With the release of The Forever Purge, the fifth (and reportedly final) installment of the Purge franchise, now’s a perfect time to stop and reflect on one of the most unlikely and politically-charged action/horror franchises of the last decade. Beginning with a fairly simple home invasion thriller in 2013, The Purge spun out into four subsequent films and a TV series, all exploring the implications of a world where, for one night a year, all crime was legal—and often subverting audience expectations in the process.
If you’re looking forward to The Forever Purge or are sad to see the series come to a close, here are ten other flicks that you should check out. Each one should help you scratch that itch now that the franchise has (ostensibly) run its course.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
From the first one to the last, The Purge franchise draws a heavy inspiration from the filmography of John Carpenter – and why not? There are much worse places to crib from. Some of the most obvious influences come from Carpenter’s dystopian opus (which is next on the list), but for flicks like The Purge, they don’t come much more perfect than this modern-day 1976 siege Western that’s equal parts Night of the Living Dead and Rio Bravo. It was remade in 2005, but we recommend sticking with the original.
Escape from New York (1981)
While it may not be as obvious in the first Purge – not to be confused with The First Purge – the shadow of John Carpenter’s dystopian classic hangs heavy over most of the subsequent films in the franchise, especially Anarchy and Election Year. Heck, Frank Grillo’s character could absolutely be doing a practice run for a role as Kurt Russell’s no-nonsense Snake Plissken.
They Live (1988)
What, three John Carpenter movies? We said that the Purge flicks owed a huge debt to the master, and we meant it. As the franchise goes on, the social messages underpinning the films come more and more to the fore, and there’s no better example of a social metaphor propping up an action/sci-fi/horror concept than Carpenter’s anti-Reaganomics flick, They Live. This movie’s central metaphor is so brilliantly blatant that even the most ham-handed moments in the Purge series seem subtle by comparison.
The Warriors (1979)
Besides the filmography of John Carpenter, possibly the biggest single influence on the world of The Purge might just be this cult classic from Walter Hill. While the premise of the Purge flicks is absent, the journey across a gang-addled New York in a single night that makes up the backbone of The Warriors could otherwise have come straight out of just about any movie in the series, and the themed gangs that haunt the urban night are obviously precursors to the masked assailants in The Purge.
The Strangers (2008)
Once you become immersed in the later films in the franchise, it’s easy to forget that The Purge started out as a home invasion thriller with a dynamite logline, and nothing more.
When it comes to home invasions (and killers in creepy masks), this 2008 flick kind of set the standard that the genre would measure itself against for more than a decade, not to mention showcase the potential for terror implicit in random and seemingly senseless violence.
Battle Royale (2000)
Based on a 1999 graphic novel by Koushun Takami, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale became an international cult hit. While the modern American franchise most often compared to it is The Hunger Games, Battle Royale’s premise of a near-future in which students are taken to an island to fight to the death in order to curb juvenile delinquency sounds an awful lot like a dry run for The Purge.
The Belko Experiment (2016)
Written by James Gunn, The Belko Experiment plays out much like a more contained version of Battle Royale, complete with explosives that kill anyone who doesn’t cooperate. In The Belko Experiment, a number of office workers in Bogotá, Columbia arrive at work only to discover that the building is sealed off behind them with metal shutters, and they are ordered by a voice over the intercom to kill their co-workers or die themselves.
Combining the desperate survival horror of Battle Royale with satire of corporate culture and office politics, The Belko Experiment was produced by Gunn but directed by Greg McLean.
You’re Next (2011)
Home invasions, creepy masks, and unexpected twists—You’re Next has it all. It’s no wonder that it helped propel director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett on to bigger things. Wingard recently released Godzilla vs. Kong, while Barrett’s directorial debut, Séance, dropped on Shudder this year.
You’re Next is the film that put them both on the map, though, and a great companion piece to The Purge, even if its ambitions are more scaled-back.
Attack the Block (2011)
While an alien invasion story might seem a little weird on this list—ignore They Live up above already being on here—Attack the Block is also a siege movie that owes a heavy debt to the work of John Carpenter. Plus, like The Purge franchise, it wears its social messages on its sleeve, and works to subvert audience expectations about just who the good guys and bad guys might be in a situation of urban bloodshed.
The Raid (2011)
Even when they expand their horizons and get outside, The Purge flicks still feel a lot like siege movies. So does Gareth Evans’ martial arts action extravaganza The Raid, even if, this time around, the siege is happening in reverse as a group of police officers attempt the eponymous raid on an apartment block occupied mostly by heavily-armed gang members. The same basic premise would be repurposed by screenwriter Alex Garland the following year for Dredd.
Featured image via The Forever Purge / Universal Pictures