Before we begin, a caveat: Obviously, there is no real "un-brutal" way to go out if you're competing in a Hunger Games competition. This ranking is in no way meant to lessen the fact that being a teenager murdered for sport on national television is pretty effing horrific, regardless of how it's done.
On paper, your average neck-snap yields the same sad results as your everyday "genetically modified wasps gang up to slowly mutilate your body." Of this, there is no real debate. This is the mindset with which we enter the latest "Hunger Games" debate, in anticipation of this Friday's bloodletting in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire": just how brutal was each death in the first movie?
Let's just say maybe it's a little bit better to accidentally eat some poisonous berries than it is to be mauled by giant carnivorous beasts with an arrow already lodged in your forearm? Let's discuss:
10. Foxface Accidentally Eats Poisonous Berries
Context is totally key in this case. Would it absolutely suck to eat berries that were probably sweet and delicious on the way down only to be dead one gruesome minute later? Of course. But when you're running from psychopaths with swords who will torture and kill you without a moment's thought if they find you? I'm just saying, Foxface: It could have been worse. Regardless, good effort. Fifth place in the film's Hunger Games! Definitely worthy of bragging rights...if you weren't dead.
9. Anyone In The Opening Bloodbath
The upside of being killed, like, 37 seconds into the competition is you don't have to deal with the innate cruelty of false hope. Your death isn't drawn out over days or weeks while those in your district watch and reluctantly let the fantasy of your victory slowly creep into the back of their respective heads. The downside? You were killed, like, 37 seconds into the competition. I mean, I get that you were born into a dystopian hellhole and were then picked out of a jar to die publicly, but come on, guys. Pull a Peeta and sprint into the woods if you have to. Side note: Sorry, tribute who looks exactly like Screech Powers. Cato can be pretty mean.
8. Thresh Probably Gets Mauled By Muttations
It's not that getting devoured by creatures whose sole purpose for existence is to destroy you wouldn't result in extreme pain -- it's that it happened entirely offscreen. Yes, the filmmakers made the (probably correct) decision to not show Thresh's demise, since he had earlier saved Katniss and is, in general, a badass. The audience is going through enough stress, for heaven's sake. So instead of having a 'muttation' (Nice "oh snap, I'm on deadline, think of something, think of something" name, Suzanne Collins) loogy out Thresh's head at Cato or something, all we get is a faded-out acknowledgment of his passing in the sky. Three-finger salute, Thresh. See you on the other side, big dog.
7. District 8 Girl Builds a Fire, Is Subsequently Butchered
Given Katniss's penchant for mentoring ladies younger than herself (R.I.P. Rue, we'll get to you), one would imagine you'd have to mess up pretty thoroughly to get a sarcastic eye-roll from her instead of a helping hand. But sarcastic eye-roll the District 8 girl got after building an easily viewable fire on the first night while blasting, "Hey everyone, come kill me next!" on a loop from a stereo she found in a bag at the beginning. Super convenient. It's another death not shown onscreen, with the difference here being that the District 8 actress still had to scream really loudly several times into a microphone during post-production as a means to say, "I am being stabbed to death, and golly, is it painful."
6. Katniss Snipes Marvel
This is our favorite snapshot of the bunch, because it's like director Gary Ross told actor Jack Quaid, "Here's what it's like getting shot in the heart by a bow and arrow: Imagine you're a surfer in Venice named Tanner, and someone just showed you the sickest surfboard you've ever seen. You're absolutely blown away. OK, how about this: Be Sean Penn in 'Fast Times.' Perfect. OK, now make that face as you die. ACTION!"
Indeed, there's no question it would hurt a lot to be killed by an arrow ... but as movie-watchers, we're a bit desensitized by the whole "character dies by bow and arrow" process at this point to be really moved. We used to watch "Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier" (1955) three times a week when we were Rue's age and, like, 570 people die by bow and arrow in that movie. Sorry, Marv. Maybe if you went by "Marv" instead of "Marvel" so you'd sound like a friendly old man instead of a spoiled 11-year-old from Orange County? A little humility goes a long way.
5. Rue Gets Speared
Rue's untimely death would be higher on this list if she didn't pull "The O.C." "Mmm whatcha saaaaayyyy? of Hunger Games deaths upon getting speared in the stomach by Marvel. Presumably, a spear successfully connecting with your stomach tissue is going to be painful -- painful enough to transcend any shock that you have due to the fact that you were just speared in the stomach.
But not for Rue, who looks at the spear in her gut, pulls it out, examines it, takes it out to dinner, introduces it to her parents, gives it a back massage, and has a fight with it over the ending of "The Sopranos" before dropping it and dying in Katniss' arms. We're creeped out by this snapshot, however, because her aforementioned catatonic state combined with a spear in her stomach makes it look like she's a sadomasochistic child of the corn.
4. Hapless Child's Neck Is Snapped By Cato
We always feel super bad for this kid, because we're not really sure what his long-term plan was for the Games. "Sure, Cato, I'll keep guard of all of your stuff. Don't kill me if it all gets blown up! LOL but seriously good luck finding out what's going on in the woods, bro (fist pound)." Given how badly he ended up blowing it (PUN!), you kind of have to ditch the whole "It wasn't my fault!" thing if you're him, right? Time to take your axe thing and rock Cato in the stomach, dude. Go for it. Fun fact: This is the death that always makes us say "Ow" to ourselves when we watch it, because ow.
3. Clove Gets Rocked By Thresh
Ross's fascination with open-eyed dead people is difficult to ignore. No one who has ever been killed in the history of ever has ended up with closed eyes, according to Ross. Even Rue, who took longer to die than Michael Myers, had to have her eyes be eventually closed by Katniss. Seems worth bringing up in therapy, Gary. Here, we have Clove engaging in a posthumous staring contest with no one after her head is bashed in by Thresh in retaliation for Marvel killing Rue, who aided Katniss in killing Glimmer, who had killed the District 8 girl who built the fire, who doesn't currently garner enough respect for us to look up her character's actual name.
2. Cato Hit in Forearm With Arrow, Falls To Muttations
The more we type first names from Collins's dystopian futuristic universe, the more skeptical we become of them. Was one of the penalties for the decades-earlier "rebellion" forcing parents to name their children based on the first few letters out of a Scrabble bag? In spirit, we would name our firstborn (dumps out six Scrabble pieces) "Laerop," who would definitely be less of a wilting flower than Peeta. Where were we? Right, Cato getting mauled by Muttations before Katniss puts him out of his misery (which he deserves why?) by bow and arrowing him in the brain. That sure as hell hurts, but it's no...
1. Glimmer Gets Stung By Thousands Of Tracker Jackers
It says something about the power of movies that we as otherwise-reasonable viewers are meant to root for the demise of a teenage girl by thousands of genetically-mutated wasps stinging her at once, and we do. "Yeah! Hell yeah! Get her! Get that bitch! ... (under your breath) What have I become?" The above snapshot is great if you need a Facebook profile picture that's going to really tell family members to call and delicately ask how you're doing and if there's anything they can do for you.