The First Purge

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The First Purge Movie Poster Image
Terrible prequel more about violence than social commentary.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 22 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Violence without repercussion; the idea of "the purge" is still argued about, but with less force and less interesting results. Politicians seek to reduce the population by aiming the purge at the poor, while the poor show their mettle by trying to help others. Strikes against racism by showing images of hate and fear, like cloaked KKK members; but it also celebrates violence against violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is an African American woman who's portrayed as purely good and strong -- she opposes the purge and turning to crime or drugs to climb out of poverty. She advocates that there's always another way, and that we must keep trying. She cares for her younger brother and looks after some neighbors. Unfortunately, she's also drawn to a drug dealer. Other characters are grievously flawed.


Heavy guns and shooting, with many deaths. Blood sprays and spatters. Stabbing. Throat slashed with blade. Fighting and punching. A man fights with two women who are trying to kill him. Flaming car crash. Neck-snapping. Choking. Flamethrower, with man on fire. Some jump scares. A teen boy tries to use a gun to kill someone during the purge but doesn't shoot. A masked man grabs at a woman's crotch against her will.


Quick but graphic sex scene: A man (naked bottom shown) thrusts between a woman's legs. Some women appear to be prostitutes. Women are objectified at a party.


Very strong language includes many uses of "f--k" and "motherf----r," the "N" word," "s--t," "p---y," "ass," "goddamn," "balls," "hell," and "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character is a drug dealer. Quick scenes of characters smoking pot and snorting cocaine. One character is loosely portrayed as a drug addict. Women drink from a flask stolen (comically) from a priest's office.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The First Purge is the fourth movie in the popular Purge series -- and the first prequel, showing the beginning of the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, there's a ton of violence: killings, guns and shooting, strangling, stabbing and slashing, blood spurts/sprays, jump scares, and more. A brief but graphic sex scene shows a man's naked bottom thrusting between a woman's legs. Women are objectified, and some appear to be prostitutes. A man tries to grab a woman against her will. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. A main character, supposedly a good guy, is a drug dealer. There are brief scenes of drinking and drug use, as well as references to addiction. Despite the subject matter, audiences craving smart, sophisticated social commentary should look elsewhere.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byElyza August 29, 2020

Violent but good.

Around 55 minutes into the movie there's a couple having sex. Other than that it's just a lot of violence! Good movie.
Adult Written byPeterPerkins July 3, 2018

Pathetic Attempt at continuing a decent saga

Don't waste your time with this one. No where near as good as any of the others. It seems to glorify racism by pitting blacks against whites. The cast is 9... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySherifEmad02 July 5, 2018

Intense but exciting

A few jumpscares and some fowl language
As well as some scenes not suitable for younger ones, it wasn't much of a plot as it was more of an intense movie.... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byEJY623 July 4, 2018


Don’t waste your money kids and parents if you’ve seen any of the first three it’s exactly the same thing over and over it just horrible

What's the story?

In THE FIRST PURGE, a brand-new political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, ascends to power, promising prosperity. One of their big ideas, spawned by sociologist Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), is a 12-hour period in which all crime will be legal. Citizens will get out their aggressions and be fine the rest of the year. This "purge" is tested on Staten Island, where the population is generally below middle-class. Drug lord Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) doesn't trust the purge, while his ex-girlfriend, Nya (Lex Scott Davis), protests in the streets. Her younger brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who's begun dealing drugs, secretly wants to participate in the purge; he was attacked and cut by the psychotic Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) and wants revenge. When the purge eventually begins, very little goes as expected -- but the night quickly turns deadly.

Is it any good?

The fourth movie in this popular series is perhaps the worst, with amateurish filmmaking and too many movie clichés combining to betray its attempts at serious social commentary and satire. Like the other movies in the series -- The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Purge Election Year -- this one tries, and fails, to place its idea within a larger national context. The First Purge begins with awkward, thinly written political speeches and news coverage of the event, all of which serve to cheapen it. (It's especially painful to watch Oscar-winner Tomei struggle through her awful dialogue.)

The main characters are likable enough, if you can forget for a moment that Dmitri is a powerful drug lord who's willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. (The movie shows no awareness of the contradictory nature of this situation.) The most relevant moments are the commentary on unpunished white-on-black violence and sexual assault, as well as frightening references to the KKK, but these things are simple asides, floating above an ocean of mediocrity and exploitative violence. They have no more relevance to the story at hand than does the "psychology" of the purge itself, especially compared to far more sophisticated and effective recent films (Get Out being the most notable example). We can only hope that The First Purge will also be the last.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The First Purge's violence. Is it necessary to make the movie's point? Do you think the movie celebrates or condemns violence?

  • What do you think of the idea of the purge? Would it really lower crime and lessen poverty? What are the arguments for and against it?

  • How does the movie view the rich and the poor? Politicians and regular people? How are these characters shown? With which did you identify? Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?

  • How are drugs and drug dealers depicted? Do they come across as cool? Dangerous? Are there consequences for using or dealing drugs? Why does that matter?

Movie details

For kids who love horror

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