Das Experiment

March 8th, 2001


Das Experiment

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Andrea SawatzkiMoritz Bleibtreu & Maren EggertMoritz BelibtreuEdgar Selge & Andrea Sawatzki Edgar SelgeMoritz Bleibtreu

The movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab...

Release Year: 2001

Rating: 7.8/10 (36,342 voted)

Critic's Score: 60/100

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Stars: Moritz Bleibtreu, Christian Berkel, Oliver Stokowski

The movie is based on the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment" conducted in 1971. A makeshift prison is set up in a research lab, complete with cells, bars and surveillance cameras. For two weeks 20 male participants are hired to play prisoners and guards. The 'prisoners' are locked up and have to follow seemingly mild rules, and the 'guards' are told simply to retain order without using physical violence. Everybody is free to quit at any time, thereby forfeiting payment. In the beginning the mood between both groups is insecure and rather emphatic. But soon quarrels arise and the wardens employ ever more drastic sanctions to confirm their authority.

Writers: Mario Giordano, Mario Giordano

Moritz Bleibtreu - Tarek Fahd - Häftling Nr. 77 / Prisoner #77
Christian Berkel - Steinhoff - Häftling Nr. 38 / Prisoner #38
Oliver Stokowski - Schütte - Häftling Nr. 82 / Prisoner #82
Wotan Wilke Möhring - Joe - Häftling Nr. 69 / Prisoner #69
Stephan Szasz - Häftling Nr. 53 / Prisoner #53
Polat Dal - Häftling Nr. 40 / Prisoner #40
Danny Richter - Häftling Nr. 21 / Prisoner #21
Ralf Müller - Häftling Nr. 15 / Prisoner #15
Markus Rudolf - Häftling Nr. 74 / Prisoner #74
Peter Fieseler - Häftling Nr. 11 / Prisoner #11
Thorsten Dersch - Häftling Nr. 86 / Prisoner #86 (as Thorsten J.H. Dersch)
Sven Grefer - Häftling Nr. 94 / Prisoner #94
Justus von Dohnányi - Berus - Strafvollzugsbeamter / Guard (as Justus von Dohnànyi)
Nicki von Tempelhoff - Kamps - Strafvollzugsbeamter / Guard
Timo Dierkes - Eckert - Strafvollzugsbeamter / Guard

Taglines: You Are Invited To Participate


Official Website: Metropolitan Filmexport (French) | Official site [Canada] |

Release Date: 8 March 2001

Filming Locations: Cologne, North Rhine - Westphalia, Germany

Opening Weekend: €398,557 (Italy) (25 August 2002) (131 Screens)

Gross: $141,072 (USA) (27 October 2002)

Technical Specs

Runtime: Canada: (DVD)  | South Korea: (cut version)  | Germany: (uncut version)

Did You Know?

Christian Berkel originally auditioned for the part of Schütte but was then cast as Steinhoff.

Continuity: After Prisoner No. 82 (Schütte) dies, he's being put in Tarek's bed by Tarek (77) and Steinhoff (38). When Professor Dr. Thon returns in the institute only the blanket is knocked over.

[first lines]
Tarek Fahd, Häftling Nr. 77: [voiceover, reading newspaper ad] Test subjects wanted. Earn 4000 marks for a 14-day experiment in a simulated prison.

User Review

A Fascinating and Disturbing Film


Based on a real psychological experiment at Stanford University in 1971, using a group of male students, the mood of this film captures the sense of disorientation and loss of reality that was experienced by the original volunteers. Acts of humiliation present a violent and effective method for stripping individuality and asserting power over prisoners. The psychological transformations into masochistic and submissive roles are fascinating when you consider that that the only real distinguishable difference between the characters, is that by a random selection process, some are labeled 'wardens' and others are labeled 'prisoners'. The levels of violence, brutality and humiliation in the film seem extreme but in the original experiment, humiliation tactics were also extreme – prisoners were also made to wear chains round their ankles and stockings on their heads at all times! The film's conclusion is carefully constructed and appears to bear an implicit reference to the real prison riot of San Quentin (which occurred the day after the Stanford experiment was prematurely halted), in which guards and informant prisoners were tortured and murdered during the prisoners' escape attempt. This film is a sensitive study into power relationships within an altered reality and is masterfully crafted to build tension and invite the viewer to question the character's morality and ethical codes. Far more relevant and interesting than the bland reality TV shows we are plagued by these days…highly recommended!


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