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Every Installment in The Purge Franchise (So Far), Ranked

From The First Purge to The Forever Purge, we're taking a look at the dystopian franchise from best to worst.

By Matthew Jackson
A still image from The Purge: Election Year (2016)

From the moment it launched a decade agoThe Purge franchise captured something in the public imagination. James DeMonaco's dystopian horror series set in a near-future America where an annual all-night crime spree has seemingly fixed all the nation's biggest problems remains a popular film series not just because of how wild it's willing to get with the violence, but because of how eerily plausible so much of it still seems. 

That popularity has meant that in the course of 10 years, we've gotten five Purge movies and two seasons of a TV series, with a sixth film in development set to the continue the story sometime soon. But which installment of this now-long-running horror institution reigns supreme? That's what we're here to find out. This is every installment in The Purge franchise (so far), ranked from worst to best.

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Ranking Every Installment in The Purge Franchise

6. The Purge (2018-2019)

There's definitely value in expanding the concept of The Purge into TV form, and DeMonaco and company definitely squeeze every drop of that value out of the two seasons of this USA original series. The show gave the franchise the opportunity to both explore the time between Purges and dig deeper into the events of a single harrowing Purge night, and for major fans of the saga, it's also a big expansion of the world surrounding each Purge. That said, something about the ambition and internal tension of the films is lost in this format, so it comes in last even if it is worth watching.

5. The Purge (2013)

The film that started it all has so much to offer, particularly after everything we as a nation have experienced in the last 10 years. It's a great home invasion thriller, a very tense high-concept horror movie, and the beginning of a universe that would only get bigger and scarier as things went on. That said, it lacks the scope of later installments, and the sense of variety that came from expanding The Purge ensemble in future films; so it goes here. Still, give it a rewatch. It's even better than you remember.

4. The Forever Purge (2021)

The most recent entry in the franchise and once intended to be the grand finale, The Forever Purge definitely has some major scale going for it. DeMonaco and company really turn up the stakes this time out, imagining a world in which the Purge just keeps going after the closing sirens, and giving us a set of characters from different backgrounds who have to do their best to escape a rapidly crumbling country. There's a lot of fun to be had with that concept, particularly with the larger worldbuilding, but it still can't compare with the series at its absolute best.

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3. The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

After the first film proved to be a hit, DeMonaco got the chance to take a bigger swing with a bigger budget and a much larger canvas, and the result is unhinged fun. Anarchy gives us some of the most enduringly creepy imagery in the whole franchise, proves that the series often works best when it's going really big, and introduces Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes, the most enduringly memorable character in the franchise so far. It's the franchise's first attempt at a grander-scale Purge, and it works extremely well.

2. The First Purge (2018)

Taking things back into prequel territory, The First Purge focuses on the initial deployment of the annual event as a social experiment carried out on Staten Island, New York. You might think that going smaller after two bigger movies would be a bad choice, but nothing about The First Purge feels small. With a wonderful ensemble composed of largely Black actors, and some very well-designed worldbuilding embedded in the one that started it all, this film is perhaps the most incisive social commentary the franchise has ever delivered. Of course, giving all the Purgers glowing contact lenses to make things extra creepy this time out didn't hurt, either.

1. The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Remarking on the external stakes of the larger U.S. Government has always been part of The Purge series, but with Election Year those background stakes came front and center as a beloved politician fought to survive the night so she could win an election and, eventually, try to change the country for the better. Frank Grillo steps up into a bigger role as Leo Barnes, and Elizabeth Mitchell is wonderful as presidential candidate Charlie Roan, a character I truly hope gets another appearance in the future. I don't think there's a bad movie in the Purge franchise, but I do think there's a best one, and it's Election Year

The PurgeThe Purge TV series, and The Purge: Election Year are all streaming on Peacock.