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Parents' Guide to

The Stanford Prison Experiment

By Jeffrey Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Powerful depiction of shocking, harrowing real-life events.

Movie R 2015 122 minutes
The Stanford Prison Experiment Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

True story. Good movie but not for youth

This movie was based on true events and the actors did an incredible job depicting the people they portrayed. I don’t have a problem with it, it is a very well made movie. But I don’t believe anyone under the age of 18 should be watching it. When I heard my son’s teacher showed this movie to his class, I was curious and I watched it for myself. There were parts that I don’t believe are suitable for younger minds. Overall it isn’t that bad but the language and what the guards end up doing and saying by the end of the movie just isn’t appropriate for anyone other than adults. The most disturbing part of the whole movie was the fact that it really happened. It’s quite unbelievable that it was allowed to go as far as it did.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (5 ):

This film is a fascinating, revealing, upsetting experience. A movie about the real-life 1971 Stanford prison experiment could have been sadistic and unwatchable, but director Kyle Patrick Alvarez's clinical approach focuses on realism and psychological drama rather than on thrills. Alvarez doesn't try to professionally polish the prison setting; instead, it has a functional, homemade look that makes it feel more immediate. The way the characters wear their hair and clothes -- and they way they carry themselves -- contributes to what feels like an authentic period piece.

The ensemble performances are strong, with the actors uniformly selling the horrors of the grim material, especially former child actor Michael Angarano, who, for his guard role, decides to adopt a scary southern accent (like Strother Martin's in Cool Hand Luke). Crudup is also terrific, balancing the scholarly importance of his study with its moral conundrums, as is Nelsan Ellis as a former real-life prisoner who consults.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: July 17, 2015
  • On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2015
  • Cast: Billy Crudup , Michael Angarano , Olivia Thirlby
  • Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
  • Inclusion Information: Gay directors, Latino directors, Multiracial directors, Female actors, Bisexual actors
  • Studio: IFC Films
  • Genre: Drama
  • Run time: 122 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: language including abusive behavior and some sexual references
  • Last updated: June 19, 2023

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