The Princess Bride is a 1987 American fantasy adventure comedy film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, 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 The Princess Bride, it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by companions befriended along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. The film essentially preserves the novel's narrative style by presenting the story as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage).
The film is an enactment of a book that a grandfather reads to his sick grandson, who initially dismisses the story.
The tale is about Buttercup, a beautiful young woman living on a farm in the fictional kingdom of Florin. Whenever she tells farmhand Westley to do something, he always complies, saying, "As you wish." She eventually realizes that he loves her and she loves him. Westley leaves to seek his fortune overseas so they can marry. When his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is infamous for never leaving survivors, Westley is presumed dead.
Five years later, Buttercup is forced to become betrothed to Prince Humperdinck, the heir to the throne of Florin. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three outlaws, a short Sicilianboss named Vizzini, a giant from Greenlandnamed Fezzik, and a Spanish fencing master named Inigo Montoya, who seeks revenge against a six-fingered man who murdered his father. The outlaws are pursued by Prince Humperdinck and his soldiers and also a masked man clad in black.
The man in black confronts the outlaws atop the Cliffs of Insanity. He defeats Inigo in a duel and knocks him out, chokes Fezzik into unconsciousness, and tricks Vizzini into drinking poison, killing him. He takes Buttercup prisoner and they flee, stopping near a gorge. Buttercup correctly guesses he is the Dread Pirate Roberts and berates him for killing Westley. Seeing Humperdinck and his men approaching, Buttercup shoves Roberts down a hill, wishing death upon him. While tumbling down, he shouts, "As you wish!" Realizing it is Westley, she throws herself into the gorge after him, and they are reunited.
Westley explains how the "Dread Pirate Roberts" is a title that is passed on to others; he took it so that the previous Roberts could retire. Having found Buttercup, Westley wants to surrender the title to another. Humperdinck captures the pair after they emerge from the dangerous Fire Swamp. Buttercup agrees to return with Humperdinck after he promises to release Westley. He then secretly orders his sadistic vizier, Count Rugen, to take Westley to his torture chamber, the Pit of Despair. Before being knocked out, Westley notices that Rugen has six fingers on his hand.
Humperdinck falsely promises Buttercup he will search for Westley. His real plan is to start a war with the neighboring country of Guilder by killing Buttercup and framing Guilder for her death. Meanwhile, Inigo and Fezzik are reunited after Humperdinck orders thieves to be arrested in the nearby forest. Fezzik tells Inigo about Rugen. Inigo decides Westley's help is needed to storm the castle.
Buttercup accuses Humperdinck of failing to search for Westley. Enraged, Humperdinck imprisons Buttercup, and tortures Westley, seemingly to death. Inigo and Fezzik, who have heard and followed Westley's wails through the forest, find his body and bring him to Miracle Max, a folk healer. Max revives the "mostly dead" Westley, though he is temporarily left extremely debilitated.
After Westley, Inigo and Fezzik infiltrate the castle, Humperdinck panics and orders the in-progress wedding ceremony to be shortened. Inigo finds and kills Rugen in a duel after repeatedly taunting him for killing his father. Westley locates Buttercup, who is about to commit suicide, believing she is married to Humperdinck. Westley assures her the marriage is invalid because she never completed her wedding vows; they then flee the castle. After killing Rugen, Inigo is unsure of what to do with his life. Westley offers him the Dread Pirate Roberts title, which Inigo considers. Fezzik has procured four horses, and he, Westley, Buttercup, and Inigo escape. Westley and Buttercup, safely reunited, share a passionate kiss.
Back in his bedroom, the boy eagerly asks his grandfather to read him the story again the next day, to which his grandfather replies, "As you wish."
- Peter Falk as Grandpa/The Narrator
- Fred Savage as The Grandson
- Betsy Brantley as The Mother
- Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black
- Robin Wright as Buttercup/The Princess Bride
- Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya
- Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck
- Christopher Guest as Count Tyrone Rugen
- Wallace Shawn as Vizzini
- André the Giant as Fezzik
- Billy Crystal as Miracle Max
- Carol Kane as Valerie, Max's wife
- Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman
- Mel Smith as The Albino
- Margery Mason as The Ancient Booer
- Malcolm Storry as Yellin, a soldier of Florin
- Anne Dyson as The Queen
- Willoughby Gray as The King
Rob Reiner, who had been enamored with Goldman's book ever since he was given it as a gift from his father, Carl Reiner, realized he wanted to make the film adaptation after successfully demonstrating his filmmaking skill with the release of This Is Spinal Tap in 1984. During production of Stand by Me, released in 1986, Reiner had spoken to an executive at Paramount Pictures regarding what his next film would be, and suggested the adaptation of The Princess Bride. He was told they could not, leading Reiner to discover that several studios had previously attempted to bring Goldman's book to the big screen without success.
Those previous attempts included 20th Century Fox, which paid Goldman $500,000 for the film rights and to do a screenplay in 1973. Richard Lester was signed to direct and the movie was almost made, but 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. Other directors had also attempted to adapt the book, including François Truffaut, Robert Redford and Norman Jewison, and at one point, Christopher Reeve was interested in playing Westley in one planned adaption. Reiner found success by gaining financial support from Norman Lear, whom Reiner knew from All in the Family and who had funded production of This is Spinal Tap, with the production to be distributed by 20th Century Fox. Reiner worked closely with Goldman to adapt the book for the screenplay.
Reiner had quickly decided on Cary Elwes for Westley, based on his performance in Lady Jane; however, during the casting period in Los Angeles, Elwes was in Germany on set for Maschenka. Reiner flew out to Berlin to meet with Elwes, confirming his appropriateness for the role. While Reiner and casting director Jane Jenkins auditioned other actors for Westley, they knew Elwes was perfect for the part. Elwes had read the book in his childhood and associated himself with the character of Westley, but never believed he would have the opportunity to play him.
Robin Wright was cast late in the process, about a week before filming; Reiner and Jenkins had auditioned a number of English actresses but had not found their ideal Buttercup. Wright's agent had heard of the casting call and encouraged Wright to audition. Though initially shy, Wright impressed Jenkins, and later Reiner. They invited Wright to come meet Goldman at his house. Jenkins recalls: "The doorbell rang. Rob went to the door, and literally, as he opened the door, [Wright] was standing there in this little white summer dress, with her long blonde hair, and she had a halo from the sun. She was backlit by God. And Bill Goldman looked across the room at her, and he said, 'Well, that's what I wrote.' It was the most perfect thing."
Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn were early choices for the cast; Shawn in particular was chosen as Vizzini due to his diminutive size to contrast that of the giant Fezzik.
When Goldman originally shopped his novel in the early 1970s, his first choice for Fezzik was André the Giant, whose wrestling schedule left him unavailable for filming. Goldman's second choice was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at that time was almost unknown as an actor. However, by the time The Princess Bride was finally green-lit, Schwarzenegger was a major film star and the studio could not afford him. Jenkins contacted the World Wrestling Federation to ask about hiring André, but were told that the filming conflicted with a wrestling match in Tokyo that would pay him $5 million. Jenkins auditioned other tall men, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lou Ferrigno and Carel Struycken, but these did not pan out. Near the end of casting, the World Wrestling Federation told Jenkins that André's match in Tokyo had been cancelled, clearing him to play the role of Fezzik. For his part, André found his participation was a gratifying experience considering that no one stared at him on set during production as a kind of freak, but instead simply treated him as a fellow member of the cast.
The film was initially a modest success,grossing $30.8 million at the United States and Canada box office, on a $16 million production budget.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% approval rating based on 77 reviews and an average rating of 8.40/10. 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." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A+" on scale of A to F.
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating on their television program. Ebert also wrote a very favorable print review in his column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Richard Corliss of Time said the film was fun for the whole family, and later, Timelisted the film as one of the "Best of '87".Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the cast and the sweetness of the film.
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.Elwes noted in 2017, on the film's 30th anniversary, that fans still frequently come up to him and quote lines from the movie. According to him, Wallace Shawn had it "worse" because any time Wallace made a small error, like dropping his keys, people would shout "Inconceivable!" to him.
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. 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.
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. The film was also released on Video CD by Philips.
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 (this commentary would also later appear on the Criterion Blu-ray and DVD release); 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 Filmed Entertainment 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 and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 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.
A year later, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film, MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (whose corporate parent The Walt Disney Company holds 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 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 included two audio commentaries, the original theatrical trailer and eight featurettes.
In 2007, the film was released for download in the iTunes Store.
The film is available in Europe (DVD Region 2), published by Lions Gate Entertainment. Its extras are the theatrical trailer and text filmographies.
The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on October 30, 2018. It included a new 4K digital transfer, the same audio commentary from the Criterion LaserDisc release, an edited 1987 audiobook reading of Goldman's novel by director Rob Reiner, new programs on William Goldman's screenplay and tapestry, a new interview with art director Richard Holland, an essay by author Sloane Crosley, and a Blu-ray exclusive book highlighting four screenplays, as well as Goldman's introduction to the 1995 screenplay.
- King, Susan (September 24, 2017). "'The Princess Bride' Turns 30: Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal Dish About Making the Cult Classic". Variety.
- "News of the Screen", The New York Times (September 30, 1973).
- Haber, Joyce (September 19, 1973). "Schlesinger to Direct West Work", Los Angeles Times, p. d12.
- Goldman, 2000 p 25-26
- William Goldman, The Big Picture?: Who Killed Hollywood and Other Essays, Applause, 2000 p 189
- Goldman, 2000 p 27
- Vineyard, Jennifer (September 29, 2017). "What It Was Like Finding the Legendary Cast of 'The Princess Bride'". Vice.
- Messer, Leslie (September 25, 2017). "'The Princess Bride' turns 30: Cary Elwes shares stories from the set". ABC News.
- Matt. "12 Inconceivable Facts That Prove That 'The Princess Bride' Isn't Just Another 'Kissing Book'".