The 1998 animated film The Prince of Egypt about the Book of Exodus has become a Hebrew school classic. It also helped me pass my “Ancient Egyptian Religion” class in college and understand the Passover story.
The plot is straightforward — an adaptation of the Book of Exodus — and supplemented by eight musical numbers. The voice cast is insane: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Steward, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Ofra Haza. And: “What You Believe” (not the movie version, the pop version performed by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, what a DUO) won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 1999 Academy Awards.
In celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary, and ahead of Passover, we’re going to do what we do best at Alma: rank all the songs.
A note on methodology: There are eight musical numbers in the movie and 19 tracks on the soundtrack. Since we believe in the motto “go big or go home,” we have decided to rank all 19 for you.
Kinda forgot about this one — doesn’t really stand out. Not even sure when it happens in the movie. Anyway, that’s why it’s last!
18. Following Tzipporah
Zipporah (Tzipporah) is one of the female characters of the Bible you rarely hear about. She’s the wife of Moses, and one of seven daughters of Reuel, also called Jethro (the Priest of Midian). This song is kind of short, hence why it’s so low on the list, and because the Prince of Egypt gives her kind of a weird plot: The high priests Hotep and Huy give Zipporah to Ramseses as a gift after he is named Prince Regent. Rameses, then, gives her to Moses. Zipporah then escapes, and Moses follows her — this song plays in the background. (Obviously, this is super off: Why add it into the plot?)
17. The Reprimand
This bit of score is from when Ramses and Moses are racing in a chariot and they end up damaging a newly constructed temple. As a Genius commentator writes (gotta love commentary on instrumental tracks), “The track is very solemn to begin with as Seti reprimands his sons, but gradually lightens in tone and becomes playful as Moses speaks with his brother.” PERSONALLY, don’t love the solemn tracks.
This song plays when Moses first returns and tries to convince Ramses (now the Pharaoh) to let his people go. Very intense. Like “Rally,” not much that’s super remarkable about this song. Still beautiful.
15. Goodbye Brother
Moses flees!! Very dramatic. Also not much to say about this one.
14. The Burning Bush
When God comes to Moses in a burning bush. This scene is notable (and the music works so well) because of how the filmmakers portrayed the voice of God. Andy Nelson, the dialogue mixer on the movie, said, “We wanted this out-of-body experience without it being booming in the traditional sense. I therefore went to great lengths to place it in the different speakers, but not in an overwhelming sense, opting instead for a warm, comfortable feeling which we achieved with the breaths that were added.”
13. Death of the First Born
Okay, this is also a sad song (very melancholic, focused on cellos), but it’s when we see that Ramses’ son was killed by the 10th plague (death of the first born). Moses goes to Ramses, sees him mourning for his son, and Ramses finally gives the Hebrews their freedom: “You and your people have my permission to go. Leave me!” The song is heartbreaking.
This wasn’t in the movie, yet the majority of the cast is on the song. The song is performed by (take a deep breath) Alison Krauss, Amy Grant, BeBe Winans, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Boyz II Men, Brian McKnight, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Carman, CeCe Winans, Charlie Daniels, Christian (117), Clint Black, Danny Glover, Donnie McClurkin, Fred Hammond & Radical For Christ, Helen Mirren, Jars Of Clay, Jeff Goldblum, Jesse Campbell, Jessica Andrews, Linda Davis, Mac McAnally, Patrick Stewart, The Rickey Grundy Chorale, Shirley Caesar, Take 6, Toby Keith, Tyrone Tribbett and Greater Anointing, Val Kilmer, and dc Talk.
Very ’90s R&B pop vibe, which makes it a jam, but I don’t totally see why it needed to be on the soundtrack. Also why are we only talking about brothers and men?!? Ugh.
11. Through Heaven’s Eyes (K-Ci & JoJo version)
This is the “pop” version of Through Heaven’s Eyes. To be quite honest, I really like the movie version better. This strips the Jewishness of the song. But this version is K-Ci and JoJo! Very conflicted.
10. When You Believe (movie version)
This is low on the list only because there is another version with Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Yes. You read that correctly. Keep reading… But, what is so wonderful about this is the little kids singing Mi Kamocha at the end. Try not to get emotional.
9. Red Sea
You really feel like you can do anything while listening to this song. Like the title suggests, this bit of score plays when the Hebrews finally reach the Red Sea. Suddenly, a man sounds a shofar in alarm because Pharaoh Ramses and the army are following the Hebrews. It’s epic and monumental and it really should be higher up on this list, if there weren’t SO MANY good songs. But it’s the one piece of score to reach the top 10.
8. I Will Get There
Please, just watch this BOYZ II MEN music video:
Okay, this wasn’t *actually* in the movie, but it was included in the soundtrack. And from the inspirational lyrics about the Hebrews fleeing Egypt and reaching the Promised Land (I will get there, I will get there somehow / Cross that river, cross that river / Nothings stoppin’ me now, I will get through the night), it’s an instant classic. Plus: gotta love a music video that intersperses the animation with 1990s New York City scenes. Also: great harmonies. Boyz II Men and Passover is not something you ever thought you would associate together, but here we are!
7. All I Ever Wanted / Queen’s Reprise
Moses runs into his sister, Miriam, who he doesn’t know is his sister. He runs back to the palace, feeling upset, trying to affirm that he is a “sovereign prince of Egypt.”
Stephen Schwartz (who wrote the music and lyrics for the whole soundtrack), wrote this song in Egypt, one night at the Temple of Kom Ombo, i.e. this place ⬇
(I found this fact really interesting; it was the only song Schwartz actually wrote in Egypt.)
6. River Lullaby
This is when Moses’ mom puts her baby Moses in a basket. “River oh River, flow gently for me such precious cargo you bear…” Imagine putting your baby in a river! One YouTube comment encapsulates my feelings (for once): “Her voice is so hauntingly beautiful.” Apparently the version on the soundtrack is performed by Amy Grant, but I refuse to listen to any other version besides Ofra Haza. Amy Grant — I had to Google her — is the “Queen of Christian Pop.” We’ll take Ofra Haza, the “Israeli Madonna,” any day.
5. The Plagues
Petition for this song to be included in the Seder alongside “Dayenu.” This song juxtaposes the plagues with Moses feeling bad for being pitted against his brother. It ends with a rousing “Let My People Go!” which all Jewish audiences recognize as a cornerstone of the Seder.
4. Through Heaven’s Eyes
This song occurs when Moses is in Midian with Jethro & Zipporah. Schwartz (remember, songwriter dude) said this song is his favorite.
The chorus is just so fun and practically begging you to get up and dance and sing along. In the film they all dance the hora, and there’s a montage of Moses and Zipporah falling in love and getting married, and it just makes you feel happy. Entertainment Weekly called this song a “Hava Nagila-style campfire rave.” How do you not love this?
3. The Prince of Egypt (When You Believe) (Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey version)
This technically wasn’t in the movie, which is why it is #3 and not #1, but it is the Oscar-winning song (which, fun fact: Jennifer Lopez presented!). The two sound so great together, and the visuals of them holding hands and singing to each other just makes our hearts happy. Even though tabloids in the ’90s said there was constant tension while they recorded the song, Houston said, “Mariah and I got along very great. We had never talked and never sang together before. We just had a chance for camaraderie, singer-to-singer, artist-to-artist, that kind of thing. We just laughed and talked and laughed and talked and sang in between that … It’s good to know that two ladies of soul can still be friends.”
2. Playing With the Big Boys
This song is Steve Martin’s other contribution to pop culture about Egypt (go re-watch his performance as King Tut on SNL) and it is a JAM (and surprisingly educational). Steve Martin and Martin Short play two Egyptian priests who try and show Moses that the Egyptian gods are more powerful than the Hebrew God. The animation is stunning and uses imagery from Ancient Egypt to depict the gods.
1. Deliver Us
The iconic song from the film has to be number one. It shows the Hebrews enslaved by the Egyptians, praying to God to help them. It’s also sung by iconic Israeli singer Ofra Haza, who has some lyrics in Hebrew. (Here’s a version entirely in Hebrew.) This song sets the tone for the movie and will be stuck in your head for days after watching.
Okay, we’re off to watch The Prince of Egypt on repeat until Passover ends. Bye!