The Stanford Prison Experiment Movie Review

Carolyn McAndrews, Reviewer

The Stanford Prison Experiment


Release date: July 17, 2015 (USA)
Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Box office: 649,690 USD
Producers: Brent Emery, Lizzie Friedman, Christopher McQuarrie, Lauren Bratman, Karen Lauder, Greg Little
Screenplay: Tim Talbott, Christopher McQuarrie, P.W. Hopsidor

Budget: $649,690

Production Company: Abandon Pictures, Coup d’Etat Films, and Sandbar Pictures

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Rating: R (Restricted)

Length of Film: 2h 2m


Film Description:

In 1971, Stanford’s Professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) conducts a controversial psychology experiment in which college students pretend to be either prisoners or guards, but the proceedings soon get out of hand.


My Review:

“What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions we posed in this dramatice simulation of prison life conducted in 1971 at Stanford University.” The Stanford Prison Experiment was a psychological experiment to investigate and examine the effects of perceived power, the experiment had focused on guards and prisoners. This experiment had lasted from August 14, 1971 to August 20, 1971, it was supposed to be a two week study. From the aspect of this movie, we see how the two weeks were unnecessary, seeing as how Dr. Zimbardo had gotten an abundance of information in only six days. By watching the movie you see firsthand what these boys had to go through during the experiment, and what happened wasn’t always pretty. The experiment showed how within an hour of being in this environment, letting the students play their roles, the guards let the power go to their heads. The movie gives us a detailed documentary on what went on in those six days. The actors who played in this movie should also be given a significant amount of credit, this had to have messed with them at least a little.

Whether they became those boys in the experiment or just put on the performance of a lifetime, you could see the terror and fear in their eyes… from the prisoners aspect at least. The boys who played the guards really let the power go to their head, and when watching you also see how different things were back then. One character in the movie, Jesse Fletcher played by Nelsan Ellis, had been in a prison previous to the experiment and was a consultant during the experiment. He had mentioned how he was treated the same way in real prison as the prisoners in the movie were treated by the guards.. Watching this movie, you really get to watch how people tick and what power can do to certain people. This seemed to be the main aspect that Dr. Zimbardo was trying to get at, but watching the human psyche abuse this power was totally astonishing.

I would recommend watching this movie on so many levels, not only does it explain one of the world’s most notorious psychological experiments, but it also helps to understand the human psyche a little more. It’s a very intriguing movie and, frankly, very educational teaching us about the human endeavor and what makes individuals tick. Another interesting aspect is that the movie is based off of real events, real people actually did this. I would highly recommend watching this movie, especially if you have any interest in a psychology/sociology field at all.


Review By: Carolyn McAndrews