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Becky and Sandra aren't the best of friends. Sandra is a middle-aged manager at a fast-food restaurant; Becky is a teenaged counter girl who really needs the job. One stressful day (too many customers... read more read more... and too little bacon), a police officer calls, accusing Becky of stealing money from a customer's purse, which she vehemently denies. Sandra, overwhelmed by her managerial responsibilities, complies with the officer's orders to detain Becky. This choice begins a nightmare that tragically blurs the lines between expedience and prudence, legality and reason. -- (C) Magnolia

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61% liked it

12,553 ratings


89% liked it

131 critics

R, 1 hr. 30 min.

Directed by: Craig Zobel

Release Date: August 17, 2012

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DVD Release Date: January 8, 2013

Stats: 1,186 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,186)

  • September 1, 2014
    You will be hard pressed to find a more disturbing thriller this year. Compliance is a harrowing experience, made all the more stressful when you see the terrible way these characters behave thinking the law is on their side.
    The film is ultimately a testament not just to our in... read moreability to question authority but our unwillingness to. We the audience sit helplessly as we watch a young woman humiliated by people who are supposed to be her friends, all in the name of compliance to what they think is a police officer.
    This film explores the dark side of humanity in a way that few films have. It does it with minimal locations and a phone. When the credits rolled I couldn't believe this was based on a true story. Then I looked up the actual case this film was based on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the events happened exactly as they were told in the film, and how unsettling it is to know that it happened 70 different times and that the perpetrator was acquitted.
  • June 28, 2014
    Good film, but scary to think it is based on real events.
    Trying to put myself in the place of the manager who is phoned by the police and convinced that her employee stole from a customers purse, I am trying to think at what point I personally would have said that's enough. It ... read morecertainly wouldn't have got to the strip search, I can safely say that much. You would also have to be questioning if the customer is actually telling the truth in the first place, and for that matter, who is this customer.
    Staggeringly naive, but I can understand maybe someone being fooled - but at what point would you say no, I will not he doing that, come down yourself?!
    I can't even get my head around leaving a half naked young girl with male employees and then your boyfriend while you go and serve customers.
    Certainly an interesting and disturbing film and maybe a cautionary tale for the more gullible of us.
  • January 10, 2014
    Unbelievable but true. The emphasis seems to be on how someone can be so manipulative and get away with it so many times but for me it was more 'How can anyone be so stupid?'. It's not an enjoyable experience, it tells us a unique true story but it isn't a nice one. It's sad that... read more people do this to one another but it is sadder still that people are stupid enough to go along with it. As a bit of sensationalist fear-mongering its sickening and uncomfortably voyeuristic but as a comment on society it yet again picks on the little guy rather than point the finger at the people in power. It's a film with a no win ending.
  • November 27, 2013
    A fast food manager receives a call from the police claiming that one her employees is guilty of theft and that the manager should subject her to more and more brutal searches.
    With stellar, understated performances, Compliance is difficult to watch unless one can maintain... read more one's disbelief. I know I'm not supposed to laugh at this film, but I did because the characters' gullibility defies believability. The opening credits triumph that this was based on actual events, and if I hadn't looked up the real case beforehand, I would not have believed it were possible. Heavy-handed in its anti-authority message, the film does well when it shows us what happened, but by the end of it, I still can't understand why it happened.
    Overall, we should all watch this film and be able to laugh at it, but alas, the world remains unhumorous.
  • September 20, 2013
  • September 9, 2013
    Great psychological prospective and interesting to anyone fascinated with behaviour and the compliance of people when they believe an authority figure is telling them to do something!
    Can't believe this is based on real events and happened in over 70 states around America! But v... read moreery interesting!
  • August 20, 2013
    The fact that this is a true story blows me away. Incredible how much power you can have when you have authority and confidence (think if the Catch me if you Can guy was evil).
  • June 13, 2013
    Sandra: I'll do... everything that you need.

    Compliance is a pretty good little indie drama that examines the sheep like nature of what human beings have become, especially when they believe they are dealing with a higher authority than themselves. The movie feels a bit longwind... read moreed at times, which isn't a good thing when a movie clocks in at a dainty hour and twenty-five minutes, but nonetheless, it worked. The movie was well-made from a technical outlook. It was well shot, well acted, and had an atmosphere setting tone from the very start.

    Sandra is a manager of a fast food restaurant. Today is a hectic day, not only did she lose over a thousand dollars worth of food last night when someone didn't shut the freezer all the way, but it's her busiest day of the week and they're short on food and manpower. The day gets more stressful when she receives a call from a man claiming to be a police officer. He says that he has a woman with him who claims that one of the employees, Becky, stole money. He then tells Sandra and others what he needs them to do as he can't presently get there. Some of which is highly disturbing.

    Supposedly, Compliance is based on a true story and at the end of the film even states that around 70 cases like this have occurred in more than 30 states. This says a lot about two different types of people. Firstly, the disgusting nature of the caller who obviously loves having power over people and loves seeing what he can make them do. Then there's the people who actually go along with it, in this case, Sandra. 

    Compliance isn't a must watch, but I can't deny that it isn't an interesting and altogether well made film. It's not a movie that is fun to watch, yet it isn't strenuous to get through either. It's one that really needs to be seen to be understood and if you come across it, give it a look, because it is an extremely interesting movie.
  • April 18, 2013
    This film does so much with real life events and yet also says something new about psychological horror, thrillers, and independent films. This is inspired by the true events surrounding a crank caller, which led to many sexual assaults and some confused restaurant employees and ... read moretheir managers. This film takes place in one particular franchise where the Friday rush is proving to be difficult for an overwhelmed manager trying to deal with so many things at once. Suddenly a phone call comes in from a police officer, who tells the manager that one of her employees has been suspected of stealing a customer's money out of her purse, and the manager needs to keep the employee in the back room until they can arrive from her house where they have found drugs and other paraphernalia. The office says all this with an authority and curtness that leads the manager to believe his every word, and he is so empathetic and persuasive as well that she takes it all in stride. The restaurant continues to hum, but the sick perversion of the caller continually leads to the debasement of the worker who hasn't done anything wrong. The film is a study into the psychological process that a person can use with authority of the law to screw with people without them seriously considering the logic behind these commands. Everyone seems to blindly obey this faceless man although there is no reason to, especially legally. Of course several employees do question the validity of the line of questioning, but when it comes down to it, the questioning is often met with an argument from the officer and they are reprimanded by the manager. It comes to pass that this girl, who is holed up in the back of the restaurant, not given any rights, stripped, and made to comply with the demands of a voice without identification, is hurt. This film does well at not exploiting the situation or the true victim of these events, and opens up a dialogue about what you would do in the same situation. The way it wraps itself up and distinguishes it as something that really happens was also very well done, and this film does so much for how truly small it is, which is just so impressive.
  • March 11, 2013
    Compliance is essentially a horror film without a body count. It is not only one hell of a tough sit, but one that has terrible implications for humanity.

    Phillip Zimbardo in his book "The Lucifer Effect" shows how when average people are in the right circumstances, they are cap... read moreable of incredible evils. If Zimbardo's theory were on trial, Compliance would be exhibit A.

    Starting as an average day, local fast food employee Becky soon finds herself the victim of a prank call. One that should have easily been dimissed, but due to societal, occupational, & a variety of other pressures, is allowed to flourish into a full-blown case of sexual assault.

    Through a constant establishment of authority & an acceptance of all responsiblity, this miscreant gains access and is allowed control of a group of people who are accomplishing his nefarious deeds; all whilst believing that what they are doing is simply a part of some banal protocol.

    It is frustrating, maddening, and were it not a true story, damn near unbelievable. Yet, it speaks to humanity's power to overlook degradation as long as somebody else is calling the shots. A message as important as it is uncomfortable.

Critic Reviews

Tom Huddleston
February 26, 2013
Tom Huddleston, Time Out

A riveting, horrifying film, shot through with beautifully observed moments of unwelcome truth. Full Review

Michael Phillips
January 8, 2013
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Compliance is one of the toughest sits of the movie year 2012. But it's an uncompromising and, in its way, honorable drama built upon a prank call that goes on and on, getting worse and worse for the ... Full Review

Rene Rodriguez
September 23, 2012
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

The point of Compliance, which caused walkouts and shouting matches when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is how we are programmed to do things that go against our natural instincts as long... Full Review

Cary Darling
September 22, 2012
Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram/

There's the adage that life is nasty, brutish and short. It's even worse when you're half-naked and locked in a supply room with your boss. Full Review

Bill Goodykoontz
September 6, 2012
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

This is one insistent film, more evocative of human behavior than movies that take fewer risks ever could be. Full Review

J. R. Jones
August 31, 2012
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

Like a John Hughes movie hijacked by Roman Polanski, this troubling indie effort lays bare the sadomasochism of the American workplace. Full Review

Calvin Wilson
August 30, 2012
Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A disturbing, fact-based look at the ways in which people can be bullied into bowing to the demands of authority figures. Full Review

Rafer Guzman
August 30, 2012
Rafer Guzman, Newsday

Zobel, a second-time feature filmmaker, has put together a skillful, sympathetic but unsparing re-enactment of a small-scale atrocity, and his cast plays it out with natural, understated performances. Full Review

Jim Brunzell III
August 30, 2012
Jim Brunzell III, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Zobel's masterful direction and screenplay heighten the distress of authority figures possessing unseen persuasion over naive employees, exposing a disturbing and haunting look at what some workers ar... Full Review

Roger Ebert
August 30, 2012
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

This is a well-made film, with plausible performances by all the leads, especially Ann Dowd. We feel we know people like this. Full Review

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    • Marti: Van was a lucky man.
    • Van: I did a bad thing...
    • Marti: You don't have a customer... I want you to clean, clean, clean!
    • Sandra: I'll do... everything that you need.

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Compliance Trivia

  • What does the spaceship say when following orders in Flight of the Navigator?  Answer »
  • Fight Club- The Narrator works at Federated Motor Corporation, in the Compliance and Liability division.  Answer »

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