Beat Sheet: The Princess Bride

I’m still not quite clear on what the theme of this great movie is. Any better ideas?

Opening image: The little boy playing video baseball in his room. Or, if you ignore the grandson/grandfather frame, Buttercup riding her horse into the stable and ordering Westley about. (1-3)

Theme stated: “Hear this now. I will always come for you. This is true love – do you think this happens every day?” (6)

Setup: Buttercup and Westley’s love story, Buttercup’s grief, Prince Humperdink making her a princess, and the abduction all count as setup to me. (The abduction could have been a catalyst, but I don’t quite think so, because there’s one critical element still missing. (4-10)

Catalyst: “I just happened to look behind us, and something is there.” This is the first hint that the Man in Black is setting himself against Vizzini’s plan, meaning to rescue the Princess from the Prince’s clutches. (11-12)

Debate: Hmm… I’m not sure, but I think that the ‘debate’ part of this movie’s plot comes as we get to know the Man in Black as a person, and come to wonder if he’s the villain or the hero of the piece. This starts when Fezzik leaves Inigo – ‘People in masks cannot be trusted’… and ends when Inigo and the Man in Black begin their duel in earnest. (18-22)

Break into two: The Man in Black defeats Inigo in the duel, but spares his life, professing his respect, and charges off in pursuit again. (25-26)

B story: This would be Inigo’s quest of revenge, which is fist mentioned at (20), and isn’t resolved until ()

Fun and games: Plenty of this all around, from the shrieking eels and the cliffs of insanity around (13-17), and including the sword duel with Inigi, (23-24), the wrestling match with Fezzik, the battle of wits with Fizzini, Humperdink’s tracking, and the
Fire-swamp. (27-49)

Midpoint: Everything collapses for Westley and Buttercup at (50), when Buttercup surrenders to save his life, and the Prince breaks his word to her.

Bad guys close in: Westley in the Pit of Despair, Buttercup’s nightmares, continued reveals of the Prince’s nefarious plans, the machine. Fezzik finding Inigo drunk, (and helping him sober up a little,) and Buttercup’s sudden defiance against the Prince which prompts him to turn the Machine up to its highest setting. (51-67)

All is lost: Fezzik and Inigo find Westley dead, at (69-70) The despair here is underscored by the little temper trantrum the grandson throws about who’s going to kill the bad guy.

Dark night of the soul: There’s some comedy thrown in here, with the quest for the miracle. Even after Westley has come back to life, as long as he’s bitter and hopeless we’re still in this beat.(71-76)

Break into three: ‘If we only had a WHEELBARROW, that would be something!’ The plan is hatched, and our three heroes give it their all. (77-78)

Finale: The wedding, the attack of the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, Inigo’s duel with the Count, Westley’s confrontation with the Prince, and their escape. (79-92)

Final image: The four good guys riding off into the countryside, the kissing stuff, and even the grandson doesn’t mind so much now. And the grandfather leaves him with ‘As you wish.’ (93-94)

3 Responses to Beat Sheet: The Princess Bride

  1. AP Roberts says:

    Just thought I would mention I love this movie and the book based on it. They are absolutely wonderful.

    I think the theme of “The Princess Bride” is “Love conquers all.” Reasons being: Wesley defeating all the odds and rescuing Buttercup (seen throughout movie), and Inigo’s love for his father which led him to scare away the six-fingered man.

    But that is just my opinion of the matter.

    Keep writing,


  2. Sam Vest says:

    Nice job with this beat sheet! I was thinking the All is Lost Moment was when Inigo was hit by the throwing knife and Buttercup puts the knife to her chest to commit suicide, but that’s way too late in the film. Blake Snyder says it’s good to have something die at this point or at least hint at death and I think you nailed it when you say All is Lost is when Wesley is found dead. The Dark Night of the Soul section in this film is so lighthearted that you hardly notice any profound synthesis driving the characters into act 3. I think they played down the dark night of the soul beat because this is obviously a comedy and kids’ film. Nice work!


  3. samwyse says:

    There are two stories being told in “The Princess Bride” and both need to be analyzed. The most obvious is the fairy tale. I would argue that Inigo is the protagonist of this story. I rule out Wesley because he always knows his goal and pursues it single-mindedly, never suffering any crisis of faith. Meanwhile, Buttercut is almost completely passive to everything happening around her. Inigo is the protagonist, just like in “Lethal Weapon” where Danny Glover is person who is changed by events, while Mel Gibson is essentially unchanged by everythin that happens. And once you agree that Inigo is the main character, the genre is obvious: Superhero, specifically People’s Superhero (which seems to be where a lot of revenge stories wind up). However, the real story really isn’t the fairy tale, it’s the framing story, about how the grandson learns to connect with his grandfather, which means it’s Rite of Passage story. I’d further catagorize it as Adolesent Passage, but that’s more by process of elimination. You mention a couple of the beats of their story, but if you re-watch the movie, I think you’ll find all of them are present. I will especially point out the debate over whether to the book is to be read, Also notice the difference between the opening image, where the grandfather fights the grandson’s desire to be left alone, and the end, where the two are in harmony. Ask yourself how long the movie would have been if the grandfather had said, “As you wish,” at the beginning instead of the end.


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