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How to Watch In Chronological Order

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It’s Halloween Season, which means it’s once again time for horror fans to binge their favorite freaky movies and TV shows to get in the spirit of the holiday. Few modern horror franchises have struck a chord like The Purge, James DeMonaco’s action-horror-thriller story about a dystopian version of America that always feels way too close to becoming our reality. In fact, with headlines about actual ‘Purge laws’ breaking just this year, The Purge has never been more relevant as Halloween season marathon viewing content.

The Purge franchise consists of five movies and a two-season TV series, which have been running from 2013 until the franchise’s latest release (The Forever Purge) in 2021. Below you will find the full chronological viewing order for The Purge saga, as it plays out in the official canonical timeline – as well as an explanation of how each chapter shapes the larger series.

The First Purge

(Photo: Lionsgate Pictures)

The First Purge (2018) is the prequel that takes the series back to a key point that was often debated by fans: how did New Founding Fathers of America ever get the annual Purge up and running, and convince the citizens to go with it?

Director Gerard McMurray and James DeMonaco take the big swing of using an actual version of America we recognize (Staten Island, NY, in 2016) and turned it into the crucible for a first trial run “experiment” of Purge Night. The First Purge turns out to be far less cynical than many other chapters of the franchise, in that it reveals how poor and disenfranchised citizens were targeted for this horrible social experiment, but largely rose above the darkness the NFFA hoped to unleash. It also further opened the window on just how much The Purge is a political and militaristic tool for social control and ethnic cleansing, rather than the righteous blood ritual it is disguised as.

However, getting deeper in the socio-political themes wasn’t necessarily as fun for some fans as the horror-action tradition they were used to. The First Purge does have impressive some of the best action, for what it’s worth…

The Purge (TV Series)

(Photo: USA Networks)

The Purge TV Series ran for two seasons on USA Network from Fall 2018 – Fall 2019. Over the course of those two seasons, the series is both a prequel, interquel, and sequel to the original film. At the same time, The Purge TV show takes place once the Purge has been formally established (though still in the early days), so it definitely happens after The First Purge – and in fact, that film ends by launching into the TV show.

The Purge TV series is ultimately a mixed bag. The show uses multiple character storylines each season to examine in far more detail what makes people purge; how long, twisted, and terrifying that dreaded night can be, and what it truly is like trying to keep violence and hatred bottled up for the rest of the year. James DeMonaco had a big hand in the series, and it’s somewhat understandable that not all of the (too) many ideas it explored turned out to be winners. The cast has a lot of faces you’ll recognize, delivering some fun roles.

Still, what does work in the show works well. As a bonus: fun little intro vignettes often deliver nice Easter eggs about how now-iconic parts of the Purge (like the siren announcement) actually came together.

The Purge

(Photo: Lionsgate Pictures)

The original Purge movie (2013) almost seems too small and tame now. Set in 2022 (oh boy…), James DeMonaco made the savvy move of keeping his $3 million budget confined to a single home setting. By this time The Purge is a well-established tradition, and Purge home security salesman James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has to learn a hard lesson about his morally-dubious job and place in society when a homeless “Stranger” (Dante Bishop) takes refuge in his house to escape a mob of Purgers.

The original Purge movie was a small but effective illustration of the larger world and mythos, and all the socio-political metaphors at work in the series. It may feel reductive to watch in chronological order, but it definitely still holds up well.

The Purge: Anarchy

(Photo: Lionsgate Pictures)

The timeline gets simple from here on out. The Purge: Anarchy (2014) is set one year after the original Purge movie – which was a real-time chronology following their respective releases in theaters. The Purge: Anarchy starts out like it’s another character-focused story set in Purge Night – only with the wider canvas of being out in the streets of a city. However, as “Sergeant” Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) tries to carry out his mission of vengeance in the name of a dead son, he ends up being called on to save others and ends up helping spark a resistance that includes Dante Bishop from the first movie.

The Purge: Anarchy also marks the point where James DeMonaco and co. definitely started believing in a bigger franchise vision to come, and where the iconography and mythos of the series really started to take hold.

The Purge: Election Year

(Picture: Lionsgate Films)

The Purge: Election Year may have overplayed its hand by releasing in 2016, when polarization and anxiety surrounding the US Presidential Election were at a fever pitch. It didn’t help that the film was the most overtly political of the franchise, with metaphors about that divisive time in society that were none too subtle. In fact, the film’s very tagline “Keep America Great” turned out to be way too spot-on to real-life political turns for anyone’s comfort.

That all said, with time now gone by, The Purge: Election Year is now an interesting chapter of the franchise. The film takes a big time jump forward to 2040, when The Purge has worn down enough good citizens for the resistance to gain a foothold, even as the first real political contender against the NFFA is poised for an election upset (Elizabeth Mitchell’s Charlene Roan) . Election Year brings together many of the story arcs and themes that had been building in the series up that point, and pays them off in a way that could’ve signaled the ending of the franchise. The First Purge was later retroactively fitted to also provide a start to ideas that seem to find resolution in Election Year (namely, the resistance storyline). The film also pretty much establishes Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) as the action “hero” of the franchise, if there is to be one.

The Forever Purge

(Picture: Lionsgate Films)

The Purge franchise might have ended in the latter 2010s if real life hadn’t seemingly veered so close to making it a reality. The Forever Purge (2021) is something of a soft reboot for the franchise: Charlene Roan’s presidency and ending of The Purge causes a massive social backlash eight years later when her term ends (2048); America re-elects the NFFA to power as nationalism and bigotry give rise to a whole new (and worse) scurge of purging. This time around, even the NFFA’s iron-clad rules can’t contain all the violence and vitriol they’ve stirred up, and Purgers around the nation choose to keep killing even after the night of purging is done.

The Forever Purge is a terrifying acknowledgment of how life is imitating art in the most horrific way within America, while also kicking off a whole new era of story for the franchise, as The Purge is now an uncontrolled wildfire creating warring gangs and tribes across a battle-scarred American dystopia.

The Purge 6?

When The Forever Purge was released, James DeMonaco made it known that he had an idea for The Purge TV Series Season 3 that never happened, but could be a good followup to The Forever Purge. That idea would see Leo Barnes return a few years later (2050) to begin on a road trip mission through the nightmare of the “Purge States” that spring up after the events of The Forever Purge. We’ll see if it happens…