In 2013, James DeMonaco wrote and directed The Purgean action horror film with an interesting question at the center of its premise: what if crime was legal? For 12 hours, all crime is legal, including murder, and all emergency services are suspended. Set in a dystopian future, The Purge depicts a wealthy family fighting to defend themselves against a group of sadistic murderers on Purge Night.
The Purge exploded at the box office, making an impressive $89 million against a $3 million budget. The massive success of The Purge spawned four sequels and two seasons of a television show. The film also started the partnership between Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions with Universal Pictures, a relationship that still lasts in 2023. To commemorate the 10th anniversary, we ranked The Purge movies from worst to best, which you can find below.
5. The Forever Purge (2021)
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For the fifth film in the franchise, The Purge elected for their version of a western in The Forever Purge. In 2048, the New Founding Fathers of America are back in power, and their first order of business is to re-establish the Purge. However, America is starting to question the Purge as many fear it will hurt, not help, the country. Set in Texas, The Forever Purge follows Abela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘s Tenoch Huerta), migrant workers from Mexico who illegally cross the border to Texas, where they work for the Tusker family.
One year later, the country remains divided on Purge night. Abela, Juan, and the Tusker family are attacked the morning after Purge night by the “Purge Purification Force,” or PPF. The PPF does not want the Purge to be limited to one night. These extremists never want the Purge to stop as they attack innocent people in all fifty states. Canada and Mexico open their borders to those looking to escape the PPF, so Abela, Juan, and the Tuskers attempt to flee through El Paso into Mexico. The Forever Purge is not as shocking as previous iterations, and its views on social inequality, capitalism, and racial divide are met with mixed results. However, it’s still a Purge movie at the end of the day, and there are two to three exciting action sequences to make up for the misfires.
Stream The Forever Purge on Max.
4. The First Purge (2018)
When was the inaugural Purge, and how did it come about? The First Purgethe fourth film in the franchise, depicts the origins of the Purge. In an alternate 2014, the NFFA came into power, and in 2016, they conducted an experiment that would serve as the basis for future Purges. On Staten Island, the NFFA introduces the Purge, an experiment where crime, including murder, is legal for 12 hours. The NFAA offers $5,000 to willing civilians who will stay and partake in the festivities.
The night starts like any normal night, but once the first murder happens, all hell breaks loose. To shake things up, the NFFA sends in trained mercenaries, including a serial killer named Skeletor (Rotimi Paul), to ensure the experiment’s success. The NFFA wants the remove the lower income class to create a larger wealth distribution gap between the rich and the poor. The action is not as exciting as other entries, as The First Purge emphasizes social commentary more than action. However, creating a prequel was a smart, fresh concept to explore the origins of Purge Night.
Stream The First Purge on Hulu.
3. The Purge (2013)
The premise that inspired a series of films and a TV show was first introduced to audiences in The Purge. Set in 2022, The Purge follows a family of four on Purge night: James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), his wife Mary (Lena Headey), and children Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). James works for a company that designs security systems for wealthy families to protect their houses on Purge night. James designed the security systems for his entire gated community in Los Angeles.
On Purge night, Charlie disables the security system and lets in a stranger (Edwin Hodge) being hunted by a group of merciless Purgers. Led by their polite leader (Rhys Wakefield), the masked and heavily-armed Purgers threaten to infiltrate James’s house if he does not give up the stranger. The Sandins decline the leader’s offer and choose to defend themselves. The Purge is the most contained film of the franchise, as the second half is set entirely in one house. The first 20 or so minutes are nothing special. Once Charlie lets in the stranger in the house, put your seatbelts on because The Purge becomes an exciting home invasion thriller.
Stream The Purge on Peacock.
2. The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The Presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was not the only hotly contested election to play out in the media in 2016. Set in 2040, The Purge: Election Year marks the return of Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), the former police sergeant from Anarchy now working as the bodyguard for U.S. senator and presidential candidate Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). As a child, Senator Roan witnessed the death of her entire family on Purge night, so she promises to end the Purge if elected President.
Viewed as a threat by the NFFA, the group removes immunity against government officials on Purge night in hopes that Roan will be eliminated. After being betrayed by her team, Barnes and Roan are forced to flee their compound and fend for themselves on Purge night. Grillo continues to shine as Barnes in an action role that is right up his alley. It’s hard to watch The Purge: Election Year and not draw parallels between the 2016 Presidential election and how it divided the country. However, Election Year does provide hope for a better (alternate) future, an unfamiliar feeling in a franchise littered with death and violence.
Stream The Purge: Election Year on Peacock.
1. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
The Purge may have introduced the idea of a crime-free night, but The Purge: Anarchy unlocked the franchise’s full potential in the sequel. Instead of containing the story to one family inside a house, Anarchy expands the universe with three distinct storylines across Los Angeles. At the center is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), an LAPD officer looking to murder the drunk driver who killed his son one year earlier.
As Leo goes on his hunt for vengeance, he steps in to save Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and Cali (Zoë Soul) from an attack by the NFFA military. The trio links up with Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), an estranged couple on the run from a group of masked Purgers. The eclectic group is left to work together to survive a night from hell. Unlike the first film, The Purge: Anarchy does not have to waste time with exposition at the beginning of the film. Anarchy jumps right into the action, taking advantage of an expanded budget to tell an ambitious and enthralling story with multiple storylines and settings. To this day, it remains the best Purge film released.
Stream The Purge: Anarchy on Max.