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Late last year, The Prince of Egypt celebrated its 20th anniversary.
A film chronicling the journey of Moses who delivered his people from Egypt, the animated masterpiece featured some of the most stunning visuals and awe-inspiring spiritual ballads cinema has ever seen, so you can understand our shock, our outrage when nothing was done to commemorate the day of the movie’s theatrical birth.
That day, December 18, should’ve been made a national holiday. People should have taken to the streets belting out hits like “Deliver Us” and “When You Believe.” Statues should have been erected, schools closed, a worldwide moment of remembrance observed.
But alas, none of that happened.
We cannot let this injustice stand. We cannot let the world continue to turn, the morning and the evening star to rise, babies be born, elders die, without all of humanity recognizing the sheer brilliance of this artistic triumph.
Because, you see, by all the laws that govern nature, The Prince of Egypt simply shouldn’t exist.
The film was released by DreamWorks in 1998. Shout out to my fellow '90s brats who know that any studio who thought to create an animated feature without Disney’s express permission at that time risked catastrophic box office failure. The House of Mouse ran the market, churning out classics like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan around that time, movies that came on the heels of revolutionary flicks like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.
DreamWorks had tried and failed to copy the success of A Bug’s Life with Antz, so following that up with a sweeping Biblical epic about one of the most famous religious figures in history seemed too far a stretch.
But then, The Prince of Egypt was born.
Why is this movie so iconic, you ask?
First, the casting sheet reads legends only. Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, *pauses to breathe* Danny Glover, Martin Short, and Steve Martin lend their voices to this thing. Deck most definitely stacked.
But even more important than the film’s cast is its artistry. The entire movie is a rich tapestry of bold lines, bright colors, panoramic landscapes, mind-bending dichotomies, and cutting-edge graphics. Calling it simply an “animated” film is like calling Beyonce “just a singer” or Serena Williams “just a tennis player.” Technically you’re right but you’re also wrong, so so wrong.
Look at this sweeping cinematography and tell me you haven’t just been transported back to ancient Egypt.
Oh, that dangerous, crocodile-infested water isn’t real? Could’ve fooled us.
I doubt I’ll ever walk through a parted sea but if I did, this is exactly what I would find. I’m certain of it.
How many films can boast an animated hieroglyph chase sequence?
Who gave DreamWorks permission to teach this masterclass in innovative creativity?
And let’s talk about the characters for a second. Kilmer voices Moses and Fiennes voices his brother Ramses. Most of the conflict centers around these two, their shared history, and the pain caused when they fall on different sides of a contentious issue: read, slavery. It’s heartbreaking to watch the siblings literally try to destroy each other because the movie sets them up nicely as two young, attractive princes just bro-ing around Egypt, having chariot races and accidentally destroying pyramids.
It's even harder to choose a brother to side with when things get messy – like deadly plagues messy – because, as Eleanor Shellstrop would say, they’re both legit snacks.
And the women are serving looks in this thing too. Take Michelle Pfeiffer’s character Tzipporah, a desert flower who leaves grown men and guard dogs in her dust as she escapes captivity and manages to put Moses’ toxic masculinity in check all at the same time.But really, we can’t fully appreciate the sheer splendor of The Prince of Egypt without honoring its greatest achievement: a perfectly-curated, genre-defying soundtrack that will live through the ages.
Honestly, this movie has no right to bump this hard. “Deliver Us” may just be the greatest opening ballad of all time, and yes, that’s counting “Circle of Life.” I’m prepared to fight anyone on this. When Moses angsts out over the truth about his lineage through song, the fact that he’s Hebrew when he’s been helping oppress his people for decades, we’re left struggling to define our own identities right along with him. Do I even like avocados or am I just consuming them because society says I should?
Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell gives us a hot dance bop in "Through Heaven’s Eyes." Don’t be surprised if you hear it in the club one day because this song was made to rage to. And then there’s the Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston duet, “When You Believe.” What other animated movie could bring these two queens together to sing a ballad about Hebrew slaves on their way to the promised land?
Really, the entire soundtrack for Prince of Egypt is filled with bangers. If you’re not pregaming to it or spinning in your SoulCycle class with it as a backdrop, you’re doing life wrong.
And any one of these elements — the talented cast, the thrilling visuals, the compelling story, the musical mastery — would be enough to stan The Prince of Egypt. The fact that the film delivers on every count, that it’s found a way to exist in the sweet spot between frivolous entertainment and arthouse-level artistry while giving us a plot layered in Biblical themes and philosophical questions, well that makes it worthy of being named the greatest animated movie of all time.