually took me quite a few years to see the entire movie as I didn’t own a physical copy of the film at the time and had to rely on catching the film on TV, frequently coming in around the middle of the story. As a result, it wasn’t until I was a young adult that I began to fully appreciate just how amazing this movie is.
What The Princess Bride Means to Us
There is something so wholesome and comforting about The Princess Bride. I can very distinctly remember watching the movie as a kid and falling in love with it, quoting its dialogue whenever the opportunity arose and harboring a massive crush on Cary Elwes‘s Westley for years. Rob Reiner managed to create a movie that appealed to both kids and adults, something I hadn’t realized until I was much older and suddenly understood a lot of the more mature humor.
What I love so much about The Princess Bride is that it’s a very simple premise – death cannot stop true love. The bad guys lose and the good guys prevail. Happily ever after is guaranteed. It’s a charming fairy tale that embraces its campiness and makes you believe that love can truly conquer all. And that’s what The Princess Bride means to me.
There will forever be one movie I pair with The Princess Bride, and that’s Disney’s The Princess Diaries. It’s a choice not many will get until I explain the reason behind this odd couple of princess films. I don’t know exactly which Christmas it was, but I must have been at least 10 years old (give or take two years). My Great Uncle had given my brother and me two DVDs for Christmas and they were The Princess Bride and The Princess Diaries. Naturally, we were pretty confused as to why we were getting “girl movies” for Christmas (especially since we didn’t even ask for these movies). I think my Mom said she had recommended them to my Uncle, no doubt her fond memories of seeing The Princess Bride in theaters back in the ’80s and just a general love for Julie Andrews’ filmography influenced that decision.
For a long time, those DVDs sat unwatched, collecting dust until finally, we took a chance on them. Boy, had we been missing out. The Princess Bride is definitely not a “girl movie,” but an all-ages all-genre thrill ride from start to finish. I still use, “As you wish,” when I’m asked to do something. Similar to how one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, The Princess Bride taught me not to judge a movie by its title. It’s a damn fine film and one I hope to introduce to my children one day. (And, for what it’s worth, The Princess Diaries is also pretty good.)
The Princess Bride is based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The “Good parts” Version, which claims to be the abridged version of a much longer romance novel. While the movie leaves out a lot of the book’s finer details, the broad strokes are largely the same: the story follows the love and misadventures of Westley and Buttercup in the country of Florin as they encounter pirates, giants, miracles, and Sicilians who are too clever for their own good, among other things.
Technically speaking, the film is presented as a story within a story, as the Grandfather is reading the story of Westley and Buttercup to his sick Grandson, who periodically interrupts the story to great comedic effect. And the story, as I mentioned before, is a love story though hardly a traditional one. Buttercup insults Westley until she realizes he loves her (and she loves him), thinks he’s killed by pirates and ends up engaged to a snobby prince that she doesn’t love, only to find out that Westley is still alive and masquerading as a legendary pirate. All of that and I’m only paraphrasing about the first half of the film. There are many little story details worked into this movie and yet the story never feels crowded or rushed.
A big part of what makes The Princess Bride such a perfect film is the amazing cast. To this day many people know Cary Elwes purely from his role as Westley in this movie. And let’s not forget Robin Wright as Buttercup or Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant as Inigo Montoya and Fezzik respectively. Every single person in this movie was perfectly cast for their part and it shows, as the story just seamlessly flows from romance to intrigue and back again.
Next to the casting, the biggest part of what makes The Princess Bride so amazing is its dialogue. The entire film has been referred to as eminently quotable and that remains true all these years later. Think about it, how many scenes of The Princess Bride do you just love to quote over and over because the dialogue is just that witty or just that fun to say? It’s not just one or two parts that are like this either, almost the entire movie is like this. It’s so rare to find a movie so well written that you can take any section of it and find a part of the fandom that loves it to death, but that’s what you have with The Princess Bride.
Without a doubt, The Princess Bride leaves an impressive legacy, one that its fans are fiercely willing to defend. A good case in point came several years ago when rumors began circulating on the Internet that The Princess Bride was going to be the next film to receive the Hollywood remake treatment. Moviegoers worldwide were so appalled by the mere suggestion of a remake that they virtually rose up en masse to oppose the idea. Now, how many 35-year-old movies can you think of that can inspire such loyalty? Not just loyalty, but united loyalty. Movie fans are infamous for their love of arguing about a million different details, but they are most definitely united when it comes to defending The Princess Bride.
Beyond that, The Princess Bride, to me, remains the gold standard for how a fantasy story should be told. This movie literally fits in every conventional fantasy trope, including (but not limited to): pirates, giants, miracles, deadly forests (The Fire Swamp), dangerous fantasy creatures (ROUS), and even a hidden lair! And yet, despite fitting in all these tropes, the story never feels rushed or crowded. I can think of many recent films that could learn something from The Princess Bride about how to tell a fun story.
The Princess Bride has remained one of my favorite films for many years, and I can’t see it being replaced any time soon.