The Purge Movies and TV Series, Ranked - VRGyani News and Media


Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Purge Movies and TV Series, Ranked

The Purge has become one of the most popular sociopolitical horror franchises of the decade. Based in an alternate reality in which all crime is legal for one night a year, the original examined the dark side of humanity while providing subtle commentary about class structures and racism in America. At its worst, the series can be repetitive, valuing style over substance and containing flat characters that hit the political satire a little too on the nose. At its best, The Purge offers tantalizing psychology, a beautiful escalation of the power of resistance, and an examination of the dangers of encouraging violent divisiveness for the sake of political gain.

We've ranked every film in The Purge franchise as well as both seasons of the TV series from worst to best, so you know which installments are essential and which ones can be skipped.

RELATED: 'The Forever Purge' Was Supposed to Be the Final 'Purge' Movie; James DeMonaco Reveals Why He Changed His Mind

7. The Purge: Season 2

The Purge television show started off extremely strong, offering the potential to be like American Horror Story, tackling a unique aspect of human evil, political exploitation, and revolt in the world each season. However, Season 2 of this anthology series fell extremely flat, and unsurprisingly resulted in the show’s cancellation. It did offer a brief but significant look at police brutality, and while the material wasn’t horrible, it suffered from generic characters that just didn’t pull you in.

The best thing about Season 2 is its final episode, which was highly climactic and leaves the audience with a powerful display of bravery, sacrifice, and the importance of exposing truth for all to see no matter the consequences. Still, it was too little too late, and ultimately didn’t bring enough new ideas to the table. The television series needed to continue to present evocative, relatable characters with depth, and material that examined a new aspect of the Purge universe to have longevity. This season fell short of that, making it one of the least notable Purge stories.

6. The Forever Purge

The Forever Purge plays with the idea that purgers, drunk with power and a bloodlust that doesn't suddenly go dormant after 12 hours of purging, could at one point decide that their right to purge should never end. This installment rips away the series' formula, as now rogue citizens can attack mercilessly at any time. There's a compelling idea in this escalation, as it shows the result of years of the New Founding Fathers’ attempts to condemn others for their own benefit. They have created a monster, a puppet who isn’t under their control any longer and is destroying any sense of order in America. Sadly, the film doesn’t manage to explore this concept in a satisfying way. Other films in the franchise have shown us the evils the New Founding Fathers have inflicted in their name of their mission, yet the film in which Frankenstein’s monster has truly gone out of control is the one where the “doctor” is barely present at all. It would have been far more satisfying had the New Founding Fathers been forced to face their creation. The closest we get is a brief voice-over, suggesting they will be held accountable, but nothing more.

We are luckily given two likeable lead characters in Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta). Adela and Juan have some genuine depth as they represent the idea of the American dream vs. the need to hold on to one’s culture, which is true to the series' sociopolitical themes. They are both strong characters that make this flawed story easier to digest. Unfortunately, they can’t quite save the film. The Forever Purge ultimately feels like a wasted opportunity, a less provocative retread of ideas that are explored more effectively elsewhere in the series.

5. The Purge: Anarchy

The Purge: Anarchy removes the subtlety of the original film in favor of a louder, more obvious look at what the purge really is - an excuse to prey on the poor. It’s only the rich who can afford top notch security systems that keep them safe and away from those who are dead set on ending human life. At the same time, we see the rich buying sick, dying, and poor people to purge in the safety of their own homes, essentially killing them for sport while feeling patriotic and civil in the process.

The film’s heroes have gone through a lot in their lives, but have managed to be stronger for it, earning a deep sense of self-worth and an obligation to fight for one’s own. Even in this world that creates killers, they represent the part of humanity that refuses to lose its way. Towards the last act, the film does fall into typical action movie beats, including over-the-top kills and chase scenes. It slips away from some of the refreshingly unique characters and material it established early on, but in the end, it’s still a worthwhile entry in the franchise.

4. The Purge: Election Year

The Purge: Election Year sets the stage for The First Purge, offering a look at those who don’t want The Purge and try to create a sanctuary away from its horrors in a world where its poison runs so deep. This film is most about giving a voice to the struggling working class whom The Purge is designed to eliminate. Like many of the best Purge films, it gives us resilient characters with heart, pulling you in to the story that much more. Some characters are cynical while others are fueled by their hope that positive change can happen, but they are all bonded in their loyalty to one another. They find themselves on the run with Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a third-party presidential candidate who is campaigning for an end to The Purge, and for justice for those who have been targeted. The New Founding Fathers are frightened by her popularity and resort to their normal methods, getting others to do their dirty work by allowing government officials to be purged for the first time ever.

The film closely reflects the recent political climate in America, from the looting and strikes to the drastic ideological and class separation in our country. While it highlights the greed and self interest of some, it also insists that change for a better world can still be possible. Furthermore, The Purge: Election Year examines the cycle of violence, and how even "justified" violence can cause more harm than good. There are some clunky plot conveineces, but there’s enough depth to this installment to look past its weaker elements.

3. The Purge

While it doesn’t have the layered examination or themes of resistance that would become the franchise's greatest strength, The Purge gave us a tense home invasion tale with a compelling moral question at its center. This introductory chapter is the closest to a horror film the series gets, with the masked killers still feeling creepy and menacing rather than gimmicky and stale. Additionally, the film provides a clear critique on how privileged white people are often given a free pass to murder, and how marginalized people are treated by the wealthy and powerful. This critique is creatively woven into the story rather than being as obvious and cheesy as it is in some chapters.

The stellar cast - including Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Adelaide Kane, and promising newcomer Max Burkholder - certainly adds to the effectiveness and believability of these character’s traumatic fight to the death. While this family has thus far been immune to the horrors of the Purge, and indeed have profited off of it by selling home security systems to other wealthy families, they are suddenly forced to face it head on. The film showcases the danger of being complicit with systems you know to be wrong, and how everyone must decide to fight against injustice, regardless of whether that injustice is "legal." It’s simple but effective, a well-paced and adrenaline-fueled thriller from beginning to end. There was clearly something here that audiences clung to, because we're still making Purge sequels nearly ten years later.

2. The Purge: Season 1

The first season of the television show offers some of the most insightful and well-developed material of the entire Purge universe. The season follows three sets of characters who end up banding together to fight against the evil that The Purge awakens in their neighbors.

Penelope (Jessica Garza) is one of the standout characters. She's an oprhan of the Purge along with her brother, Miguel (Gabriel Chavarria), but finds a way to fight against her demons and persevere against the odds. She is unquestionably misguided and places her loyalty in the wrong place, but both the heart and fire within her are radiant. Another standout is Jane (Amanda Warren), a strong, intelligent woman who is undervalued in the workplace and is the continuous victim of the toxic misogyny the Purge encourages. Through Jane’s story, the show takes a harrowing look at the harm in turning a blind eye to rape culture. The last storyline involves a married couple finding their way back to each other after a very tangled love affair and contemplating whether it’s worth it to take “the devil’s money” if they intend to use it for good. Purging is not only a convenient political solution in this world, but it also becomes a means for profit, entertainment, and spectacle for paying customers to live out their twisted fantasies.

Season 1 also takes an enticing look at violent cults in the Purge era. Dictators and serial killers are praised as heroes on the righteous path to violence before it was encouraged by the government. Another key character is taken in by a group whose intentions seem pure, but is just another carefully manipulated tactic from The New Founding Fathers. As with many of the best Purge chapters, the violence here isn’t solely committed by bloodthirsty purgers, but also by marginalized people demanding change in a corrupt world.

1. The First Purge

This prequel offers the most compelling exploration of the motives and reasoning behind the Purge. It reveals there were initially good intentions and science behind it. Without corruption, there might have been some success, but it was contorted and held hostage by political deception and greed. This also sheds light on what the Purge is truly about. It isn’t a way for people to let out the negativity and rage in them to then become healthier and more productive members of society. Its only purpose is to depopulate low-income areas, creating less expenses and a better reputation for the New Founding Fathers. This film brings out the eye-opening dystopian world that is not so far from our own. Much like the “before” scenes in The Handmaid’s Tale, The First Purge shows the slippery slope of rights being taken away under the illusion of a “get out of jail free" card and easy money.

Among the destructive fear and hate fueled by the Purge, the film offers a beautiful look at the resilience of the human spirit. It features strong characters, including everyone from political activists to duped Purge participants to crime lords, all of whom ultimately realize they need to fight to preserve their community. The core characters offer a wonderful combination of vulnerability, intelligence, and strength, which makes it that much more refreshing of a Purge chapter. The focus is less on stylish action violence and more on complex characters fighting against the beginning of this urban dystopian horror show.

KEEP READING: How to Watch the 'Purge' Movies and TV Shows in Order (Chronologically and By Release Date)

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