The Ten Commandments

1956

The Ten Commandments

Critics Consensus

Bombastic and occasionally silly but extravagantly entertaining, Cecil B. DeMille's all-star spectacular is a muscular retelling of the great Bible story.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 35

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 60,186
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Movie Info

Based on the Holy Scriptures, with additional dialogue by several other hands, The Ten Commandments was the last film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The story relates the life of Moses, from the time he was discovered in the bullrushes as an infant by the pharoah's daughter, to his long, hard struggle to free the Hebrews from their slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Moses (Charlton Heston) starts out "in solid" as Pharoah's adopted son (and a whiz at designing pyramids, dispensing such construction-site advice as "Blood makes poor mortar"), but when he discovers his true Hebrew heritage, he attempts to make life easier for his people. Banished by his jealous half-brother Rameses (Yul Brynner), Moses returns fully bearded to Pharoah's court, warning that he's had a message from God and that the Egyptians had better free the Hebrews post-haste if they know what's good for them. Only after the Deadly Plagues have decimated Egypt does Rameses give in. As the Hebrews reach the Red Sea, they discover that Rameses has gone back on his word and plans to have them all killed. But Moses rescues his people with a little Divine legerdemain by parting the Seas. Later, Moses is again confronted by God on Mt. Sinai, who delivers unto him the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, the Hebrews, led by the duplicitous Dathan (Edward G. Robinson), are forgetting their religion and behaving like libertines. "Where's your Moses now?" brays Dathan in the manner of a Lower East Side gangster. He soon finds out. DeMille's The Ten Commandments may not be the most subtle and sophisticated entertainment ever concocted, but it tells its story with a clarity and vitality that few Biblical scholars have ever been able to duplicate. It is very likely the most eventful 219 minutes ever recorded to film--and who's to say that Nefertiri (Anne Baxter) didn't make speeches like, "Oh, Moses, Moses, you splendid, stubborn, adorable fool"? ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Yul Brynner
as Rameses
Anne Baxter
as Nefretiri
John Derek
as Joshua
Nina Foch
as Bithiah
Martha Scott
as Yochabel
Lawrence Dobkin
as Hur Ben Caleb
H.B. Warner
as Amminadab
Julia Faye
as Elisheba
Lisa Mitchell
as Jethro's Daughter
Noelle Williams
as Jethro's Daughter
Joanna Merlin
as Jethro's Daughter
Pat Richard
as Jethro's Daughter
Joyce Vanderveen
as Jethro's Daughter
Diane Hall
as Jethro's Daughter
Abbas El Boughdadly
as Rameses' Charioteer
Fraser C. Heston
as Infant Moses
Eugene Mazzola
as Rameses' Son
John Miljan
as The Blind One
Tommy Duran
as Gershom
Ian Keith
as Rameses I
Joan Woodbury
as Korah's Wife
Woody Strode
as King of Ethiopia
Dorothy Adams
as Hebrew at Golden Calf/Hebrew Woman at Ramses' Gate
Eric Alden
as High-Ranking Officer/Taskmaster/Slave Man/Officer
Henry Brandon
as Commander of the Hosts
Mike Connors
as Amalekite Herder
Henry Corden
as Sheik of Ezion
Edna Mae Cooper
as Court Lady
Abbas El Bougbdadly
as Rameses' Charioteer
Kem Dibbs
as Corporal
Gail Kobe
as Pretty Slave Girl
John Merton
as Architect's Assistant
Mena Mohamed
as Architect's Assistant
Addison Richards
as Fan Bearer
Clint Walker
as Sardinian Captain
Luis Alberni
as Old Hebrew at Moses' House
Michael Ansara
as Taskmaster
Fred Coby
as Hebrew at Golden Calf/Taskmaster
Tony Dante
as Libyan Captain
Franklyn Farnum
as High Official
John Hart
as Cretan Ambassador
Ed Hinton
as Taskmaster/Flagman
Frank Lackteen
as Old Man Praying/Old Man in Granary/Hebrew at Datha
Emmett Lynn
as Old Slave Man/Hebrew at Golden Calf
Stanley Price
as Slave Carrying Load
Herb Alpert
as Drum Player
Esther Brown
as Princess Tharbis
Paul De Rolf
as Eleazar
Zeev Bufman
as Hebrew at Golden Calf
Kathy Garver
as Child Slave
George Melford
as Hebrew at Golden Calf, Nobleman
Jeane Wood
as Slave, Hebrew at Crag and Corridor, Hebrew at Golden Calf
Joel Ashley
as Taskmaster
George Baxter
as 2nd Wazir
Peter Coe
as Egyptian Soldier
Steve Darrell
as Man with Bedding
Gavin Gordon
as Trojan Ambassador
Kay Hammond
as Grease Woman
Peter Hanson
as Young Aide
Barry Macollum
as Slave, Hebrew at Golden Calf
Ken Dibbs
as Corporal
Franklin Farnum
as High Offical
Lisa Lee Mitchell
as Jethro's Daughter
Robert Vaughn
as Spearman/Hebrew at Golden Calf
Michael Connors
as Amalekite Herder
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News & Interviews for The Ten Commandments

Critic Reviews for The Ten Commandments

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (2)

  • There is no other picture like it. There will be none. If it could be summed up in a word, the word would be sublime. And the man responsible for that, when all is said and done is Cecil B. DeMille.

    Apr 7, 2015 | Full Review…
  • DeMille's direction of the action is superb and the various roles are played with feeling by a large and competent cast, headed by Charlton Heston.

    Dec 10, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • With a running time of nearly four hours, Cecil B. De Mille's last feature and most extravagant blockbuster is full of the absurdities and vulgarities one expects, but it isn't boring for a minute.

    Mar 4, 2008 | Full Review…
  • DeMille remains conventional with the motion picture as an art form. The eyes of the onlooker are filled with spectacle. Emotional tug is sometimes lacking.

    Oct 19, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • It's the gigantic vulgarity, the obsessive righteousness of the director himself, which keeps the show on the road and suffuses the movie with its daft power.

    Feb 9, 2006
  • Cecil B. de Mille's vastly expanded remake of his 1923 silent epic takes three hours and thirty-nine minutes to sit through, and the time, for me, often dragged heavily.

    Oct 16, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Ten Commandments

  • May 30, 2014
    In the 1950's, big, bold ambitious epics were the norm, The Ten Commandments being one of the most famous films of the era, I quite enjoyed the film, but for me, my favorite epic is Ben-Hur. Nonetheless, this film is quite the undertaking to watch, but the performances are really what keeps you involved for the nearly four hour run time. The film has a grand story, and it boasts some impressive visuals, which for its time were quite the feat in the cinematic medium, but still hold up to this day. The Ten Commandments is a blistering picture, one that is beautifully shot, with grand, ambitious storytelling and exceptional performances. This film is one of the most engrossing film experiences that I have seen, and it's a definite classic. However, I must warn potential viewers that you must be committed in seeing this one due to its length, and it's not for everyone either. I enjoyed the movie, and I found it to be one of the best films of the genre. However, I preferred Ben-Hur a bit more. Also the film could have been a little shorter as well. Nonetheless the film is superb in every way, and the storytelling here is ambitious, and it's a compelling picture that certainly is a feat in filmmaking. The Ten Commandments is a near perfect picture that is more captivating due to its performances from its cast, and each actor brings something unique to make the film truly something remarkable. The film is worth seeing if you're a diehard film fanatic that loves all sorts of genres, and in terms of epics, this is certainly one of the biggest along with Ben-Hur, and countless others that followed. This film set the standards of filmmaking even further and it succeeds quite well at grabbing your attention, and it is a riveting, sweeping picture that you soon won't forget. However, it is a long movie, and at times you're anxious for the film to conclude, but you're invested deeply at the same time due to the very good story and great acting that you see unfolds before your eyes. Seeing The Ten Commandments, you realize that movies where they tend to focus on big, gripping and ambitious storytelling and that's the best type of films to watch.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Apr 25, 2014
    The epic of biblical epics that not even Ben Hur can measure up to. Heston becomes Moses for all intents and purposes and poor Yul Brynner ends up with the Egyptians seem to have no goodness at all. Overly dramatic and long but this only adds to the fun.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 07, 2012
    I'm telling ya, Charlton Heston just couldn't get enough of those religious epics, man. He just couldn't get enough of that money is probably why, and boy, did these religious, sweeping suckers earn money. I for one would be interested in going to see these epics, just to see how Charlton Heston was coming along on his climb up the religious totem pole, because when you look at the line-up of these Heston religious epics in chronological order, it does kind of look like he was getting closer and closer to God. Here he is playing Moses and getting messages from God, then he went on to see Jesus in passing in "Ben-Hur", then he's actually hanging out with the guy as John the Baptist in "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and by the time we get to "Almost an Angel", bada-boom, he's God (Granted, he was also the voice of God in this, but he didn't get credit, so that doesn't count). Maybe he could have picked a better film to complete his religious chain of promotions, but hey, the point is that he got there eventually, and it only took him thirty-four years, and I'm willing to bet that he would have gotten there sooner, were it not for the fact that his first religious film runs about twenty. Well, at least he hit off to a good start, because this was the first of many fine religious epics for him to feel a little bit miscast in. Well, at least he makes up for that miscasting, or at least drowns it out, being that he's so charismatic, yet even if he wasn't (*cough*"El*cough*Cid"*cough*), he wouldn't at all be this film's only problem. As with many films of this type and era, no matter how grand this film is, it gets to be dated in certain writing sensibilities, boasting several cheesy moments (In all honesty, there are actually a couple of really good lines, but more than that, I needed some nachos to go with this cheese), some of which being more cheesy than others, though those cheesier moments might by result of some faulty performances. For a film of this type and time, the amount of performers who are fairly decent is more than expected, with a few actually being pretty good, yet sooner or later, someone's got slip up, and on those occasions, things get a bit more off-puttingly cheesy than usual. This all, of course, exacerbates the limited emotional punch, though perhaps not quite as much as the bombastic stylistic bloating that may not lay too hard of a blow to emotional engagement value, yet still one hard enough for certain moments to feel more style-focused than substance-focused. Still, what might very well be more problematic than the stylistic bloating is the story bloating, as the film is so excessively packed with material that, after a while, things begin to flow too closely together, with not enough of a break in the story to give it smooth dynamicity, rendering it a tad uneven in some should-be palpable story shifts and even a little bit exhausting, given its massively sprawling length. The film is dated in its structure, being bloated yet smooth to the point of being disengagingly slippery, and with a periodically bombastic tone rearing its ugly head into the works, the film should, for all accounts, ring rather false, when really, it hits home quite a bit and quite often. Well, in all fairness, it has more than enough time to pick up, or I might just be seeing that, blinded by my rule that if a film runs around the four hour mark, then it better be good. Well, either way, this film is just that, hitting much more often than missing, while never missing a beat when it comes to delivering stylistically. As I stated earlier, the film may take a bit too much pride in the quality of its production, but hey, I can't place blame, because the production and art direction on the film is top-notch, with unique, grand, effective and all around stellar production designs that go complimented by fine artistic handling. As for the visual effects, they have certainly dated, and some more than others, yet on the whole, whether it be Moses' cane's transformation into a snake or, of course, the parting of the Red Sea, many of these effects can be respectable as marvels of their time and still often rather impressive to this day, feeling buyable enough, on the whole, to sustain your investment in what they bring to life when they're not emphasized over the substance. Yes, the style may amplify the bombastic feel of the film at times, yet more often than not, it actually intensifies the believability of this world, yet even if it didn't and the style-over-substance was more prevalent, you'd still be hard pressed to not be invested in the story to some considerable degree. There may be a bit too much material pumped into this overlong sprawler of an often spotty epic, yet the story of Moses is quite worthy and immensely fascinating, and with intrigue spawned from director Cecil B. DeMille's inspiration and intensified by the aforementioned grand style and quite the sweeping (If somewhat conventional) score work by Elmer Bernstein, the story is made not just fascinating but thoroughly entertaining. It's genuine fun watching this story unravel, giving you enough investment in it to feel enough of the dramatic weight that may go occasionally betrayed by the film's storytelling faults, though not to where you can't find yourself compelled in the story or its characters. Speaking of the characters, what helps in making them so delightful is the colorful star cast, certain members of which really don't hold things together all that well, as I've stated earlier, though on the whole, this is a charismatic cast that makes quite a few distinctive and memorable characters, even if a few of our cast members feel a touch miscast. Leading man Charlton Heston, in particular, really isn't all that buyable as the legendary Moses, yet his portrayal of such a high figure is riddled with charisma that gives you insight into the humanity of the religious icon and makes him an engrossing central character, as well as yet another testament to how Heston can really deliver when he hits a hit with his hit-or-miss acting chops (They certainly weren't as bold as his actual chops, as in jaw), enough so that he can carry a film of this much grandness and messiness and helpin in making it a very worthwhile watch. In the end, the film suffers from moments of being rather bombastic, a situation spawned mostly from an excessively bloated and sometimes uneven story structure, and intensified by moments of style-over-substance, as well as some cheesiness, leaving emotional resonance to take some damage, though never break, standing strong and engaging, due to its being just so compelling and really brought to life by phenomenal production designs and art direction, as well as some fine special effects, a stellar score and a mostly memorable, colorful cast, headed by a blazingly charismatic Charlton Heston, who stands as one of the biggest aspects behind Cecil B. DeMille's second and perhaps the biggest take on "The Ten Commandments" that make it such a wildly entertaining epic that's ultimately well worth the long sit. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Apr 08, 2012
    The greatest Biblical epic ever made, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments is a masterpiece. The cast is amazing, and features Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, and Edward G. Robinson in unforgettable performances. Heston in particular gives an iconic performance; as if he was born to play Moses. The set designs and costumes are especially ambitious, and are done on a remarkable scale. The score is also exceptional, with grand, sweeping orchestral themes. Additionally, DeMille brings an interesting perspective to the material and frames it as a struggle between freedom and tyranny. The Ten Commandments is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking and a beloved classic. "So let it be written, so let it be done."
    Dann M Super Reviewer

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