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Plot: Twenty-four male students out of seventy-five were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Runtime: 122 mins Release Date: 17 Jul 2015
A profound lesson in social psychology (by jkbonner1)
The Stanford Prison Experiment took place in the basement of Jordan Hall the psychology building at Stanford University between August 14 and August 20, 1971. The social psychologist who conceived of the experiment was Dr. Philip Zimbardo Billy Crudup, who in the movie resembles remarkably well Zimbardo at the age Zimbardo was back then . Zimbardo was also the principal investigator and overseer of the experiment. As such, he was as much a participant in the experiment as the volunteers themselves. This ended up having a profound effect on him, which is well portrayed in the movie. <more>
It's worth noting that ten years earlier a similar experiment known as the Obedience Experiment had taken place at Yale under the direction of social psychologist Dr. Stanley Milgram.Zimbardo was funded by the Department of the Navy to conduct the experiment. Although it didn't have the same overall setup as Milgram's, it did resemble it in many salient ways. I admittedly don't know enough of the history of psychology and so can't answer the exact whys it was conducted. But apparently other psychologists have reproduced Milgram's experiment possibly making modifications to it , so maybe Zimbardo's experiment was considered more definitive. Also, I did find it unusual that he didn't have a control group.Milgram's experiment was intended to show how easily a subject called "the teacher" in the experiment would listen to an authority figure called "the experimenter" and administer a series of electric shocks to a learner who was, unbeknown to the subject, an actor who in reality received no actual electric shocks. It was found that roughly two-thirds of the subjects would administer what would be considered a fatal shock to the actors even though the actors pleaded and feigned being in extreme agony. Later, the results were validated by other psychologists for different cultures throughout the world. In a 1974 paper titled "The Perils of Obedience" that Milgram composed, he said, "Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process." In the Prison Experiment the volunteers were separated into guards authority figures and powerless figures the prisoners . It's worth pointing out that the volunteers who served as guards were assigned that role by the people running the experiment. No volunteer purposefully chose the role of guard. As one commented, "Nobody likes guards." The findings of Milgram's Obedience Experiment indicates that a similar phenomenon was observed in the Prison Experiment. The authority figures took their tasks seriously. At first the prisoners tried to slough the whole thing off but things got out for hand fast. After just six days and after Zimbardo himself was being sucked into the experiment to the point that he was growing increasingly upset, it was terminated. And Milgram's quotation above is just as applicable to the Prison Experiment as to the Obedience Experiment.Both experiments suggest that a person's social role, especially if it involves exercising power over others, can have a strong influence on their behavior. In the case of the Prison Experiment this includes their apparel and their means of physically controlling the people over whom they are exercising their power. Psychological means of control, such as verbal bullying, were also employed.Except for Crudup, who portrayed Dr. Zimbardo, I didn't recognize any of the other actors but everyone in movie did a great job. Zimbardo, along with his wife, Dr. Christina Maslach Olivia Thirlby , went on to investigate the psychology of power and authority. It's worthwhile mentioning that the late French social philosopher, Michel Foucault 1926-1984 , also probed the various uses and abuses of power in society. Have these works made any dent in practice on world politics? As far as I can tell, no they haven't. Have they made any dent in practice on professions such as the police that rely heavily on asserting their authority? I can't positively say, but given all the problems that have been occurring in various venues in the US over the past several years, it wouldn't appear so.The movie should make us all think. Most of us believe we're decent human beings. We would never do such things to other human beings. Milgram's and Zimbardo's experiments suggest otherwise.Some seem to think everyone knows the results of such experiments and consequently it was a ho-hum we-all-know-that kind of reaction to the movie. If that's the case, why is the behavior repeated over and over? Humanity can't learn from past mistakes? Such a cynical view isn't going to help us much.10 out of 10.
Do we all have the potential to turn brutal? (by lee_eisenberg)
"The Stanford Prison Experiment" looks at a test that some students did in 1971 to simulate a prison, only to see it go too far. It poses the question of whether or not each of us has the potential to turn sadistic if given the opportunity. We saw what the US troops did in Abu Ghraib. In this movie, the guards make you feel as if you're walking on eggshells and these were ordinary people merely play the roles of guards . With any luck, the movie can lead to further debates about what leads people to be cruel towards each other. Another movie that looks at this is "Murder <more>
in the First" about an Alcatraz prisoner .I recommend the movie.
The fact that this actually happened at a college, and Stanford nonetheless, just blows me away. Such an interesting story about what happens when people are put into a situation like this. Awesome movie
Extraordinary look at Power and the Human Psyche (by burdzydavid)
This film blew me away. I first saw it at the IFC Center in New York with an average expectation. The sound editing is the first thing you notice. It's crisp, clean, and wields its own power that is advantageous to the narrative. The narrative centers around the experiment that takes place at the Stanford University in the 70's. It follows the students who participate and how their lives immediately change for the worst. Now the film feels and looks like the era with great costumes and set work. Everything from the computers to the coffee mugs immerses you ever so deeper into the <more>
emotional toil that intensifies with each scene. A smart move I would like to mention from the casting directors is the fact they used actors from children's films and popular TV shows then start beating them up and messing with their characters' minds. For any millennial, they would instantly recognize the actors which gives the millennial a sense of familiarity with the characters, and at that sense feel more towards the behavior and mistreatment of those children actor's character. Overall, I was pleased with the film as it's theme and historical significance played in my mind throughout the whole day.
Highly intriguing, very well-acted, retains the real-life effects (by Red_Identity)
Quick thoughts before I go: Very impressive. I was afraid a film based on this would be either too pandering and surface-level or sway too much on the "informational" side. The film did a greeeeat job of really driving home its essential point while still offering an intriguing film experience. It did a great job of developing its characters. And although there are unsurprising over-dramatizations in the story, it always kept in line with the real-life tone of the whole thing. Perhaps the film makes Zimbardo a little too cruel, but Crudup did a fine job of making him feel like a <more>
human being. It could've easily failed, but it didn't. Ezra Miller was fine until he needed to go really big. He's the only one who provides some false notes in an otherwise brilliant ensemble.
I'm very much interested in human psychology, as I majored in psychology at university and it always fascinated me to learn that we as humans do not actually know our limits. Although some are sure of themselves of never being able to commit a crime, they still could end up committing it. And this movie shows exactly why this can happen. If you don't like the movie because of its intense and brutal depiction of the human existence, then you shouldn't rate this movie low, because that's the point of the movie and the experiment that is shown in it. If you hate the characters in <more>
the movie and are horrified by the actions they do - then you have to admit that the bloody cast did their job well! Eventually, it's a 9/10 for me! It doesn't have any scenes of gore or sex except for one weird scene which is listed in the Parents Guide section here on IMDb The Stanford prison experiment represented in the movie is a real experiment conducted in 1971 and the depiction of that time is done well with the clothing, looks, etc. Billy Crudup, who plays Dr. Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University, the chief of the experiment, has done an excellent job. His cold and ruthless appearance fits perfectly for an intelligent and power-thirsty psychologist. Some say many psychologists are psychopaths themselves. Yeah, somehow approved. Thumbs up also for Michael Angarano and Tye Sheridan for giving solid and plausible performances. Ezra Miller's shaky voice disturbed me all the time, his acting was better than usual, though.The movie is an answer to all the questions sane people ask when they watch TV or read the newspaper everyday. Why so much crime, why terrorism? The authority, whoever that may be, tells you that what you do is right and you end up doing it. You don't question it. You become a puppet. What distinguishes the humankind from animals and plants is rationality, but do we always think rational? Certainly not. When there is a dominant leader, then we tend to follow him, even if the task dissents with our norms and beliefs. You should definitely read the Milgram experiment and experiments from Muzafer Sheriff, a Turkish social psychologist who developed social judgment theory and realistic conflict theory and is known as the founder of modern social psychology. His experiments about social norms and social conflict show how important the milieu is in our decisions and in individual psychology.Dr. Zimbardo summarizes this experiment in one decisive statement: "Most apparent thing that I noticed was how most of the people in this study derive their sense of identity and well-being from their immediate surroundings rather than from within themselves."
The ugly side of the human condition. (by Sergeant_Tibbs)
I've always been fascinated by the original Stanford prison experiment. It always had the ingredients for a fascinating study of human behaviour. Its conductor Dr. Philip Zimbardo knew that, it just had to be played out. Of course, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a story that's been notably portrayed before, such as the 2001 German film Das Experiment. I remember being a fan of it when I first saw it, but I admit I can't quite recall it enough to make a comparison here. Nevertheless, this American version which doesn't make substitutions is a preferable version, one that <more>
makes resourceful use of today's technology and young talent. There's a dual study going on here. One, the part that writes itself, a document of the actual experiment. And the other, an examination of the ethics of the experimenters. Here is the ugly side of the human condition and our desires to push one another to feel the sweet taste of superiority.While it may lend the obvious yet compelling results of what imaginary power and authority does to people, it still needs to be well executed to work. Fortunately director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and writer Tim Talbott have the right handling of the material, working with great economy in balancing its dichotomy's. At first it's disarmingly casual in the way the volunteers are selected and summoned, making a point of its randomizations and often offering an endearing and natural sense of humour. While superficially bleak, it's having fun with the 70s clothes and oversized moustaches, without peeling back their integrity. But then real tension, real anguish, and a real sensation of danger and dread creeps in and The Stanford Prison Experiment becomes deeply unsettling in its dehumanization techniques. With a careful sense from Alvarez of how far to escalate each sequence, it rings true to human sensibilities of what would happen in this unique situation. There's always a reminder that it isn't real, but it doesn't stop you from feeling unbearably trapped. This is nature at work, combined with a touch of modern cruelty.There is a tendency in the film's inherent and forgivably episodic narrative that it gets you attached to a character they're focusing on only due to their upcoming exit. Thereby the film loses steam bit by bit. It gradually wins you back afterwards, but each time it takes a little longer. Ezra Miller in particular is a highlight of the first half of the film, formulating some of the most memorable instances of the prisoner's rebellions and reluctances. He's missed, but his absence only breeds more tension and vulnerability as we're left with weaker willed volunteers. If anything, this film is an impressive display of the best talent from the next generation of actors. Hopefully all to soon be familiar faces; Johnny Simmons, Tye Sheridan, Brett Davern, and a guard with the most inventive choice of wording, Michael Angarano, all stick out among other strong performances. While a crowded ensemble does mean no character gets to be fleshed out to their full potential, Alvarez and Talbott at least give room for everyone a time to shine without any dim spots.On the experimenters end, Billy Crudup is perfect casting as Dr. Zimbardo. Donning a beard that gives him an uncanny resemblance to Satan, it doesn't remove that trustworthy glint of compassion in his eyes. His usual warmth is countered by his malicious intent to shove the volunteers to their limits and it creates an enthralling inner conflict where he's finding his own limits. The film admittedly does lack a female presence giving the nature of 24 volunteers and all the scientists being men. Its only example is Olivia Thirlby as Zimbardo's girlfriend who later involves herself in the experiment and becomes a voice of reason, but a very welcome one. It may have blind spots and a few stumbles, but it doesn't hinder what the film does right. As I was completely wrapped in its deft and dense confrontations, I kept waiting for the film to explode. Perhaps recalling the more gritty approach Das Experiment took to its second half, instead this implodes, which is a much more restrained and satisfying conclusion to watch these invisible social constructs dissolve rather than erupt.The Stanford Prison Experiment's wealth of strong material and performances are matched by its technical ambitions. The slick photography makes it cinematic with liberal collages of close-ups and swift camera moves but still keeping it intimate. When the scene calls for rigid obedience, any time the camera moves out of line we hold our breath. It's graded with a washed-out atmosphere, relishing in the moody darkness. I've been irritated with indie films that abuse a shallow depth of field in their photography for no good reason, but this film uses it to isolate you in its grasp and as a result the film shook me up for the rest of the day. While it gets under the skin of the prisoners and the scientists, I did find myself wanting to get behind the motivations of the guards, the most vocal contributors of the experiment. Instead, thats saved for an epilogue that feels like a wise afterthought, but it's a powerful note on the personal experiments we run just because the opportunity is there. The Stanford Prison Experiment is an ideal taut psychological thriller that bristles with youthful energy and will mostly likely remain standing as one of the best of the year.8/10
Absolutely gripping and one of the all time most difficult movies to watch (by ronthrenody)
This is perhaps one of the best movies I have seen in 2015 and yet I would think twice before watching it again. The Stanford Prison experiment is a taut and intriguing drama hat manages to thrill you for most of its run time as well as making you terribly uneasy as you ponder as to why people behave as they do in the movie. Inspire by the real life prison experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971 using college students where some would be assigned as guards and some prisoners and were stationed in a mock prison for 14 days within the Stanford University premises itself. It proved <more>
to be one of the most disastrous and widely criticized psychology experiments ever conducted by mankind and was shut down in just 6 days.The movie doesn't spend too much time on buildup as you start feeling the claustrophobia and sense of loss of freedom quite early on. The script has been top notch as well as the direction. The best part about the script that I loved was that it remained truthful to the actual events and the documentary style cinematography added so much realism to the experience. The other impressive aspect of this movie is the acting. The casting doesn't involve any big superstar names, rather most of them are well known in the indie and television scenes. Phillip Zambardo's character development was pulled off by Billy Crudup with absolute finesse while Ezra Miller and Thomas Mann left a lasting impression with the devolution of their respective characters. The rest of the cast, especially the ones who played the prisoners were great as well, as they were constantly able to maintain the sense of helplessness and psychological deterioration throughout. The main star of the film, however, is Michael Angarano. His character is what everybody would love to hate. I used to remember Angarano as this charming kid in Almost Famous and Lords of Dogtown and I was quite shocked to witness the whole sadistic and borderline sociopath side of him. The only shortcoming I felt was the overall pacing. The movie slowed down at some points; especially during the first half I am not going to spoil anything and it could've done a better editing job. Some of the cast, especially on the guard side could've used a bit more screen time since the camera was almost entirely focused on Michael Angarano. However, this doesn't diminish the quality of movie in any way. It's a great albeit cringe worthy study of human psyche and the movie will leave a long trail of questions for you to think about. Overall, The Stanford Prison Experiment is undoubtedly a great cinematic achievement both in terms of visual style, storyline, acting and direction. This is not exactly a family movie or something you want to watch with your girlfriend and definitely not a feel-good experience, but if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then this film will give you a run for your money. My IMDb rating is 8.1/10.
A good dramatized telling about arguably the most controversial psychological experiment ever done (by lam-bui)
This movie is about arguably the most controversial psychological experiments ever done, which generated a lot of attention in the media in that time. It is a dramatized version of the experiment that has a thought provoking aspect to it. This horrifying drama/thriller is a heart breaker and is told with a slow pace which gives you enough time to absorb the events that happen in the movie.The movie starts with three professors who interview a few student to participate on their 2 week experiment. The professors rented a few rooms and a hallway at Stanford University to simulate a prison. The <more>
selected group of student are chosen based on their mental history and their ability to endure mental setbacks. Half of the students were chosen to be guards and half were chosen to be prisoners. The professors behind the experiment have had a camera installed in the hallway so they can monitor everything that is happening. At the beginning everything seems under control. But it doesn't take long before everything begins to escalate.The movies goes straight to the point fast. The students are getting paid so they are doing what they are told to do. The guards must present authority and the prisoners must be obedient. However, the students playing the guards want more and are creating their own bully characters during the experiment. The guards are careless and are humiliating the prisoners most of the time, which make this movie hard to watch. The first and second act are done with great subtlety. The mental torturing of the prisoners serves a purpose and isn't just for shock value. The professors who are watching the proceedings are all having different opinions about the proceedings that are happening and are starting discussions about morality, motivation, behavior and boundaries. The transition from different perspectives on this experiment is done really well by director Kyle Patrick Alvarez. Tim Talbott does a great job with his writing. The thought provoking aspect in his writing is one of the strongest points in this film. The second act of the film builds up really slow to compensate for the small first act. It is unsettling to watch the guards in their mistreating behavior, while the professors don't interfere. There is no motivation for the guards to act the way they are behaving, except for the fact that they can. A big reason why the film is hard to watch is because of the solid acting of the whole cast. The young actors portray their characters in such a convincing way, that it feels real. This movie has a lot of heating emotional moments where the actors can show their full potential. This film will be a great addition to their resume. Ezra Miller and Tye Sheridan get special mentions because both get a lot of screen time, and they show that they can carry a movie. They show why they are one of the Hollywood's biggest talents. Even though the first and second act are solid in every aspect of filmmaking, the movie loses its touch in the last act. I won't go in to what specifically happens, but the subtlety of the storytelling disappears and the slow pace kills the momentum of the climax. The last act relies too much on shock value and the suspense is diminished because of the repetitive scene transitions in the last moments of the film. Overall, this is a solid movie that creates discussion between groups with different standpoints of this subject. The acting is phenomenal by the talented cast and there is a clear direction. The slow pace is a tool well used in the first two acts and adds to the suspense the director wants to communicate. Even though the film falls apart in the last act, I would recommend this movie to watch. But only to the ones with a strong stomach.