Decoding the Influences in 'Hunger Games,' From 'Spartacus' to 'Survivor'

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A guide to the cultural touchstones alluded to in the new sci-fi smash

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Lionsgate

The Hunger Games enjoyed the biggest-ever box office opening for a non-sequel film this past weekend, and it's likely to keep captivating audiences in coming weeks with its edgy action and potent critique of today's celebrity-worshiping culture.

The film depicts a totalitarian future in which the all-powerful government of Panem (in what was once the United States) demands an annual "tribute" of two youths from each of its 12 districts to fight to the death in a televised event known as the Hunger Games. Sixteen-year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) of the dirt-poor District 12 volunteers to take her younger sister Primrose's place in the Games. But when she reaches the Capitol of Panem, she realizes that in order to succeed, her physical abilities are not enough. She must also create a convincing (if false) public narrative that she and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are "star-crossed lovers" in order to win the allegiance of the audience and outwit the "gamemakers." This crafting of her own media narrative eventually turns Katniss into a popular heroine with the power to change the future of Panem itself.

Author Suzanne Collins has said that her inspirations for The Hunger Games came from a variety of sources, including the ancient Greek myth of Theseus, Roman gladiatorial games, contemporary TV, her father's experiences in the Vietnam War, and news footage of the Iraq War. However, the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games contains a number of other cultural and historical references as well. Here's a mini-guide to the cinematic, literary, and historical allusions in The Hunger Games.

Spoiler alert: several slides refer to events that occur late in the movie.

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Govindini Murty is a writer, independent filmmaker, and co-editor of Libertas Film Magazine. She has contributed to The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Daily News.

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