The Princess Bride (film)

The Princess Bride (film) Literary Elements


Rob Reiner

Leading Actors/Actresses

Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, André the Giant

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Christopher Guest, Wallace Shaw, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane


Adventure, Fantasy, Romance




Writers Guild of America's 84th Best Screenplay of All Time

Date of Release

October 9, 1987


Andrew Scheinman, Rob Reiner

Setting and Context

A grandfather reads his sick grandson a story called "The Princess Bride," about the quest of a farm-boy-turned-pirate named Westley to reunite with his true love, Buttercup, who upon hearing of Westley's false demise agrees to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck.

Narrator and Point of View

While the framing story with the boy and grandfather has no narrator, the grandfather narrates the inner story as he reads the "Princess Bride" book aloud. That story is shown from many characters' points of views, including Buttercup, Inigo, Fezzik, and Prince Humperdinck.

Tone and Mood

The film is generally lighthearted even at its moments of highest tension; often, characters engaged in combat will swap polite chitchat as they attempt to best one another. In general, the story balances genuine heartfelt moments with subtle comedy to keep it from feeling too dark.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonists: Westley, Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Fezzik; Antagonists: Prince Humperdinck, Count Rugen, Vizzini.

Major Conflict

The major conflict puts Westley and Buttercup against Prince Humperdink: will Westley save Buttercup from the evil prince, allowing the two lovers to marry?

A secondary conflict concerns whether Inigo Montoya will find the man who killed his father, and enact revenge.


The climax of the film can be thought of in two parts, both of which happen inside the larger event of Westley, Fezzik, and Inigo breaking into the castle: the first is when Inigo successfully kills Count Rugen as vengeance for killing his father. The second is when Westley bluffs his way into getting Prince Humperdinck to surrender to him, thereby enabling Buttercup and him to escape and be together.




There are several examples of understatement in The Princess Bride, e.g. when Prince Humperdinck is hunting down Buttercup's kidnappers and remarks rather casually that if he finds her dead, he'll be "very put-out." The joke of course is that one would expect him to be significantly more grief-stricken were he to discover his love murdered. The irony, however, is that he himself arranged for her to be killed, so while his concern is, on the surface, underwhelming and therefore funny, in reality it's consistent with his malicious intentions.

Other examples of understatement come through the many overly polite conversations that Westley shares with various opponents, including when he and Inigo exchange casual greetings as he dangles off a cliff, as well as when he says to Fezzik, "Frankly, I think the odds are slightly in your favor at hand fighting," which of course we know to be more than true given Fezzik's staggering size.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques



Part of the fun of The Princess Bride's antics come from the way it parodies past films of a similar, dramatically adventurous nature, like Robin Hood, The Count of Monte Crisco, and the Legend of Zorro. It can therefore be thought of as an allusion to all of them, and any additional films (or novels and fairy tales) that feature such tropes as daring heroes, swashbuckling swordfights, damsels in distress, passionate romances, etc.




One example of parallelism in The Princess Bride is the fact that there are two stories going on simultaneously: the story of the princess bride herself, and the framing story in which the grandfather reads the book to his son. The two stories take place in parallel as we often hear and sometimes see the man and boy interrupting the epic tale to engage in humorous banter. Another parallelism occurs in the film's climax, in which two plot lines are wrapped up almost simultaneously: Inigo succeeds in striking down Count Rugen, the man he's pursued for 20 years for killing his father, while Westley then immediately intimidates Humperdinck into surrendering. These two stories concluding at the same time can be though of as parallel climaxes for the film.