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The Ten Commandments Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 9+

Stirring, even if it's as much showbiz as Bible.

What 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.

  • 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.

The good stuff
  • message true3

    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.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: 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.

  • sex false0

    Sex: 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.

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue