The Hunger Games opened to explosive box office numbers over the weekend. Both fans of the novel and newcomers to the story rushed to theaters to see the much-hyped blockbuster, which was praised by movie critics – including our positive official review – and moviegoers alike.
With such a strong cast and so many wonderful characters, we decided to create a list of the 10 best characters in the story. As a fan of both the movie and the book by Suzanne Collins, I used both as references. And although there are many differences between the two, the movie did a solid job showing the main characters and even adding depth to a few of the supporting ones, including a few who made this list.
Rue is a young but agile fighter from District 11 who is chosen to participate in the hunger games. A small but inventive youngster, she’s intrigued by Katniss in the training sessions and eventually forms an alliance with her in the games. Collins writes, “She has bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin and stands tilted up on her toes with her arms slightly extended to her sides, as if ready to take wing at the slightest sound. It’s impossible not to think of a bird.”
In the film, she’s played by Amandla Stenberg (Columbiana), who shows both the strength and the vulnerability in a character forced to fight a group of teens who are older and much bigger than she is. Although her role in the book is much better described than in the film, this character helps show that the Capitol doesn’t care who is being hurt in the games. They just want to be entertained.
President Snow is a minor character in the book but he is described as he watches the new tributes arrive in the City Circle of the Capitol. Collins writes, “The president, a small, thin man with paper-white hair, gives the official welcome from a balcony above us.” He is the powerful and unrelenting leader of a nation that is divided between the haves and the have-nots.
In the movie, Donald Sutherland plays the president as a leader who believes that he has an omnipotent power over his people. He is featured much more in the movie, where he is shown having great control over the games and knowing how important they are in maintaining his dominance over his subjects.
“Medium height, stocky build, ashy blond hair that falls in waves over his forehead” is how Collins describes Peeta in the novel, after he is chosen to serve as the second tribute from District 12. Although Katniss and Peeta have a history together, the two are not friends before the games begin and Katniss is hesitant about trusting him, knowing that the two will have to eventually face-off.
Played by Josh Hutcherson in the movie, the character of Peeta is a tricky one to figure out. Some could argue that his pronouncement of love for the heroine is a strategy designed to propel him further in the games, while others likely see him as an innocent and naive baker’s son who simply wants to declare his fondness for Katniss before it’s too late. Either way, he’s one of the best characters in the story…but was admittedly under-served in the film.
Very little is made of Claudius Templesmith in the original novel, but he is recognized as a prominent hunger games announcer. Katniss hears him as the games begin. As Collins writes, “I hear the legendary announcer, Claudius Templesmith, as his voice booms all around me. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games begin!‘”
Played by Toby Jones, the character of Claudius is an intriguing one. This is a man who is known for giving a play-by-play of a game in which teens and young adults kill one another for the Capitol’s entertainment. Without a share of remorse, he symbolizes the opulence that the Capitol hoards over the districts and he shows how distant members of the Capitol are to the heartbreaking substance of the games themselves.
Haymitch Abernathy is a drunk. In the book and the film, he is viewed as an alcoholic former hunger games champion. Collins writes that at the reaping, “Haymitch Abernathy, a paunchy middle-aged man, who at this moment appears hollering something unintelligible, staggers onto the stage, and falls into the third chair. He’s drunk. Very.” Later on, Haymitch becomes an ally for both Katniss and Peeta as they prepare for the games.
Played by Woody Harrelson, Haymitch is given a much more pronounced role in the film. Not only is he an advocate for his tributes before and during the games, he is also seen fighting for them behind the scenes. He pushes game-maker Seneca Crane to focus on the budding romance between his two apprentices– a decision that helps set the stage for a surprising conclusion.
There isn’t much written about the game makers in the novel. Readers often see them from a distance as Katniss trains before their eyes and is eventually judged by them. Collins writes about their role in the training sessions: “They sit in the elevated stands that surround the gymnasium, sometimes wandering about to watch us, jotting down notes, other times eating at the endless banquet that has been set for them, ignoring the lot of us.”
In the film, Seneca Crane– the main Game Maker– is portrayed by Wes Bentley (American Beauty). He’s given a much larger role in the film and viewers watch him talk about the games and discuss the proceedings with President Snow. And, of course, at the end of the film he is confronted by his own failings.
Cinna is more than the typical stylist that Katniss encounters in the Capitol. In a world of fanciful characters and outlandish outfits, he seems normal to her. Collins writes from Katniss’ perspective about Cinna’s appearance: “Most of the stylists they interview on television are so dyed, stenciled and surgically altered they’re grotesque. But Cinna’s close-cropped hair appears to be its natural shade of brown.” After she meets him, Cinna– who is spending his first year working on the games– becomes Katniss’ ally and friend.
Lenny Kravitz plays Cinna in the film. Kravitz wasn’t an obvious choice for Cinna because he’s known more for his musical skills than his acting abilities, but he pulls off the role nicely. In a world of opulence and money, he’s a relatable figure who helps make Katniss become “the girl on fire.”
In the book, Katniss first sees Effie Trinket at the reaping, where the tributes will be chosen from District 12. In the poor district, Effie–who constantly wishes to be upgraded to a better district- is a symbol of the wealth that the Capitol represents. Collins writes that Effie is “District 12’s escort, fresh from the Capitol with her scary white grin, pinkish hair, and spring green suit.”
Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge) is nearly unrecognizable and does an excellent job in the role. Effie is never seen as a hateful villain. She’s more of a shallow diva who feels underappreciated by the Capitol. It’s difficult to hate this Barbie Doll-wannabe, and in fact, she can be quite amusing at times in her blatant cluelessness.
Caesar Flickerman is a television personality who interviews the tributes before the games begin. He’s a game show host in a game with real life and death consequences. As Collins writes, Caesar “has hosted the interviews for more than forty years…” She adds, “It’s a little scary because his appearance has been virtually unchanged during all that time.” This playful personality knows exactly how to keep an interview interesting and when to make a witty joke to make the audience guffaw.
Played by Stanley Tucci in the film, Caesar is undoubtedly my favorite character. With his big personality and cheery demeanor– even in the midst of a deadly game– he’s a fun character to watch and read about. It’s not hard to see why the Capitol brings him back year after year to do the interviews. He’s an entertainer and I– like those in the Capitol itself – am entertained by him.
Without Katniss Everdeen, this story wouldn’t have the resonance and power that it has. Katniss is the heroine. She’s the one that we root for despite the odds placed in her path. Although the novel is written in the first-person, readers still see how much of an honorable woman she is. When her father died, she’s the one who cared for her younger sister and her grief-stricken mother. When the food ran out, she’s the one who figured out a way to feed her family. And when her younger sister was chosen to fight and likely die at the hands of the Capitol, she’s the one who volunteers to enter the ring instead.
Played by Oscar-nominee Jennifer Lawrence, Katniss is the heart of this story. Although the movie is not told from her perspective, she’s still the main character and is shown to be the strong and self-sacrificing heroine. Even critics have noted how Lawrence brings the powerful character to vivid life in the film.
One of the best aspects of the The Hunger Games is its strong set of characters, especially the supporting ones. Although Katniss is an great heroine and Lawrence plays her wonderfully, the cast– in both the book and the movie– is full of other vivid characters that could carry their own stories.
In the Capitol, especially, Collins has created an intriguing world of eccentric and undeniably wealthy individuals who take pleasure in watching the games unfold.
Of course, if you disagree with our list of the best characters, let us know in the comments section who YOU think is the best character in the original story….And as Effie says, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
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