Standard Operating Procedure (film)

Standard Operating Procedure is a 2008 American documentary film which explores the meaning of the photographs taken by U.S. military police at the Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003, the content of which revealed the torture and abuse of its prisoners by U.S. soldiers and subsequently resulted in a public scandal. The film was directed by Errol Morris.

Standard Operating Procedure
Theatrical release poster
Directed byErrol Morris
Produced byJulie Ahlberg
Written byErrol Morris
Music byDanny Elfman
CinematographyRobert Chappell
Robert Richardson
Edited byAndy Grieve
Steven Hathaway
Dan Mooney
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • April 25, 2008 (2008-04-25)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$321,820

Commenting on the relationship of his film to the notorious photographs, Morris has said his intent was "…not to say that these 'bad apples' were blameless… but… to say that they were scapegoats. It was easy to blame them because, after all, they were in the photographs… Photographs don’t tell us who the real culprits might be… They can also serve as a coverup, they can misdirect us… Photographs reveal and conceal, serve as [both] exposé and coverup".[1]


An examination of the intended consequences of the Iraqi war with a focus on events at Abu Ghraib prison which began to appear in global media in 2004. The prison quickly became notorious for the photos of the abuse of terror suspects, their children, and innocent civilians by military men and women.


In photographs


  • Christopher Bradley
  • Sarah Denning
  • Joshua Feinman
  • Alim Kouliev

Critical reception

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club named it the 4th best film of 2008,[2] J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader named it the 7th best film of 2008,[2] and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times named it the 8th best film of 2008 (in a six-way tie).[2]

During the Berlinale 2008 it received the "Jury Grand Prix – Silver Bear"


Morris's practice of compensating his interview subjects has caused controversy, although it is not an unusual practice in documentary filmmaking, according to the producer Diane Weyermann,[3] who also worked on An Inconvenient Truth. In a private interview during the Tribeca Film Festival, Morris said: "If I had not paid them, they would not be interviewed."[4]


Standard Operating Procedure
Film score by
Danny Elfman chronology
Charlotte's Web
Standard Operating Procedure

Danny Elfman composed the film score for Standard Operating Procedure. The soundtrack is much different from Elfman's other scores as it includes electronics and distortion.

Track listing

  1. "S.O.P. Theme #1: Standard Operating Procedure" – 5:56
  2. "The Infamous Pyramid" – 3:48
  3. "Photos" – 2:56
  4. "The Shooter" – 3:26
  5. "Dogs" – 3:42
  6. "The Wolf" – 1:11
  7. "Saddam’s Egg" – 3:30
  8. "Main Titles: Vacation in Iraq" – 2:07
  9. "S.O.P. Theme #2: Amnesty" – 1:33
  10. "What Is Going on Here?" – 2:32
  11. "Gilligan" – 3:02
  12. "Story of the Ants" – 3:36
  13. "The Table Breaker" – 1:00
  14. "S.O.P. Theme #3: Feelings & Facts" – 5:26
  15. "Unusual, Weird & Wrong" – 2:32
  16. "A Bad Feeling" – 2:22
  17. "Birdies" – 1:38
  18. "S.O.P. End Credits" – 1:26
  19. "Oli’s Lullaby" – 2:00

See also


  1. Errol Morris (2008), Standard Operating Procedure DVD: Director’s commentary track.
  2. "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on August 2, 2011. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  3. Cieply, Michael (April 26, 2008). "Film on Abu Ghraib Puts Focus on Paid Interviews". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
  4. Cunningham, Megan (April 27, 2008). "On the Circuit: Standard Operating Procedure". Zoom In Online. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
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