The Purge movies are highly praised for their dystopian horror storylines. Here’s how to watch them in chronological order and by release date.
As one of the most popular dystopian horror franchises in recent years, The Purge movies have been highly praised for their intense and thought-provoking storylines. The first movie debuted in 2013, featuring a dark, alternate-reality America where all crime is legal for 12 hours every year. Since then, the world of The Purge has grown to encompass five movies, a television series, and talks of a sixth entry starring Frank Grillo.
The social and political commentary of the franchise has made it a hit with audiences, as have its action sequences and intense psychological horror. While several installment release dates follow the chronological order, some were released out of order with the storyline in order to flesh out the backstory of this world. Here's how to watch The Purge movies in chronological order, and if you'd like to watch them by order of release, click here.
This prequel, The First Purge, explains the origin story of why and how the yearly event came to be. It is set years before the first release and tells of the New Founding Fathers of America, a political group conducting an experiment where crime is legal for 12 hours in Staten Island. Though no one is required to stay on Staten Island during this time, those who do will receive a $5,000 payment. This is an effort to minimize crime and violence rates, though most people see it as an opportunity to profit from the chaos.
While the plot sounds promising, The First Purge is a bit of a letdown. It introduces some unique elements regarding the experiment's societal issues but fails in so many other ways. It's the weakest entry in the franchise and lacks the atmosphere of its predecessors.
In 2018, USA Network and Syfy launched The Purge, a 20-episode TV series based on the franchise's first installment. The Purge writer and director James DeMonaco returns as the creator to develop a story that takes place over the course of one Purge night. The plot develops several characters and storylines, showing how each is affected by the yearly event. The second season takes a different approach and follows characters in the aftermath of the Purge, showing their lives before and after the event.
The series was well-received by fans but only ran for two seasons before cancelation. While it was not as intense as the movies (with much more time to fill), it did provide a unique, more drawn-out look at the futuristic universe. Viewers were also given a chance to delve deeper into the characters and learn more about their backgrounds.
Back to Top
The first movie in the franchise, simply titled The Purge, stars Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke as a couple who find themselves in the middle of a home invasion on Purge Night. In this futuristic society, crime and violence are legal for twelve hours each year with zero consequences. This movie sets the stage for the rest of the franchise and introduces a world where morality is tested as people struggle to survive.
The intriguing plot line and effective use of cinematography helped make this movie a box office hit. It's not the first piece of the story but rather the one that introduced audiences to the concept. With masked-home invasion movies like The Strangers becoming increasingly popular during this time, The Purge was able to stand out by introducing audiences to this alternate reality.
The second installment, The Purge: Anarchy, is a fan-favorite and three-time award-winning movie. Similar to the first storyline, it follows several groups of people stranded on the street during the Purge. The group of unlikely heroes teams up to fight back and try to survive the night. Frank Grillo debuted as Sergeant Barnes, a key character throughout the entire series.
Overall, The Purge: Anarchy was well-received and seemed to satisfy audiences looking for more than a standard home invasion movie. The film also featured a compelling soundtrack and offered some unique takes on the franchise's world-building in regard to government malfeasance and class divide. An even more intense movie than its predecessor, it left viewers wanting more from writer and director James DeMonaco.
In The Purge: Election Year, Frank Grillo reprises his character Leo Barnes as the head of security for a senator running for president. The movie focuses on her campaign to end the Purge, which pits her against powerful forces determined to keep the annual event alive. Barnes and his team go on the run to keep her safe when they decide she needs to be eliminated before election day.
The Purge: Election Year had one of the best advertising campaigns in recent years, with commercials that mimicked the then-omnipresent political ads of the Clinton/Trump campaign. As such, this installment takes a more political approach than its predecessors, with an interesting concept about how elected officials use the night to consolidate power and eliminate opponents. It also served as a social commentary on the power of organized religion and the influence of money in politics. Still, many viewers were left wanting more in terms of character development and actual horror elements.
Back to Top
The Forever Purge is the most recent installment of the franchise and picks up where The Purge: Election Year left off. In this movie, Senator Roan is no longer in power, and the NFFA is back to conducting the annual Purge night. However, what sets this event apart is that the violence doesn't stop once the night is over. This leaves a group of individuals attempting to survive the aftermath and stay alive.
The movie brought in over $500 million at the box office and took home a Feature ReFrame Stamp Award in 2022. Reviews seemed to be mixed between critics and fans, but many were still pleased with director Everardo Gout's work. There are extremely heavy political overtones, as well as some successful horror elements.
The Purge franchise has been successful over the years, with a compelling storyline and interesting characters. Each installment brings something unique to the table while still maintaining its core values of political and social commentary. With the sixth installment said to be in production (bringing back James DeMonaco as director), fans will have to wait and see what's next.
Back to Top
Katie Cusson is a writer and horror film fanatic from New England.