The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner, demonstrates how dialogue, particularly one-liners, can make a movie timeless. Reiner uses one-liners for the purpose of surprising the audience about the depth of his seemingly stereotypical characters and for the all-important purpose of entertaining the audience. Its simple plot uses close to excessive unnecessary dialogue. But what stands above all else is how one-liners and creative dialogue make this movie timeless. The Princess Bride is an unforgettable masterpiece because of the overwhelming power of its dialogue and timeless nature.
What is dialogue? Dialogue, technically speaking, is the interaction of two characters through speech. Dialogue builds off the experiences of the two characters talking to each other. All it takes is a word from one person to spark the memory of what that word signifies. Dialogue often characterizes the protagonist or antagonist, which is necessary in order for the audience to feel attached to the characters.
Movies build dialogue around what the characters think and feel, but they may also add tidbits for the audience. These tidbits, often in the form of a single line, often are humorous interpretations of the situation within the story known as one-liners. One-liners are designed to be quotable and funny, but most of all, they are supposed to be emphasized by whatever situation they appear from.
One would expect the dialogue The Princess Bride to be one part designed explicitly for the audience and three parts designed to build characters and plot. Instead, this movie goes to the extreme of one-part necessary dialogue and three parts dialogue intended for the audience in the form of one-liners.
One-liners play apart in another quality of the movie: timelessness. What makes a timeless movie? By the very definition, a timeless movie must appeal to all generations, and never feel aged or irrelevant. One-liners play a vital role in making a movie timeless, as a one-liner can take place in a vacuum and still be a great line. Take this scene as an example.
Vizzini, who has just captured Princess Buttercup, irritates his two accomplices, and they start talking behind his back.
“That Vizzini, he can fuss,” Inigo says to Fizzik.
Fizzik thinks for a second then says, “He sure likes to scream at us.”
“I’m sure he means no harm,” Inigo says sarcastically.
Grinning, Fizzik remarks, “He’s really short on charm.”
Vizzini glares at Fizzik. “No more rhymes, and I mean it!”
Fizzik smiles as he rhymes, “Anybody want a peanut?”
Many Princess Bride fans treasure this scene not because of its significant to the plot but because of its hilarious. Secondly, such lines could be quoted in whatever situation deemed fit by the quoter. It is a true timeless moment.
Another ingredient in a timeless movie are the characters. The characters must be relatable, but the trick is making them relatable to any person whatever their background. The Princess Bride accomplishes this by basing the characters off stereotypes. Inigo is a vengeful Spaniard and Fizzik a slightly dull giant; we have seen these characters before. But despite making the characters stereotypical, they feel original. Fizzik, while your dull, docile giant, creates ingenious rhymes which has the audience rolling in laughter. Inigo, despite working for a dishonest man, is extremely honorable. Because the characters are stereotypical, they require less characterization. This leaves more room for the script writers to insert even more hilarious and memorable lines directed at the audience, rather than characters in the movie.
By combining stereotypical character, simple plot, and the quality of timelessness, the result is a work of genius. Because of the power of one-liners, The Princess Bride can be enjoyed by all. The only way to fully experience the incredible dialogue is to watch the movie, which I would heartily encourage. No matter your age, your generation, or your preferences, this movie will find a place in your heart.
Notice: There is some violence and slightly explicit language usage.