The Princess Bride is arguably one of the best adventure-fantasy-romance stories of all time. Author William Goldman infused humor into nearly every scene of the book, which he wrote under the pseudonym S. Morgenstern. It begins with the frame story of a father wanting to give his son a copy of the “classic” fairytale story about a young, beautiful woman named Buttercup who falls in love with a farm boy named Westley. When Buttercup believes that Westley is dead, she agrees to marry a wealthy prince who ends up having little regard for her or her life. When Westley reappears, conflict ensues as the prince refuses to let Buttercup go.
There is no shortage of fight scenes, monologues on love, or life-saving miracles in the text. The book was director Rob Reiner’s favorite as a child, and when a studio gave him the freedom to choose a film to make, he picked The Princess Bride. The 1987 film starring Robin Wright and Cary Elwes instantly became a beloved classic that is still widely watched more than thirty years later. The novel is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, and to honor it, we compiled a list of our favorite quotes from both the book and the movie.
“It would be inconceivable.”
“Absolutely, totally, and, in all other ways, inconceivable,” the Sicilian reassured him. “Why do you ask?”
Inconceivable: Never has a single word become so famously associated with a film, and it’s thanks to actor Wallace Shawn and his distinct voice shouting it at least once every minute that his character, Vizzini, is on screen. The repetition of this word is both one of the funniest and most annoying things about Vizzini, who might be the worst kidnapper of all time, since he accidentally kills himself during a speech about how smart he is. In the book, the word is also a frequent fixture on the page, but the humor is strongest in the film.
After Vizzini, Inigo (the swordsman), and Fezzik (the giant) kidnap the soon-to-be Princess Buttercup and take her on a ship, she jumps in the water, attempting to escape. The scene is the first instance in which Vizzini utters his famous word, and it is in response to Inigo asking if the ship is possibly being followed (it was). Vizzini is the classic friend you have who always uses fancy words to sound smart. And probably like your friend, Vizzini full of it.
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”
In the book, there is a full origin chapter for Inigo, which makes the scene in which he kills the six-finger man even more satisfactory. In it, we get to see just how much Inigo idolized his father, and how early on in his life he started chanting this mantra. The scene in the movie is powerful as well: Mandy Patinkin becomes paralyzed with fear, before the mantra gives him the courage to kill the man who killed his father.
In the scene in which we meet Inigo (in both the film and the book), we learn that he has become an expert fencer and swordsman in an effort to avenge the death of his father. In the book, his father was killed by a six-fingered man in a fight over a sword that he commissioned, but refused to pay Inigo’s father for. Inigo moves throughout Europe to widen his chances of encountering this man, but to no avail. He worries that this man might already be dead, and his efforts will have been for nothing.
When Inigo reaches Prince Humperdinck's castle, he soon meets the man he has been hunting. The pressure of the moment he has been waiting for finally arriving is enough to leave him still in his tracks — until he repeats this phrase over and over, each time with more authority. He kills the six-finger man and finally avenges his father’s death, more than twenty years prior to his father's sad demise.
Though in real life revenge is generally not the best solution, there is nothing more satisfying as a reader or audience member than knowing that Inigo’s hard work has paid off.
“I must be overtired," Buttercup managed. “The excitement and all.”
“Rest then,” her mother cautioned. “Terrible things can happen when you're overtired. I was overtired the night your father proposed.”
Buttercup’s parents were not included in the movie, but some of the book’s funniest lines come from family scenes like the one above. When the Count and Countess of Florin visit Buttercup’s family’s farm, it is clear that the Countess is attracted to Westley. Buttercup gets jealous, and she is finally forced to acknowledge that she is in love with Westley. When her father praises Westley’s work on the farm, Buttercup exclaims that nothing Westley does is overly special. She blames her outburst on being tired, when it is really about her jealousy.
This scene is pivotal in the book because Buttercup professes her love for Westley soon after. Buttercup is constantly presented as perfect, so this scene is important in showing that she is human.
“I have not known a moment in years when the sight of you did not send my heart careening against my rib cage. I have not known a night when your visage did not accompany me to sleep. There has not been a morning when you did not flutter behind my waking eyelids.”
After Buttercup confesses her love to Westley in the middle of the night, he shuts the door in her face. The next day, she pretends as though she was just joking, and Westley says that he is leaving for America. He tells her that it is so he can better himself and have a fortune for them to share, because he loves her too. In the book, we obviously get more details and a longer love confession than in the movie.
Westley’s monologue is the definition of bittersweet. He loves Buttercup so much that he wants to give her the best life possible, but that also means leaving her behind for an uncertain fate across the ocean. This love confession drives the plot of the rest of the book, as it serves as Westley’s motivation for everything that follows.
"You seem a decent fellow," Inigo said. "I hate to kill you."
"You seem a decent fellow," answered the man in black. "I hate to die."
This scene from the book also made it into the movie. It takes place right before the Man in Black and Inigo duel. The Man in Black makes it to the top of the cliff, where Inigo is waiting. He has to defeat Inigo in order to get to Buttercup and take her captive himself. At this point in the novel, we already know that Inigo has been training for decades to become the best swordsman, so we are not holding out breaths for a victory for the Man in Black. However, in the movie, Inigo’s motivations and trainings are not revealed until the battle is underway, so it seems to be an even fight from the beginning.
Even as the men duel each other for their lives, there is still a level of humor in the scene, making it incredibly fun to read or watch.The humility of the Man in Black is evident, as he continually undersells his talents and creates a sense of camaraderie with those who he is fighting. He ultimately defeats Inigo in the sword fight, but lets him live.
"I told you there were not words invented yet to explain how great my brain is, but let me put it this way: the world is several million years old and several billion people have at one time or another trod upon it, but I, Vizzini the Sicilian, am, speaking with pure candor and modesty, the slickest, sleekest, sliest and wiliest fellow who has yet come down the pike."
There are so many instances throughout both the book and the movie when Vizzini asserts his superior intelligence. The first time this is contested is when Inigo exclaims in frustration that Vizzini does not use the word ‘inconceivable’ correctly, and the last instance is this above book quote. After defeating Inigo and Fezzik, the Man in Black encounters Vizzini, who has Buttercup in his grasp, with a knife pointed at her neck. He asserts that he is one step ahead of the Man in Black and thinks he knows his intentions. As we find out, Vizzini is wrong, and the Man in Black is actually trying to free Buttercup. Before the Man in Black and Vizzini can battle each other, Vizzini again points out how smart he is.
The Man in Black is perceptive and knows that Vizzini is not as smart as he thinks himself to be, which is why he challenges him to a battle of wits. Though Vizzini could not have possibly won this battle (the Man in Black put poison in both goblets instead of just one) the scene when Vizzini tries to logically work out which cup is poisoned is hysterical. His defeat is all the more humorous because half of Vizzini’s character was him talking about how smart he is, and yet those notorious wits were insufficient to keep him alive.
"Enough about my beauty," Buttercup said. "Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I've got a mind, Westley. Talk about that."
Buttercup proves herself to be an underrated feminist icon in this quote from the book. While her extreme beauty is mentioned throughout the text previously, this is the first time Buttercup sticks up for her other attributes. This quote comes just after Buttercup realizes that the Man in Black is Westley, and the pair reunite.
Sadly, this line did not make it into the movie, but we can forgive it considering the amount of other great quotes that did. With Robin Wright’s performance in the film, it is clear that Buttercup is more than just beautiful, so it does not need to be explicitly said.
Buttercup: “We’ll never survive!”
Westley: “Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
This movie quote happens soon after the lovers reunite and are about to enter The Fire Swamp, which is filled with Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S.)—150-pound beasts who feed off of human blood. Before entering the swamp, which is the only way the pair think they can safely exit, Westley makes light of the situation by joking that they can make it through because they are in love. He continues to show his prowess by single-handedly fighting them off, all while telling Buttercup the story of the Dread Pirate Roberts to keep her calm.
While also providing context for how Westley actually survived pirate attacks, this scene is key because the time that Buttercup and Westley spent in the Fire Swamp gave Humperdinck enough time to catch up with them, preventing escape. It also serves as one of the only scenes when the pair is alone (if you don't count the R.O.U.S.)!
“I'm getting much smarter as I age. I say you are a coward and you are; I think you hunt only to reassure yourself that you are not what you are: the weakest thing to ever walk the Earth. He will come for me and then we will be gone, and you will be helpless for all your hunting, because Westley and I are joined by the bond of love and you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords.”
Soon after being recaptured, Buttercup asks Humperdinck to give Westley a chance to object to their marriage before it happens. Humperdinck agrees, and promises to send four of his fastest ships in each direction with a letter on board to let Westley know of the impeding ceremony. What Buttercup does not know is that Westley is underneath the castle in the Zoo of Death, where he is being tortured by a man employed by Humperdinck. No ships went off to find him, and Westley is powerless to help.
A paraphrase of this book quote was also used in the movie, and it set Prince Humperdinck off into a fit of rage. Angered that someone would call him out for being a coward, Prince Humperdink realizes that the best way to punish Buttercup is to hurt Westley. He marches down to the Zoo of Death and crank the machine that sucks life out. Westley is soon “mostly dead” and Fezzik and Inigo have to do all they can to bring Westley back to life—all within hours of the wedding.
“There's different kinds of dead: there's sort of dead, mostly dead, and all dead. This fella here, he's only sort of dead, which means there's still a memory inside, there's still bits of brain. You apply a little pressure here, a little more there, sometimes you get results.”
Fezzik and Inigo take Westley’s body from the Zoo of Death after Humperdinck orders the maximum setting on the life-sucking machine. They bring him to Miracle Max, the recently fired healer from the castle. Max—who is played by Billy Crystal in the movie—and his wife Valerie (Carol Kane) serve as a comedic interruption to the seriousness of Westley’s death. While filming this scene in the movie, Crystal improvised so many funny lines that Cary Elwes, who plays Westley, cracked his rib trying not to laugh.
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"As you wish."
Fans of both the film and the book know that when Westley said “As you wish” to Buttercup, he really meant “I love you.” In the beginning of the text, Westley repeats this phrase to Buttercup after every demand she makes, and Goldman notes that it was the only thing Westley ever said. When Buttercup is captured by the Man in Black, she believes that he is going to kill her or use her as a bargaining tool for ransom. She pushes him down a hill so she can escape, and as he rolls, the Man in Black yells out, “As you wish.” Buttercup immediately realizes that the Man in Black is really Westley.
The yelling out of this phrase is a turning point in both the book and the movie, because Buttercup is engaged to marry Prince Humperdinck. With Westley back, she knows that she cannot marry Humperdinck, and expects him to be as understanding as he seemed to be in the past. When he refuses, it is clear just how devious Humperdinck is, leading the rest of the plot to center on defeating him.
Featured still from "The Princess Bride" via 20th Century Fox