#112) The Princess Bride (1987)


#112) The Princess Bride (1987)

OR “Build Me Up, Buttercup”

Directed by Rob Reiner

Written by William Goldman. Based on the novel by S. Morgenstern.

Class of 2016

The Plot: As told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), “The Princess Bride” is a romantic fairy tale about the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her love for farm boy Westley (Cary Elwes). When pirates break them apart, Buttercup becomes engaged to the evil Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and is kidnapped by a trio of bandits (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin & Andre the Giant). There’s swordplay, wordplay, magic and yes, a few kissing parts.

Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film “one of the decade’s most beloved…feel-good movies”. And then, like a true “Princess Bride” fan, they just keep quoting the film.

But Does It Really?: This is one of those great “something for everyone” films. It’s romantic, and adventurous, and funny in just the right amounts. The film skewers classic tropes in just the right places, and is perfect homage without ever becoming spoof. Films like these always look simple, but are actually quite difficult to pull off. Reiner, Goldman, and the entire team not only accomplish this, but also create a classic that holds its own alongside the real thing.

Everybody Gets One: Broadway legend Mandy Patinkin, future TV star Fred Savage, British comedians Peter Cook and Mel Smith, and Andre the Giant, possibly the only professional wrestler on the Registry. And although this is Cary Elwes’ only film on the registry, I suspect they’ll put “Glory” on here sooner or later.

Wow, That’s Dated: A soundtrack performed almost entirely on keyboards is the film’s most ‘80s quality.

Title Track: Peter Falk says the name of the book only once at the very beginning.

Seriously, Oscars?: “The Princess Bride” received one Academy Award nomination; Best Original Song for “Storybook Love”. The song is buried in the second half of the credits and is easily the least awards-worthy aspect of the entire film. “Storybook Love” got its forgettable butt handed to it by the category’s winner; “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing”.

Other notes

  • The first sound heard in this romantic swashbuckling fairy tale is that of a child coughing.
  • So if this book has been read by father to son for generations, why isn’t Fred’s dad reading it? Is he dead or just deadbeat?
  • The romantic tension between Cary Elwes and Robin Wright is palpable from their first scene together. It really does help propel the film.
  • Ah, the pre-Internet days when you could cast a Chicago-born man of Jewish descent as a Spaniard. Good luck getting away with that today.
  • What is it with William Goldman and characters that can’t swim?
  • I mentioned it before, but I really do not like this synthesizer score. It just doesn’t sound right.
  • Cary Elwes must have been so happy when he realized he looked like Errol Flynn.
  • Those ROUSs are creepy as hell. Well done, design team.
  • ‘80s Chris Sarandon kinda looks like Mark Ruffalo.
  • Shoutout to Margery Mason’s brief but memorable turn as The Ancient Booer. She lived to be 100 years old!
  • Odd that Count Rugen didn’t set his torture device to 11.
  • In his cameo as Miracle Max, Billy Crystal fulfills his destiny as America’s elderly Borscht Belt comedian. As his wife Valerie, Carol Kane gives us a preview of her character Lillian from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.
  • Speaking of cameos, Peter Cook man. Talk about a strong choice.
  • Although she gets an “Introducing” credit at the end, this is actually Robin Wright’s second film. Her first was 1986’s “Hollywood Vice Squad”.


  • A day where no one relentlessly quotes this film? Inconceivable!
  • Rob Reiner followed up “The Princess Bride” with such iconic films as “When Harry Met Sally…”, “Misery” and “A Few Good Men”. And then… “North” happened.
  • Cary Elwes as a dashing leading man never went further than “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”.
  • Someone turned this film into a video game. The only other Registry entry that can make that claim is “Chinatown”.

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