What would happen if crime was legal for one night every year? This terrifying question is the central premise of THE PURGE, a film set in a dystopian future where criminal activity is allowed for 12 hours every year. The movie centers around a family of four as they fight to survive an assault by vicious home invaders.
It has been a decade since THE PURGE established an alternate, dystopian vision of America. Each subsequent installment would explore a different time period in this distinctively chaotic future, including the very beginning of this bizarre society in director Gerard McMurray’s 2018 prequel, THE FIRST PURGE.
As 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the intense thriller that started it all, let’s refresh the full history of the most dangerous night in this franchise’s version of America. Since the series is known to move forward and backward in time from one movie to the next the following is a comprehensive and chronological guide to the franchise.
The First Purge (2018)
THE FIRST PURGE takes place in 2016. In the film, a villainous organization known as the New Founding Fathers of America establish a new government in the United States. Under their leadership, Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei) proposes to legalize crime for one night a year to give people a way to release their anger.
The experiment is dubbed “The Purge,” and it’s met with heavy opposition from the American people. Despite the outcry, however, the Founding Fathers move forward with their plans and decide to test out the Purge in a contained environment. With the Purge in effect, a group of people led by a man named William (Y’lan Noel) band together to fight back and protect helpless bystanders.
The Purge (2013)
The first installment in the franchise is the second one, chronologically. The film takes place in 2022, six years after the first Purge. This chapter centers around James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), a wealthy home security expert who locks himself inside his house with wife Mary (Lena Headey) and his two children, to wait for the annual Purge to end.
Things are turned upside down for the Sandins when a wounded man (Edwin Hodge) begs the family for help. Shortly after welcoming their unexpected guest, the Sandins are forced to fight for their lives when a group of violent criminals break into their house. The movie shows how privileged people accepted the Purge, and how they begrudgingly try to incorporate it into their lifestyles.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
THE PURGE: ANARCHY offers a wider perspective on the chaotic country defined by the Purge. This chapter takes place in 2023, one year after the first installment, and focuses on four civilians, a married couple and a mother-daughter duo, as they fight to survive the Purge while out on the streets. Fortunately, they are not forced to endure the situation alone. Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), a hardened police officer looking for revenge against the man who killed his son, comes across the helpless group and vows to get them through the night. For the most part, THE PURGE: ANARCHY stands alone from its predecessor. There is one significant callback, however: Dwayne, the man who spent a Purge night with the Sandins, plays an important role in the film as the co-leader of an anti-Purge group.