The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

A Stanford Professor recruits volunteers for an experiment to see how people relate to authority and pre-assigned roles, when he builds a prison in the basement of the Psychology building and divides 24 participants into guards and prisoners, sets some rules, then films them to see what happens.

Our Rating: 6/10 - decent indie flick
Watchability: 3/10
Tagline: They were given 2 weeks. It lasted 6 days.

Release Date: 2015-07-17
IMDb icon 6.9/10
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Runtime: 22
  • Revenue: $643,557
  • Production: Coup d'Etat Films
Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup
Dr. Philip Zimbardo
Michael Angarano
Michael Angar...
Christopher Archer
Moises Arias
Moises Arias
Anthony Carroll
Nicholas Braun
Nicholas Brau...
Karl Vandy
Gaius Charles
Gaius Charles
Paul Vogel
Keir Gilchrist
Keir Gilchris...
John Lovett
Ki Hong Lee
Ki Hong Lee
Gavin Lee / 3401
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Prisoner 416
Ezra Miller
Ezra Miller
Daniel Culp / 8612
Logan Miller
Logan Miller
Jerry Sherman / 5486
Tye Sheridan
Tye Sheridan
Peter Mitchell / 819
Johnny Simmons
Johnny Simmon...
Jeff Jansen / 1037
James Wolk
James Wolk
Mike Penny
Nelsan Ellis
Nelsan Ellis
Jesse Fletcher
Olivia Thirlby
Olivia Thirlb...
Dr. Christina Maslach

Things quickly get out of hand.

Prisoner 8612 rebels and is the most outspoken, but some of the guards start to use physical force against him. While locked in the hole with another prison, they ally and plan an escape, but they are soon caught.

Two other cells rebel, but the third cell doesn't follow and get perks from the guards. When the other prisoners fall in, Prisoner 8612 realises he's on his own, and under constant pressure from the guards he soon cracks and has a mental breakdown. He is pulled out of the experiment when he mentions that he wants a lawyer.

A little later, the other prisoner who was his ally, also succumbs to the mental torture and wants out. Dr. Zimbardo can see the pain he is in and empathizes with the boy, sending him home.

Led by Guard 'John WayneNULL, the Prisoners are humiliated. They can appeal for a Parole - and when some would be granted parole, without pay for their time, it is clear they have taken on their roles when they could leave with the same effect.  Jesse, who has experience of jail and sits on the board, is at the parole hearing of a prisoner, and relishes the power it gives him. He realizes that he too has a problem and leaves the project, instructing Zimbardo to send the boy home.

A new prisoner is recruited to fill the gaps, but when he refuses to eat sausages he is placed in the hole, and the other prisoners are forced to turn on him.

Zimbardo's girlfriend has watched some of the sessions, and is the only one who seems to see the problems and psychological harm it is causing the participants - she tells Zimbardo to end it. Zimbardo doesn't want to hear, because he is too involved in the experiment himself.

John Wayne further humiliates the prisoners, even turning on the one prisoner who has always been obedient. When he makes them perform mock sexual advances on each other, he is forced to step in and call a halt to it.

Later, Prisoner 8612 and 'John Wayne' sit down to talk about their experiences - it was only a coin flip that decided which of them would be a prisoner or a guard. 8612 says he isn't sure what type of guard he'd have been, but wouldn't have been as inventive or enjoyed it as much as John Wayne did.  Wayne says he was only playing a character (from Cool Hand Luke), and was surprised nobody stood up to him or told him he'd gone too far.

We're told in the credits that Zimbardo married his girlfriend, and of the participants none had any lasting psychological problems.

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