Based on the 1971 experiment of the same name, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a psychological thriller that showcases the observational experiment undertaken by Professor Philip Zimbardo in order investigate the relationship between prisoners and guards — and how the power differences between these two groups are formed and play out.
Billy Crudup plays Zimbardo, while Ezra Miller and Michael Angarano take part in the survey as a prisoner and guard respectively, both of whom appear to quickly internalize their roles. Olivia Thirlby appears as the only woman in the film, playing Zimbardo’s wife (a fellow psychologist and a researcher), who expresses concern over the experiment and the actions of its participants, as can be seen in the harrowing trailer below.
It is the summer of 1971. Dr. Philip Zimbardo launches a study on the psychology of imprisonment. Twenty-four male undergraduates are randomly assigned to be either a guard or a prisoner. Set in a simulated jail, the project unfolds. The participants rapidly embody their roles—the guards become power-hungry and sadistic, while the prisoners, subject to degradation, strategize as underdogs. It soon becomes clear that, as Zimbardo and team monitor the escalation of action through surveillance cameras, they are not fully aware of how they, too, have become part of the experiment. 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.
After being in development for over ten years, The Stanford Prison Experiment will be released on July 17, 2015.