The Stanford Prison Experiment | Things turn ugly at this psychology experiment in 1971 California

The Stanford Prison Experiment
(Image credit: © Universal Studios)

The Stanford Prison Experiment

They were given 2 weeks. It lasted 6 days.

This unsettling fact-based drama reproduces the notorious, still controversial psychology experiment from 1971 in which a bunch of 24 Californian university students volunteered to take part in a study into prison life. As we discover, a flip of a coin decides who will be mock guards and who prisoners. But the role-playing soon gets alarmingly out of hand.

Ezra Miller and Michael Angarano stand out among the students, while Billy Crudup plays the tunnel-visioned academic in charge, Philip Zimbardo (opens in new tab). The film is tough going in places but offers a chilling study into the psychology of authority and the abuse of power.

Certificate 15. Runtime 119 mins. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez

The Stanford Prison Experiment debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on Tuesday 25 July. Available on DVD from Universal Pictures UK.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.