Great Character Moments: Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride (1987)
Character: Inigo Montoya
Actor: Mandy Patinkin
Film: The Princess Bride
Role: An expert in swordplay and fencing, this impassioned Spaniard is seeking revenge for the murder of his father by the legendary 6-fingered man, joining forces with the Dred Pirate Roberts to save a kingdom.
Inigo Montoya was eleven years old when his father was killed by Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) after he refused to pay for a sword Inigo’s father had meticulously labored over for more than a year. Spending his life in search of Rugen, swearing to avenge his father, he sunk in depression and heavy drinking as his efforts failed him. Ingio works in service of Sicilian criminal Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) as a henchmen alongside ex-brute squad enforcer Fezzik (André the Giant). The three have captured Princess “Buttercup” (Robin Wright) by order of an unknown man, which has gone over rather well except they are being followed by a mysterious man in black. Vizzini orders his master swordsman to dispatch their pursuer as he and Fezzik go ahead with the girl.
The Moment: High atop the Cliffs of Insanity, where the scattered foundations of an old castle lay in ruin, Inigo engages with the man in black who doesn’t reveal his identity, though will come to be known as the Dread Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes) and the former lover of the captured princess. The two square off and battle each other, exchanging in some humorous banter as they move about the bricks and beams. Montoya is not as skilled but smiles anyway, eventually revealing that, while fighting left handed, he is actually right handed and switches, regaining the edge. Of course, the same goes for the mysterious man in black, and he too switches from left to right and eventually bests the Spaniard but doesn’t kill him, even though Inigo yields and begs for him to make it quick. Instead, he earns a knock in the head and the winner’s highest respects.
Why It Matters: Ingio is a man of a singular passion but is also fiercely loyal. Even though he works for the less than accomplished crime boss Vizzini, we sense something honorable about the long-haired swordsman. From this extended fight sequence, we learn much about the character. First, he is not devious, as any good criminal should be. He wants to win, believes he can, and does his best, but he wants to do so by the proper methods. He even helped his opponent scale the sheer cliffs before they fought when he could have just as easily let him perish. This speaks much about his “code” and though not spoken, is surely a contributing factor for the Dread Pirate Roberts’ decision when he comes to win. Second, Inigo is clever and resourceful and also well-educated, especially about the art of sword fighting. He knows his opponent’s defenses and attacks by name and counters appropriately so. This verifies his claim to the lifelong pursuit of revenge and further solidifies Dred’s growing esteem. This entire fight sequence is really more about the two characters than any swordplay. The two have already shared a conversation before they started where Inigo told of his quest, and as they battle each other, we learn a lot about how that quest has shaped his life. Inigo Montoya is his name. Someone killed his father. That man should prepare to die.