The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)



Critic Consensus: As chillingly thought-provoking as it is absorbing and well-acted, The Stanford Prison Experiment offers historical drama that packs a timelessly relevant punch.

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Movie Info

Based on the real-life research of Dr. Zimbardo (who was a consultant on the film), The Stanford Prison Experiment is a dramatic period piece that remains relevant over 40 years later. (C) IFC Films

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Billy Crudup
as Dr. Philip Zimbardo
Ezra Miller
as Daniel Culp
Michael Angarano
as Christopher Archer
Tye Sheridan
as Peter Mitchell
Johnny Simmons
as Jeff Jansen
Olivia Thirlby
as Christina Zimbardo
Thomas Mann
as Prisoner 416
Keir Gilchrist
as John Lovett
Ki Hong Lee
as Gavin Chan
Moises Arias
as Anthony Carroll
Jack Kilmer
as Jim Randall/4325
Chris Sheffield
as Tom Thompson/2093
James Frecheville
as Matthew Townshend
Nicholas Braun
as Karl Vandy
Nelsan Ellis
as Jesse Fletcher
Matt Bennett
as Kyle Parker
Jesse Carere
as Paul Beattie/5704
Brett Davern
as Hubbie Whitlow/7258
Miles Heizer
as Marshall Lovett
Callan McAuliffe
as Henry Ward
Benedict Samuel
as Jacob Harding
Harrison Thomas
as Andrew Ceros
Albert Malafronte
as Father Macallister
Kate Butler
as Mrs. Mitchell
Jim Klock
as Warren
Fred Ochs
as Professor Jim Cook
Alec Holden
as Applicant #1
Jack Foley
as Applicant #2
Ross Philips
as Applicant #3
Aidan Sussman
as Culp's Brother
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Critic Reviews for The Stanford Prison Experiment

All Critics (88) | Top Critics (30)

The acting is uniformly strong and the camera work is winningly claustrophobic, but the film is one note: scene after scene of bullying.

September 25, 2015 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

The Stanford Prison Experiment is the kind of movie that raises as many questions as it answers. It's also the kind of film where you want to budget some time for discussion afterward. You won't be able to shake this one off easily.

August 14, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

This is not an uplifting movie, and its progress can be grueling. But it has a lot to say about how we let roles define us, how fragile personalities are and how context shapes reality.

August 7, 2015 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

The film works hard to keep up the suspense: how far will the guards go? How much can the prisoners take? At what point, if any, will Zimbardo and his team intervene? And is his experiment scientific? Objective? Humane? Worthwhile?

July 31, 2015 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
San Diego Reader
Top Critic

Watching these young men brutalize each other is troubling enough, but perhaps the film's most interesting angle is how the experiment changes more than its subjects.

July 30, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Billy Crudup gives a fine performance as Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who engineered the whole thing and was then pulled into his own power trip.

July 30, 2015 | Full Review…
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Stanford Prison Experiment


I love this movie because I hate how it makes me feel. One of the most powerful things I've seen put on film. In recreating something that seems unnecessary and ridiculous this film is a captivating look at the true events of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

Kameron Woodall
Kameron Woodall

Super Reviewer

In grad school I interned at the Center for the History of American Psychology, which is an archive and museum in Akron, Ohio. I worked in close proximity to one of the doors from the makeshift prison cells as well as one guard uniform and one prisoner uniform. Based on my short time working there, when I became aware of the new Stanley Milgram film called Experimenter (streaming on Netflix), I had to watch it too. These two films would make an interesting double feature. The Stanford Prison Experiment is such an intriguing and terrifying real-life story. Billy Crudup plays the creepy professor Zimbardo who doesn't seem to know the limits of appropriate psychological tests. The selection process is portrayed as shoddy, accepting too much of the survey results at face value. Ezra Miller would be the star of this ensemble piece as the rebellious Daniel Culp or prisoner 8612. Authority, conformity, group think, and violence in the context of prison or the military are explored. But as some of the characters point out the experiment is constructed falsely and turns nightmare-ish. We see some of the drama recreated in the scientific candid observations of 16mm footage, but then we are not allowed to remain objective as the modern day video camera gets uncomfortably close to the misuse of power.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer


The Stanford Prison Experiment is a frustrating watch. The guards negatively treat the detainees in ever increasing shocking and dehumanizing ways. Initially a few prisoners resist with acts of rebellion, but more often than not they start to concede to their situation. Their passive acceptance is no less disquieting. This conduct over the course of the drama is not an easy watch. What we see is personalties change. These are not prisoners/guards. These are privileged upper-middle-class college students attending Stanford. Guards grow sadistic while prisoners become submissive. They act out the roles expected of them in a way far beyond what anyone involved with the study could have expected. The undertaking is a bit exasperating. I had many questions and concerns about how the whole operation was handled and the validity of the results. However, as a document of a notorious experiment gone wrong (or right depending on what you wanted to prove) I found it to be an arresting study in human behavior. I can't say I enjoyed The Stanford Prison Experiment, but I did respect the craft that when into making it.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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