Director: Rob Reiner
Original Release: 1987
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
This is how I first learned of the movie back in the day:
The Dread Pirate Roberts (aka Farm Boy/Westley/The Man in Black) must save his true love, Buttercup, from having to marry evil Prince Humperdink. Meanwhile, master swordsman Inigo Montoya seeks to avenge the death of his father. Their paths cross and Hollywood magic ensues.
The Princess Bride is a mix of everything that made movies great in the Golden Age of the 1930s: a swashbuckling romance worthy of Errol Flynn combined with witty dialogue to rival Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges. It is, without a doubt, one of the most beautifully written films of all time. Calling it quotable doesn't go far enough. The script sings from beginning to end, every single line finding its mark. William Goldman, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's Men, adapted the screenplay from his own novel of the same name.
The sword fight at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity isn't just the best scene in the film, it's one of the most perfectly scripted and acted scenes in the history of cinema. I would happily skip the rest of the movie just to watch that one sequence over and over again. The two actors did all their own fencing, especially impressive considering they had to do it with both hands.
For all the well-deserved praise the writing has received over the years, I believe the true genius of The Princess Bride is in the casting. Billy Crystal was the only genuine A-lister at the time and even he was still a couple years away from When Harry Met Sally... The story is led magnificently by two essential unknowns: Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin, well-trained and (particularly for the Tony-winning Patinkin) accomplished stage actors with relatively few screen credits to that point. In the titular role, Robin Wright, another newcomer, combined with Elwes to create the most beautiful on-screen couple since Rhett and Scarlett. Many of the actors were better known for their work on television: Peter Falk and Carol Kane in the United States, Peter Cook and Mel Smith in Britain. Andre the Giant was quite famous, indeed, but as a professional wrestler. Every actor fits his or her role like hand to glove.
Predictably, many in the audience recited the most famous lines in time with the film. There was rowdy applause at both beginning and end. It's funny the things you notice when you've seen a movie over and over again. For instance, of course Westley (Elwes) knows Inigo (Patinkin) isn't really left-handed because his scabbard is on the left side. I also paid closer attention to the toys on the gradson's shelf: He-Man and Captain America action figures, a Return of the Jedi glass from Burger King, etc.
The film's music was composed by Mark Knopfler, far better known as the front man for Dire Straits. He agreed to do the score on one condition: that Reiner include his baseball cap from This Is Spinal Tap somewhere in the movie. Knopfler meant it as a joke but Reiner made good, creating a replica cap for the grandson's bedroom. The end credits song "Storybook Love" garnered the movie's only Oscar nomination.