3 Christian Themes of The Princess Bride

In honor of the 25-year-reunion of The Princess Bride, I decided to write about some of the things that made the film great. This movie is one of the ultimate cult-classic quotable movies of our time, so it stands to reason that there would be a lot to like about it. Yet beneath the surface, one can find some fascinating Christian themes and tropes that make this movie all the more interesting. So without further ado, here are just a few of the Christian themes of The Princess Bride.

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1. Westley’s Unconditional Love

Okay, so Buttercup isn’t the most perfect female character. She does a lot of standing around, lets people walk all over her, and watches slack-jawed and helpless as Westley fights the ROUS. Her only real moment of empowerment is when she confronts Humperdinck for lying to her. But in spite of her weaknesses, Westley loves her. He sees something in her that is worth fighting for and doesn’t let go. Even when he supposedly dies, he comes back for her.
“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for awhile.”
With Easter just past us, this phrase strikes me hard. We were unlovable, but God still loved us. He thinks we’re worth something because He created us and knows us. Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and His disciples thought Him gone forever. Instead, He conquered death and rose again, showing just how powerful His love for us truly is. Westley displays this kind of love, going through sword-fights, wrestling, battles of wits, torture, and (mostly) death to save Buttercup and make her his bride, as Christ did for the church.

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2. The Foiling of Evil

In all his hilarity and jerkiness, Prince Humperdinck is actually a mastermind of evil. Throughout the entire film, he has been secretly planning to frame the neighboring country of Guilder for killing his fiancee, Buttercup, on their wedding night, which would plunge Florin into war. So beyond saving Buttercup, our trio of heroes also end up foiling an evil plan to send the country into the turmoil of unnecessary war. Now, our God is a just God, blessing the humble and redeemed and delivering righteous judgment to evildoers, as David commonly makes plain in the Psalms. He exposes people for who they truly are, as Matthew 10:26 says,

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”

Good will triumph over evil, even if it takes time or doesn’t seem like it has happened. God will have His way. This is the case with The Princess Bride. When Westley confronts Humperdinck in the honeymoon suite, he reveals how much of a power-hungry, yet cowardly, bully Humperdinck truly is. Instead of crossing blades, he gets into his head, neutralizes the imposing presence that Humperdinck gives off and brings about his downfall. God convicts people of their sin and brings about the downfall of those who are against Him, too. He has the power. He has brought justice and unleashed His righteous wrath many a time, and He will continue to do so, especially when Jesus returns.

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3. Post-Revenge Feelings

Inigo is not what you would call a character with Biblical morals and ideas. After being bent on avenging his father’s death for twenty years, he finally slays the six-fingered man and tells Westley, “I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.” He reveals the truth of revenge: it consumes you and becomes an idol, an obstacle for living as you could or should.
Forgiveness is a much more rewarding path. “What’s next?” he thinks, after fulfilling a twenty-year-old desire that just ended up causing him to question his life. There’s no great “I’ve done it, I have accomplished something in my life” feeling. He stumbles away injured and reveals these thoughts to Westley as they are leaving the castle. We never find out what happens to him, though one could assume that he takes up Westley’s offer to become the next Dread Pirate Roberts.
However, the fact that he discovers what life is like on the other side of a single-minded, long-term grudge speaks volumes to the power that hate has to warp one’s outlook on life. This is why God tells us to forgive. It hurts us in the long run and keeps us from fulfilling and being in his will. It keeps us from seeing God’s plan, and it serves as an obstacle to Christ-likeness. Forgiveness ends conflict, bringing about mercy, grace, and unconditional love which is infinitely more satisfying than holding a grudge and exacting revenge on someone who has wronged you deeply.

So there you have it! Just a few things that I’ve picked up on after many times watching this film. It is quite enjoyable in itself, but is also even more fun when you discover exciting subtext within it. It may not be a Christian movie, but it sure has a few Christian themes going on within the plot. Please let me know if I missed anything!

Andrew Scoles

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