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

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

hunger games leathery lionsgate 615.jpg

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 However, the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games contains a number of other cultural and historical references as well.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.

Presented by

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.

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In