The Princess Bride (1987) has, arguably, the most laugh-out-loud lines of any Hollywood film of the 1980s.
One example is the scene where two men engage in left-handed swordplay. Suddenly one of them makes an admission:
Man 1: “I know something you do not know.”
Man 2: “What’s that?”
Man 1: “I am not left-handed.” (switches sword to right hand)
Man 2: “There’s something I ought to tell you. I’m not left-handed either.” (also switches sword to right hand)
In this scene, Man 2 is Westley (Cary Elwes), a masked man who’s been stalking Man 1 and his friends.
Man 1 is Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), a Spaniard with voluminous hair and an accent as smooth as Crema Catalana. Montoya has memorable lines, such as, “I promise not to kill you until you reach the top”, and “There will be blood tonight!”
But Montoya’s most famous line is his creed. It’s a speech he’s rehearsed for 20 years:
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
It’s a good speech – direct, to the point, unambiguous. No one could say they weren’t warned.
For most of his life, Montoya has been seeking revenge for his father’s death. His father, a renowned swordmaker, was murdered by a rich client who reneged on the payment of a sword.
Montoya has searched for this killer for 20 years. He will not rest until he finds him – a man with six fingers on his right hand.
We hope we’re not giving you the impression Inigo Montoya is a black-hearted killer. Nay, he is a kind and soft-spoken individual.
For example, as he engages in swordplay with Westley, he compliments his opponent’s technique. “You seem a decent fellow,” he says. “I really hate to kill you.”
Although he’s a man of Deep Sadness, he’s a gentleman, one who immediately sees the good in others. He’s not boorish or rude; he’s a man of Honour. Indeed, in a film staffed by self-serving characters, Montoya’s desire for revenge seems almost noble.
Then! Suddenly and unexpectedly, he meets the Six Fingered Man (Christopher Guest) in the hallway of a castle.
But Montoya doesn’t have 20 years’ training for nothing. He is Ready.
It’s a terrific scene. Montoya chases the Six Fingered Man through the castle, until the murderer plunges a knife into Montoya’s stomach. Montoya is stunned, as though he can’t believe he could be felled so quickly.
His enemy delivers another blow, a verbal one, which proves even more crushing. “You’ve been chasing me your whole life, only to fail now,” he sneers. “I think that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”
Montoya slumps to the ground in anguish. It’s true: For him to be caught flatfooted by a not-unforeseeable action is failure. Just because he fights by gentlemen’s rules doesn’t mean everyone else does.
As his adversary continues to mock him, Montoya pulls the knife from his stomach and, bleeding and sweaty, rises unsteadily to his feet.
This is Not Over.
He moves slowly towards his enemy and delivers the Prepare To Die speech in a raspy voice. This speech, 20 years in the making, has restorative effects when stated repeatedly. Soon Montoya is vigorously shouting The Speech, brandishing his sword like a flag.
The Princess Bride is based on the 1973 novel by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay. The film wasn’t a box office smash when first released; it became a hit only after it was released on VHS.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Original Song (“Storybook Love”), but it has an even greater honour: legendary cult status.
If you haven’t yet seen The Princess Bride, we implore you to see it ASAP. There are many treats in this delightful film, not the least of which is Inigo Montoya’s triumphant Speech.
This is part of the THE SWASHATHON hosted by Movies Silently.
The Princess Bride: starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright. Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by William Goldman. Act III Communications, 1987, Colour, 98 mins.