Skip to main content

20 best moments of The Hunger Games series

May the odds be ever in your favour

We admit it. We're not ready to say goodbye. After four years, The Hunger Games series is drawing to a close as Katniss gets set to lock horns with the Capitol for the final time in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (opens in new tab). And if we've learnt anything so far, it's that it's going to be emotional.

To prepare you for your last visit to Panem, here are the 20 best moments of the film franchise to date. Some of them are big action beats, others are smaller character developments, but all have been expertly delivered to create one of the most successful film franchises EVER. All hail The Hunger Games (opens in new tab)!

20. Finnick reveals why President Snow wears white roses

Movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)

Why we love it: Or, the one where Finnick (Sam Claflin) explained that all victors are prostitutes, which would have been a very different series. It's a rare moment for Claflin to shine and he takes full advantage, a bit like Finnick did with his method of payment for sex: secrets. Revealing why President Snow (Donald Sutherland) wears a white rose (because poison, basically), it also plays a vital story role as it takes place while the rescue attempt for the captured victors, including Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), is underway. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and co quickly come to regret that rescue, however.

19. Gale gets beaten up by Peacekeeper Thread

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: In one of the series' most visceral scenes, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) gets whipped by District 12's new Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread (Patrick St. Esprit) for poaching and Katniss is not impressed. Interrupting the punishment, she gets struck by Romulus, but refuses to budge despite Gale's pleas and the fact she's staring down a gun barrel. Along with Peeta, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) steps in as the voice of reason and defuses the situation. "Excellent idea," deadpans Haymitch as the Head Peacekeeper growls, "Next time, it's the firing squad." Yeah, good luck with that, Romulus.

18. Katniss sings 'The Hanging Tree'

Movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014)

Why we love it: One of the very few action beats in Mockingjay - Part 1 begins in sombre fashion. Asked by Pollux (Elden Henson) to sing after he spots a mockingjay, Katniss brings him - and the audience - to tears with a haunting rendition of 'The Hanging Tree'. This segues into a rousing battle cry as rebels attack and successfully blow up District 5's hydroelectric dam, allowing Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) a way into the Capitol's system. It was also the moment that highlighted there's basically nothing J-Law can't do, making us feel like we should just give up trying.

17. Old man executed for whistling Rue's tune

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: The impact on Rue's (Amandla Stenberg) death continues to be felt at the start of the sequel when Katniss and Peeta visit District 11 on their Victory Tour. Going off script, Katniss pays tribute to Thresh (Dayo Okeniyi) and Rue, which prompts an old man to whistle Rue's four-note tune and give the iconic three-finger salute - a move that isn't welcomed by the Peacekeepers. They drag the old man to the stage to shoot him while we witness the atrocity from Katniss' perspective as she's hurried away. Despite being glimpsed in The Hunger Games, this was the moment that marked out the Peacekeepers as utter bastards.

16. 'The Girl on Fire' is revealed

Movie: The Hunger Games (2012)

Why we love it: Alicia Keys might have proclaimed "this girl is on fire", but we all know who the real 'Girl on Fire' is. Causing even Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) to be speechless, Cinna's (Lenny Kravitz) design genius is showcased in the first tribute parade when Katniss wins over the Capitol crowd with a dress that is literally scorching hot, even if she seems rather bemused by it all. Ever the showman, Peeta (also in a fiery outfit) plays up to the crowd as he raises their hands aloft but, somehow, isn't referred to as 'The Boy on Fire'. Poor Peeta.

15. Peeta volunteers for Haymitch

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: Or, why we love Effie (Elizabeth Banks), part one. Banks nails it as she tries to uphold Capitol tradition, while really not wanting to, as she calls out Katniss' name, before not hiding her relief at all when she calls Haymitch's name. It's a relief short-lived as Peeta makes a snap "I volunteer as tribute", which leads to a mass silent three-finger salute that still gives us chills. It's also the first (only?) District 12 spotlight moment for Peeta in the series and no, being super skilled with an icing bag does not count.

14. Effie gives Haymitch and Peeta presents

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: Why we love Effie, part two. One of the only times we get to truly see behind the make-up, Effie visibly breaks as she says goodbye to Katniss and Peeta before the games: "You both deserved so much better, I am truly sorry." Before that, she gives Haymitch a gold bangle which later proves crucial, as Katniss spots Finnick wearing one in the arena as a symbol that they're to be allies. As Effie puts it, "We're a team" and despite all the dangers of Panem, we wish we were there so we could be Team Effie.

13. Plutarch was a good guy all along

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: Disorientated from bringing a premature, explosive end to the games, Katniss wanders into a room with Haymitch, Finnick and... Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee?! "Katniss, you have been our mission from the beginning," Plutarch intones, "This is the revolution and you are the Mockingjay." His first move towards the new symbol of the revolution? Sedating her as she goes full-pelt for Haymitch. It's a twist that is sold in seconds by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, making everything fall into place as Katniss' world collapses around her.

12. Wedding dress turns into Mockingjay

Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Why we love it: The dress that marked the beginning of the end for Cinna, but what style to go out with. Even Katniss is unaware of just what he has in store as she starts to twirl for Caesar. You could even say the mockingjay it transforms her into is Cinna literally flipping the bird to President Snow. Not to be outdone, Peeta reveals that the two are already married and expecting a mini Katniss. Amid cries of dismay from the crowd, the victors all hold hands for a truly spine-tingling moment of defiance, even if it's one that proves fruitless.

Ian Sandwell
Ian Sandwell

Ian Sandwell is an entertainment journalist, an avid FrightFester, and horror genre lover, as well as being a bit of a Marvel geek. Ian was the Features Writer at GamesRadar between 2015-2017, and has since moved on to Digital Spy where he currently sits as the website's movies editor.