It’s been 15 years since Suzanne Collins created one of the biggest sensations of the 2010s. At the height of the young adult dystopia craze, The Hunger Games was arguably the most popular franchise of its time. Before the true heyday of the MCU and Star Wars still dormant, Jennifer Lawrence led this quartet of films to worldwide acclaim.
Ahead of the release of the new prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable and iconic scenes from the original series. Be it an action spectacle or a tragic death, these moments were burned into our hearts and minds like the girl on fire herself.
11 The Quarter Quell Interview
Catching Fire is one of the best sequels of the past decade, and scenes like this are why. With all the tributes furious to head back into the arena for the Quarter Quell, the interviews with fan favorite Caeser Flickerman, played by the great Stanley Tucci, incite some climactic moments for all the Capitol to see.
From another fashion masterwork from designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) with his wedding dress that transforms in flames to a mockingjay for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) to Johanna’s (Jena Malone) bleeped outburst, this scene ratcheted up the stakes for the 75th Hunger Games. After Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) tells the lie that Katniss is pregnant to try and get sympathy from the viewers, seeing all the tributes stand hand in hand as the audience yells out to cancel the games was a thrilling scene of tension.
10 Victory Tour
After going off-script during Katniss and Peeta’s victory tour for winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss gives a tearful eulogy to her fallen ally as she looks out towards Rue’s family. The crowd solemnly raises the three-finger mockingjay salute, but the old gentlemen who raised the salute first is taken by peacekeepers and shot dead to Katniss’ horror.
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This scene is vital in depicting the cruelty of living under the rule of President Snow (Donald Sutherland), especially outside the arena of the games. The world building this scene achieves with expanding beyond the Capitol and District 12 is of vital importance to establishing the setting of Panem. Few scenes incite the goosebumps this does when the look of sadness, shock, and anger spread across Katniss’ face, marking this a stellar showcase to why Jennifer Lawrence is one of the best actors of her generation.
9 Peeta Attacks Katniss
After being apart for the entirety of Mockingjay Part 1, the reunion of Katniss and Peeta was striking… literally. After being rescued by Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and other brave District 13 soldiers, Peeta immediately attacks Katniss as a result of being injected with trackerjacker venom by President Snow.
Right when you’re expecting some catharsis in the film’s final moments, this shocking show of violence leaves you on an emotional cliffhanger. The one motivating force in Katniss’ life may just be beyond saving when the film cuts to black.
8 Battle in the Sewers
Katniss and company escape the sewers of the Capitol in this sequence after President Snow sends the humanoid monsters known as “mutts” to kill them. With his trident ablaze, Finnick (Sam Claflin) meets his untimely end, falling to his death as the mutts consume him.
One of the scariest scenes in a non-horror film, Mockingjay Part 2found director Francis Lawrence delivering a nail-biting set piece of suspense and thrills. The despair as Katniss blows up the Holo to spare Finnick from his suffering was a tragic moment for the two friends to end their journey together.
After all the other tributes lay dead in the first film, Katniss and Peeta hear an announcement from Claudius Templesmith (Toby Jones), reversing the rule that two tributes from the same district can win the games together, forcing either Katniss and Peeta to kill the other.
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When all hope seems to disappear, Katniss’ trademark rebelliousness concocts a plan – her and Peeta will eat the deadly nightlock berries, killing them both. Before they go out Romeo and Juliet style, the games end, anointing them both the victors of the 74th Hunger Games – since two victors is better than none at all. A memorable scene that epitomizes Katniss’ intellect and drive, as well as how much Peeta both trusts and loves her.
5 Yelling at Buttercup
One of Jennifer Lawrence’s finest moments, this scene finds her yelling at her sister’s cat, Buttercup, in rage against Prim’s (Willow Shields) death. A small scene with a lot of emotion, Katniss yells to the point of scaring the animal, only to bring her close and keeping her inside.
After four movies of anguish and suffering, this scene allows Katniss to let all her pain out. She doesn’t have to play the role of a victor or a mockingjay, yet she can’t be with the person she did all this to save. It’s an authentically harsh scene, but one filled with humane grief and understanding.
4 Arrow to the Skies
Katniss remembered who the real enemy was. Taking an electrical arrow to the skies, she brings the 75th Hunger Games to an explosive finale, destroying the arena as it goes up in flames around her.
Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) rescues her, with the mockingjay rising out of the games and towards her now home: District 13. A surprising turn of events that not only solidified Katniss and Finnick as true allies, but ended Catching Fire on a riveting final note.
3 President Coin’s Death
It was all leading to this. After her ascent to become interim President of Panem, Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) receives punishment from Katniss in the form of an arrow to the heart. When finally given the chance to kill President Snow, Katniss adjusts her aim, taking out Coin for authorizing the bombing that killed not only countless Capitol children but Prim as well.
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Nothing prepared audiences for the whiplash of this scene. To get so close to the death of Snow only for Katniss to find a new target was stunning, leaving everyone on the edge of their seat. Ultimately, Mockingjay Part 2 is a story of war; one person doesn’t create war, a system does – Katniss broke the system.
2 Rue’s Death
The most devastating moment from the series, 12-year-old Rue (Amandla Stenberg) is killed during the games in the first film. As she passes away, Katniss sings her a lullaby before laying her to rest in a bed of wild flowers.
Obviously this scene leaves an impact, but director Gary Ross hits home the importance of Katniss’ kindness, a key character trait that defines her motivations throughout the series. Had this scene not worked, it would’ve ruined the trajectory for everything to follow, coming off as gratuitous and exploitative. Instead, it’s a quiet moment with gentility, tact, and heart.
1 I Volunteer As Tribute
The scene that started it all. At the reaping where two tributes are chosen to complete in the annual Hunger Games from every child aged 12 to 18, the young Primrose Everdeen’s name is called, but not for long. Because in comes Katniss without hesitating to save her sister and volunteering in her place.
One of the most quoted lines in modern pop culture and setting the stage for the whirlwind of the story’s future, this moment established the emotionally wrought yet exciting tale about to be told. This is when The Hunger Games became a worldwide phenomenon. From here on out, the odds were always in this series’ favor.
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