What would happen if crime was legal for one night every year? This terrifying question was the central premise of The Purge, a film set in a dystopian future where criminal activity was allowed for 12 hours every year. The movie centered around a family of four as they fought to survive an assault by vicious home invaders.
The Purge established an interesting alternate vision of America, with each installment exploring a different time period in this distinctively chaotic future. Now the franchise is going back to the beginning with The First Purge, coming to theaters on July 4. The prequel, directed by Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands), does exactly what the title suggests, flashing back to the first year in which crime became legal – and showing just how that happened.
Since the series consistently jumps forward (and now back) in time, let’s refresh the full history of the most dangerous night in America. prepare for The First Purge with this comprehensive and chronological guide to the franchise.
The First Purge (2018)
The First Purge takes place in 2017. 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 (Marissa 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 now the second one, chronologically. The film takes place in 2022, eight 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 Heady) and his two children, to wait for the annual Purge to end.
Things are turned upside down for the Sandins when a wounded man begs the family for help. Shortly after welcoming their unexpected guest, the Sandins are forced to fight for their lives when a group of vicious criminals break into their house. The movie shows how regular 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 Purge, 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. Fortune’s on their side this time around, as they’re 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 rescued by the Sandins in The Purge, plays an important role in the film as the co-leader of an anti-Purge group.
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
In a way, The Purge: Election Year serves as the closing chapter to the saga’s four-film storyline. The movie is set in 2040, and focuses on Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a US Senator looking to be elected President. She wants to end the Purge. Her road to success isn’t without its perils, though. That promise to abolish the Purge doesn’t sit well with the New Founding Fathers of America, and they plot to have her killed during the annual event.
Fortunately, Roan isn’t alone. The ever-reliable Leo Barnes, who now works as Roan’s head of security, is tasked with keeping her safe until the Purge comes to an end. The mission isn’t easy, but Barnes succeeds with the help of an anti-Purge alliance and a courageous group of civilians. Two months after that night, Roan is elected President of the United States, and she promises to put an end to the Purge.
The First Purge will hit theaters on July 4, 2018.