‘Hunger Games’ Playlist: Five Movies To See First

by Joel Hanek

Until very recently, I hadn’t paid much attention to “The Hunger Games” and all of the surrounding hullabaloo, dismissing it because I thought that I wasn’t the right demographic or perhaps I was too old to get into it (to give you a hint of how old I am, I just used the word “hullabaloo”). Recently I picked up the first book, read it cover to cover in just a few days, and now I must admit: I am a fan. Depressing futuristic dystopias, cynicism of the media and how it’s consumed, and children murdering other children – what’s not to like?

Since the film adaptation doesn’t come out until Friday (March 23), here are some movies that share some similarities with Suzanne Collins’ hallmark franchise to whet your appetite. Consider them cinematic amuse-bouches.

1. “Battle Royale” (2000)
In “Battle Royale,” fascist rulers punish teenagers by sending them to a remote area with deadly weapons. There, they must kill each other one by one until there is a sole survivor. Sound familiar? It’s a perfect combination of campy, bloody, creepy, and fun. Many have drawn comparisons between these two franchises so check it out and see for yourself.

2. “Running Man” (1987)
Take one Arnold Schwarzenegger, make him a wrongly accused convict, and put him in a fight for his life in a murderous version of American Gladiators. Just like “Hunger Games,” his struggle to survive is broadcast on national television. Makes one serving of dude-tastic cheese.

3. “Gladiator” (2000)
While “The Hunger Games” certainly drew upon Roman influences – everything from the names of people in the Capitol (e.g. Flavius and Octavia) to the battling gladiators satiating the bloodlust of the public – the similarities expand outside of the coliseum. Katniss Everdeen and Maximus have quite a bit in common: both are leaders, both are resourceful survivors, and both come from humble earth-working roots (she’s a hunter, he was a farmer). Why do you think Maximus was smelling dirt all the time? Like a Roman ninja, he was getting a sense of his surroundings – something Katniss can relate to.

4. “The Truman Show” (1998)
The characters in “The Hunger Games” have as much criticism and contempt for the Capitol and its odious media spectacle as it does for the audience who consumes it. While Truman isn’t quite at first the fighter that Katniss is, he quickly learns that he must distrust everyone – even his loved ones – in his quest to escape the artificial world that he learns to be his prison.

5. “Brazil” (1985)
Based off of the granddaddy of dystopian novels, “1984,” Terry Gilliam’s Brazil examines life under Big Brother through a surreal lens. Like all movies in the past that are about the future it suffers from some hokey anachronistic visions of the world of tomorrow – but don’t let that deter you from its charm and wit. For the “Hunger Games” fan, think of it as life inside the Capitol. Also, look out for the bonus Robert De Niro cameo!

Honorable Mentions
» “First Blood” (1982) & “Predator” (1987) – If you thought Hunger Games spent too much time on dialogue and not enough time on trapping and snaring then these movies are for you!
» “Kingpin” (1996) – I really, REALLY hope that they cast Woody Harrelson as Haymitch based on this performance.
» “Winter’s Bone” (2010) – If you really can’t wait a couple more days to see Jennifer Lawrence live in squalor, hunt, and protect children, check out the movie that earned her an Oscar nod.

Suggest other films for our “Hunger Games” movie playlist in the comments or on Twitter!