On April 9, 2004, someone telephoned the Mount Washington, Kentucky, McDonald’s where 18-year-old Louise Ogborn was working a Friday shift. He identified himself as a police officer investigating a theft and convinced the store manager (eventually assisted by her fiancé and other employees) to detain Ogborn and—over the course of three and a half hours—strip search, humiliate, and sexually violate her.
The 2012 movie Compliance is based on these real-life events, which were part of a series of dozens of similar calls in 30 states over many years. Writer/director Craig Zobel was also inspired by the Milgram experiments, psychological tests that explored the surprising willingness of ordinary people to do unconscionable things at the behest of authority figures. The result is a taut, quiet, anti-authoritarian thriller.
The real case resulted in a $6.1 million judgment against McDonald’s (later significantly reduced). The former prison guard accused of being the caller was acquitted in 2006. —Katherine Mangu-Ward