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Why the Hunger Games is the Best Book-to-Screen Adaptation


March 18, 2023

Upon its release, The Hunger Games trilogy was instantly well-received. Even today, it's still hugely popular, as seen by the recent Hunger Games renaissance on TikTok, which has seen people reminiscing over their Hunger Games merchandise and making edits about the series. But it's not just the books that have captured fans' hearts — it's the films as well.

The four Hunger Games films (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2) were released between 2012 and 2015. Their rapid release should provide an idea of just how well they did. If that's not enough to convince you, then hopefully the fact that the films have collectively grossed almost three billion dollars is.

In this article, I'll be explaining why I think The Hunger Games is one of the best book-to-screen adaptations out there. If you're already a fan of the films, then read on and have your feelings vindicated, and if not, then hopefully this article will open your eyes to the brilliance of The Hunger Games films.

1. Choice of Cast

The main cast consists of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne.

The choice of cast is definitely one of the things that make The Hunger Games films stand out amongst other book-to-screen adaptions. Not only do the actors get on well and have good chemistry (in an interview with Vogue, Jennifer was asked which co-stars she had the most fun with on set, and she instantly replied that it was Josh and Liam), but they're all genuinely passionate about their roles.

This extends not just to the main trio, but the rest of the cast as well. Donald Sutherland, who plays President Snow, wasn't offered the role; rather, he wrote a letter requesting it. In an interview with GQ, Sutherland stated that "the role of the president had maybe a line in the script. Maybe two. Didn't make any difference. I thought it was an incredibly important film, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Having a passionate cast who get along definitely pays off. Their chemistry and zeal shine through on screen. The roles are played so well that it's difficult for audiences not to be moved.

Image Credit: Gage Skidmore from Wikimedia Commons

2. Stays True to the Books

Another aspect of the films that makes them so compelling is that, for the most part, they stay true to the books.

The same cannot always be said about other book-to-screen adaptations. For example, Tris from Divergent is described in the books as having gray-blue eyes and a large nose, attributes that the actress who plays her, Shailene Woodley, does not have. Similarly, Harry Potter's green eyes are a crucial aspect of his character, and yet Daniel Radcliffe's eyes are blue. Such details may seem insignificant, but are extremely important to fans of the books.

The Hunger Games stays true to the book's description of the characters. For example, Katniss has the required dark hair and Peeta and Prim both have the described blue eyes and blonde hair.

It's not just physical appearances that the books stay true to — the plot is also mostly the same. The films even feature some direct quotes from the books, such as Cinna telling Katniss "I'm not allowed to bet, but if I could, my money would be on you" and Katniss's infamous declaration that "if we burn, you burn with us". Such accuracy ensures that the films stay true to the book's core message, and is a large reason why so many fans of the books are also fans of the films.

Image Credit: Wifflegif from Giphy

3. Additional scenes

While the films mainly stay true to the books, there are a small number of additional scenes that weren't in the books. I would argue that this is one of the rare occasions where such additions actually improve the films.

For example, in the book, Katniss sings 'The Hanging Tree' while sitting by the lake in District 12. The film likewise shows her sitting by the lake, but then deviates from the book by panning to District 5 where a rebellion is occurring, while the song plays in the background. This scene is haunting and serves to reinforce the books core message surrounding the power of the masses.

The films also grant viewers snippets of Caesar's interviews with Gamemakers as the game goes on, as well as pieces of President Snow's private conversations. These are moments that we don't get to see in the books due to them being from Katniss's point of view, but such additions in the film are a clever way of heightening tension and viewer investment.

4. Attention to detail

Many of the film's writers and directors have publicly said how much they enjoyed both reading the books and making the films. The producer of the films, Nina Jacobson, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter "I was completely obsessed with it [The Hunger Games], and I couldn't bear the idea of someone else producing it."

The passion of the film's creators is translated into how well thought out and detailed the films are. From the flamboyant outfits of the Capitol citizens to the artfully designed arenas, the films are brimming with intricate details and clever Easter eggs. Such details make the films that much more enjoyable and make viewers ravenous to watch them over and over again.

On Twitter, one eagle-eyed viewer even pointed out that at the Capitol party in the second film, Peeta only has three fingers painted, the same three fingers used to do the Mockingjay salute. These details demonstrate just how much attention and thought has gone into the films.

5. Soundtrack

There are many factors that make the films such high quality, but in my opinion, its soundtrack is one of the most important elements.

The official companion album for The Hunger Games is called 'The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond'. The album features brilliant songs, such as 'Safe & Sound' by Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars and 'Come Away to the Water' by Maroon 5 featuring Rozzi.

The soundtrack is essential in transferring the ambience of the books to the films. The songs are at times beautiful, at times haunting, at times loud and overt, and at times subtle. The soundtrack is so good that I'm not ashamed to admit that I have many of the songs downloaded on my phone!

Image Credit: Allmoviegifs from Giphy

So there you have it. Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand why The Hunger Games films are some of the best book-to-screen adaptions out there and has inspired you to give them a rewatch. If you're one of the few people who haven't yet seen them, please take my advice and give them a watch! Trust me, you won't regret it.

Areesha Ahmed
10k+ pageviews

Areesha is currently a student. She enjoys watching horror films and drinking tea. When she is not reading books, she is buying them.