From 'Stargate' to James Bond: Egyptian-Themed Movies You Should See
‘The Pyramid’ might be one of the scariest films about Egypt, but it’s certainly not the first. The country’s ruins, relics and shifting sands are all irresistibly cinematic. Come explore these other standout movies set in the Land of the Nile.
The Mummy (1932)
Spooky Egyptian-themed movies date back to Georges Méliès’ ‘Cleopatra’s Tomb’ in 1899. But the mini-genre’s first real landmark is this chiller. Boris Karloff stars as an ancient Egyptian priest named Imhotep, brought back to life and up to no good.
The Mummy (1999)
The plot of the 1932 ‘Mummy’ -- Imhotep awakens after 3,000 years, seeks bride -- remains intact, but this remake’s blockbuster budget allows for a lot more action. A gigantic hit, it spawned two sequels and a spinoff: 2002’s ‘The Scorpion King.’
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Although its Egyptian scenes were actually shot in Tunisia, no other film captures the atmosphere of old Egypt quite like Steven Spielberg’s classic. From crowded Cairo streets to dusty sunsets to asp-filled secret chambers, ‘Raiders’ has it all.
This sci-fi adventure derives its plot from theories that ancient Egyptian culture, so advanced for its time, was actually inspired by alien visitors. Then it goes one further by plunking a wormhole in Giza, connecting the site to another planet.
The Fifth Element (1997)
If ‘Stargate’ sounds a little too far out, it’s nothing compared to this lovably insane cult curio. Although the bulk of ‘Fifth Element’ takes place in futuristic New York (and on a space cruise ship), Egypt-set scenes bookend the action.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
We round out our trio of Egyptian-themed sci-fi movies with this money-minting chapter of the ‘Transformers’ franchise. The gargantuan final battle takes place around the pyramids of Giza – a key site in Autobot history, apparently.
The Prince of Egypt (1998)
Egypt, of course, is also the setting for the story of Moses, the Pharaoh’s adopted son, and his quest to free the Jews. This star-studded animated musical is one of several films to tell the tale; the most recent is 2014’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’
Night at the Museum (2006)
Not all Egyptian-themed films take place in Egypt. Take, for example, this hit comedy, in which an ancient golden tablet brings the exhibits in New York’s Museum of Natural History to life – much to the astonishment of security guard Ben Stiller.
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Here’s another movie set far from the Sahara, yet with a plot driven by the mysteries of the Pharaohs. In this fantasy, set in Victorian London, the titular adolescent sleuth must stop a sinister cult of Osiris worshippers.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Most James Bond movies are travelogues of sorts, with each movie distinguished by its exotic locales. And so it goes with this Roger Moore-era installment, with key scenes filmed in Giza, Luxor and Cairo.
Elizabeth Taylor was also in her prime when she played Egypt’s famous queen, and was partly why ‘Cleopatra’ became the most expensive movie ever made (as least as of 1963). Also worth seeing: The 1934 version with Claudette Colbert.
Cairo Time (2009)
Here’s a rarity: An English language film set in contemporary Egypt. Shot before the country’s recent unrest, this understated romance stars Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig. Amidst these big-budget desert spectacles, it’s an oasis of calm.
The English Patient (1996)
We close with the Best Picture Oscar winner that takes place partly in southwest Egypt, near the Libyan border. (Like ‘Raiders,’ these scenes were filmed in Tunisia.) This saga of love and revenge is set, of course, in the 1930s.