If you’re into horror or thrillers, there’s a good chance you’ve at least heard of The Purge film series.

Back in October 2013, I picked up a copy of The Purge on DVD at my local Walmart. I didn’t get the chance to see it in theaters, but I was very curious about the home-break-in-with-a-twist premise.

Fast forward to October 2014, and The Purge: Anarchy hits shelves. The short version is: I loved both the original and Anarchy at the time. (Don’t worry, you’ll get to hear my thoughts on both movies in full below!)

Since then, they’ve released three more films and a TV show. I’d heard mixed things about the latest movies, and just didn’t get around to watching them. Until now.

I decided to sit down and watch all five movies with fresh eyes so I could see if The Purge films hold up or if they should be purged (haha) from horror movie history.

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So, What Is The Purge Film Series About?

What is The Purge Film Series about?

If you’re unfamiliar with this series, I’ll set up a very broad version of the overarching plot’s premise so you can have some context going into my reviews:

The year is 2014, and a new political party in the United States comes into power. They’re called the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). They are able to seize power because the U.S. is on the brink of economic collapse. Shortly after taking power, the NFFA devises a plan to “save” the country. Their solution is to make all crimes, including murder, legal from March 22, 7 PM to March 23, 7 AM. This night is called The Purge.

By 2018, The Purge is official across the nation.

The NFFA suggests that letting people release their frustrations (Purge) in any way they deem fit will make them happier and more productive for the rest of the year. As you can guess, this is mostly horse manure. Their real goal was to essentially cull the weak in order to reduce homelessness, crime, and poverty while saving resources.

Each Purge movie follows a random group of people, often brought together by fate, who’re trying to get by on that fateful night. They have to endure plenty of jaw-dropping, spine-tingling situations along the way.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the reviews!

The Purge (2013)

The Purge film series

The first Purge movie is very simple yet extremely effective. It follows a wealthy family as they prepare to buckle down on the night of the Purge. 

Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey play parents, James and Mary, while Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane are their kids, Zoey and Charlie.

Believe it or not, there’s only one or two more characters who have real names. The rest are known by nicknames like The Bloody Stranger and The Polite Leader. I love movies where you don’t have to keep track of too many people! Haha.

After the family locks up for the night, a series of events unfold that result in a gang of Purging psychopaths waiting outside their house with the intention of breaking in. Their leader, The Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield), is essentially “the face” of The Purge film series.

Overall, The Purge (2013) is certainly the slowest of the five, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, I would say it’s on my list of top 10 suspenseful movies. The finale is very exciting, and I’d say this is a great way to dip your toe in to see if The Purge movies are right for you.

FUN FACT: Did you know Michael Bay produced all five of The Purge Movies?

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy review

Anarchy is a very fitting title for the second entry in the The Purge film series. Instead of taking place in a house, it shows the full-scale chaos of The Purge in the streets, apartment buildings, and other very surprising locations.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, a mother-daughter duo (Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Soul), a struggling couple (Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez), and a mysterious but helpful man (Frank Grillo) end up together on the streets during Purge night. They’re forced into increasingly intense scenarios, and their survival skills are put to the test. Before long, they make a startling connection between The Purge and the NFFA that will impact the rest of the series.

The cast works really well together, both in the circle of main characters and out. In fact, some performances still stand out to me even after sitting through all the other movies.

One of the other things that stuck out to me is how they managed to improve on the suspense of the first movie while making it more horror-centric instead of a thriller. I can almost guarantee there will be moments when you’re braced on your couch with sweaty palms.

Fun Fact: The struggling couple, Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez, are married in real life! They tied the knot on December 29th, 2012.

The Purge: Election Year (2016)

The Purge: Election Year (2016) review

Election Year is the subtitle of the third movie in The Purge franchise. I was very excited for this one when I read the premise. I’m happy to report that I was NOT disappointed!

The movie revolves around Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who is running for President of the United States on the premise that she wants to end The Purge. She saw first-hand the damage it could do, and knows that it’s causing more harm than good.

In her pursuit of being “with the people” she refuses to stay in the blast-proof shelters many other wealthy and connected people have. Instead, she chooses to stay at home and rely on her security detail to keep her safe. As you can imagine, things don’t go according to plan and she gets caught up in a whirlwind with several other people including a deli owner named Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and his employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria).

There are some scenes in this movie that genuinely shocked me. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but let’s just say two of the villains STILL make my skin crawl!

It’s also worth mentioning that these movies get more and more bloody and gruesome with each iteration. I would say The Purge: Election Year was a noticeable leap from Anarchy in terms of gore.

Fun Fact: This was supposed to be the original prequel but, when Frank Grillo offered to reprise his role for one more movie, they ended up putting the prequel idea on ice…until the fourth movie.

The First Purge (2018)

The First Purge review

So, by now, you know the fourth film in The Purge franchise is the prequel, titled The First Purge.

I was very interested to see how this would unfold. I was under the assumption that the First Purge would occur across the country, but I was wrong! This movie follows a group of survivors in Staten Island, New York, as they experience the first Purge. Everyone who stays is offered a cash reward for their participation.

The First Purge stars Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a drug kingpin who wants to lay low during The Purge, as well as his ex-girlfriend Nya (Lex Scott Davis) and her brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade). Due to unforeseen circumstances, everyone ends up out during the night, and things go from bad to worse. 

Meanwhile, you see the NFFA and other government agents assessing the situation in real time.

I really loved the pacing of this one. It was exciting, moved quickly, and very satisfying. Much like the films before it, there are some very intense and suspenseful scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Fun Fact: At one point in the movie, you can see a poster for Halloween (2018), which came out the same year as The First Purge and was also made by Blumhouse Productions Company. Talk about some clever cross-promoting! 

The Forever Purge (2021)

The Forever Purge review

The Forever Purge, the latest film in the series, came out in 2021 and is set 8 years after The Purge: Election Year.

This movie takes place in Texas along the Mexican border and, much like the others, follows several groups of people, including a family of ranchers called the Tuckers and migrants Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), who are working and living illegally in the United States.

After The Purge ends, everyone thinks things will go back to normal. Instead, a group of extremists are unhappy with the influx of immigration and the status of their own lives and decide The Purge needs to go on, well, forever. Eventually, the Tucker family gets taken hostage and are rescued by Juan and his friend TT (Alejandro Edda).

These types of hateful themes show up briefly throughout all of The Purge films, but they are a central pillar of this movie. I didn’t dislike The Forever Purge. The acting was great; it was very exciting and suspenseful, but I would say it’s my least favorite movie in The Purge film series.

I prefer my chaotic horror movies to actually be chaotic instead of hyper-targeted toward one group. Despite this, I do think The Forever Purge is worth at least one watch. There are some other unique angles and twists they took that I thought were really good.

Fun Fact: Jason Blum originally talked to Sylvester Stallone about starring in The Forever Purge. It makes you wonder what that movie would have looked like!

Have You Watched The Purge Film Series?

The First Purge_Prequel to The Purge

So, there you have it! Overall, I was very surprised at how well The Purge films hold up. They’re all super suspenseful and exciting and feature characters that you genuinely care about from start to finish.

I’d have to say Anarchy, Election Year, and The First Purge were my favorites. If you think picking three out of five is unfair on my part, I suggest you watch them for yourself and help me decide which Purge movie is the best! Let me know in the comments.


Images were purchased via MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial and have been used for review purposes only.

About the Author

Frank Spear AKA FrankenSpear is the co-founder of HorrorFam.com — a freelance writer, video game player, dedicated cat dad, caffeine junkie, and lifelong horror enthusiast.

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