How Purge Night Works: The Rules And Other Facts That Apply In The Purge Movies

People wearing Lincoln and Washington masks in The Purge Election Year.

Through almost a decade of The Purge movies existing in the pop culture landscape, the concept of Purge Night has expanded with each installment. It’s all led to the last hurrah for the blockbuster Blumhouse franchise, as The Forever Purge is the final film in The Purge franchise. But before we head out for that final round of purging and purifying, it’s a good time to run through the rules and history of Purge Night. So secure your surroundings, pick out your favorite mask, and water your blue Baptisias, as we’re going to run through how the whole thing works, as revealed throughout the movies, and why it even exists in the first place.

Patch Darragh and Marisa Tomei in the control room in The First Purge.

How Was The Purge Invented, And By Whom?

The New Founding Fathers of America, partnered with Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), created The Purge as a sort of release valve for the pressures felt by America. The NFFA meant to use The Purge’s central holiday for two reasons. On its face, people participate in The Purge as an outlet to release their anxieties and the pressure of a crumbling society.

However, as we saw in The First Purge, the New Founding Fathers of America really wanted to use this as a method of “depopulating the lower class,” and relieving the economic and societal burden on the more affluent voters that put them into power. But as time marched on, the structure and even some of the rules of The Purge are rescinded, or just outright broken. And eventually, the rich would start targeting their fellow rich people for shallow or sadistic reasons.

Lex Scott Davis leads a protest against The First Purge.

When Was The First Purge?

March 21, 2016, was the date of The First Purge; as it would have to at least predate the footage shown during The Purge’s opening credits by a year. After the New Founding Fathers of America saw their first presidential candidate elected into office, a pilot program was hatched and tested in Staten Island. What was once called “The NFFA Social Experiment” became the national phenomenon known as The Purge, and after its first night of testing, the results were promising enough for a nationwide expansion.

Of course, seeing as the NFFA hired roving bands of mercenaries to stoke the fires, as well as flooded the streets with weapons, the validity of those results could be severely called into question. The truth doesn’t matter though, as by the time The First Purge concludes, the New Founding Fathers of America had the PR tools they needed to legalize The Purge on a national level. America was about to become a nation reborn, as the ratification of the 28th Amendment would secure a new tradition.

Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke make a plan in The Purge.

When Does Purge Night Happen?

If you want to mark down the night to stay inside and lock the doors, March 21st into March 22nd is the night of the Annual Purge. The bad news is, even if you want to stay inside and barricade your house like the Sandin family did in The Purge, that’s not a guarantee. The good news is, the annual Purge is only allowed during a specified window of time.

A 12-hour window, between 7 PM and 7 AM is given to all who want to purge and purify their little corner of the United States of America. During this window, all emergency services are suspended, so if something catches on fire, or if you’re injured, the typical infrastructure you depend on for assistance is not available. Though, as we saw in The Purge: Election Year, there are some amateur ambulance crews that rove the streets to help those in need.

Carmen Ejogo and Frank Grillo lead a team of survivors in The Purge: Anarchy.

What Crimes Are Allowed On Purge Night?

What type of crime are you really interested in? On Purge Night, the commencement address that kicks things off says it all, as it stipulates that “all crime, including murder, is legal.” So if you want to rob an ATM, do your drug of choice, or the garden variety favorite of murder, it’s all on the table in the alternate version of the United States.

Just make sure you keep it all in that 12 hour window, and try not to piss off friends, family, neighbors, and those close enough to you to hold a grudge. You never know what the year in-between Purges will inspire, like that time The Purge saw the Sandin family targeted by their jealous neighbors. Surprisingly enough, there are some restrictions on the typical Purge Night plans.

Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell on the run in The Purge: Election Year.

What’s Not Allowed On Purge Night?

There’s still some regulations that are present during Purge Night, so don’t think that anything goes. Up until 2040’s annual Purge in The Purge: Election Year, “government officials of ranking 10” were protected from The Purge. Though the NFFA, in their bid to eliminate their popular opponent Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), removed that little caveat. Though it’s a safe bet that even if you tried to assassinate the sitting NFFA president that night, you’d probably be punished.

Also, “weapons of class 4 and lower” are cleared for usage on Purge Night. Only Class 5 weapons are outlawed, and seeing as those include explosives, and presumably any other weapon of mass destruction, the carnage can be kept nice and personal. Though, back in The First Purge, explosives and incendiary devices weren’t as taboo as they would eventually become. By the way, if you break any of the rules of Purge Night, the penalty is death by hanging.

Rhys Wakefield smiles menacingly with his fellow Purgers in The Purge.

Why Do People Participate In Purge Night?

If you ask someone holding the party line for the New Founding Fathers of America, Purge Night is supposed to be a spiritual and sociological cleansing. Theoretically, one night of unbridled violence and lawlessness is supposed to contain the country’s destructive tendencies. By the time the annual Purge is over, the catharsis is supposed to relieve the nation of its fears, and the economy usually sees a bit of a boost because of all the Purge prep. Apparently, you don’t get to 0% unemployment merely through creating jobs.

Though we’ve seen more personal reasons override the altruistic claims the NFFA likes to throw into the wind. The Purge: Anarchy saw Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) looking to get revenge in the name of family tragedy; and in The Purge: Election Year, the concept of “murder tourists” was introduced. Some people Purge because they’ve got an axe to grind, while others will travel to simply do it because they can.

A mysterious masked cowboy in The Forever Purge.

What’s Going On With The Forever Purge?

While we’re not going to spoil the adventures that await in The Forever Purge, the film’s basic concept is the somewhat logical endpoint of this long standing American tradition. After The Purge: Election Year saw the holiday cancelled by President-Elect Charlie Roan, the New Founding Fathers of America’s supporters rioted. Now, in the fifth and final installment of The Purge series, it looks like those who believe in the cause are going to Purge, whether it’s legal or not; and the action won’t be limited to a 12 hour window.

And that is all you need to know about Purge Night! A dark satire aimed squarely at the fears of our modern society, all hell looks like it’s about to break loose with The Forever Purge’s addition to the mythos. You can catch the results for yourself, as the film opens in theaters this Friday; though if you want a quick refresher, check out our guide on how you can catch The Purge movies streaming.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.