When it comes to settings in films, there are few more iconic than Ancient Egypt. The glittering banks of sand set against the pure blue skies is a wonder to behold on the silver screen. The gold and glitz of the Pharaohs and their majestic palaces is a world many would want to get lost in, if only for a few hours. Here is a quick look at some of the best films that you can watch to allow yourself to be cloaked in the magical past of Ancient Egypt.
Cleopatra was released into cinemas in 1963, after many years of production troubles and cost overruns. This led to it becoming the most expensive film ever made at the time and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox. It also had numerous changes of director and cast and became notorious as a disaster of a film before it was even seen by anyone.
So, was it worth all the anguish? Immediate reviews were lukewarm but with the passing of time it has been much more warmly received and is must-see viewing for those wanting to revel in the excess of Ancient Egypt.
Elizabeth Taylor stars in one of her most spellbinding roles, as the titular Cleopatra who must seduce Richard Burton’s Julius Cesar to save her kingdom. It’s full of lust, back-stabbing and extravagance, and that was just Taylor and Burton’s off-screen relationship.
The cinematography is truly breathtaking, and it rightly won the Oscar for it in 1964, but in fact it holds up so well that there’s a good chance that if it was released today it would still be amongst the nominated film.
Carry on Cleo (1964)
This next film owes absolutely everything to the previous entry. The British comedy series Carry On did an Ancient Egyptian themed flick called Carry on Cleo, which came out in 1964, only a year after Taylor and Burton’s Cleopatra.
It actually used grand sets and costumes that were originally designed for the previous year’s epic extravaganza. The expensive props are a great contrast to the silliness of the comedy that sends up the perceived pompousness of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
A great sweet treat that will have you chuckling whilst also admiring the captivating scenery.
Death on the Nile (1978)
Okay, okay, technically again this is another film that isn’t set in the Ancient Egyptian time period, but mystery film Death on the Nile is basically a greatest hits of Ancient Egyptian architecture.
The film, released in 1978, is based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name and takes place in Egypt in 1937, chiefly on a period paddle steamer boat on the river Nile. As the mystery unravels and the plot thickens, the boat glides past the Great Pyramids, the temples at Abu Simbel and even the Sphinx amongst others.
It was an award-winning film as well, managing to bag best costume design at 1979’s Oscars.
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
This beautifully crafted animated film by DreamWorks Pictures was not met with much fanfare when it was first released in 1998. It was a decade that was dominated by Disney features so it’s easy to see why this gem slipped under people’s radar.
Nowadays though, it has seen a real renewal of appreciation, with many people not just saying it is a great animated film but their favorite animated film of all time. It is easy to see why, as the film looks absolutely gorgeous and has a stellar cast of actors voicing characters including Ralph Fiennes and Sandra Bullock. It also has a score composed by the great Hans Zimmer that helps make the film and its Ancient Egyptian setting really come to life.
The Mummy (1999)
Okay, this film isn’t technically set in ‘ancient’ Egypt, but it takes everything that is captivating about it and transfers it to the 20th Century. The Mummy was released in 1999 by director Stephen Sommers and is an epic adventure of a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. The film was such a hit with audiences that it spawned two sequels and a spin-off prequel and even an animated series.
For pure entertainment, Ancient Egypt is a setting that can be used brilliantly to get people’s blood pumping. It’s been used not just in film, but also in many books and no deposit casino games. Rise of the Pharaohs is a slot game that was clearly designed by people who’ve watched The Mummy, as it has a mesmerizing graphical interface that feels just like a set from the blockbusting film.
The Mummy image courtesy of Universal Pictures