The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes us back to the world of Panem for the first time since 2015's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. This time, we're heading over 60 years into the past to the 10th version of the brutal games, which sees children from Panem's impoverished 12 districts fight to the death for wealthy Capitol audiences. That means there's no Katniss or Peeta – instead, we follow Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a female tribute from District 12, and the Capitol's Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). If that name sounds familiar, it's because it is: Snow goes on to become the president of Panem in the original trilogy.
As you might expect, there are plenty of callbacks to the original movies in the prequel – but some are a little more obvious than others. That's why we've broken down every callback to Katniss' adventures that we spotted in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, from name-dropping to audio clues. Be warned, though: there are major spoilers for the new movie ahead, so turn back now if you haven't seen it and don't want to know what happens!
Lucy Gray's Katniss bow
When Lucy Gray’s name is called out at the reaping, she makes quite an entrance onto the stage before giving a bow to the crowds. The slow, defiant bow combined with her smirk is very reminiscent of the one that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) does in The Hunger Games when the Gamemakers are paying her no mind in the training room. She demonstrates her archery skills before bowing toward them and saying, "Thank you for your consideration". Lucy Gray actor Rachel Zegler actually improvised this on set as a nod to the iconic original hero.
"May the odds be in your favor"
During Lucy Gray’s interview with Hunger Games host Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), she performs a powerful ballad that wins over the crowds and lands her a lot of donations. After this, Lucky, tells her: "I don’t love your odds, but may they be in your favor." This is a clear reference to the iconic line, "May the odds be ever in your favor," that Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) memorably says at the District 12 reaping in The Hunger Games.
Towards the end of the movie, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray are relaxing by the lake outside District 12 when Maude Ivory runs up to them with a plant. In a moment taken straight from Suzanne Collins’ book, Lucy Gray explains that this potato is actually called 'Katniss'. Now, any Hunger Games fan will know this is what the hero of the original trilogy is called, but it’s a fun nod to that future story and probably one that will stick with Snow for many years to come. If you listen carefully at this moment, you’ll hear that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire theme is playing underneath it too.
President Snow's voice
At the end of the film, just before the credits roll, we hear Donald Sutherland’s voice as President Snow. "It’s the things we love most that destroy us," he says in his recognizable cadence, taken from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. As viewers will recall, he says this to Katniss as she tries to negotiate with him to release Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) before he warns her that he knows her friends are in the Tribute Center. However, after watching Lucy Gray and Coriolanus’ relationship in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, this quote takes on a whole new meaning.
Coriolanus Snow's development
Interestingly, Coriolanus actor Tom Blyth told GamesRadar+ that he made some alterations to his character's voice in the final section of the film to sound more like the future president. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice that he begins to speak slower and more precisely, as Blyth explains: "I wanted his posture and his voice to just start to get closer to what he's like later on." You might notice, too, that his hairstyle looks very familiar at the end as well.
Lucy Gray's spin
As well as her earlier nod to Katniss’ bow, Rachel Zegler revealed that she added another sneaky reference to the character in the final film as well. Speaking to GamesRadar+, the actor explained how when Lucy Gray walks on stage at the Hob in District 12 to perform with the Covey, she does a few spins. This is an allusion to how Katniss spun in Cinna’s dress in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Katniss' weapon of choice
After Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera) breaks into the arena to sprinkle breadcrumbs over Marcus’ body (a District 2 tradition), Coriolanus is sent in to retrieve his classmate. Whilst in the arena, Coriolanus looks around to absorb his surroundings, with his eyes lingering on a bow and some arrows that lie among the rubble. Of course, this is Katniss Everdeen’s weapon of choice in The Hunger Games trilogy – with the camera pausing at this moment to acknowledge the neat nod.
Snow's weapon of choice
Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes doesn’t just make reference to Katniss’ weapon of choice, but her enemy’s too. It is well known in both the Hunger Games books and movies that Snow favors poisoning his enemies, which is shown to be something he also did in his youth. Not only does he kill Dean Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) by slipping some into his morphling, but Coriolanus also gives Lucy Gray rat poison to use on the other tributes in the arena.
Lucy Gray's dress
The dress Lucy Gray wears at both the reaping and in the arena features nods to two major characters from The Hunger Games. If you take a closer look at the corset part of the dress, you will notice that within the design are katniss and primrose flowers, which have been painted on. This is – of course – a reference to the series’ protagonist Katniss Everdeen and her younger sister Primrose, affectionately known as Prim.
The Flickerman connection
In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Jason Schwartzman portrays Lucretius ‘Lucky’ Flickerman, the weatherman who becomes the first-ever host of the Hunger Games. As any fan will know, he shares his surname with Caesar Flickerman, the host of the games that Katniss participates in, played by Stanley Tucci. Whilst it is never confirmed that he is a descendent of Lucky, it can be very safely assumed – the Lionsgate UK Instagram account may have confirmed this by calling him a "nepo baby". There may also be a potential reference to Caesar in the film when Lucky calls a restaurant to rearrange his dinner reservation – mentioning his wife and kids.
Coriolanus tells Lucy Gray that his mother always smelt of roses, and the scarf he gifts her even holds the same scent. He offers a rose to Lucy Gray during their first meeting, too. In the original trilogy, President Snow has a rose garden at his mansion, and he often wears a rose on his suit jacket.
When Coriolanus and Lucy Gray are sitting by the lake in District 12 during their day trip with the Covey, Lucy Gray points out the mockingjays in the tree above them, as Coriolanus doesn't recognize them. A cross between a mockingbird and a jabberjay, the mockingjay becomes a symbol of the rebellion in the original trilogy after Katniss wears a mockingjay pin as a tribute token in The Hunger Games.
The Hanging Tree
Turns out that The Hanging Tree, the song sung by Katniss in Mockingjay – Part 1 was actually written by Lucy Gray Baird. We see the Hanging Tree itself, too, when Sejanus and two District 12 rebels are executed. Hanging seems have been outlawed or died out as a form of punishment by the time the original trilogy kicks off, as we never see the Tree in those movies.
Coriolanus' classmate Arachne Crane shares a surname with Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley), the Head Gamemaker in the first Hunger Games movie. In The Hunger Games, Snow disapproves of many of Seneca's decisions, reflecting his disagreements with Arachne at the Academy. Both characters meet a grisly end, too – Arachne is killed by the tribute she's mentoring, and Seneca is executed by President Snow after he allows both Katniss and Peeta to survive the games.
Another familiar name can be found in Coriolanus' class – in more ways than one. When we first see Coriolanus at the Academy, he and his classmates are in Heavensbee Hall, and one of Coriolanus' classmates is named Hilarius Heavensbee. He's presumably an ancestor of Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who was the Head Gamemaker in Catching Fire, and is later revealed to be the leader of the rebellion against the Capitol in District 13.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is out now in cinemas. For more, check out our guide to the rest of this year's biggest movie release dates.