“The Princess Bride” celebrated its 30th birthday recently, and upon ceremonial rewatch, we’ve come to the conclusion that it really holds up. The film actually didn’t make a huge splash at the box office when it premiered in 1987, but it gained a massive cult following after its release onto VHS. No, unless you were old enough to see it in theaters when it came out, you probably grew up with this classic the way we did — at sleepovers with your friends, watching it over and over until you knew every line by heart.
This movie so chock-full of iconic moments and quotable lines that it’s impossible not to be fully engaged every time it comes on. If you’ve seen this movie as much as we have, we bet we can guess 15 things you can’t help but do during an annual (weekly) rewatch.
15. GET HUNGRY FOR AN MLT
Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max is the cameo to end all cameos (if you can even call it a cameo). The very idea of a Miracle Man is a phenomenal wink to the backwards medical and scientific practices in Medieval times, but Billy Crystal’s performance sends it to the moon. Entirely improvised, Rob Reiner ruined several takes by laughing until he eventually had to leave the set so Crystal could finish. At a recent film festival, Reiner specifically mentioned the MLT line as one that sent him over the edge with no possible hope of return.
It gets us every time, too, not only because it’s anachronistic — an MLT just sounds really, really delicious. Think about it: nice and lean mutton with lettuce and ripe, perky tomatoes. It’s a sandwich that excites a miracle worker so much that he literally thinks it’s better than true love. Anyone who’s ever experienced that kind of relationship with a good sandwich understands just how tasty a nice MLT must really be.
14. PUNCH FRED SAVAGE
Even if you agreed with Fred Savage and you would’ve edited out every single kissing moment in this book, you know you wanted to reach through the TV and sock that kid square in the nose every time he whined and interrupted Peter Falk. “The Princess Bride” is to be lauded for deftly integrating reality and fantasy. In fact, Fred Savage’s presence in the film helped lock in the younger, more mainstream demographic his character represents. That said, he’s still kind of a brat.
First of all, to invoke mothers the world over, he doesn’t look all that sick. If you’re healthy enough for video games, you’re healthy enough to show your grandfather some goddamn respect when he comes over to read you his very special book. You do not interrupt him and demand he skips to the Fire Swamp instead of letting Wesley and Buttercup enjoy their five-year reunion. You do not throw a whiny hissy fit when your grandfather tells you Humperdinck lives, especially when you made him tell you in the first place. Savage’s character shapes up by the end of the movie, but damned if we don’t want him to speed up the process.
13. IMAGINE PETER FALK AS THE VOICE OF SIRI
Another reason Fred Savage makes our blood boil (BOIL!) is that every time he’s talking, the glorious Peter Falk isn’t (because, manners). Oh man, do we love that man’s voice. It’s scratchy and comfy and warm and all we want to do is bottle it so we can have it with us always. Another example of the genius casting this movie boasts is Falk’s rumpled, absent-minded, incredibly loveable grandfather. He is the perfect narrator, making sure the story never gets as dark as it sometimes threatens, always reminding us that this is a children’s tale and it will absolutely have happy ending.
Admit it, while watching this movie you have, at some point, wished that Peter Falk could narrate your life. Imagine his lovely voice calling out your family’s day-to-day activities: “It was at this time that your sister made the fateful decision to order a matcha latte, cementing her position as a confirmed L.A. trend victim.” When we think about that in Peter Falk’s voice, all of a sudden we’re invested in what looks to be a bright and interesting future.
12. TRY TO UNDERSTAND “THE MACHINE”
For something that looks like it’s made out of vines and anachronistic suction cups, the Machine packs a f**king wallop. The only time we see Wesley experience a moment of discomfort is at the hands of this ruthless torture device, and it’s the only foe who comes close to besting him throughout the entirety of the movie’s run. But… how in holy Hell does it work? We realize this is a rabbit hole we should really avoid in favor of suspension of disbelief, but there are so many questions!
If it sucks life away, how did Rugen isolate the compound of “life” specifically enough to suck it out? Is the time suck linear? Does the machine somehow know how long Wesley will live, so now, instead of living to 90 he’ll only live to 40? Also, the suction cups clearly aren’t sealed, so does anyone wandering near the machine get bits of their life sucked out, as well? OH, MACHINE! SHOW US YOUR WAYS!!!!
11. SCREAM “ANYBODY WANT A PEANUT?”
This joke has no business being as popular as it is when you think about it. First of all, these are not impressive rhymes that Inigo and Fezzik exchange. They are borderline nursery level, so when Inigo marvels at Fezzik’s “great gift for rhyme,” it’s hyperbolic at best. And when you consider neither one of them can probably read, the compliment gets even more generous. Guess how much that matters to us? (Hint: not at all.) There’s something very endearing about Vizzini’s long-suffering team finding such good friendship in each other.
From the moment we meet Inigo and Fezzik, it’s clear they’re as lost as Buttercup is kidnapped. Their chill observations that Vizzini doesn’t know what he’s doing juxtaposed against the fact that they’re beholden to him regardless makes their rhyming at his expense adorably resonant. So yeah, when Mom snaps, “No more rhyming now, I mean it!” the eight-year-old in all of us gleefully claps back, “Anybody want a peanut?”
10. GUESS THE SECRET KNOT
We’ve seen this movie somewhere around 87 times and we still can’t remember which knot opens the door to the Pit of Despair. It’s embarrassing, really, but it is indicative of why no one ever discovered the torture chamber that seems pretty adjacent to the Thieves Forest. We watch the count press it, and then, when Inigo seeks divine intervention to gain entry, his sword is led to the same one. But no matter how many times we watch, we still can’t remember which knot is the right knot, which means our “Princess Bride” story would’ve ended with Wesley and Buttercup’s double murder had we been the ones responsible for finding it.
The funny thing about the Quest of the Secret Knot is that it manages to distract us from the only semi-cheesy Inigo moment. For some reason, Inigo’s divine dousing rod routine never really lands (especially compared to his later reconstitution after getting stabbed by Rugen), so it’s kind of nice of the Secret Knot to steal focus from an overly sentimental moment. Thank you, Secret Knot!
9. WONDER HOW NO ONE GOT THROUGH THE FIRE SWAMP
We’re not sure if we missed something, but it seems highly unlikely that only two people in recorded history have ever made it through the Fire Swamp alive and that one of them was Buttercup. We can understand how one person alone without any prior knowledge of the dangers within would have a hard time, but it seems like the fire spurts, lightening sand and R.O.U.S.es are pretty famous. More importantly, they’re hella obvious, as Wesley even points out at one time. Every time we watch “The Princess Bride,” it makes no sense that it would take a PhD. in Badassery to get through this place.
Come on, you’re telling us that there weren’t a bunch of little boy gangs that dared each other to spend a night there? The “Stranger Things” cast would’ve had this place on lock in under an hour. Avoid the sand, avoid the fire and be on the lookout for the slow-moving rats. It’s really not as difficult as the characters make it out to be, especially considering it can’t be that big given that Wesley and Buttercup make it through in one afternoon.
8. TRY TO RECOGNIZE CAROL KANE
This lady does NOT get enough credit for her performance. Billy Crystal’s the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to the Miracle Max scene, and while no one overlooks his sassy, sassy lady, Carol Kane usually gets relegated to, “Oh, yeah, she’s awesome.” territory. That’s kind of weird considering she’s arguably the funnier of the two. Her childish, but well-intentioned teasing of her husband, not to mention her killer entrance (“LIAR! LIAR! LIAAAAAAAEEERR!“), make Valerie first in our hearts. It might be that she’s actually too good.
While Crystal is immediately recognizable under his age makeup, Carol Kane legit looks like she’s pushing 90. Her voice is certainly familiar, but her features are so well concealed that if we didn’t know it was her, we’d have thought it was an actual older lady. “Suicide Squad” stole the Oscar for Best Makeup for 2017, but this feat of concealment had gone unrecognized in its time.
7. WISH YOU COULD SEE “TO THE PAIN…”
“It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery for-ev-er…”
We get chills every time Wesley delivers his threat to Humperdinck — it’s a threat that would make George R. R. Martin stand up and applaud. Unfortunately, Wesley isn’t as up to delivering on this threat as he would have Humperdinck believe, and the punishment is never meted out. And that’s a darn shame, to be honest. There are few villains less deserving of a good To-the-Paining than Prince Humperdinck of “The Princess Bride” who totally deserves it. He’s a selfish, sadistic, narcissistic warmonger and it would probably do his soul a world of good to go through life disfigured.
But no. Instead we get a (killer) bluff and Humperdinck gets left to his own misery, which he will probably take out on his own people because he cares so little for them; he’s so evil he starts wars for fun. While Wesley is a total badass in this entire situation, we never finish this movie without feeling a little dissatisfied, justice-wise.
6. WONDER HOW WESLEY GOT SO GOOD AT EVERYTHING
Like, literally everything… in only five years. When we meet Wesley, he’s a farm boy. If this is supposed to take place in even remotely historically accurate Medieval times, that means he’s trained in nothing, is illiterate and probably had fleas. But five short years later, he’s learned how to sail, lead pirates, become at least something of an expert in poison and is better at fencing than Inigo. Inigo is a swordmaker’s son who spent his entire life learning how to use one. But really, Wesley, in five years, is better than he is. And not even the full five years if you think about it.
The Dread Pirate Roberts/Brian reveals himself to Wesley a few years into their acquaintanceship, then poses as Wesley’s valet for another year. So Wesley had to be Ninja Wesley in about three years. Zero to hero in three years. Don’t get us wrong, we looooove Ninja Wesley, but we just have to suspend our belief pretty hard when he free climbs up the Cliffs of Insanity and then spends the rest of the day killing everything.
5. LARP THE DUEL
Okay, so it may be a bit of a stretch to believe that Wesley could get better at swordplay than Inigo in a few years, but that duel tho. Inigo and Wesley’s swordfight is one of the most iconic in cinema. Its theatrical staging and brilliantly skillful performers make it thrilling to this day. Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes performed all of the fencing, and Patinkin, though right-handed, actually learned to fight with his left hand during training. No doubt you have, either with your friends or in the safety of your own private Netflix binge, at one point, tried to do the duel yourself.
Well, we’re here to tell you not to be afraid — we’ve all been there. We’ve jumped on couch cushions waving imaginary swords and may or may not have broken our mom’s glass coffee table. We couldn’t help ourselves. And that’s kind of the genius of the whole movie: the whole time you’re watching it, you want to play along.
4. IMAGINE HARLAN PEPPER PLAYING COUNT RUGEN
One of the best things to come out of “The Princess Bride” was the raised profile of Christopher Guest. Granted, many knew and loved him in “This is Spinal Tap,” but this gifted improviser would go on to become king of our weird little hearts with more mockumentaries like “Waiting for Guffman,” “Best in Show,” and “A Mighty Wind.” “Best in Show” is arguably Guest’s biggest commercial success, and he stars in it as Harlan Pepper, a naive southerner with a bloodhound competing in the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show.
Upon rewatching “The Princess Bride” after you’ve seen “Best in Show,” perhaps you’ve found that it’s delightful to imagine Harlan Pepper saying all of Count Rugen’s line and battling Inigo at the climax of the movie. We agree. Half of what makes Christopher Guest such a masterful entertainer is that he is so versatile, so it’s natural (and so, so fun) to imagine the rest of his impressive roster trying their hands at what’s probably his most recognizable role. His fingers do go to eleven, after all…
“Mawwaaage. Maaawwaaage is what bwings us togwever today. That bwessed awwangement. That DWEAM WIVIN A DWEAM-”
If you don’t giggle your way through at least one round of this speech, you’re either lying or incapable of joy. The Impressive Clergyman is forever immortalized for the unexpected accent (speech impediment?) that flew from his mouth like a flock of drunken doves. This dotty man of the cloth has one job, and darned if he isn’t going to do it as slowly and as methodically as possible despite the clear and present danger happening outside. Dread Pirate Robert at the gates? Clergyman don’t care!
Chris Sarandon called “The Princess Bride” a prime example of “perfect casting,” and Peter Cook’s appearance proves Prince Humperdinck’s typically egotistical supposition. Often partnered with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook was a British comedian who was well-known for his work on stage and screen — but not in America. Americans had no idea what to expect as the camera slowly zoomed in on the priest. Whatever we did think, it was miles away from the cat yawning its way through a wedding sermon. His voice is so uncomfortably out of place, you can’t help but join in and cackle with glee.
2. RECITE INIGO’S REVENGE SPEECH
If you don’t do this in everyday life, we’re judging you, so if you don’t do it during the movie, reexamine your life. It’s hard to think of a more recognizable introduction than Inigo Montoya’s oft-repeated, but never tired, “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” While every other storyline in “The Princess Bride” has a tongue-in-cheek feel, Inigo’s journey is genuinely dramatic and frightening. Wesley and Buttercup will live happily ever after, and no ever one’s under the impression Prince Humperdinck will triumph. But when it comes to Inigo, narratively, it’s plausible that he might lose.
It’s an unlikely scenario, but its possibility makes Inigo’s struggle the most emotionally engaging one in the movie. In the palace, when he finally gains the on Rugen only to receive a dagger in the gut, we gasp in fear that the real hero will never triumph. Then, when he picks himself back up on the force of sheer will alone, chanting his name tag over and over until finally, he’s shouting it at the top of his lungs. ALLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!
1. SCREAM AT BUTTERCUP
Admit it. As heroine’s go, Buttercup is the worst. She’s the principle character in the story, but she’s arguably the least interesting and most annoying character in the story. By virtue of sexism, “historical” accuracy or just a top-heavy cast with a ton of great personalities to service, Buttercup is an incredibly passive heroine. Plus, for someone dressed in burlap and living in a shack, she’s pretty uppity to her gorgeous, hard-working farm boy.
Wesley dies and she mopes around Florin until Prince Humperdinck plucks her from the masses to be his bride. Then she mopes around the castle until Vizzini kidnaps her and inadvertently reunites her with Wesley. When Wesley’s attacked by the R.O.U.S. in the Fire Swamp, Buttercup stands there like a doofus. At some point she grabs a stick, but she falls down before she can use it. Then, when they’re in the clear, she extracts a promise from Humperdinck that he’ll return the pirate safely to his ship if she agrees to marry him. Because Buttercup is so, so stupid. And even after Wesley explicitly tells her that “Death cannot stop true love,” she tries to kill herself after Humperdinck brags about murdering Wesley. Wesley’s lucky she didn’t fall into a well 10 minutes after he left the farm.
What are some of your “Princess Bride” rituals? Leave them below in the comments!
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