The film is an enactment of a book read to a sick boy from Chicago—who is initially dismissive of the story—by his grandfather, with occasional interruptions of the scenes in this frame story.
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”. She eventually realizes he loves her and admits her love for him. He leaves to seek his fortune so they can marry, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts and Westley is believed dead.
Five years later, 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 a six-fingered man who killed his father. The outlaws are pursued separately by a masked man in black and Prince Humperdinck with a complement of soldiers.
The man in black catches up to the outlaws at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. 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. He takes Buttercup prisoner and they flee, stopping to rest at the edge of a gorge. When Buttercup correctly guesses that he is the Dread Pirate Roberts, she becomes enraged at him for killing Westley; distracted when Humperdinck and his men appear in the distance, she shoves him down the hill into the gorge and wishes death upon him. As he tumbles down, he shouts, “As you wish!” Realizing he is Westley, she throws herself into the gorge after him and they are reunited. They pass through the dangerous Fire Swamp but 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 Pit of Despair, Florin’s torture chamber.
When Buttercup expresses unhappiness at marrying Humperdinck, he promises to search for Westley. However, his real plan is to start a war with the neighboring country of Guilder by killing Buttercup and framing Guilder for her death (it is revealed he hired Vizzini to kill her for that same purpose). Meanwhile, Inigo and Fezzik reunite when Humperdinck orders the thieves in the nearby forest arrested, and Fezzik tells Inigo about Rugen. Inigo decides that they need Westley’s help to get into the castle. Buttercup berates Humperdinck after learning that he never tried to find Westley; enraged, Humperdinck imprisons Buttercup in her chambers, storms into the Pit of Despair and tortures Westley to death. When Inigo hears cries of anguish echo through the forest, he realizes they must be from Westley. Inigo and Fezzik find the dead Westley and bring him to a folk healer, Miracle Max; he tells them that Westley is “only mostly dead” due to his love for Buttercup, and Max revives him to a state of heavy paralysis.
After Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik invade the castle, Humperdinck panics and orders the wedding ceremony shortened. Inigo finds and kills Rugen in a duel, repeatedly taunting him with 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, assuring her that the marriage is invalid because she never said “I do.” Still partly paralyzed, he bluffs his way out of a duel with Humperdinck and has Buttercup tie Humperdinck to a chair for humiliation. Westley rides away with Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik before sharing a passionate kiss with Buttercup.
Back in the boy’s bedroom, the boy eagerly asks his grandfather to read the story to him again the next day, to which the grandfather replies, “As you wish”.
The Princess Bride is a 1987 American romantic comedy fantasy adventure film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, and Christopher Guest. Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by befriended companions along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. The film effectively preserves the novel’s narrative style by presenting the story as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage).
The film was first released in the United States on September 25, 1987, was well-received by critics at the time, but was a modest box office success. Over time, particularly with the introduction of the Internet, the film has become a cult classic. 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”.