The Hunger Games franchise quickly became more than just another profitable Young Adult adaptation. Following in the path blazed by The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games was an altogether different proposition. Fans of Twilight got a decent love triangle in Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, but the movie, directed by Gary Ross, focused on the dystopian world of Suzanne Collins novels and putting Katniss’ survival in the titular games front and center. The Hunger Games franchise became as popular as it did and attracted some of the best Hollywood talent (including Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore) because it focused on telling a story about the balance of power in a dystopian world. With that in mind, here are 10 movies like The Hunger Games: some that its success spawned, and others that acted as influences.
1.The Maze Runner
When The Maze Runner first came out it was seen by many as the boy’s version of the YA trend of movies, which ignores the fact that many of the heroes in the female-led films are the only main female characters, but that’s another argument. The Maze Runner, adapted from the novels by James Dashner, stars Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Will Poulter, and Patricia Clarkson, and is the directorial debut of Wes Ball. The film centers around an ever-changing maze in which a group of boys are stuck inside. They have no idea why, and matters are made even more complicated by the introduction of a Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and a girl Teresa (Kaya Scodelario). The Maze Runner is a surprisingly good film with decent performances and high stakes, and the franchise has endured in popularity leading to the series finishing at the beginning of the year in stark contrast to our next entry.
The Divergent series started off in good health as the first film landed in the height of popularity of YA adaptations. Based on the novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent starred Shailene Woodley as Tris, a teenage girl living in a post-apocalyptic Chicago in which society splits people into four different factions based on their skills. Tris discovers that she is a Divergent, someone who possesses all of these skills and must go on the run with others like her as she deemed a threat to the natural order of things. The Divergent Series, despite its strong start, has been a victim of changing trends. Consistently being overshadowed by The Hunger Games, and being too similar to other films like it, the four factions for example are basically the Hogwarts houses but as a society rather than a template, Divergent won’t even get to finish its story on the big screen.
3. The Fifth Element
One of the biggest strengths of The Hunger Games, and movies like The Hunger Games, is how well it creates its world. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element shares this strength as the French director pushes every boundary available in the mid-90s to create a stunning version of Earth’s future: complete with flying cars, cities that look like space ports, and a timelessly grizzled Bruce Willis. It even has a female chosen one in the form of Mila Jovovich as Lelo, a powerful being that is mankind’s only hope against the coming darkness. On the side of the coming darkness is 90s bad guy extraordinaire Gary Oldman. The Fifth Element is a classic space opera filtered through Luc Besson’s singular vision. It’s a film that has become a classic of the genre as well as Besson’s defining work. His latest attempt I the genre, last year’s Valerian, proved that lightning very rarely strikes twice.
4. Battle Royale
When talking about movies like The Hunger Games the most popular example outside of other YA adaptations is Battle Royale. Despite a difference in tone, plot, and level of blood, The Hunger Games was accused of ripping off Battle Royale by many snobby critics when it was first released. There certainly are similarities: both films share the premise of teenagers locked into a battle of survival that means they have to kill each other, but the execution is very different. In Battle Royale the teens are forced into this deadly game by a teacher that is tired of the on the job abuse he’s been suffering. There is no love triangle, no great fight against society, just teenagers killing each other in consistently inventive ways. If anything, Battle Royale is a much looser film, with a better sense of humor and a lot more blood. Peeta wouldn’t last two minutes.
5. The Truman Show
One of the aspects that made The Hunger Games so compelling was the way in which Katniss, through her pain and suffering, became an unwilling cultural star once she had won the deadly competition. The film used the media to point out how our media can be a tool for propaganda which proves that the YA genre is more than just pretty people and love triangles. The Truman Show shares many of these qualities as Jim Carrey’s Truman Burbank is, unknowingly, the most famous man in the world as the oblivious star of his own TV show. Director Peter Weir’s satire frequently blurs the line between reality and entertainment, as the name of the game becomes Truman’s need to escape this false world. A career best performance from Jim Carrey anchors this wild idea as The Truman Show became a prediction for the reality television boom of the 21st century.
6. The Running Man
When thinking about the current glut of Stephen King adaptations, and the good bad and ugly that has come before, there is one movie that often gets forgotten: The Running Man. This isn’t much of a surprise as The Running Man has a lot more in common with movies like The Hunger Games than The Shining or The Shawshank Redemption. Not least because the presence of the king of 80s action Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Running Man movie is so far from its source material that the term “loose adaptation” is stretched ridiculously thin. The movie see’s Schwarzenegger, along with an unlucky few, forced to fight for their lives in the titular TV show where losing leads to death. It’s a fun, if a little clumsy satire on the TV game show industry, and the legendary gameshow legend Richard Dawson provides everything Stanley Tucci needed for his portrayal of Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games.
7. I Am Number Four
Based on the first novel of the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore (which is the pseudonym of writers James Frey and Jobie Hughes), I Am Number Four stars Alex Pettyfer as John Smith a teenage boy that finds out he’s an alien from the planet Lorien. If that wasn’t shocking enough, John also discovers that he is the fourth of a race of special children, three of which have been killed by a villainous alien race known as the Mogadorians. Directed by DJ Caruso (XXX: The Return of Xander Cage) I Am Number Four was meant to be the first film of Lorien Legacies franchise, but because it starred franchise poisoner Pettyfer, it didn’t make the cut. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch, with Timothy Olyphant (Santa Clarita Diet) putting in commanding performance as John’s protector, and Teresa Palmer stealing the show as the sixth Lorien child.
8. They Live
While most movies like The Hunger Games share a penchant for serious discussion and exploration of themes, sometimes you need something that’s a bit more off-beat, and there is nothing more offbeat than Roddy Piper chewing bubble-gum and kicking ass. Part of director John Carpenter’s 80s hot streak, They Live Introduced the novel idea of the human race being unknowingly ruled by monsters and threw a wrestler at it. Like all of Carpenter’s best films, They Live Is packed with great moments of horror, comedy, action, and all of the above culminating in the most horrifyingly hilarious street fight ever committed to celluloid. The Hunger Games is about fighting a dystopia you can see whereas They Live hides that fact through subliminal messages in magazines and billboards, which can only be seen wearing a pair of special sunglasses. Come to think of it, describing the plot of They Live makes The Hunger Games sound like an example of gritty realism by comparison.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
In discussions about The Hunger Games and movies like it, Mad Max: Fury Road seems like an odd partner. George Miller’s masterpiece shares a fair few similarities with The Hunger Games. Both are stories set in apocalyptic futures, both have female heroes that overshadow their male counterparts, and both are a lot more brutal and action-packed than their contemporaries. Fury Road may be the best action film of the millennium, as what amounts to a 2 hour and change chase shrewdly boils down the plot to only the essential elements in order to move forward. Tom Hardy plays Max, a wandering road warrior that gets captured by Autocrat Immortan Joe. After she kicks the unholy crap out of him, Max joins forces with Furiosa (a movie stealing Charlize Theron) as they flee from Joe and his War Boys with his wives.
10. V for Vendetta
The adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s ground-breaking comic series shares many of The Hunger Games characteristic. Directed by James McTeague from a script by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta Great Britain as a fascist state led by John Hurt’s supreme ruler. Fighting against this society is an anarchist by the of V, whose taste for theatricality stretches from wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to blowing up many London landmarks. Much like Katniss (but more deliberate), V uses the media to spread his message, as many of his enemies are flailing behind the scenes trying to convince the people that everything’s hunky-dory. Joining V is Evie, played by Natalie Portman in a performance that is much better than her English accent, with Stephen Rea on the other side of the line as the beleaguered policeman trying to catch them both. It’s not as good as the comics, but it is still a worthy film in its own right.