Looking Back on ‘The Prince of Egypt’

“Faith-based films” have become a genre onto itself in recent years. But there was a time when films with religious and biblical themes were commonplace in mainstream Hollywood. The 1990s found Hollywood a bit between these places. The faith-based film industry still needed to produce noteworthy hits, and Hollywood’s perspective was far removed from that of The Bells of St. Mary’s.

Children’s movies weren’t much associated with anything resembling the Judeo-Christian faith, with the Disney Renaissance in full swing. Considering all the prevailing trends, it’s remarkable that a film like The Prince of Egypt was made. Yet, in 1998, it generated a significant buzz and became one of the most talked-about animated films in quite some time. While the actual release was in the autumn of that year, with the Easter and Passover season prompting many rewatches, we look back at the film to celebrate its 25th anniversary and the music inspired by it. 

The Film

It might be hard for Christians to imagine Hollywood getting a biblical movie from the shores of 2023. And yet, The Prince of Egypt was released to critical and commercial acclaim from mainstream and religious crowds. Telling a biblical story celebrated by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam alike was a moment of coming together. While the film takes creative liberties in filling in the narrative gaps of the Exodus story and softening some of the content for a family audience, the story still revered the source material.

We all know the biblical account, but watching it so beautifully animated makes the story come alive in new ways. And while computer-generated animation has dominated in recent decades, it’s tough to deny the pure beauty of this traditionally drawn production. Scenes like the crossing of the Red Sea are nothing short of breathtaking.

The characters, though animated in Dreamworks’ distinct style that isn’t always realistic, are even more unforgettable and extraordinary.

The Music

The film’s music has also stood the test of time, perhaps even more so than the story itself. “When You Believe,” performed by the iconic pop stars Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, was an instant classic anthem, declaring the power of faith. But despite the commercial success of the film’s climactic musical number, many fans gravitated toward one of the other cuts in the movie.

The opening song on the soundtrack, “Deliver Us,” is an emotional and powerful cry from a people in bondage. Its haunting and spine-tingling melodies will stay with you long after the film has ended, especially the lullaby bridge sung by Moses’ mother. Disney songs often wished they could be this complex. “Through Heaven’s Eyes” was another number offering some theological meat, more profound than the traditional inspirational signature songs of many comparable Disney productions. 


Inspired By

Of particular relevance to the Christian music industry, a companion album was released at the time, featuring several original recordings by then-prominent figures in the Christian music scene. Even though the album is hard to find now, the film’s success drove it to be certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Much of the tracks are driven by music from the film itself. But savvy listeners will discover rare cuts from prominent Christian acts, such as Jars of Clay, Carman, and dc Talk. Jars of Clay’s “Everything In Between” carried the band’s signature sound with a catchy upbeat chorus. It would’ve been home on any of their albums around this time.

Of particular interest is the inclusion of dc Talk, who covered “My Deliverer,” a song that the iconic songwriter Rich Mullins had written shortly before his untimely passing. Christian artists Rick Elias and the Ragamuffin Band previously covered the track on the Mullins tribute album. I was familiar with the latter version for years but only recently discovered dc Talk’s version. Although the melody is more or less the same, the unique touch of dc Talk gives the song an undeniable energy that makes it feel like one of its own. Amazingly, it didn’t gain more recognition, given how well it turned out.

Even though the Easter season is over, indulge in cinematic and musical nostalgia and give The Prince of Egypt a fresh rewatch. Also, look up some of these Christian rock-related songs connected to it. You might be surprised how well it all holds up, even 25 years later.

J.J. Francesco is a longtime contributor to the NRT Staff. He’s published the novel ‘Because of Austin’ and regularly seeks new ways to engage faith, life, and community. His new novel, ‘When Miracles Can Dream,’ is out NOW!