The Ten Commandments



Stirring, even if it's as much showbiz as Bible.
  • Review Date: November 3, 2007
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1956
  • Running Time: 219 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Moses is the ultimate Good Guy, played with sterling qualities of manliness, respect, humility, piety, you name it. Even conquered enemies and slaves revere him (there's a hint that his rugged sex appeal has a bit to do with it). Except for conquered Ethiopians and Yul Brynner's pharaoh, everyone looks ethnically more or less Caucasian -- rather than distinctly Middle Eastern or North African.


Hebrew slaves are whipped, threatened with death (including an old woman nearly crushed under a stone), and occasionally killed on camera. Moses strangles an Egyptian baddie, and a princess is nearly murdered. Children (in the massacres/deaths of the first born) die off-screen, and a boy's body is shown.


Egyptian and Hebrew glamour-girls in flowing robes. The queen of Egypt refers to "strumpets." When the Hebrews make a golden-calf idol to worship they celebrate with sinful "lasciviousness…iniquity...adultery" that translates as a rowdy, sensual revel, with a lot of festive dancing, roughhousing, and writhing around -- it's more silly than steamy.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there are potentially nightmare-inducing elements for small children, such as the Ten Plagues (which do not spare children and innocents). While essential parts are faithful to the biblical narrative, much of the late parts of Exodus and Deuteronomy are excised, and much is Hollywood scriptwriters filling in the blanks with romantic-triangle melodrama. Part of the appeal of "biblical epics" was that they could get away with depicting some pretty intense (for the time) violence and sensuality, as long as it was in the context of sin and inevitably punished by heaven. This wasn't the worst offender by far -- in fact scenes of debauchery come off as more silly than sexy -- but that's something to keep in mind.

What's the story?

In this epic from Cecil B. DeMille, a Hebrew baby, the prophesied savior of the enslaved Jewish people, is secretly adopted into the mighty royal household of Egypt. Growing up noble, humane, and chivalrous, young prince Moses (Charlton Heston) is the aging pharaoh's favorite and chosen successor. Moses competes with his haughty half-brother Ramses (Yul Brynner) for a sultry Egyptian princess. But when Moses discovers his origins, he willingly becomes a slave like all the other Hebrews, and is ultimately sent into exile. Contacted personally by God, Moses returns to Egypt and frees his people, the Israelites. At first, Moses acts as political activist and slave-liberator who disdains the Hebrew God as distant and uncaring about His peoples' bondage. But once he meets God, the more spiritual messages emerge, climaxing in stupendous special effects with the parting of the Red Sea and the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

Is it any good?


A long-running theatrical hit and traditional network TV airing every year at Passover/Easter, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is so burned into viewer consciousness it's practically impossible to separate its images from the Bible and Torah narratives. Remember that, however inspired by the divine it might be, this was a Hollywood movie, a high point in a number of "Bible epics" filmed at a time when the movie industry was fearful of competition from television. The aim for epic-specialist director Cecil B. DeMille, thus, became BIG films for theaters, so BIG and IMPORTANT that TV couldn't rival it. God's lawgiver was judged to be sufficiently big.

Drawbacks for the home viewers: First that you should watch The Ten Commandments on a widescreen setup to get the full visual impact of the vast sets, color, f/x, and pageantry DeMille oversaw. In the "full-screen" version the image is constrained, the dramatics sometimes stagey and stiff. It's very long also very long. Keep in mind that while the basic narrative sticks to the Bible, Hollywood scriptwriters filled in the blanks with romantic-triangle melodrama, material from at least three novels about Moses, and a silent-era version of The Ten Commandments also directed by DeMille.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's religious message, and its portrayal of Moses as a liberator of slaves and a champion of freedom and justice for the downtrodden. While not contrary to the Old Testament, do you think this is a mainstream "Americanization" of the Bible's themes, especially in Cold War-era Hollywood? You can use the movie as a way to get kids to read the Bible or the Torah to see if and how The Ten Commandments deviates.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 5, 1956
DVD release date:March 21, 2006
Cast:Anne Baxter, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner
Director:Cecil B. DeMille
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:219 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Ten Commandments was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byHaxis27 April 5, 2013


it's a classic movie is super good for christens Jews and Muslims (progressive Muslims ) if you are Jewish watch this on Hunukkah or Passover or both christens watch on Easter For my Muslim brothers and sisters in the progressive sect I would just recommend for a better understanding how Allah sent down his messages through the torah and gosspile and the Perfect and Glorious Quran written by the Greatest Prophet Muhammad Pbuh this movie is good for all ages and anybody who is in a abrahmic religion Salaam
Adult Written byAlejandro LB June 4, 2011

Politics on De Mille's Epic?

Cold War themes? Maybe. De Mille himself made a hint at the beggining of the movie. Which is incorrect is the pretense of some people that the movie represents early Arab-ISraeli conflict. Ramses' Egypt that is portrayed on the film is very different from Nasser Pan-Arabist Middle Eastern power; besides, Midianites are portrayed as monotheistic Arabs (word "Arab" is not used, but they are called "Bedouins" and their father Ishmael is mentioned at least three times). This is different from the Bible, where Ishmaelites and Midianites are separate tribes.
Kid, 12 years old September 5, 2011

Great Movie

Overall this is an awesome movie. It was kinda long, like 4 hours or something around there. Based on the bible story, this movie has great actors and sets. The only things that I think might not be appropriate are some scenes might be scary for younger children At the party when they are dancing around the calf Nefertari's dress is a little see through in one scene. one use of hell This movie is religious. But overall, a MUST SEE. whats funny is the failed animation of fire.... you'll see when you watch it...:)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide