Released in the United States on September 25, 1987, the film is number 50 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies", number 88 on The American Film Institute's (AFI) "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" list of the 100 greatest film love stories, and 46 in Channel 4's 50 Greatest Comedy Films list. In 2016, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry, being deemed as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
The film is an enactment of the following story read by a sick boy's grandfather as the boy sits in bed listening, framed and occasionally interrupted by scenes of the reading.
A beautiful young woman named Buttercup lives on a farm in the fictional country of Florin. Whenever she orders the farmhand Westley to do chores for her, he complies and answers "As you wish." Eventually she realizes he loves her and admits her love for him. Westley leaves to seek his fortune so they can marry, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Five years later, believing Westley is dead, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, heir to the throne of Florin. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three outlaws: a short Sicilian boss named Vizzini, a gigantic wrestler from Greenland named Fezzik, and a Spanish fencing master named Inigo Montoya, who seeks revenge against the six-fingered man who killed his father. The outlaws are pursued by Prince Humperdinck with a complement of soldiers, and also by a masked man in black.
The man in black catches up to the outlaws at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, where he defeats Inigo in a duel and knocks him unconscious, chokes Fezzik until he blacks out, and kills Vizzini by tricking him into drinking poison. When he tells Buttercup he is Roberts, she becomes enraged at him for killing Westley and shoves him into a gorge, wishing death upon him, but she realizes he is Westley himself when he replies "As you wish!" She throws herself into the gorge after him, and they flee through the dangerous Fire Swamp. When they are captured on the other side by Humperdinck and his sadistic six-fingered vizier Count Rugen, Buttercup agrees to return with Humperdinck in exchange for Westley's release, but Humperdinck secretly orders Rugen to lock Westley in the castle torture chamber.
When Buttercup expresses unhappiness at marrying Humperdinck, he promises to search for Westley, but his real plan is to start a war with the neighboring country of Guilder by killing Buttercup and framing them for her death. Buttercup taunts Humperdinck after learning that he never tried to find Westley. Enraged, Humperdinck tortures Westley almost to death. Meanwhile, Inigo and Fezzik meet when Humperdinck orders a gang of goons to arrest the thieves in a nearby forest, and Fezzik tells Inigo about Rugen. Inigo decides that they need Westley's help to get into the castle, and when he hears cries of anguish, he realizes they must be from Westley. Inigo and Fezzik find Westley and fear him dead. Upon bringing him to a "magic man", however, they learn that Westley is "only mostly dead", and the magic man revives him to a state of heavy paralysis.
After Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik invade the castle, Humperdinck orders the wedding ceremony shortened and Inigo finds and kills Rugen in a duel, repeatedly reciting his greeting of vengeance: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Westley finds Buttercup, who is about to commit suicide, and assures her that her marriage is invalid because she never said "I do." Still partly paralyzed, he bluffs his way out of a duel with Humperdinck, then rides away with Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik.
Back in the boy's bedroom, the boy asks his grandfather to read the story to him again the next day, to which the grandfather replies, "As you wish", which, as he explained earlier, means "I love you."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
Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck
Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya
Christopher Guest as Count Tyrone Rugen
André the Giant as Fezzik
Wallace Shawn as Vizzini
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
Willoughby Gray as The King
There had been many attempts to turn the novel into a film. In 1973, 20th Century Fox paid Goldman $500,000 for the film rights and to do a screenplay. 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. The movie was almost financed several times over the next decade—at one stage in the early 1980s, Christopher Reeve was interested in playing Westley—before Rob Reiner managed to secure funding from Norman Lear.
The film was shot in various locations in Great Britain and Ireland:Carl Wark, Sheffield, England
Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire, England
Lathkill Dale where it meets Cales Dale (the 'Battle of wits' scene)
Cave Dale, Castleton, Derbyshire, England
Bradley Rocks and Robin Hood's Stride, Birchover, Derbyshire, England
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland (for the Cliffs of Insanity)
Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England
Penshurst Place, Kent, England
Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin learned to fence (both left- and right-handed) for the film (reportedly spending all their free time during the production practicing with fencing instructors Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond, and with each other). The actors performed all of the fencing in the sword fight scene personally, although stunt doubles were used for the two somersaults.
Popular professional wrestler André the Giant had undergone major back surgery prior to filming and, despite his great size and strength, could not support the weight of Cary Elwes during their fight scene or Robin Wright for a scene at the end of the film. For the wrestling scene, when Elwes was pretending to hang on André's back, he was actually walking on a series of ramps below the camera during close-ups. For the wide shots, a stunt double took the place of André. When he was apparently carrying Wright, she was actually suspended by cables.
The original soundtrack album was composed by Mark Knopfler, and released by Warner Bros. Records in the United States and Vertigo Records internationally in November 1987. The album contains the song "Storybook Love", performed by Willy DeVille and produced by Mark Knopfler. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards.
In his audio commentary of the film on the special edition DVD, director Rob Reiner said that only Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits could create a soundtrack to capture the film's quirky yet romantic nature. Reiner was an admirer of Knopfler's work but did not know him before working on the film. He sent the script to him hoping he would agree to score the film. Knopfler agreed on one condition: that somewhere in the film Reiner would include the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) baseball cap (which had been modified to say "USS Ooral Sea OV-4B") he wore as Marty DiBergi in This Is Spinal Tap. Reiner was unable to produce the original cap, but did include a similar cap in the grandson's room. Knopfler later said he was joking.
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.
The Princess Bride received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. 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."
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, Time listed 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.
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..American Film Institute lists
AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – No. 88
AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!" – Nominated
AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Fantasy Film
In December 2011, director Jason Reitman staged a live dramatic reading of The Princess Bride script at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with Paul Rudd as Westley; Mindy Kaling as Buttercup; Patton Oswalt as Vizzini; Kevin Pollak as Miracle Max; Goran Visnjic as Inigo Montoya; Cary Elwes (switching roles) as Humperdinck; director Rob Reiner as the grandfather; and Fred Savage reprising his role as the grandson.
In 2013, director Ari Folman released a live action/animation film, The Congress, directly referencing the film and starring Robin Wright herself as a digitally cloned actress.
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 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; 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 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; a "Cary Elwes Video Diary"; the US and UK theatrical trailers; four television spots; a photo gallery; and a collectible booklet.
In 2006, MGM 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.
Another year later, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film, MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (whose parent company 20th Century Fox continues to hold all 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 of the 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 include 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 also available in Region 2 where it is published by Lions Gate Entertainment. Its extras are the theatrical trailer and text filmographies.
It was announced that composer Adam Guettel was working with William Goldman on a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride in 2006. The project was abandoned in February 2007 after Goldman reportedly demanded 75 percent of the author's share, even though Guettel was writing both the music and the lyrics. Some of Guettel's music for the production has since surfaced in concert performances and workshops.
In 2008, PlayRoom Entertainment released The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle, a board game based on the film.
The Princess Bride Game is a casual video game developed and published by New York game development studio Worldwide Biggies.