Sample Film Studies Paper on The Stratford Prison Experiment


The film The Stratford Prison Experiment recreates the experiment originally done by Philip Zimbardo, a Psychology Professor at the University of Stratford. Billy Crudrup takes the role of Philip G Zimbardo in the movie. During the cast, 24 male students are selected and assigned the roles of guards and prisoners at the flip of coin. The experiment was carried out in 1971, during the summer holidays. The film reflects clearly how what transpired during the study was terrible. The students assuming the roles of prisoners were subjected to immense torture during the process by the guards. The guards became sadists and inflicted pain to their subjects. As a result, the study was projected to last for two weeks but only took six days.

Various efforts were made to ensure ethical guidelines were followed in the film. First, No physical violence was allowed. Zimbardo permitted the guards to do whatever necessary to ensure the maintenance of law and order, but not the use of physical violence. Also, tests were conducted on the participants in order to recruit only those who were mentally and physically stable. This would ensure no occurrence of extreme cases. Despite all the ethical guidelines put in place, several ethical dilemmas were experienced during the study. The prisoners were subjected to physical torture through forms such as push-ups. While doing push-ups, one of the guards even stepped on the prisoners’ backs. In addition, Zimbardo also got involved in the study despite expectations of an experimenter not to take part in the research.

Different types of methodologies are used in the study. Questionnaires are used to assess the students’ family backgrounds, criminal activities and mental health. Furthermore, the students are interviewed to determine their ability to participate in the Psychological study. The students are chosen from a group of students who were willing to participate. Finally, the experimenter ensured that he only selected people who were physically stable and of sound mind.

According to the study, situations can play a significant role in individuals’ behaviours. The guards began to exercise authority to the prisoners. Also, the prisoners started being submissive because of the state they were in. The study did not unfold as expected and therefore ended after the sixth day. The prisoners were subjected to inhumane acts and torture, resulting in an abrupt stop to the experiment. Unethical conducts were experienced in this study. Zimbardo got involved in the experiment even though he was the one conducting the research study. Despite watching from the screen the way the guards were abusive and hostile, Zimbardo did not act to make the situation friendly. Nonetheless, the study though under critics found that human beings act according to the situation they are in. The prisoners become submissive to the authority, and the guards exercised full authority.

My personal reactions to the film are more of critics. The participants were only whites, which make the experiment to be not applicable to different regions of the world. Also, the mock prison environment does not present some of the situations present in our prisons. However, this study is vital in the study of how situations affect human conduct and behavior.



The Stratford Prison experiment is significant in the study of Psychology dealing with how human beings tend to behave according to the environment or situation they are in. Despite all the criticism of The Stanford Experiment, we can’t completely dismiss this study. Human beings tend to act according to the situation they are in, as demonstrated by the cruel guards and the docile prisoners.