Experiments That Backfired – Weekend Movie Picks

When pencil and paper don't answer theoretical questions, there is an opening for a real experiment. The movie picks of this week will give you a journey through some of the puzzling questions of humankind, morality, and the habits researchers have tried to uncover. Slightly creepy viewing that will make you think.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) 

The Stanford prison experiment took place at Stanford University between August 14–20, 1971 with an attempt to uncover the psychological interactions between prisoners and prison officials. The participants on both sides were randomly chosen from a group of student volunteers.  Beginning with the second day, the experiment recorded the changes in their behaviour as the “guards” developed authoritarian characteristics and started torturing the “prisoners”. The prisoners, meanwhile, accept the abuse passively.

The experiment was observed by more than 50 people and was objected to only by Christina Maslach, a graduate student in psychology on whose initiative the project was prematurely stopped. 

Another version of The Stanford Prison Experiment: 

Das Experiment (2001) 

Experimenter (2015) 

The movie Experimenter is based on another controversial study, known as the Milgram experiment, which was conducted at Yale University in 1961. Since then is has been repeated many times with the same or similar results, albeit with variable percentages. 

The experiment took place for the first time shortly after the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.  The experiment was designed to examine the important question of the obedience that ordinary Germans had exhibited in the face of the atrocities committed in the concentration camps.

The key individual in the experiment was in the role of a „teacher“, who was supposed to give a test to another person, who was in the role of a „student“. The „student“ was brought to a room to be seen by the „teacher“. There was a third person in the same room with the „teacher“ who was giving the „teacher“ orders.  The “teacher” was instructed to give electric shocks of varying strength to the “student” each time the „student“ answered wrong.  As the intensity of electric shocks increased, the instructor kept calmly insisting that the „teacher“ raise the shocks to even higher levels. The student in the adjacent room faked pain and lamented loudly and even cried, which left the “teachers” in doubt about continuing to follow the orders. Nevertheless, all participants did what the instructor asked them to do, and some even pressed the buttons that indicated highest voltage, marked as life threatening.

The Wave (Die Welle) (2008) 

The dictatorship feels far away, problematic, and irrelevent to them – so when a secondary school teacher cannot bring the concept of the rise of a dictatorship closer to his students, he carries out a little experiment. 

The movie was based on an actual incident which took a different direction from what was intended. The original incident took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto in 1967 and was conducted by a history teacher called Ron Jones. The movie adaptation is set in a German classroom in 2008 and is based on Jones’s writings.

Super Size Me (2004) 

Super Size Me was an experiment carried out by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who at the beginning of his documentary raised the question of the impact of fast foods on our health. He conducted an experiment that lasted 30 days during which he could eat only at MacDonalds. Furthermore, he had to order an XXL menu whenever he got asked for it.  Spurlock – who was exceptionally fit at the beginning of the experiment – gained 11 kg and suffered depression and liver dysfunction over the course of the experiment. It took him more than a year to return to his original weight and get rid of the side effects of the Super Size Me study.

Photo: IMDB

Support us!

All your donations will be used to pay the magazine’s journalists and to support the ongoing costs of maintaining the site.


paypal smart payment button for simple membership

Share this post

Interested in co-operating with us?

We are open to co-operation from writers and businesses alike. You can reach us on our email at [email protected]/[email protected] and we will get back to you as quick as we can.

Where to next?

Deskercise: Staying Fit in a Study Environment

As a college student, balancing academics, social life, and fitness can be a challenging task. With the demands of coursework and the limited availability of time, maintaining physical health often…