The Stanford Prison Experiment endures as one of history’s most famous—and infamous—psychological experiments. Conducted in 1971, the experiment separated 24 college student participants into two groups: Guards and prisoners. The experiment was supposed to last two weeks, but researchers cut it off after six days when despair drove some prisoners to withdraw, and others to become hysterical. The movie, which debuted to positive reviews at Sundance, looks every bit as disturbing as you’d expect.
Billy Crudup plays Philip Zimbardo, the psychology professor who oversaw the experiment, while his Almost Famous castmate Michael Angarano (who played the younger William Miller, aka “The Enemy”) plays a student who initially wants to be a prisoner, but becomes terrifyingly effective as a guard. Meanwhile, Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) portrays a prisoner who eventually rebels in the face of escalating abuse. Zimbardo himself served as a consultant on the movie, which has been praised for its accuracy in recreating the widely misunderstood study, strip searches, sleep deprivation tactics, and all. The Stanford Prison Experiment comes out July 17.