The definitive ranking of the 'Hunger Games' movies

Ladies and gentlemen, the era of Hunger Games is coming to an end.

With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 hitting theaters this weekend, it's time to say goodbye to the franchise that made "YA dystopian fiction" its own genre and turned Jennifer Lawrence from an indie film darling to one of the world's biggest stars. Plus it gave us four pretty good films.

In honor of the film's release, we've ranked all four of the movies, definitively. Feel free to disagree, but then you'd be wrong.
4. Mockingjay - Part 2

Oi, Hijacked Peeta. (Photo: Murray Close, Lionsgate)

Although the series does go out with quite a bang, that bang isn't as strong as it has been in the past. Part of the issue with Mockingjay - Part 2 is that the worst and most problematic elements of the book (see: Hijacked Peeta, and everything about the ending) are in its second half, which is not the movie's fault. And to its credit, the movie does take the opportunity to improve on some of the aspects of the book, but it just doesn't take that opportunity nearly enough.

There is still plenty to love here, from the action sequences to perhaps the most heartbreaking performance from Lawrence yet (for more on the film, read our review here).
3. Mockingjay - Part 1

We really wish 'Mockingjay' had been one film. (Photo: Murray Close, Lionsgate)

The decision to split the third book into two movies definitely hurt the sequel more, butMockingjay - Part 1 didn't escape the effect. The movie has a lot of rising action and a lot of really excellent set pieces, and then it just sort of...ends.

Still, the movie added some really excellent characters, from Natalie Dormer's Cressida (and her amazing hair) to Mahershala Ali's Boggs to Julianne Moore's President Coin. But inevitably, like with other films that were arbitrarily chopped (cough The Hobbit cough cough), we just wish we could have seen the single movie that Mockingjay could have been.
2. The Hunger Games

Remember how her hair was a slightly different shade of brown in this one? (Photo: Murray Close, Lionsgate)

If this movie hadn't worked as well as it did, the pop culture landscape today would look a lot different. We wouldn't have Jennifer Lawrence the Phenomenon, or the current deluge of YAdystopian fantasy. We wouldn't be arguing about splitting Mockingjay, because there would be no sequels. Adapting the original story to film was no easy task.

We forget, since the last few have been more about revolution than the Hunger Games themselves, that so much of the first book is literally children killing children, and while that violence is hard enough to depict on the page showing it onscreen is a different thing altogether. The first movie managed to stay true to the book without ever seeming exploitative or cheap, a huge accomplishment in and of itself. At the same time, it's an incredibly thrilling and tense film to watch (even turning press junkets into compelling cinema).

Sure, they overdid it on the shaky cam a little, and some of the scenes suffer from a lack of the internal dialogue we get in the book. But all in all Hunger Games succeeded in every way it had to.
1. Catching Fire

Finnick you are the best. (Photo: Murray Close, Lionsgate)

Naysayers may like the original better, but Catching Fire is the true victor of the series. While The Hunger Games succeeded in adapting its source material, Catching Fire transcended it, turning the second-best book into easily the best film.

Validly, Fire has a huge advantage over its predecessor: It's just a more cinematic story. Everything about it is better suited it for the screen than the other two in the trilogy, from the Quarter Quell arena being far more visually interesting than the original Hunger Games arena (a giant beach jungle clock has more to look at than a generic forest); to the simple fact that Katniss gets to talk to more people during the Games (plus it helps that Finnick and Joanna are the series' best characters who are completely under-utilized in both Mockingjay films). Shifting the enemies from children to animals and the environment allowed the action to take a step up as well without becoming too graphically violent.

The film also shapes the many elements of the series -- the arena, the family, the love triangle, the revolution and even Effie's many outfits -- into the most cohesive and fluid story of the series. From start to finish, Catching Fire made the greatest movie out of this series. And we'll fight you on that.


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