'The Ten Commandments' on Easter weekend: Good call, ABC

Confession time: I’m not religious and I’m not not religious. I don’t spend as much time as I probably should reflecting about The Big Things on Easter Sunday, and yet I feel guilty about that…so that’s something, right?

Anyway, last night I was snacking on some Cadbury Creme Eggs with the remote in my hand, flipping through the channels after the Duke-West Virginia game turned out to be a bust. That’s when I stumbled onto ABC, which was airing a holiday film that is to the Easter/Passover season what It’s a Wonderful Life is to Christmas: The Ten Commandments.

Now, I’ve seen Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 Technicolor biblical epic at least a dozen times. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Nor am I ashamed to admit that I actually own a copy. Even so, I’ll cop to the acting being as hammy as…well, an Easter ham. Not to mention the special f/x sequences, like the infamous parting of the Red Sea, which are so preposterously phony in today’s age of Avatar that they’re almost laughable.

But here’s the thing: last night, I got totally swept up — and choked up — by Charlton Heston leading his people out of slavery and into the promised land. It’s not because I’m the hugest Heston nut. Generally speaking, I could take him or leave him in Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Ben Hur, and all of his other “classic” roles. But man, the authority, the voice, the beard! The dude was a great Moses! And it’s not just him. Yul Brynner is perfect as Rameses, All About Eve‘s Anne Baxter is deliciously vicious as Nefretiri, and Edward G. Robinson is gut-bustingly hilarious as Dathan (especially if you remember Billy Crystal’s dead-on impersonation — “Where’s your messiah now, see?”). Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to push religion or faith on anyone. I’m just saying that last night I was reminded why The Ten Commandments is a timeless classic (like It’s a Wonderful Life). It does exactly what a great film can do: it makes you appreciate life and somehow finds a way to make you feel like a better person just by sitting down and watching it. And there’s nothing controversial about that.

Did anyone else see The Ten Commandments last night?

Comments (183 total) Add your comment
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  • Allyson

    Watched it and loved it as always. It was one of those movies I watched tons of times as a kid. I don’t understand why I would have wanted to watch a 4 hour epic movie as a child, but I did love it and watching now brings back good memories.

    • KRibbons

      It would have been WAY better if they showed the Paul Rudd “The Ten” about the Ten Commandments.”Why would he buy a CATscan machine?” “Probably wants to be a hero.”

  • Shannon

    I love that ABC airs this every year and always look forward to watching it!

    • Ugly Jenny

      I love this movie! The special effects were amazing for it time, so I have no problem with them.
      My favorite line is when Moses is about to part the Red Sea and says the people, “Behold, His mighty hand!” It gets me everytime!

      • Julie

        i always cry when Mose’s ”mother” comes to their home the night when all the first born die and he welcomes her like she was part of them…and when i see the blind guy so happy about leaving Egypt and the kid next to him describes what is going on.

    • Elizabeth

      It is a holiday staple with my family, like watching “White Christmas” at Christmas time. This was the first year I read the opening credits – and got a kick out of how DeMille named all of his references, from the scriptures, and even the Egyptian military and historical societies. Good stuff indeed.

  • Gretchen

    I was watching it too…one of my all time favorite movies. But I don’t understand why they show it at Easter—it’s a movie about Jewish Passover! (I know both holidays sometimes fall within the same week, as they did this year) But I always considered it an “Easter” movie until a Jewish friend pointed that out to me!

    • JeanR

      Easter and Passover always occur in the same week. The Jewish people were preparing for Passover when Jesus was crucified. Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God, who was slain. This is a Passover reference. FYI.

      • Gretchen

        Easter and Passover do not “always” occur in the same week. Also, Orthodox Easter and “Western” Easter are usually on different days, as Orthodox follows the old calendar-
        Easter, like Passover, is a movable feast. That is, the date of Easter (and Passover) is not fixed but is determined by a system based on a lunar calendar adapted from a formula decided by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. In this system, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring equinox (the day when the sun’s ecliptic or apparent path in the sky crosses the equator, thus making days and nights of equal length). This usually occurs on March 21, which means the date of Easter can range between March 22 and April 25 depending on the lunar cycle. Since Jewish Passover is calculated differently, the dates for Passover and Easter do not correspond, although often the first Day of Passover falls during Holy Week.

      • LM

        We always have lamb for Easter dinner, so it seems appropriate.

      • Lisa Simpson

        Yes, it’s a Passover movie, not an Easter movie (it has nothing to do with Easter). If you want Heston for Easter, watch “Ben Hur”.

    • twinmom

      Nope not an Easter movie. Why doesn’t ABC take a real risk and show ‘The Passion’ or ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’? Those are true Easter movies.

      • Kristin

        I miss the mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth” that was on every Easter when I was kid. Loved that one.

      • werdiness

        They show that movie to celebrate Passover, not Easter.

    • Jenna

      The correlation between this movie and Easter is subtle, but profound. The movie illustrates the first Passover and the spilling of a lamb’s blood so that death might passover God’s chosen people.

      When Jesus died, he represented the “final” lamb whose blood would need to be spilled.

      Also, Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover meal the night before he was crucified.

  • Kristina

    I watched!

    I find it’s not really Easter if you don’t see all or part of The Ten Commandments the Saturday before my chocolate induced coma.

    It’s a movie of it’s time. A little dated in the special effects department but not in the how to tell a good story department.

    I’m happy to devote my time to it and share it now with my daughter.

  • kim in kentucky

    I remember growing up watching it EVERY year — then simply got out of the habbit (actually thinking it was corny, etc) — but have to admit, tuned in last night for some reason and really got back into it (as did my boyfriend). Just too bad it was on Saturday, rather than the traditional Sunday. Worse yet, I guess, is when they used to split it between Saturday and Monday nights!

  • Joe

    I Netflixed it, I watch it every year — even without the religious aspects, its still a great blockbuster :)

  • AcaseofGeo

    We bought it on DVD yesterday, thinking it was on Sunday night. We watched this morning. We love everything about it, and I’m not one to tout modern special effects over the “laughable” ones here you mention. IT’S ABOUT THE STORY. Anyone care to compare the story of Avatar to the story of Moses???

  • M Weyer

    Got the Special Edition 55th Anniversary DVD set and love it because it’s so over the top and campy. But seeing it on TV is still something special, really does pull you in despite yourself. A true classic in every way.

  • Ann

    Two fun games to play: 1- Drink every time Anne Baxter/Nefretiri says “Moses” (and chug when she says the classic “Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”) 2 – Add “see” in a bad Edward G. Robinson gangster voice at the end of every Dathan line.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Or when the word “BONDAGE” is so passionately uttered.

    • sciteach713

      Wow – really? Drinking games to The Ten Commandments???

      • YBKGirl

        After years of being in Hebrew school and being forced to watch it year after year, I would say that a drinking game is required.

    • znachki

      My personal favorite – “so let it be written, so let it be done”.

      • kim in kentucky

        soooo close to “make it so”

    • Diana

      I watched this for the first time over the weekend and my best friend and I made a drinking game out of it (telling her we were going to hell for doing so). We drank to “bondage” and other words or sayings that sounded dirty that weren’t.

  • Joe

    You don’t have to apologize multiple times for liking a movie with religious themes. It is a sad sign of our times that you would even have to worry about that.

    And to answer Gretchen, the Passover was symbolic of Christ, although that element is lost to modern Judaism.

    • Ben

      I completely agree with you, Joe. How sad is it that a blog entry about watching a really perverted or violent movie would not be second-guessed at all, much less apologized for.

    • Juniper

      Passover is not symbolic of Christ, although Christians like to spin lots of Jewish things and make them about Jesus. The celebration of Passover predates Christianity by several hundred years…

    • Larrie

      Why people forget that Jesus was Jewish is beyond me. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder and Jesus is called Rabbi. However, Passover pre-dates Easter by many, many years and had nothing to do with Christianity during the time of this film. Christianity became a religion because of the deciples who came to fame after Jesus died.

      • Denise

        People probably forget because they are brainwashed into viewing Him a a Euro-type. As a child I always thought it odd that most depictions of Jesus were very European looking, some even going for the blonde haired blue-eyed look. NEVER saw a picture of Jesus that looked even remotely like an Israeli Jew. Still don’t come across it often, even today. And what do you want to bet that most of the hardcore fundies today are picturing their pre-rapture return Jesus with a distinctly Nordic look?
        The Ten Commandments is an awesome flick, still.

      • Juniper

        That always cracked me up… I had a childrens’ Bible when I was little that portrayed Jesus as if he were a Viking. I was always so confused, since my dad is Middle Eastern and I thought Jesus would look a little more Semitic…

  • Lisa

    My parents DVRd it last nite to share with my 10 yr old daughter and 9 yr old son. Daughter was involved and engaged thru the whole thing, son didn’t really care. I watched the last half of it and it really was cheesy, but a great epic and was so beautiful as viewed on my parents’ HD TV!!

    • Evan Meadow

      Yeah it really looked great on HD didn’t it?

      My father and I used to watch it together every year and I still watch it every year. I’ve also got the 55th Anniversary set on DVD and need to play the commentary track on that and watch the silent movie version DeMille did one of these days.

  • MD

    Watching this is still a family tradition

  • Amelia


    I have to admit that I have not seen “The 10 Commandments”, even though my mom bought it. I really must see it, stat! But even without having seen it, this trailer is hilarious!

  • mary q contrary

    I’m really glad they played it this year. I grew up watching it every Easter evening, and I was really crestfallen when they stopped in recent years. It’s not just a tradition. I’m not religious, but I give me kids the option to believe in God or not. They have both decided that he’s real, and that the bible is a pretty interesting book. And that movie was really great for them, especially the day before Easter. They are six and eight, and they both sat and watched the whole thing without getting bored, which made me so freaking proud.

    • Evan Meadow

      Mary, they’ve never stopped playing it. ABC has it on every year without fail.

      I think nowadays they just have it on Saturday nights instead of Sunday like they used to

  • Stuart

    This is the first movie that I have a conscious memory of seeing in a theater when it came out and I was a little kid. I may not watch the entire movie every year, but I do watch parts of it. In fact, without looking at a clock, if I am not watching the entire movie, I always manage to turn it on just as Moses is leading his people out of Egypt. I cannot recall missing the scene with the parting of the Red Sea in many, many years.

    Yes, the acting is hammy, yes the f/x look terrible by today’s standards, but the film is an amazing classic. I’m glad ABC airs it every year.

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