It’s “old style” Hollywood but there are some scenes that really stick out in my mind:
The Ten Commandments (1956)
A scene with a goading Queen Nefretiri and an arrogant Rameses:
Nefretiri: [approaches Rameses as he is praying to an idol over his dead son] How many more days and nights will you pray? Does he hear you?
Rameses: [praying] Dread Lord of Darkness, I have raised my voice to you, yet life has not come to the body of my son. Hear me!
Nefretiri: He cannot hear you. He’s nothing but a piece of stone with the head of a bird.
Rameses: He will hear me. For I am Egypt.
Nefretiri: Egypt? You are nothing. You let Moses kill my son. No god can bring him back. What have you done to Moses? How did he die? Did he cry for mercy when you tortured him? Bring me to his body! I want to see it, Rameses! I want to see it!
Rameses: This is my son. He would have been Pharaoh and would have ruled the world. Who mourns him now? Not even you. All you can think of is Moses. You will not see his body. I drove him out of Egypt. I cannot fight the power of his God.
Nefretiri: His God? The priests say that Pharaoh is a god. But you are not a god. You are even less than a man. Listen to me, Rameses. You thought I was evil when I went to Moses. And you were right. Shall I tell you what happened, Rameses? He spurned me like a strumpet in the street. I, Nefretiri, Queen of Egypt! All that you wanted from me he would not even take! Do you hear laughter Pharaoh? Not the laughter of kings, but the laughter of slaves on the desert island!
Rameses: Laughter? Laughter? My son I shall build your tomb upon their crushed bodies. If any escape me, their seed shall be spattered and acursed forever. My armor! The war crown! Laughter? I will turn the laughter of these slaves into wails of torment! They shall remember the name of Moses! Only that he died under my chariot wheels!
Nefretiri: Kill him with your own hands!
Rameses: Let the trumpets sound. Alert the watchtowers. Assemble all the chariots at the city gate. I obey. Nura and Thebes will draw my chariot. I will bring you back your temple treasure.
Nefretiri: Bring it back to me… stained with his blood.
Rameses: I will… to mingle with your own.
[Then then famous parting of The Red Sea scene.]
[Upon his return humbled before God, a still defiant Ramses is about to strike Nefretiri with his sword.]
Nefretiri: Before you strike, show me his blood on your sword.
[Rameses throws down his sword in disgust.]
Nefretiri: You couldn’t even kill him.
Rameses: His god… is God.
Another favorite is, to me, this spellbinding exchange between Judah Ben-Hur who has won the Chariot race but saddened having just learned of his family’s circumstances and the infamous Pontius Pilate from:
Ben Hur (1959):
Judah Ben-Hur: You sent for me?
Pontius Pilate: I hope I bring you a good conclusion to your victory. I have a message for you from the consul, your father.
Judah Ben-Hur: I honor him.
Pontius Pilate: As you may honor yourself. You have been made a citizen of Rome.
Pontius Pilate: Do you say nothing to this?
Judah Ben-Hur: I have just come from the Valley of Stone where my mother and my sister live what’s left of their lives. By Rome’s will, lepers and outcasts without hope!
Pontius Pilate: I have heard this. There was great blame there, very deeply regretted.
Judah Ben-Hur: Their flesh is mine, m’lord Pilate. It already carries Rome’s mark.
Pontius Pilate: Messala is dead. What he did has had its way with him.
Judah Ben-Hur: The deed was not Messala’s. I knew him, well, before the cruelty of Rome spread in his blood. Rome destroyed Messala as surely as Rome has destroyed my family.
Pontius Pilate: Where there is greatness, great government or power, even great feeling or compassion, error also is great. We progress and mature by fault. But Rome has said she is ready to join your life to hers in a great future.
Judah Ben-Hur: There are other voices.
Pontius Pilate: The voice for instance of Arrius, waiting for you in Rome. He would tell you, if I may speak in his place, not to crucify yourself on a shadow such as old resentment or impossible loyalties. Perfect freedom has no existence. A grown man knows the world he lives in, and for the present, the world is Rome. Young Arrius, I am sure, will choose it.
Judah Ben-Hur: I am Judah Ben-Hur.
[long pause; Pilate turns and walks away a few steps, then gestures]
Pontius Pilate: I crossed this floor in spoken friendship, as I would speak to Arrius. But when I go up those stairs I become the hand of Caesar, ready to crush all those who challenge his authority. There are too many small men of envy and ambition who try to disrupt the government of Rome. You have become the victor and hero to these people. They look to you, their one true god as I called you. If you stay here, you will find yourself part of this tragedy.
Judah Ben-Hur: I am already part of this tragedy.
[Judah Ben-Hur takes off the ring, Quintus Arrius gave him earlier. Judah Ben-hur rescued Quintus Arrius, as Romans was fighting Macedonians, that just come onto the Roman ship]
Judah Ben-Hur: Return this to Arrius. I honor him too well to wear it any longer.
Pontius Pilate: [taking the ring] Even for the sake of Arrius, I cannot protect you from personal disaster if you stay here. You are too great a danger.
[he turns away and walks up the stairs to the governor’s throne]
Pontius Pilate: Leave Judea. You have my warning.
[Judah Ben-Hur then exits Pilate’s palace]