The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Kyle Patrick Alvarez (2015)

15 Certificate
Tuesday 12:20am - 2:30am Sky Cinema Drama & Romance


Our Score
This raw, disturbing, often unbearably tense true-life drama is the second US feature to dramatise Stanford University's controversial 1971 study into prison life, where student volunteers assumed the roles of prisoners and guards to devastating effect. Faithfully following the source material and naming actual project leaders Dr Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) and partner Christina Maslach (Olivia Thirlby) - albeit changing the names of the guinea pigs - screenwriter Tim Talbott applies an academic composure that's absent from previous depictions (2010's overripe, action-driven fictionalisation The Experiment; 2001's more original German take Das Experiment). Even a Tarantino-esque exchange about Cool Hand Luke ("You look like the guy who kills Paul Newman at the end." "Haven't seen the flick - thanks for ruining it.") is based in fact. Aside from slo-mo for the first inevitable eruption of violence, director Kyle Patrick Alvarez directs without artifice, his flat tracking shots emphasising the repetition of "prison" life and the sadism of the guards. He's ably assisted by Andrew Hewitt's minimalist score and a solid ensemble cast, especially Michael Angarano (HBO's The Knick) and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin) as a victimised inmate. "Let's see where this goes," says Zimbardo, as pressure-cooker conflict unfolds on the monitors. "This is where it goes," replies an uneasy colleague. Fans of Big Brother will know of what he speaks.


A professor performs a social experiment designed to analyse abusive behaviour. He recruits 24 students and places them in a simulated prison, selecting some of the group to live as guards and some as convicts. The results take an unexpectedly terrifying turn, as power corrupts the guards and makes them indulge in sadistic behaviour. Fact-based drama, starring Billy Crudup and Ezra Miller.

Cast & Crew

Dr Philip Zimbardo Billy Crudup
Christopher Archer Michael Angarano
Anthony Carroll Moises Arias
Karl Vandy Nicholas Braun
Prisoner 416 Thomas Mann (2)
Peter Mitchell / 819 Tye Sheridan
Daniel Culp / 8612 Ezra Miller
Dr Christina Maslach Olivia Thirlby
Matthew Townshend James Frecheville
Jim Randall / 4325 Jack Kilmer
Jesse Fletcher Nelsan Ellis
Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez
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Other Information

Language: EnglishColourTheatrical distributor: Munro Film ServicesGuidance: Violence, swearing.Released on: 10 Jun 2016