The Hunger Games movies, based on the hugely successful dystopian young adult book series, dominated the box office in the 2010s. The three books (and four movies) shaped the landscape of YA literature for the next few years (for better or worse). for the worse), and while many imitators followed in their wake, none reached the high points and sharp commentary of the OG franchise.
If you happened to miss the cultural zeitgeist that was the YA dystopian wave of the early 2010s, you may not know your Mockingjays Catching Fires. As someone who was on the front lines and made it to at least one of the midnight premieres, I’ve done the job and know the ropes. I have done my time and can transfer the knowledge. Now that all the movies are on Netflix, now is the right time to remind people: what was the deal with The Hunger Games movies?
What is the Hunger Games franchise all about?
The Hunger Games series is set in the dystopian society of Panem, where wealthy elites live in the Capitol and the rest of the country struggles to provide for their needs. To keep the people down, every year the Capitol randomly selects 24 kids (two from each of the 12 districts) to fight to the death in a high-tech arena. Each year brings a different Arena, designed for different ecosystems with different environmental challenges.
The books – and movies – begin when Katniss Everdeen, a resilient archer from the poorest district of Panem, volunteers to take her little sister’s place. From there, she fights for her life and somehow becomes the symbol of a rebellion that is burning across the land (ha).
What is the order of the movies?
For the most part, every movie matches the book of the same name. However, there are four movies and only three books. Why? Well, in the 2010s, there was a trend to split the mega-blockbuster conclusions of major young adult sci-fi/fantasy franchises into two movies to make more money. For some, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this served to better tell the jam-packed story in the final episode (and also doubled its massive box office return). For others, like the Divergent series, this backfired horribly and the final movie was just… never made.
But anyway, once you know the names of the sequels, the sequence is pretty straightforward. It goes like this:
The hunger Games
The movie that kicks it all off. Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, our reluctant heroine, volunteers to take her little sister’s place in the Games. She finds herself caught up in a made-up story about lovers, when her district partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) devises an effective plan to make the two more attractive to the citizens of the Capitol, giving them both a better chance at survival. The first movie makes heavy use of a camera shake, something the sequels got rid of (which is a good thing, because it gave me a headache).
After accidentally inciting industrial action against the ruling class across Panem, Katniss becomes the target of dictatorial President Snow. This time, the Hunger Games contestants will be picked from the existing winners pool – so back to the Arena Katniss. However, a quiet rebellion is brewing and some of her opponents may be on her side. The arena in Catching Fire is much cooler than the previous film’s, and since not all tributes die an untimely death, they get more screen time and chances to shine (shout out to Sam Claflin’s awful American accent hereby).
Mockingjay Part 1
Then it picks up Catching fire, with Katniss now in the mysterious District 13 after being lifted out of the Arena. District 13 stirs up the uprisings in Panem and the leader wants Katniss to become the “Mockingjay” – dubbed the symbol of the uprising – to unite the rebels. Most of this movie is about Katniss getting used to this new position, mainly because she definitely never asked for it and just wanted to keep her sister safe. There’s some cool stuff about propaganda, media and war in here, but also if you’re in a pinch and need a movie to skip…you can probably skip this one since it’s just an exposition.
Mockingjay Part 2
It all leads to it! Finally, the uprising is in full swing. It’s a relentless, unflinching finale that doesn’t quite have a happy ending, but one that makes sense. Well, except for the weird ending shot where Jennifer Lawrence tries to smile into the camera.
All Hunger Games movies are available on Netflix.