Lex Scott Davis as Nya Charms and Joivan Wade as Isaiah Charms in The First Purge

All ‘The Purge’ Movies Ranked Worst to Best

Run if you hear the alarm.

Dystopian horror barely steps away from reality when the focus is on America being horrible. The Purge franchise (including the TV series) may not be the most put-together or even the best, but it can be praised for its accurate depiction of what America would look like if Purge Night was real. If you take a look around and examine the past several years, for instance, things are looking dystopian. I know I’m not starting this off on a fun note. Sorry.

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The Purge franchise isn’t challenging to rank, but the entries that land lower on the list may surprise you. Regardless, please don’t go outside if you hear that Purge alarm.

5. The Purge (2013)

Alicia Vela Bailey as Blonde Female Freak Purger and Mickey Facchinello as Brunette Freak Purger
(Universal Pictures)

It’s not that common for a horror franchise’s first entry to be the weakest. The Purge defies what’s uncommon in the genre, focusing on an annual night in America where ALL crime is legal for 12 hours. During Purge Night, a rich white family finds themselves at odds with a gang that will stop at nothing to exercise their right to purge a houseless Black man. Aside from having some tremendous actors like Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, the film falls flat because the characters aren’t great. Rooting for these rich people who are mostly unlikable is a chore. And the gang doesn’t give us any reason to root for them either. It’s not the worst dystopian horror film you’ll ever see, but it’s not the best of The Purge films either.

4. The Forever Purge (2021)

Ana de la Reguera as Adela in The Forever Purge
(Universal Pictures)

Surprise! The Forever Purge did not land in last place. The Forever Purge is set in 2049 and focuses on a group that seeks to escape the chaos caused by folks who are purging post-Purge Night. Every movie in The Purge franchise is political and The Forever Purge isn’t an exception. It would be a great entry if the writing for some characters and the plot weren’t so lackluster. The characters all range from severely unlikable (the racist husband) to very capable. And the atmosphere is different in a delightful way. If only The Forever Purge didn’t fail at cohesive writing. At least it continues The Purge franchise’s streak of being very political and not shying away from the reality of white supremacy, classism etc.

3. The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Brittany Mirabilé as the chaotic character Kimmy in The Purge: Election Year
(Universal Pictures)

2016 was … a time and The Purge: Election Year captures that eerily well. The Purge: Election Year focuses on a presidential candidate named Charlene “Charlie” Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) who is forced to survive the night when folks seek to assassinate her because of her anti-purge stance. If you’re seeking an entry that turns the bonkers dial up then The Purge: Election Year is just that. The action is packed, Charlie Roan and Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) have a lot of chemistry, the horror is great, and all in all, it’s a fun entry to watch. It’s not a flawless film and has its problems, but it’s a dystopian horror film where neo-Nazis get fucked up. So what more could you ask for?

2. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes in The Purge: Anarchy
(Universal Pictures)

The Purge: Anarchy isn’t like The Purge in that it explores characters we actually want to see survive. The Purge: Anarchy focuses on a group of individuals working together to survive the annual Purge Night. Instead of the focus being a rich white family, two of the main characters are people of color. There’s more exploration of what Purge Night is really about. The upper class seeks to narrow down the lower-income folks (especially Black and brown people) and see Purge Night as fun and games. Of course, there’s plenty of violence and action sequences, etc. But there’s no ignoring what The Purge: Anarchy is trying to say about the exploitation and elimination of marginalized communities. The Purge: Anarchy is very much several steps above The Purge and actually manages to weave in emotional beats at certain points. It’s a worthy sequel and is far more rewatchable than its predecessor.

1. The First Purge (2018)

Lex Scott Davis as Nya Charms and Joivan Wade as Isaiah Charms in The First Purge
(Universal Pictures)

Controversial pick? Perhaps. The First Purge is a prequel that explores how the Purge came to be and why. The story follows a group of folks that aim to survive the chaotic night. It’s not a twist when we discover that the Purge is corrupt and that marginalized communities are meant to suffer as part of an experiment. The First Purge has Black folks at the forefront and there’s deliberate opposition to the New Founding Fathers of America (a fictional political party) because of what they represent. Diving into the Purge origins was the smartest choice the writers could have made. The stoking of inner-community violence is sinister and quite real. Of course, none of The Purge films are masterpieces, but as far as direction, messaging, performances and such go, The First Purge is a pretty good entry.

(featured image: Universal Pictures)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.