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The Entire Timeline Of The Purge Franchise Explained

At first a very simple premise — what if the government made all crime legal for a night? — "The Purge" was an original horror movie that became a blockbuster franchise. Now with five movies, a TV show, and more to come, "Purge" creator James DeMonaco has expanded on his original vision and fleshed out the allegorical universe of "The Purge" over the years.

Not all of these entries have been in chronological order, though. "The Purge" timeline actually jumps around quite a bit, with the fourth movie in the series, "The First Purge," serving as a prequel to the first three and providing some backstory for the titular event. The film takes place about five years before the first "Purge" movie, which is set on March 21, 2022. Then, there is a significant time jump between the second film "Anarchy" and "The Purge Election Year," which winds up all the way on the same date in 2040. Add in that the TV series is thrown into the middle of that timeline, and it all starts to feel pretty scattered. 

So if you have the urge to purge but find yourself confused by only vaguely remembering what happened in the last one, you can find what you need here.

The New Founding Fathers of America form in 2014

The origins of the "Purge" universe begin in an America much like the current one, but in 2014, an event happens that begins the fictional events of "The Purge" timeline. In this iteration, the country is in a dire economic crisis, and the current political parties are replaced by a new totalitarian force: The New Founding Fathers of America. The NFFA gains complete control of the government and enacts their terrifying policies within a matter of a few short years.

Most notably, they usher in the annual Purge, a tradition in which all crime is legal for a night and citizens are allowed — nay, encouraged – to exorcise their pent-up anger and strife with violence. In theory, this will let the public get all that rage out of their systems (if they survive, that is) and go about their business in peace for the next 364.5 days until March 21st rolls around again; that's the promise of the Purge. 

In "The First Purge," these events are wholly set into motion in 2016 when NFFA chief of staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) and sociologist Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei) announce that a 12-hour trial Purge will take place on Staten Island, New York. To ensure the city won't be empty during this experiment, the NFFA offers residents $5,000 to stay and even more to participate in the mayhem. 

The first Purge takes place in 2017

The events of the experimental 2017 Purge on Staten Island are the subject of the remainder of "The First Purge." Written by series creator Jason DeMonaco, the film was directed by filmmaker Gerard McMurray. The collaboration resulted in the most financially successful entry in "The Purge" franchise to date (via The Numbers).

In the film, characters from all over the borough begin to prepare for the upcoming Purge. For many, this means sheltering in their homes, and for others it means preparing for a night of looting and partying. However, as soon as the experiment begins on March 21, 2017, it becomes clear to the NFFA observers that a vast majority of the activity on Purge Night is nonviolent. The political party has come into the process with a bigoted assumption that a neighborhood with predominantly minority residents would wipe each other out and reduce social program costs, but they are quickly proven wrong. So, in order to stoke the desired violence, the NFFA sends in trained mercenary operatives to start conflicts that result in mass casualties. 

Staten Island suffers losses, but many survive the first Purge Night. The story then ends with an NFFA broadcast announcing that the first Purge was a success and the project will continue on a national level. By 2022, when the original "Purge" movie is set, the event has become a normalized part of culture. Many people oppose it and feel unsafe, but revolution is still years away.

The Sandin family is terrorized in the 2022 Purge

The original "Purge" movie, written and directed by DeMonaco, hit theaters in 2013 and ushered in the age of the Purge pictures. Despite its modest budget, the film boasts big names like Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey in the lead, appearing as James and Mary Sandin. Their wealthy upper class family is well prepared for the Purge, with a sophisticated security system that his own company created. However, their home is still attacked by a group of masked invaders on Purge Night in 2022 after they take in a wounded stranger on the run from a particularly malign group. James, Mary, and their two children are also taken hostage and terrorized by their neighbors, who resent their financial successes, and James is killed. Mary makes it out alive with the kids when the sun rises, and the 2022 Purge ends. 

In the series' third film, "The Purge: Election Year," the 2022 Purge is also revealed to be an important event of the franchise for another reason: The character Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), who eventually wins the presidency on her anti-Purge platform, watched as her parents were killed on the same night of the Sandins' attack. This event began her lifelong mission to eliminate the senseless violence that comes to fruition in the third movie of the series. 

Citizens begin to rise up and resist in 2023

The series begins to dig into the class politics that underpins so much of the series in its second entry, 2014's "The Purge: Anarchy." The movie picks up right where "The Purge" left off, showing us the preparation for the 2023 Purge. Frank Grillo plays Leo Barnes, an LAPD sergeant who goes out to get revenge for his son's murder on Purge Night. He runs into a ragtag group of middle to lower class workers who are out and thus vulnerable for various reasons during the dangerous night, and he decides to help them.

At one point, the group is captured and taken to a theater, where they discover that a group of depraved ultra rich people plan on hunting them for sport as they have with others every year of the Purge. The movie also is the first to reveal that the NFFA sends out death squads to kill people who are out on Purge Night in order to artificially ramp up the kill counts, targeting the poor and marginalized communities the hardest. In "Anarchy," the series digs into such political commentary, but it will soon slip into making extremely overt political parallels in the films to come. But first, a pit stop...

The Purge TV show takes place between Anarchy and Election Year

"The Purge" TV show aired on USA Network from 2018 to 2019, and it is set in the timeline between the events of "The Purge: Anarchy" and "The Purge: Election Year." It only aired for two seasons and was cancelled due to low viewership numbers, primarily, but also as a result of the NBC Universal networks' strategy shift away from scripted series.  

The first season of USA's "The Purge" follows seemingly unrelated groups of people on Purge Night 2027. Eventually, of course, their paths intertwine as the chaos and violence typical to the series ramps up and characters are forced to make hard choices. There's also a major hint that the concept of Purge Night is starting to gain steam overseas in Europe. 

The second season takes place some years later and has a more unique premise: Season 2 sees a community in New Orleans recovering from a destructive Purge. It follows multiple characters over the course of a year, from 2036 to 2037, and a majority of the show not actually about Purge Night — rather, it details the ramifications this sick holiday has on society for the rest of the year. This all leads up to a gruesome finale, fit with a surprise flashback to Hawke as James.

In 2040, Charlie Roan runs for President on an anti-Purge platform

"The Purge: Election Year," released in 2018, is by far the most ripped-from-the-headlines film of the franchise. Elizabeth Mitchell ("Lost") portrays Charlie Roan, a no-nonsense liberal candidate in a presidential race against the demagogue-esque Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor), the candidate for the NFFA. Leo Barnes (Grillo) makes a return and is, at this point in his life, employed as head of security for Roan. 

Roan is running a successful campaign on an anti-Purge platform, a promise that is inspiring her voters. As the election draws closer so does the annual Purge Night. In a shady move, Owens revokes the usual immunity granted to people of power during the Purges, therefore painting a massive target on Roan's back. Roan knows she can win this election, but she still needs to survive a Purge Night full of dangerous gang members and NFFA operatives. Leo and a ragtag group typical of the series at this point aid her, and the candidate makes it out of the purge alive, as does hope for the future. 

Roan wins the election and repeals the 28th Amendment

Roan survives the purge two months before the general election. At the end of "The Purge: Election Year", we see that Roan has won the election in an unprecedented landslide victory. Her first act as president is to overturn and repeal the 28th Amendment that the NFFA enacted to give citizens the constitutional right to purge. This provides a hopeful potential ending for the franchise. Murmurs of NFFA sympathizers and white supremacists are already starting to rise up in protest in the film's eerie, ambiguous ending, which leaves the door open for more movies in the franchise. 

Not much is known about the eight years between "Election Year" and the next chronological entry in the franchise, "The Forever Purge." However, it is implied that this has been a relatively peaceful time. At very least, people didn't have to worry about an annual holiday wherein their own government tries to kill them anymore. At least as long as Roan remains in power...

Then, the NFAA regains political power and Purge Ever After begins

The most recent movie in the franchise, released in 2021, is the very final sounding "The Forever Purge." This picks up in 2048, exactly two presidential terms after Roan was sworn into office. It is implied that the NFFA used their resources to regain power over the past eight years, now putting them in the position to reinstate the Purge. But this time, groups of bloodthirsty nationalists use the Purge's return as an excuse to keep going in what they call the Purge Ever After: a final genocidal Purge targeting immigrants. 

On the night of the first Purge, we see that in Texas, many white supremacists and extremists are foaming at the mouth for the Purge. Juan (Tenoch Huerta) and Adela (Ana de la Reguera) are a married couple of migrant workers who crossed into Texas and work in Austin. After a radical group going by the name Purge Purification Force begin to attack them, they rescue their boss Dylan (Josh Lucas) and his family, and they end up traveling to the Mexican border to escape the Purge in a bloody and brutal ending to "The Forever Purge."

The NFFA has lost control of the Purge

At the end of "The Forever Purge," Juan, Adela, Dylan, and his surviving family members safely cross the border into Mexico. The group gets as happy an ending as can be hoped for, but the future of America remains up in the air after all of the bloodshed and attempted genocide that the NFFA has inadvertently awoken. The political future of the party seems to be in major jeopardy amid the rise in violence and hysteria, and as the institutions of the nation collapse, millions of Americans have fled across the borders to seek refuge in Canada and Mexico.

"The Forever Purge" was initially reported to be DeMonaco's last "Purge" movie, but the series will continue with a sixth film, with DeMonaco reportedly returning to direct, while Grillo reprises his role as Leo Barnes. Producer Jason Blum has indicated that the sixth film will take place five years after the events of "The Forever Purge."