It might be “inconceivable” to separate William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride from Rob Reiner’s satirical-yet-thrilling film adaptation. In both book and movie, the most beautiful woman in the world, Buttercup, finds herself betrothed to a malicious monarch. But she finds a savior in her long-lost love Wesley, who braves the mystical fire swamp, fights a Rodent of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S.) and endures a torture machine in his pursuit. Wesley teams with giant Fezzik and swordsman Inigo Montoya, who is bent on avenging his father’s death, for an epic showdown with the prince. But the movie loses the wry commentary of the novel’s narrator, Goldman himself. Goldman presents himself as an author excising the “boring bits” from a (made-up) old fairy tale, and he pauses at the end of each chapter to analyze the fantasy genre and reminisce about his own father telling him fantastical bedtime stories. The movie tries to capture this meta aspect by introducing a grandfather character reading to his sick grandson. And while that plot is sweet, fantasy fans will miss out on the more analytical and nostalgic aspects of Goldman’s work, in which he tells the reader exactly why we all love the story of Wesley and Buttercup so much. —Eliana Dockterman

Buy Now: The Princess Bride on Bookshop | Amazon

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at