One of the greatest civilizations ever to have existed on Earth was Ancient Egypt. The glittering society that ruled over North Africa for 30 centuries may never be surpassed. It is impossible to imagine contemporary society without the many innovations of Egyptian culture, including linguistics, architecture, art and religious ceremonies, which the ancient Greeks utilized as the foundation for their universe.
A number of these films pay tribute to ancient Egypt, but the biblical Book of Exodus, from which all Western monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) descend, is often the focus. In order to get a better idea of what life was like in Ancient Egypt you should either read history books, watch documentaries, or watch Faraon (1966), a film that is further explained below.
1. The Loves of Pharaoh (1922)
When King Amenes (Emil Jannings) casts his lustful eyes on Theonis (Dagny Servais), the Greek slave girl who is in love with an Egyptian prisoner kept hostage in the rock quarry, Theonis rebuffs his approaches because she is in love with an Egyptian slave who’s being held captive in the quarry. Blackfaced Paul Wegener portrays Ethiopian King Samlak in Theonis as a peace gift from Ethiopia to King Amenes. Ernst Lubitsch directed this silent masterpiece in Germany before fleeing the Nazis and becoming a renowned Hollywood filmmaker. The Loves of Pharaoh, previously considered to be lost to time, can now be seen in a condensed form, constructed from stills and title cards in place of the original missing film.
2. The Mummy (1932)
Imhotep, a 3,700-year-old Egyptian mummy whose corpse was disturbed by archeologists who mistakenly brought him back to life using a magic scroll, is Boris Karloff’s latest role following his international popularity as Frankenstein in 1931. When Imhotep is searching for his long-lost love, whom he believes to be a modern Egyptian named Ardeth Bay, he disguises himself as the latter while donning heavy make-up to hide his deep wrinkles. Because of King Tut’s long-lost tomb and the legendary curse that opening it would unleash, Universal Studios developed The Mummy. That moment when Imhotep’s mouth and nose are taped shut, leaving only his eyes to gaze from his coffin is one of definite terror,” writes the New York Times in their review of the film.
3. The Egyptian (1954)
One of a series of lavish, opulent, big-budget Hollywood period pieces set in ancient Egypt, made in the 1950s and 1960s, follows a wandering orphan who trains to be a doctor and rises to the position of official doctor at the Pharaoh’s court, where he witnesses endless romantic and sexual intrigue among the royals, much of it inspired by the fact that three of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses at the time—Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Sinuhe, an ancient Egyptian story, is the inspiration for the novel The Egyptian, which is based on a 1945 novel of the same name. This is a story about sex and religion in the Pharaohs’ era, however it is criticised by the New York Times because of its big-budget theatrics and lack of human interest: “It glistens with ancient beauty, rumbles deeply with the sense of human woe—and moves at the pace of a death march… “The ferocity of Egypt has been washed away in heavy charades, and the roundness and ripeness of the personalities has been lost under piety and costumes,” he said.
4. Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
King Khufu (Cheops) and his quest to build a fabled pyramid at Giza, where he will be entombed and protected from thieves and grave-robbers, was produced/directed by Howard Hawks, who used all of his resources in this masterwork. In one scene, Hawks allegedly used 10,000 extras. As the king’s cunning second wife in Land of the Pharaohs, Joan Collins, who would go on to star in the 1970s TV series Dynasty, appears as a “torrid bag in filmy garments,” according to the New York Times. “In going to Egypt, Howard Hawks has managed to re-create in interesting form a part of the big picture of antiquity,” wrote the reviewer, who also criticized Hawks for introducing nothing new to a familiar narrative. “His tale is nothing new,” he says.
5. The Ten Commandments (1956)
Cecil B. DeMille updated his 1923 silent version of The Ten Commandments here in this high-budget recreation of the events in the biblical Book of Exodus in what would be his final and most successful picture. When Moses discovers that he is descended from the Hebrews, he sets out to rescue them. Charlton Heston portrays the Egyptian ruler. King Ramesses, played by Yul Brynner, challenges him. When The Ten Commandments was released, it was the most expensive film ever made, and the special effects required to recreate God’s punishment on the Egyptians, including the burning bush, an Angel of Death and a pillar of fire, took six months to put together on a Hollywood backlot using giant water tanks. The most memorable part of the film is the Red Sea’s parting.
6. Cleopatra (1963)
Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra were supposed to be two three-hour movies, but instead they were merged into a four-hour-and-eleven-minute picture named Cleopatra because of the on-set love affair between Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) and Marc Antony (Richard Burton). Marc Antony (Rex Harrison) and Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) were manipulated by the beautiful Egyptian queen in her efforts to combine the Egyptian and Roman empires. Classic Hollywood bombast is on display when Cleopatra rides a gigantic movable Sphinx into Rome. Bosley Crowther at the New York Times stated, “I don’t see how you can fail to find this a generally great, touching, and fulfilling film,” citing the film’s “impeccable romance, adventure, and sorrow.”
7. Farron (1966)
This Jerzy Kawalerowicz-directed video about Ancient Egypt is one of the most authentic depictions of their civilization. Reddit user Faraon is the most accurate film about ancient Egypt, according to him. Even though Ramses XIII is an invented character in an invented story, the representation is astonishingly accurate to what we imagine life in ancient Egypt to have been like. The technical advisor was H. J. Polotsky, one of the best Egyptologists of all time. He checked to see that everything was in order.”
8. Moses the Lawgiver (1974)
Burt Lancaster stars as Moses in a six-hour TV miniseries that was also edited down to a 144-minute film based on the events in the Book of Exodus that ended with Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egyptian captivity, through the parted Red Sea, and across the desert for forty years until establishing the Israelite nation. Although Burt Lancaster gives a fantastic performance, the picture suffers from a lack of direction from the film makers, according to a review in eFilmCritic. Although it has a talented cast and some dramatic moments, “Moses” fails to deliver. Mario Bava, an Italian horror legend, provided the special effects for this film.
9. Stargate (1994)
For the first time in history, an interplanetary teleportation mechanism known as “Stargate” has been discovered in Egypt, allowing humans to travel across time and space in the blink of an eye. James Spader stars as an Egyptologist whose warnings to government authorities regarding the Stargate are consistently ignored by Spader, who deemed the writing “terrible.” “The movie ‘Ed Wood,’ about the worst director of all time, was intended to prepare us for ‘Stargate,'” said Roger Ebert. Similar to a film school project. Action movie cliches are a must-have for this assignment, so come up with the craziest plot you can think of. Include the sun god Ra if at all feasible, and make sure something gets blown up a little more than usual.”
10. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
An estimated 600 religious experts were interviewed by executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg for this animated recreation of well-known events from the Book of Exodus, and all of them were satisfied with the finished product’s religious authenticity. An animated film by Roger Ebert was hailed for being more authentic than earlier film adaptations of Exodus: “What it shows above all is that animation frees the imagination from its restraint and lets a story soar as it pleases,” Ebert wrote in his review of the movie. In the event that de Mille had seen this film, he would have gone back to the drawing board…. Perhaps de Mille had a movie like this in his head before making it into the actual world.”
11. The Mummy Returns (2001)
Resurrected Imhotep’s mummified body is taken to London’s Natural History Museum, where he is awakened from a thousand-year-long sleep and goes on the rampage against everyone that stands in his way. In the course of filming, Brendan Fraser reportedly tore a lumbar disk, fractured a rib, and hurt his knees. He returns as Egyptologist Rick O’Connell. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, best known as a professional wrestler at the time of filming, was hospitalized with food poisoning and sunstroke, and he lost ten pounds as a result.
12. The Scorpion King (2002)
Filmgoers may question if Hollywood will ever come up with an original idea again or whether they’re doomed for 1,000 years to endless sequels. In 1995, a 5,400-year-old limestone engraving depicting a battle conducted by a king named the Scorpion King, which unified Upper Egypt and opened the way for the nation’s first Pharaoh, was discovered in the Nile Valley. On his debut lead role as Mathayus, the Scorpion King, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson takes on his first major role. With a body count that would make Chuck Norris jealous, this barbarian action extravaganza is all muscle and very little intellect, as a BBC reviewer puts it, “which is just what it set out to be.”
13. Alexander (2004)
Oliver Stone adapted a biography of Alexander the Great, the ruler of Macedonia, who conquered most of the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Northern Africa by the time he was in his late teens, into a historical epic.. Alexander’s journey down the Nile to conquer Egypt is the focus of most of the story. At the box office, the film brought in just over $155 million, but its DVD release was one of the most popular in history, selling nearly five million copies.
14. Agora (2009)
According to legend, the fourth-century AD mathematician and librarian of Alexandria’s Library Hypatia was responsible for rescuing many ancient Greek writings from Christian mobs that destroyed her library. Aristotle and the other great Greek thinkers may never have come to light if not for her last-minute recovery of these old books. Retelling the events leading up to and following the library’s tragic destruction, Rachel Weisz portrays Hypatia. Film critic Roger Ebert describes the film as “an old conflict between science and religion” in his review. A lady at the center of the story is an astronomer, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomy instructor who was well-respected in Egypt in the fourth century A.D.
15. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
After being saved from a Pharaoh-directed genocide of all male infants and raised as an Egyptian prince, Christian Bale plays Moses, a Hebrew infant who eventually realized he was a Hebrew and led his captivity nation eastward from Egypt into the desert for forty years. Christian Bale plays Moses in the film. Egypt’s Culture Ministry said the video twisted historical facts and depicted Jews as a violent, rebellious rabble, which they deemed to be anti-Semitic. Reviewers of Exodus: Gods and Kings in the New York Times compared it to other biblical epic films: Over all, it brings to mind wide-screen, Techncolor biblical pageants of the 1950s and early ’60s, bland and solemn spectacles that drew spectators to gaze at their favorite actors in sandals and robes.”
16. Gods of Egypt (2016)
Gods of Egypt tells the story of a battle between the Egyptian god Horus and Set, the god of darkness, who is thought by many to be the inspiration for Western depictions of Satan. An Egyptian myth called “The Contendings of Horus and Set” is used as inspiration for this film, in which the two gods compete for Egypt’s throne. “If ‘Gods of Egypt’ were much worse, it may be a masterpiece,” a particularly sarcastic review in the New York Times declares. In spite of the film’s ridiculousness, there are moments of breathtaking beauty that shine like the outstretched wings of a goddess.’