Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining walls are the most suitable design alternatives to the conventional retaining walls due to their simple, rapid, and cost-effective construction, reduced right-of-way acquisition, etc.; hence, the MSE walls are used in many central, state, and private sector projects. But the design and analysis is a challenging task for geotechnical engineers. This paper deals with the study of stability and wall movement of a existing MSE wall constructed on a major state highway in central Texas, using a finite element (FE) analysis and limit equilibrium (LE) slope stability analysis program GEO5 2016. The detailed analyses for both internal and external stabilities were obtained from the finite element and limit equilibrium analysis, with a critical failure surfaces and the wall movement of a MSE wall. The factors of safety obtained from both analyses were compared. The study shows that the factors of safety obtained from finite element and the limit equilibrium analysis, for a given problem, match in an acceptable range with a different critical failure surfaces. Also, this paper deals with the effect of backfill soil and reinforcements on stability and excessive movements of MSE wall. © Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd 2019.