A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Being true to yourself -- and eliminating slavery in the process -- is more important than being royalty.
Positive Role Models
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
If you can get past the melodrama and the length of the movie, it's worth experiencing this elaborate retelling of a great story. 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. 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.