For the next few days, The Princess Bride, the iconic indie-film-turned-blockbuster that turns thirty years old this year will be playing in select theaters. Has it really been that long since we met handsome, poor Wesley and his cheeky love, Buttercup? To celebrate this occasion, here are five reasons we still love The Princess Bride, even after all these years:
It’s the ultimate story
In the beginning of the movie, the only reason Grandpa is allowed to start reading the novel to his cynical grandson is that he promises him everything in this one story: Love, torture, adventure, pirates, revenge, and miracles! Thing is—he wasn’t wrong. Whether Wesley is forging his way through the Fire Swamp or Buttercup is longing for her true love instead of an arranged marriage with a conceited prince, we want to see the next scene.
From running away from pirates to avenging the death of a loved one, The Princess Bride somehow manages to seamlessly combine many elements of good storytelling, making its audience laugh, gasp, howl, groan, yearn, clap, cheer, and boo as everyone hangs on for the ride.
It’s full of humanity
Despite the many laugh-out-loud lines in The Princess Bride, there are a lot of surprising moments of humanity that peek through the romance and satire. Of course, Inigo Montoya sparks a few laughs here and there but his pitiful tale of spending his entire life avenging the untimely death of his father evokes empathy from almost anyone who hears it. When Wesley finally joins with Montoya and Fezzik after defeating them both, it’s hard not to feel warm fuzzies for the big, ugly giant whom Wesley tells to “dream of large women.” (And why shouldn’t he?).
While Wesley’s love for Buttercup is true and loyal—it’s a bit over the top, no? Yet when Prince Humperdink demands, “Surrender!” and Wesley shouts back, “Death first!” hearts swell at that moment of masculine pride. Even Buttercup, for all her beauty and sass, can be a bit pouty and demanding. Every man was surely annoyed by the way she snidely refers to Wesley as “farm boy.” Who among us women hasn’t acted every part the lofty almost-lover, patiently withholding love until the right moment? And consider the movie’s phrase, “As you wish,” which has become synonymous not only with “I love you,” but with equal parts loyalty, romance, and charm. Whenever I hear it, I grin.
It’s eminently quotable
A movie doesn’t have to be quotable to be memorable but the plethora of catchy lines in The Princess Bride made it a pop culture phenomenon, once everyone else was able to rent it or purchase it on video. Don’t believe me? See if you remember these and chuckle:
“Who says life is fair, where is that written?”
“We’ll never survive!” (Buttercup)
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” (Wesley)
“Good night, Wesley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you.” (Montoya)
“You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.” (Wesley)
“You mean you’ll put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword and we’ll try to kill each other like civilized people, is that it?”
“Fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’”
The bro element is strong
I love a good romance, but watching the men in this film is just as fun as watching Wesley and Buttercup make it out of the Fire Swamp alive. Wesley fulfills dual roles as both the beta lover—the farm boy, and manages the bad boy jerk as Dread Pirate Roberts. In fact, a close viewing might support the theory that Buttercup is equally taken with both versions of Wesley, with Dread Pirate Roberts soliciting more vivacity from her.
It’s as fun to watch Wesley square off with Montoya in their infamous fencing battle at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity and cut off Fezzik’s air supply, as it is to see them reunite again as bros with a common enemy and goal, particularly after Wesley endures horrendous torture in the Pit of Despair. Indeed, one could say the mini band of brothers is a strong secondary plot to that of Wesley and Buttercup ending up happily ever after. Who wouldn’t want a large, squishy giant, a scarred man who’s been trying to avenge his father for thirty years, and a poor farm boy-cum-pirate to “have fun storming the castle” and wreck the wedding of the century in the name of “true love?”
Love really does conquer all
Of course, in the end, The Princess Bride really is about a pretty, if snobbish, maiden and a handsome, poor guy who just long to be together through sickness and health, Fire Swamps and castles, torture and Rodents of Unusual Size. From the first time we hear “As you wish,” we know Wesley and Buttercup are destined for eternal bliss—we just can’t figure out how, once he disappears, meets a vengeful fencer, an intimidating giant, and a determined Prince who wants to steal his woman.
As kitschy and campy much of The Princess Bride might seem now, thirty years later, people still love it because they love to laugh at people trying to survive amid chaos, particularly if one’s true love is just on the other side of it. There’s something reassuring and comforting about an old swashbuckling romance (with a bit of updating) that somehow makes that old trope of “Boy Meets Girl” new again. Would I watch it again, even though I know how it ends? As you wish.