Why you’re wrong about the worst Hunger Games movies

Jessica Cullen
You're wrong about the worst Hunger Games movies: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

The Hunger Games movies just got added to Netflix, and it’s now time to admit that the “worst” Hunger Games movies weren’t actually bad at all.

Hunger Games fans got a resurrection of their own this Easter weekend, with the entire original series landing on Netflix. From The Hunger Games to Mockingjay Part 2, Rebellion fighters were able to rewatch one of the most successful YA adaptations in cinematic history as part of the streaming service’s slate of new movies.

But with this comes a problem. Every time The Hunger Games comes back into the cultural zeitgeist, there’s always one opinion that proves pretty consistent: “Those last two movies suck!”

The thing is, I’m of the belief that not only is this consensus pretty harsh, but more importantly, it’s just plain wrong.

The Hunger Games hate

The adaptation of the Hunger Games books wasn’t completely hassle-free. When the third novel was split into a two-parter for the big screen, it ignited a rebellion of its own, with many fans calling this decision out as a cash-grabbing misstep.

This bitterness has stayed with the franchise through the years, and since then, it’s been generally agreed upon that the Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 are the worst installments. Excluding the 2023 prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, they’re the lowest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only that, but they’re also the lowest-grossing of the original series.

The fans’ aversion to the final adaptations — and the majority of their criticisms — lay in the belief that Part 1 was wasted on establishing arcs (aka it was dull!) and that Part 2 felt too condensed (aka it was rushed!). At the time, public opinion was that splitting the climax into two halves resulted in a pair of movies that didn’t quite fit together and didn’t do Suzanne Collins’ impressive ending justice.

The cast of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Yes, I’ll admit that both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are the better movies, but that’s not to say that Mockingjay deserves the hate it gets. In fact, Part 1 is key to establishing an important distinction in the story: this is no longer the Hunger Games.

Justice for the Mockingjays

By having the majority of the movie take place in an underground bunker, fans are able to take a breather from the electric ending of Catching Fire. We need a moment to pause, to understand what’s at stake. Katniss’s understanding of the potential despair and, as a result, her integral position in the Rebellion is the essential turning point for her character.

What’s more, the audience also needs to feel that separation from Peeta. He only reappears in the final moments of the film after his rescue, and the impact that’s had from seeing his ravaged and traumatized state comes far stronger after he’s been away from Katniss and the Rebellion for the majority of the movie.

As for Part 2, this serves as a return to form. Part 1 might have been a breather from the Games, but the final film is a whole new version of them. As Katniss and her tactical team move through a booby-trapped Capitol, the destruction and stakes feel all the more impactful because we had to sit through Part 1 to get there.

By the time Katniss has come to terms with the deception and potential future around her, it feels earned. The disintegration of Snow’s (and Coin’s) ideals feels like it’s been a long time coming, and that’s important. The bloody history of Panem and its disillusionment has been stretched over generations, and those final two movies actually tackle this very well.

The Hunger Games is a highly successful series with an incredible legacy behind it. While there are always weak installments in popular franchises, it’s time we stopped treating Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 like unforgivable outliers. Really, they did exactly what they needed to do: build upon two excellent starter movies to bring about an ending that was always going to divide but simply needed to work.

For more on Panem, check out our guides to how many Hunger Games movies there are, find out who won the first Hunger Games, and see if there will be another Hunger Games movie.

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