Hunger Games predecessors?
March 23, 2012 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What are the books and films that The Hunger Games rips off pays homage to?

There are the obvious ones: Battle Royale (novel and film); The Running Man (novella by Stephen King and film, though they are quite different, and I think THG draws more from the film); "The Long Walk" by Stephen King.

Going way back, there's "The Most Dangerous Game" from 1896, and a number of variations on that.

This every-person-for-him/herself is practically its own genre, but I can't think of more examples. Help me out.
posted by zardoz to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there's the great grandaddy of all of those: Lord of the Flies.
posted by griphus at 1:45 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've not read the book, but from what I've heard it sounds like it has some similarities to The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
posted by scrambles at 1:48 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

"The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson?
posted by livinglearning at 1:50 PM on March 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Scrambles beat me to the race. Read "The Lottery" when you get a chance though. I provided a link to the short story above.
posted by livinglearning at 1:51 PM on March 23, 2012

Was just posting The Lottery and had to delete on preview.. Its also reminiscent of Rollerball in many ways.
posted by Lame_username at 1:51 PM on March 23, 2012

House of Stairs by William Sleator has similar themes and is also YA lit, from 1974.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:52 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

1984 is one of the main progenitors of such dystopian stories. It was also way before its time in portraying how mass media can be used as a force of propaganda and control.
posted by CTORourke at 1:52 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not a book but a film: Series 7: The Contenders
posted by vitabellosi at 1:53 PM on March 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

It is very different in many ways, but the world of Panem reminded me very much of the America in The Handmaid's Tale. The way it was so completely foreign and yet still very recognizable. Moreso in the later books, as you get more of a picture of the politics and and the society of Panem.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:55 PM on March 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh and of course the author herself has said that she was inspired by the mythological stories of the labyrinth of Crete and the tribute to the Minotaur. But I don't know if you're looking that far back.
posted by CTORourke at 1:55 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The nightlock scene recalls a certain Shakespeare play.
posted by acidic at 2:01 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Death Race 2000

Definitely the Labyrinth of Crete like someone else said.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:02 PM on March 23, 2012

I would say these are all "hunted man" genre, but in a sub-genre that is "innocents as hunted and hunters". i.e. The Long Walk, The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Flies, etc. instead of The Running Man, Death Race 2000, Rollerball.

Anything you find with the themes of bonding with the knowledge that it won't last, loss of innocence and a realization of your own mortality will closely align with The Hunger Games, if that helps.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:06 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

the author herself has said that she was inspired by the mythological stories of the labyrinth of Crete and the tribute to the Minotaur

Ha, I just heard the Hunger Games plot the other day and thought of this immediately, I didn't know it was done on purpose. (I feel slightly better now.)

Since you asked for books here it is in novel form, if you want.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:09 PM on March 23, 2012

Instead of a "ripoff", think of it more as a genre.

It reminds me of gladiator movies, where slaves are put into an arena not only to provide spectacle for the masses, but also to remind slaves of their place. Gladiator and Spartacus are examples.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

From the author herself (PDF):
A: A significant influence would have to be the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The myth tells how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete, where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.

Even as a kid, I could appreciate how ruthless this was. Crete was sending a very clear message: “Mess with us and we’ll do something worse than kill you. We’ll kill your children.” And the thing is, it was allowed; the parents sat by powerless to stop it. Theseus, who was the son of the king, volunteered to go. I guess in her own way, Katniss is a futuristic Theseus.

In keeping with the classical roots, I send my tributes into an updated version of the Roman gladiator games, which entails a ruthless government forcing people to fight to the death as popular entertainment. The world of Panem, particularly the Capitol, is loaded with Roman references. Panem itself comes from the expression “Panem et Circenses” which translates into “Bread and Circuses.”

The audiences for both the Roman games and reality TV are almost characters in themselves. They can respond with great enthusiasm or play a role in your elimination.

I was channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage when Katniss’s story came to me. One night I’m sitting there flipping around and on one channel there’s a group of young people competing for, I don’t know, money maybe? And on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting an actual war. And I was tired, and the lines began to blur in this very unsettling way, and I thought of this story.
posted by bonehead at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

TV Tropes to the rescue! Try Bread and Circuses, Deadly Game. Also, maybe Robert Sheckley's short story "The Seventh Victim" and the movie based on it.
posted by The Tensor at 2:19 PM on March 23, 2012

Mildly spoily: If Katniss is Theseus, does that make Peeta Ariadne?
posted by bonehead at 2:27 PM on March 23, 2012

The Giver
posted by hefeweizen at 2:37 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

BattleRoyale in book, novel, and movie form

Series 7: The Contenders rocks the "reality show contestants forced to kill each other" angle

(warning: TVTropes!)
posted by nicebookrack at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Survivor "reality" TV series(es).

The Running Man was a Stephen King novel about a dystopian future United States where people are hunted down and killed on a televised game show, later made into a film starring Ahnold Schwartzenegger.

Also everything about gladiatorial combat, ever.
posted by XMLicious at 2:51 PM on March 23, 2012

As soon as I started reading The Hunger Games, I was struck by how much it reminded me of Ender's Game. I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen that similarity referenced much, beyond today's New York Times review. (Then again, I've been avoiding all the Hunger Games movie hype.)
posted by soleiluna at 4:05 PM on March 23, 2012

It's not as significant as many other sources mentioned here, but I think there's a touch of Logan's Run in that you have a deadly dystopia with age-delimited reasons for killing its citizenry where there are also rumors about a utopian counterpart out in the wilderness. The details differ quite a bit, but I have a feeling pretty near every SF author the same age as Suzanne Collins is aware of the plot.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The 10th Victim from 1965 is also relevant.
posted by galaksit at 4:27 PM on March 23, 2012

‘Hunger Games’ Vs. ‘Battle Royale’

Collins herself has repeatedly denied having ever seen or even heard of "Battle Royale" until she’d already turned in the manuscript of the trilogy’s first novel, at which point she asked her editor if she should read it. “He said: ‘No, I don’t want that world in your head. Just continue with what you’re doing,’” she told the New York Times last April, and claimed to have still never read the book or the movie.

So, if you believe Collins, not so much on the homage/rip-off, although it's possible some knowledge of the Japanese story had filtered down to her as she wrote her own similar story. Side note, but "Hunger Games" has also killed the market for a U.S. remake of "Battle Royale":

the U.S. remake of "Battle Royale"....was already controversial due to the original film’s gleeful depictions of youth-on-youth violence.

“It was very difficult to get anyone interested in doing the remake,” says Lee. “The studios were very scared of comparisons to the Columbine shootings — if it got linked to something in which a kid killed another kid, and the perpetrator said they were influenced by the movie, that would of course be a disaster.”

The bloody massacre at Virginia Tech the following year, in which disturbed student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and injured 25 of his classmates and teachers before taking his own life, put the project on indefinite life support. But, according to Lee, it was the publication of “The Hunger Games” the following year and its pickup for remake by Lions Gate in 2009 that ultimately pulled its plug.

“Look, there isn’t a studio out there that would invest the money to do a ‘Battle Royale’ feature film remake now,” he says. “Audiences would see it as just a copy of ‘Games’ — most of them wouldn’t know that ‘Battle Royale’ came first. It’s unfair, but that’s reality.”

posted by mediareport at 7:41 PM on March 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
posted by Estraven at 10:14 PM on March 23, 2012

After only seeing the movie, I thought of The Long Walk. But I admit not having read very many books that are similar.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:59 AM on March 24, 2012

Not a book or film:

American Idol
posted by snowjoe at 7:08 AM on March 24, 2012

Most of the comparisons thus far focus on the Dytopic and "death-match" aspects of the hunger games, but one of the aspects of the books that I felt was very well done was the survival elements (at least in the first two books).

A couple of tonal inspirations for those parts of the books might be, in children's lit: "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George and in adult fiction the classic Geoffrey Household thriller "Rogue Male".
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 9:34 AM on March 24, 2012

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

How so?
posted by amarynth at 9:50 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Quo Vadis
posted by marsha56 at 11:45 AM on March 24, 2012

posted by cupcake1337 at 4:06 PM on March 24, 2012

the truman show. hatchet. the lottery. lord of the flies.
posted by timory at 5:45 PM on March 24, 2012

The aspect that some of the districts live in a context akin to the 19th or early 20th century is reminiscent of The Tripods.
posted by scrambles at 3:46 PM on March 25, 2012

Another vote for the 10th Victim, which is often overlooked.

Out on the periphery of this genre is The Manhattan Hunt Club, in which rich people hunt the homeless for sport.
posted by jbickers at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2012

Walter F. Moudy's novelette, "The Survivor" is somewhat reminiscent.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2012

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