Back in August of 1971 on Stanford University’s campus, 18 young men were selected for a psychological experiment simulating the effects of a prison environment on both prisoners and guards. The results were famously shocking and controversial, and the study became a case study of psychology courses everywhere.
For years a version of this story has been trying to get off the ground, and director Kyle Patrick Alvarez (C.O.G.) finally made it happen this year at Sundance. The Stanford Prison Experiment is a scarily accurate recreation of the events, with even the film’s set built to a near perfect model of the actual dimensions the “prisoners” were held in. Lane Scarberry said in her Sundance review that the film is, “a claustrophobic tale of ego and wits under duress that retains suspense not in the outcome but in its execution.” Here’s the full synopsis:
What happens when a college psych study goes shockingly wrong? In this tense, psychological thriller based on the notorious true story, Billy Crudup stars as Stanford University professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who, in 1971, cast 24 student volunteers as prisoners and guards in a simulated jail to examine the source of abusive behavior in the prison system. The results astonished the world, as participants went from middle-class undergrads to drunk-with-power sadists and submissive victims in just a few days. Winner of two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, including Best Screenplay, and created with the close participation of Dr. Zimbardo himself, ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment’ is a chilling, edge-of-your-seat thriller about the dark side of power and the effects of imprisonment. Featuring an extraordinary cast of rising young actors, including Ezra Miller, Olivia Thirlby, Tye Sheridan, Keir Gilchrist, Michael Angarano, and Thomas Mann.
The Stanford Prison Experiment is a who’s who rising young actors, including Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower), Tye Sheridan (Mud), Keir Gilchrist (It Follows), Michael Angarano (Almost Famous), Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), and also stars Billy Crudup and Olivia Thirlby.
The Stanford Prison Experiment opens July 17 and is available on VOD July 24. Watch the first trailer below: