The Hunger Games is one of the most iconic young adult dystopian works of the modern era. Finding movies like Hunger Games can be a little difficult. After all, the franchise helped redefine the genre and many films that followed were attempts at recreating it. Yet some films did manage to find their own voice and tell a unique story. Here’s a list of movies like Hunger Games that manage to captivate audiences just as much.
Young Adult Fiction Movies Like Hunger Games
The Hunger Games franchise offered an epic journey that spanned multiple films. Here are a few more movies like Hunger Games to keep you entertained.
The Harry Potter Franchise (2001 – 2011)
The Hunger Games and Harry Potter might, on the surface, seem wildly different. Hunger Games features a post-war world colored in shades of blue and grey. A futuristic world with an extreme disparity between the classes, the Hunger Games universe is bleak and seemingly hopeless. Movies like Hunger Games generally try to mimic this, both in their visual elements as well as their storytelling ones.
Harry Potter, however, begins with childish innocence and wonder. It introduces us to a magical world and whisks us away on an adventure. You can’t help but be enamored with this world colored in shades of gold even when the stakes are high.
Yet somewhere in the middle of the franchise, things take a very dark turn. The color drains out of the films and the light flickers out of the children’s eyes as they come to terms with grief and loss and inherit a war with one of the most powerful wizards of all time. Like Katniss, Harry Potter goes from being the Boy Who Lived to a sacrificial lamb in a seemingly pointless war.
When it comes to movies like Hunger Games, Divergent is a must-see. A highly debated work, this movie has several elements that make it very similar to The Hunger Games. Yet it also manages to retain a sense of originality.
Dystopian movies like Hunger Games and Divergent all carry similar themes of discrimination, especially in relation to class. But Divergent adds in some interesting elements such as the “factions” which resemble a caste system.
And unlike Hunger Games, Divergent shrouds its antagonists in mystery. Additionally, it offers interesting plot elements that make it a cross between Hunger Games and The Truman Show.
Insurgent (2015) and Allegiant (2016) follow Divergent in the franchise. A fourth film, Ascendant was in the works but several roadblocks have left its fate unknown.
Maze Runner (2014)
Maze Runner is part of a trilogy of movies, like The Hunger Games. The Scorch Trials (2015) and The Death Cure (2018) follow the first film. Like Hunger Games, these movies blend action-adventure with science fiction and dystopia.
The franchise also blends overarching themes and plot points seen in The Hunger Games. The protagonist wakes up with no memories, trapped in a desolate location with others like him. A mysterious figure orchestrates events from the shadows, à la Divergent.
Each franchise tackled the ideas of bravery and heroism nestled within the young adult experience in unique ways. Hunger Games focused on sociopolitical issues. Divergent focused on self-reliance and personal agency. But Maze Runner’s focus is entirely on survival against all odds.
And that makes it both a visual treat and a pretty gripping action film.
The Giver (2014)
The Giver is set in a post-apocalyptic world where human emotion has been identified as an enemy of the people. As such, human memory is stored within one person, The Receiver.
The world of The Giver is impressive, but its core concept is what makes it such an intriguing watch. The idea that agency is the root of destruction and therefore must itself be destroyed is not novel.
But The Giver’s approach of having one person hold all human memory and emotion makes it unique. The burden is sometimes so heavy it drives The Receiver insane. Worse, humanity’s lack of humanity is, ultimately, their doom.
The novel the film was based on saw its fair share of controversy. It was banned owing to themes of violence, including memories of war and the use of infanticide and euthanasia, and sexual awakening. Oddly enough, these themes are inseparable from the young adult fiction genre now.
Battle Royale (2000)
There are plenty of Japanese movies like Hunger Games to choose from. But among them all, Battle Royale reigns supreme.
Much like The Giver, Battle Royale saw its fair share of controversy. This was largely due to its excessive use of violence, sex, and gore. It didn’t help that these were depicted using a very young cast.
Battle Royale sets up a simple and grotesque premise. In a not-too-distant future, rebellious and delinquent teens are pitted against each other in a battle to the death. The goal is to dissuade other teens from behaving out of order.
Just like in the Hunger Games movies, Battle Royale has very specific rules. These include a collar that will blow contestants’ heads off if more than one emerges victorious. But unlike the Hunger Games, Battle Royale does not make any grand statements. It isn’t a futuristic dystopia with an authoritarian government. It doesn’t offer any commentary on sociopolitical issues like class.
Instead, Battle Royale leans into teenage angst in a world where these experiences are placed in a high-stakes life-or-death environment. A world where gratuitous violence is something society simply adapts to and uses as a tool to encourage conformity.
Which makes this film feel eerily familiar.
Dystopian Movies Like Hunger Games
An overarching theme in Hunger Games is its post-war apocalyptic dystopian setting. The films do a splendid job of showcasing how bleak the world of Katniss and her companions truly is. You find yourself rooting for them long before the games even begin. That’s some powerful storytelling!
Here are a few more films that manage to accomplish similar feats.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian crime film that offers a grim look at delinquency and youth crime in a world where people are used as tools in a larger sociopolitical struggle.
Alex, the film’s lead, leads a gang through several horrific crime sprees. He is eventually thrown under the bus, arrested, and unwittingly joins an experimental psychological rehabilitation program. It’s impossible to feel any sympathy for the character. Yet, as we watch him endure torture and conditioning that virtually breaks him, it’s hard to not root for him.
Ultimately, the film is a disturbing commentary on agency and choice, much like several other films on this list. But it doesn’t have a heroic symbol at its heart. Instead, it offers you a deeply flawed monstrosity in Alex and has you questioning your own beliefs and moral leanings.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is easily one of the best apocalyptic movies. It is visually stunning, features stellar performances from its cast, and tells a gripping tale of survival in a desolate world.
The original franchise included the films Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2 (1981), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). They follow Australian police officer Max as he navigates a world fighting to survive on limited resources amidst societal chaos and ruin.
After his family is brutally murdered, Max embarks on revenge. Despite getting it, his world is now hollow and he becomes a wanderer in the wastelands. His humanity only resurfaces sporadically as he helps communities along the way.
Fury Road takes the original premise and shifts the setting to one of the communities Max aids along his travels. The original films were credited with redefining the apocalyptic fiction genre and praised for their action. Fury Road is a fantastic addition to the franchise that lives up to its predecessors.
Action Movies Like The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games are notably set in a futuristic dystopia. Technology and advancement are evident, yet inaccessible to anyone but the top one percent. The Capital hoards wealth and resources, while the surrounding districts live in poverty and despair.
The futurism in Hunger Games is certainly alluring. Yet, the films do a wonderful job of keeping the focus on the main characters and their struggle.
For those of us who wanted to see more of Panem’s technological marvels, however, here are a few other futuristic dystopian action movies like The Hunger Games.
Snowpiercer follows the remnants of human civilization aboard a train that runs endlessly around the globe. Outside, a post-apocalyptic world lays in ruin, thanks to a failed attempt at climate engineering.
A class system soon develops aboard the train. And not long after, a revolution begins to overthrow the train’s elite. The contained space within which the entire film takes place allowed it to condense the overarching themes around class and survival into a vivid tale.
The film was praised as much for its acting and action as it was for its direction and editing. And it definitely deserves a watch for anyone looking for Hunger Games-like dystopian movies.
Equilibrium serves as a sort of spiritual predecessor to The Giver. While the latter was based on the 1993 novel of the same name, Equilibrium predates the movie by 12 years.
Many have noted similarities between the two, largely owing to a few similar storytelling and visual elements. Yet outside of the core concept, Equilibrium and The Giver are wildly different.
Equilibrium offers a look at a futuristic utopia where pills help curb human emotion. All forms of expression are outlawed and self-expression is punishable by death. Enforcers travel in packs and eliminate anyone who threatens the peace. Yet when the pill-induced rose-tinted glasses start to fall off, one enforcer begins to question his loyalties.
Despite being a 2002 release, Equilibrium is a ridiculously stylish film with innovative action sequences and excellent world-building.
More Movies Like Hunger Games
Young adults are at the heart of the Hunger Games. Their youth is what makes their struggle and ultimate bittersweet victory so compelling.
But the franchise also presents several other equally-important themes, ranging from authoritarian societies to post-war dystopian ones. One very interesting element that the Hunger Games movies adapt is the concept of a “surveillance state.”
The notion has been present in dystopian fiction for a long time. But it was uniquely redefined and shaped by one novel in particular.
1984 is based on a novel of the same name released in 1949. It was one of the most literary influential works that redefined the dystopian genre and language itself.
Set in a totalitarian post-war era, 1984 follows Winston, a Party worker who helps rewrite history to keep “Big Brother” in power. Winston’s hatred of the world he lives in is trumped only by his curiosity about the world pre-Revolution.
In a world where freedom of thought and speech is curtailed, this very act itself would be a crime. Yet Winston follows his heart and it takes him down a dangerous path.
The Truman Show (1998)
The Truman Show is on the surface a comedic take on the dystopian genre. The other films on this list offer a bleak look at a surveillance state, Big Brother, and totalitarian regimes. Truman Show flips the script a bit, blending these ideas with concepts like simulated reality and reality television.
Yet, under the veneer of perfect smiles, it is an unsettling and disturbing look at the concept of a surveillance state. And how it could come to be in a modern era of apparent freedom.
The Lego Movie (2014)
This might seem like an odd addition to a list of movies like Hunger Games. But The Lego Movie has a lot of similar plot points to the general young adult fiction genre. Namely, its depiction of an authoritarian utopia complete with a surveillance state and its own version of a “Big Brother” and his “Party” of enforcers.
Additionally, it features an everyman who stumbles into a revolution. A revolution that sparks a war and overthrows the totalitarian regime. A revolution that is entirely inspired and facilitated by Big Brother’s enforcers.
The film uses wit and humor to tell what is ultimately a satire wrapped in an extended toy commercial. It is a movie that highlights the importance of individuality and self-worth in a Truman-style utopia. It is also a film that mocks and upholds consumerism at the same time.
The Lego Movie combines themes from movies like Hunger Games with the eerie, lighthearted storytelling of movies like The Truman Show. All while using ridiculously marketable toys as leading characters.
The Art of Storytelling
While several movies have attempted to recreate the magic of the Hunger Games, ultimately, this franchise served as the blueprint for the modern young adult fiction genre. Everything from how it tackled important sociopolitical issues to its take on love triangles has reshaped the genre. And that makes it pretty hard to live up to.
Nonetheless, it opened the floodgates for the genre and we have seen a steady stream of content with each creation offering its own take on the themes the franchise originally explored. And for that, we can all collectively offer three-finger salutes in its honor.
Like this list? Be sure to check out Best Dystopian Movies on Netflix.