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The Purge Movie Timeline Explained: 2014 - 2040

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The Purge movie timeline is almost as complicated as the horrific morals at its center. Based around the high-concept premise that all crime is legal for one night of the year across America, The Purge asks both how you would survive such a scenario and questions the political makeup that would enable such a horrific act.

Originally, the concept was more a mean to get to one of Blumhouse's classic home invasion plots, but as it's developed and grown writer/director/producer James DeMonaco has redefined the series to look more at the socio-political implications: why a government would really do this (clue: it's not about "unleashing the beast"), what would change around the world in the other 364 days, and just how close it may be to what's currently happening in America. He's also built a pretty coherent timeline of shocking events to boot.

Related: The First Purge Review

From events now in our past through to disturbingly far into the future, here is the best timeline for The Purge that exists. For the most part, the movies have been consistent in dating (Halloween Easter Eggs aside), with most avoiding presenting an actual year and instead placing themselves in the continuity only in relation to other films. That means, while the technology in later installments may see antiquated (although that could also be a commentary on the backward society), things mostly line up.

Before The Movies: The New Founding Father of America Rise

The New Founding Fathers of America took office in 2014 in the wake of total economic collapse. The preceding specifics are never detailed but it presumably extends from the 2008 crash. Whatever happened, the United States was thrown into chaos and this new, alternate party rose from outside the traditional two-party system. But, while their victory heralded a new dawn, the NFFA were still faced with age-old problems. America was still in substantial debt, and not increasing taxes to keep the pinched lower classes happy would only increase that.

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This was where the idea of removing parts of the population came in. The question was how to do it in a public-pleasing manner. Enter The Purge: a social experiment where all crime is made legal for 12 hours. Envisioned by The Architect (Marisa Tomei), it's an attempt to get America's inherent aggression out by extreme violence, although the NFFA see it as a way to manipulate the lowest (and most-expensive) rungs of society into destroying themselves.

The 28th Amendment is ratified in 2016, leading to a proto experimental Purge the next year. By this time, the NFFA needs some control measures to maintain their flimsy totalitarian rule.

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The First Purge - March 21, 2017

The First Purge takes place from 7pm March 21, 2017 to 7am March 22, 2017, localized entirely on Staten Island. In the build-up, residents are offered $5000 to stay in their home, and further bonuses for engaging in killing.

Related: The First Purge's Mid-Credits Scenes Explained

However, as a sociological experiment, the Purge fails: while some rogue citizens do engage in murder, the majority hole themselves up or party, at most committing petty crime. The NFFA had anticipated this and send in hired militia to ignite the powder keg, creating the illusion of mass purging and thus labeling the experiment a success. While various citizens - including the film's hero, Dmitri - are able to save themselves and loved ones from the attack, the government begins plans to roll it out nationwide, which they do on March 21, 2018.

The Purge Becomes Accepted - March 21, 2022 (The Purge)

By the time of The Purge - which is set in the fifth year of the national rollout - the event has become an accepted holiday, with much of the US infrastructure rebuilt to account for it: insurance, security and, yes, plotted murder. Many of the aspects of the first Purge have now become accepted traditions: parties and get-togethers are common among passive participants, those who approve of the holiday put the government-pushed blue flowers outside their houses, and the masks worn initially by the militia are adopted by the most violent of purgers.

Related: The Purge Review

Crucially, the class divide has already become clear. In the middle-class suburbs where the Sandins (played by Ethan Hawke and Lena Heady) live, the NFFA's fake ethics are tolerated and lightly indulged in, with the poor and homeless often the targets. The movie itself shows a group of upper-class purgers trying to break in the Sandins' house when they take in a vagrant they'd targeted, and later their jealous neighbors attempt to get revenge for the family's profiteering by way of security sales.

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In this same year, a young Charlie Roan is forced to watch her family murdered, starting her life in political opposition to The Purge and NFFA. And here's where the people start to fight back...

Page 2 of 2: The Resistance & The Final Purge

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Key Release Dates
  • The First Purge/The Purge 4 (2018) release date: Jul 04, 2018
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