The Hunger Games: 10 Differences Between the Movie & the Book

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 25th, 2012 at 1:16 pm, This is a list post.

Hunger Games Book vs. Film Differences The Hunger Games has arrived in theaters. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, the movie is an adaptation of the first in a trilogy of books written by Suzanne Collins. In adapting the book into a motion picture, it was inevitable that changes would be made: characters would be removed, dialogue would be edited out and certain scenes would be deleted. Fortunately, Collins - who has publicly praised the film - wrote the screenplay alongside director Gary Ross and writer Billy Ray (State of Play). With that in mind, The Hunger Games film captures much of the main story - but there are still numerous differences between the book and the movie, and we've come up with a list of 10 big differences between the two. If we're missing any major differences, please let us know in the comments section, and as always, "may the odds be ever in your favor." WARNING - THIS LIST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS ABOUT THE FILM.

More Gale Hawthorne

In the book, Gale Hawthorne is Katniss Everdeen's best friend in District 12, the coal mining district on the outskirts of the country. The two hunt together and divide up the game that they catch. Although there's no overt romance in the relationship, Katniss continually evaluates her feelings for him. But when she is sent to compete in the games - where she faces off against 23 intense competitors - Gale is left behind. While Katniss thinks about him during the games, the story never shows him after the games begin. In the film, however, the first-person narrative is changed to a third-person narrative so viewers will see what Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is doing as his friend competes in the games. We watch as he desperately longs for Katniss and notices that she's developing an onscreen relationship with fellow tribute, Peeta Mellark....

Deaths Happen Faster

As the story progresses, many youngsters inevitably die in the Hunger Games. In the book, some of these deaths are prolonged, showing the perseverance some of these characters have in their final moments. For instance, in an early scene, Katniss makes camp near a young woman who starts a campfire. After the young woman is discovered, she is attacked and nearly killed by some of her fellow tributes. But when they discover that she's alive after the attack, Peeta is sent to finish the job. In the conclusion of the book, Cato - facing off against a group of mutant mutts - survives for several hours before Katniss puts him out of his misery. In the movie, however, these deaths are done quickly. It's possible that the deaths are abbreviated in order for the film to earn its PG-13 rating. But regardless, the film finds the bonfire girl dying quickly after she's attacked and Cato only suffering a few moments before Katniss ends his life.

No visit from Peeta's Father

Before she is sent to the Capitol to fight in the games, Katniss is visited by several of her loved ones. Gale, her mother and her younger sister come say good-bye to her. But, surprisingly, Peeta's father comes to visit as well and offers Katniss cookies. Although the local baker doesn't know Katniss well, he has always been kind to both her and her younger sibling, and this visit helps establish the connection between Peeta's family and Katniss. Later on - in a spout of possible paranoia - Katniss throws away the cookies. The film doesn't include these scenes at all. Most readers might not care about this exclusion but it stood out to me because these short sequences show a connection between Peeta's family and Katniss. Although the two don't know each other well, Peeta's father supported both Katniss and her younger sister by buying fresh meat and food from them. Plus, Peeta's parents have spoken to Peeta about Katniss - as Peeta notes in the story - even though Peeta and Katniss were never close.

The Connection with Rue

Rue is the youngest person in the hunger games. As a tribute from District 11, she is forced to compete with older teenagers that are much stronger than her. During the training sessions,  she developes an appreciation for Katniss and the two form an unlikely alliance in the games themselves. Katniss is particularly interested in protecting Rue because the young competitor reminds her of her younger sister. When Katniss' sister Primrose was chosen to compete, Katniss stood up to take her place, but no one volunteered to take Rue's place - so Katniss feels a certain solidarity with her. In the movie, the connection between Rue and Katniss' sister is largely glossed over. The two still form an alliance, of course, but Katniss' empathy for her is never fully discussed in the film.

The End of the Game Maker

Because the book is told in first-person and the movie is a third-person narrative, readers didn't get to meet some of the characters featured more prominently in the movie. For instance, the game maker - who plays a very limited role in the book - gets a lot of screen time. Wes Bentley (American Beauty) plays Seneca Crane as an overconfident genius who takes pleasure in setting up the games themselves. His game, however, falls apart in both the book and the movie, leading to a conclusion that has two tributes emerging from the battlefield, not one. Very little is made of this in the (first) book, but in the film, the game maker faces a great punishment for his failures. It isn't until the sequel book, Catching Fire, that the fate of the game maker is revealed - but in the movie, he is left in a room with only poison berries to eat. In the same way that he set death traps for others to fall into, he himself is sent into his own trap and forced to die for his failures.

The Dog Mutants

The Hunger Games movie Mutant dogs In what was presumably an effort to keep the film within the PG-13 rating range, a lot of The Hunger Games' horror (gruesome deaths, etc) either occurs off-screen or in a whirlwind of blurry camera work. However, one of the biggest differences between film and book is the finale - which featured mutated versions of deceased tributes "reborn" as monstrous and blood-thirsty dog-like animals. In the book, Katniss recognizes that the Capitol has spliced parts of the former tributes into mutant beasts; however, in the film version, the "dogs" are presented as nothing more than over-sized (and vicious) wild beasts chosen by Seneca Crane to galvanize the remaining contestants into a final altercation. No mention is made of where the creatures come from, or what exactly they are, leaving non-fans out of the loop in regards to one of the most horrific aspects of The Hunger Games. This gene-splicing mutant makeover also becomes important in the sequel books, so it'll be interesting to see how the sequel films handle it...

More Backstage Focus

In the book, we read as Katniss fights her way through the Hunger Games. We watch as she volunteers for the games themselves and as she prepares for them, with the help of  Haymitch and her stylist Cinna (Lenny Kravitz). Once she is in the games, however, the focus is on her survival. But in the movie, many of the backstage machinations are revealed. Viewers watch as the producers of the game invent ways to keep the tributes close to each other. In this regard, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) plays a much bigger role in the film, where he appears in several scenes discussing the games with Seneca. The film shows in some detail how much work is involved backstage in getting the games to play out in an entertaining and engaging fashion.

Thresh's Death

If there is a villian in the actual games, it is Cato. The cocky muscular tribute is an unrelenting killer willing to snap the neck of an ally if a plan falls apart. Towards the end of the film, the stage is set for a showdown between him and the Katniss/Peeta alliance. As the numbers in the game narrow, a District 11 tribute named Thresh saves Katniss' life when he realizes how much she did to protect Rue throughout the games. After he saves Katniss, though, Thresh is ultimately murdered. In the book, the assumption is that Cato has killed him. But in the movie, the suggestion is that Thresh has died at the hands of a group of dogs that the game makers have called into battle to help kill some of the remaining tributes. This difference - which may seem small-- is actually quite important because Cato's murder of Thresh in the book helped set the stage for a more intense final showdown between the surviving tributes.

No Avox Girl

One of the most important differences between the book and the movie is the absence of a minor character, who has an important backstory with Katniss. My friend Kate Hicks, in discussing the film with me, actually had to point out this subtle but important difference. In the book, as Katniss is preparing for the games, she meets several individuals from the Capitol who serve her meals and drinks. One of those girls is an "Avox" (a mutilated servant) that Katniss remembers from earlier. Katniss remembers the girl as someone who was trying to escape from the Capitol, but who was subsequently captured by the government. Labeled a traitor, her tongue was eventually removed. In the book, we learn the back story of this girl and how Katniss regrets not trying to save her when she had the chance. But in the movie, this relationship is never fully realized and Katniss' connection to this girl is never revealed.

The Revolution Begins

Hands down, the biggest change between the book and the movie is the reaction to Rue's death. In the book, Katniss only know that she receives a token of District 11's appreciation for her kindness in the form of a gift dropped into the arena. In the movie, the complete reaction of District 11 is brought into greater focus. After watching their young tribute die at the hands of a vicious killer, the people of District 11 begin to revolt against the Capitol officers who watch over them. They fight against the government that has taken one of their own and sent her into a battlefield to die for their viewing pleasure. In the books (and the movies) this fight against the Capitol is explored in greater depth during the sequels, where Rue becomes something of an iconic figure.

Of course, there are many other differences between "The Hunger Games" book and the film. Although it didn't make my top 10 list, another difference between the film and the book concerns the mockingjay pin that Katniss wears throughout the games. In the book, a minor character from District 12 (the mayor's daughter) gives Katniss the pin, but in the movie, Katniss acquires it through different means. This may be significant going forward, but this minor change didn't seem important in and of itself. However as the list shows, there are some major changes between the book and the film. Many readers will likely be pleased by this adaptation because it follows the story rather closely, but others might be disappointed that the filmmakers made these and other changes to a story that they have so much affection for. Follow me on Twitter @johnhanlon.
TAGS: catching fire, the hunger games

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  1. Thanks for the list of differences. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have just finished the book. I like to prepare myself before seeing an adaptation, as that way I limit the dissapointment of the movie’s omissions. I can know look forward to the movie knowing that I am not going to be sitting there trying to work out what’s missing.

    Although the inclusion and exclusion of material is of importance, I wish that directors and writers concentrated more on characters while adapting. This book is written for teenagers and possesses that quick-paced action and blossoming emotions of the genre, however Katniss is a well developed and complex character, and her relationship with Peeta and Gale creates a conflict of emotions. This, coupled with the psychological effects of losing her father would enrich the movie as many would identify with that.

    This is the paramount difference between movies and novels. One invests your own experiences and emotions into a book, filling in the gaps with your mind. Movies leave much less investment and so seem less effectual. I hope that I see depth in the characters when I watch the movie.

  2. It seems like a small thing, but I was disappointed with the movie’s dismissal of Katniss and the food at the capital. It was such a big thing for Katniss to be around such decadent food. I couldn’t believe that, in the movie, Katniss and Peeta didn’t even eat the food on the train! And the lamb stew wasn’t even mentioned in the movie. She loved it so much that she mentioned it in her interview with Caesar. Also, it played a big role in her and Peeta’s night in the cave.

    • it would have been nice to see her and Peeta pig out in the train and in the Capitol as well as the after effects of eating so much fine food. oh well, the “that’s mahogany” was a nice sign as Katniss stabbed the table.

  3. LaQuerida
    It mentions for a min in a little video that they play in the movie about district 13… But it doesn’t actually say what happens.

  4. y.. this movie is rated PG not PG13

  5. sophia
    It’s rated PG-13

    • This movie is rated G in Quebec… a total nonsenses. Where is it rated PG-13?

  6. what about the PIN!!!!!!
    The mocking-jay pin was given to Katniss by the mayors daughter and later in the book or catchingfire she realizes its the mayors sister’s in law who was sent into the arena durring the quarter quell “Year Hamitch won” and allied with him, also the aunt was the best freind of Katniss’ mom

    • This wasn’t included in the movie witch really annoyed me! And because of the mutant dogs.

    • YES!!! This was my biggest disappointment for sure. No Madge! She is pretty much Katniss’ only girlfriend from back home and is the only reason she has the pin. I thought that would make for a much more dramatic and engaging story throughout the film as well. I cannot believe there was no Madge!!

    • Yeah, the pin is a HUGE and disappointing difference. The pin become a LOT in the sequels. Personally, I thought the pin, and really mocking jay itself, is going to be tougher to explain.

  7. Katniss didn’t receive the gold pin the the hob. She received it from the mayor’s daughter in the beginning of the story.

  8. Yeh also Haymitch didn’t fall of the stage, I know its not a real big thing but I was waiting for it to happen it would have been funny ;D

    • yeah I wanted to see haymitch’s stunt!!!!

  9. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed, katniss and peeta did not go to the bathroom not once in the story while they were in the arena lol. That would have been a good time to plan a sneak attack on someone, while they’re ‘relieving’ themselves

  10. LaQuerida,
    Of course thy arnt going to show that. They don’t do that in other movies eaither. And it doesn’t say anything about it in the books. It
    Just takes up time.

    • I was talking about the book, It would of been more realistic because, who goes two weeks without using the bathroom?!? I just thought it would have been interesting if someone got clobbered when the least expected it…..I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!

  11. I was most disappointed in the biggest change of all, the switch between 3rd and 1st person POV. It killed the detail it could have gave the movie because it all should have been told in her head like the book.

    • She does mention in the book that she knows she is dehydrated because her pee is dark brown.

  12. Michael,
    How would they be able to do that? (I totally agree with you)

  13. One of the biggest changes from the book to movie I think is the details. The movie was not fluid. It seemed to just jump from part to part with no real fluidity. But I think that as far as the details go, they should of had Katniss narrating just like in the book, explained more about the connection between herself and Rue, Cato didn’t really appear to be a villain like he seemed in the book. I mean the list could just go on and on. Great points made in this article, but I think number 1 was the details. And keeping the movie at a good length did have a lot to do about it but that’s where narration actually could keep the people who haven’t read the book in the loop. I’m glad I read the book first because I would have been even more sorely disappointed if I had read it after watching it.

  14. I was angry at how her and Cinna were like best friends in the movie without even really saying a word to each other the whole time, it didn’t show their story at all it made me feel like they had no connection.
    And the other thing is I feel like how Katniss is portrayed in the book and how she is portrayed in the movie is completely different and it made the movie hard for me to watch.

    • I think it showed enough, such as the dialogue between them before the interview. She asked him “How do you get people to like you?” and he said “you got me to like you” and she was like “that was different, I wasn’t trying” and he said “exactly”

      Another scene they did great was in the waiting room before going into the tube to the arena, Lenny Kravitz did well in how he showed Katniss he put the pin there and how he said he would bet on her.

  15. what happened with Peeta and the mutant dogs causing him to have to get a prosthetic leg?

    Great comparisons that you chose they are really the most important.

    • I thought that doesn’t happen until the second book. doesn’t he get his prostetic leg from district 13 ppl after they get him out of the second arena?

      • They said it at the end of book one. During the interview at the end of the book Caesar interviewing them mentioned Peeta’s new leg which came to a surprise to Katniss.

  16. What about the thunder store that kept them in the cave for a really long time? They nearly starved because of it.

  17. This is only a minor difference but the arrow that killed Marvel went through his stomach in the film and in the book it went through his neck. But that doesn’t really matter, and all in all the Hunger Games was a great movie.

  18. Two more things that were bothersome to me in the book…. besides ALL that was mentioned, (I agree!) I’m just going to add::

    1. The desperation of hunger there was in the districts. **specifically #12 because they were last on the list**

    2. At the end when Katniss and Peeta are saved, how they are lifted up with the latter and how she’s clinging on to him and doesn’t want to let him go… that feeling I got when I read that, and all the emotions of her screaming and pounding on the glass when they take him in and start working on him… SO emotional, completely missing. All of those emotions has me rooting for them in the book, if I didn’t read the book, I’d say in the movie I wouldn’t care much for Peeta.

    Just to reiterate, I can’t believe they left out the scene with the Avox girl… of course the whole thing with Madge and the mayor…The time she spent with Rue, how much Peeta’s actions with the bread meant to her, and of course the cave scene… These bother me the most!

    Overall, good movie. Loved Katniss. She was great!!!

    • I totally agree! The left out minor but huge emotional parts. They are the parts where Katniss starts to fall in love with Peeta. They picked the perfect person to play both katniss and peeta.

    • i agree, i didnt like Jennifer Lawrence as katniss at first be she has grown on me josh hutcherson is a perfect peeta i was really disappointed that they left out the part in the hover craft, that was a very emotional moment and it shows how much katniss cares for peeta

  19. I agree with Samuel that everything went TOO fast. The book was much better than the film. Also at the end only Katniss gets to where the crown. I remember that in the book there was one crown and they were all confused but then, i think its president snow, twists it and it turns into two. the movie must have been confusing for some people because it didnt go into much details.

  20. I understand that people are upset about madge not being in the movie and how some things seemed to go fast but how could they introduce madge without spending a nice chunk of time explaining it all. Same with the avox girl. If just those two scenes were added we’re talking another hour for the movie and people just don’t have that kind of patience for a movie. The book was more detailed but I dislike comparing the two. Each is a seperate type of medium and each is special in its own way. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I also actually liked the third person pov for the simple fact that you get to see a side you didn’t have in the books.

    • I love your answer; and you are absolutely right.

      A book has the time to explain things, to create moments, to play on your imagination.
      A movie just has to show you what is going on; rather than let you create what is going on.

      Both have their strenghts and weaknesess. And it is difficult to compare them because of it.

      The plus side of a book is that you can just lay it down and go do something else. But that is exacty the downside of creating a movie: you have limited time. People don’t mind spending 5 days on a book, but they often do mind sitting in a cinema for 5 hours. Therefore a movie can never capture everything the way it is in a book … and to be frankly, who would read a -any- book if the movie was an exact replica of the book ??

      They are not supposed to be replica’s. They are supposed to be complementary.

    • I think the films should show some things different than what’s in the book as besides of the time issue, it’s nice to see a different perspective and angle away from Katniss’s POV and other visuals and scenes. For instance, I loved the scenes with Snow and Crane discussing the games and I thought the riot scene after Rue’s death and Katniss’s tribute sign was my favorite scenes of the whole film as well as the Haymitch/Crane/Snow scenes right after that. I think Collins herself wanted to have some differences in the film that perhaps she was tinkering around with when writing the series and that the film needs to be able to balance the non readers and the readers during viewership. Also, the films and books are 2 sides of the same coin and are best when they go together as each has their own strengths and weeknesses.

  21. I found some other problems in the movie. The crowning of the champions in the end wasn’t with 2 separate crowns it was one crown that split in half. Another problem I found was with the berries at the end. They both had ut the berries in their mouths before they ended the games.

  22. We missed Haymitch at the reaping,and the “stay alive”. That was dissapoining that Haymitch pulled it together so quickly. I felt his “drunk” side could have been shown alot more. I also missed the scene after the games when Effie and Haymitch talked to them about how proud they were.

  23. peeta loses his leg in the book, and katniss freaking out in the hover craft when she sees them working on peeta through the glass, they should have put that in the movie

  24. I don’t like how they didn’t do that with Peeta’s leg but I do know that they couldn’t put the part with Katniss freaking out while getting sucked up into the Hovercraft because it would be too gorie, and they would have to make it into a rated R movie (which I think they should have because they had to take sooo much out)

  25. I don’t like how they didn’t do that with Peeta’s leg but I do know that they couldn’t put the part with Katniss freaking out while getting sucked up into the Hovercraft because it would be too gorie, and

  26. I don’t like how they didn’t do that with Peeta’s leg but I do know that they couldn’t put the part with Katniss freaking out while getting

  27. You left out the part that they didn’t make ANY mention about peetas leg having to be amputated.

  28. The differences were many, and I understand all of the omissions due to time constraints. What I do NOT understand is the additions in SPITE of time constraints. Where did all of this gamemaker stuff come from? Who cares? Instead of trying to expand the emotional connections of the characters and create some sort of attachment to them, which didn’t happen, they show many scenes of the people on the touch screens. Quite ridiculous.

    • The gamemakers stuff came from Collins, as she wrote the screenplay :) they were also mentioned in the book and it would be hard for the audience (especially those that haven’t read the book) to understand why the field is changing like it’s doing as well as the aspect of the games being a “show” to the Capitol without the showing of the Gamemakers. The book talked about how technologically advanced the games were and how the Capitol wanted lots of control so the Gamemakers were there in the film to illustrate that.

      personally, I think the scenes between Crane (a GAMEMAKER) and Snow were great to see and gave those characters in the arena some added perspective. For instance, the conversation between Snow and Crane after the interviews about the idea of “Hope being stronger than Fear, and that needs to be contained” and “Why have a winner at all? would be quicker to just round up and execute 24 people” did symbolize how important the tributes are in the arena and how they can become dangerous if not handled the right way. It showed how Katniss was indeed strong and needed to be kept in check in response of her shooting the arrow at the pig and becoming too popular and possible spark of rebellion in the Districts. It also showed what Peeta was talking about when he said to Katniss “i don’t want to be a piece of their game and they don’t own me”. Also, the “underdog” speech scene between Snow and Crane made Katniss and Peeta’s relationship dangerous as it happened after District 11 riot. That and Haymitch’s proposal for Crane to focus on “young love” to dissipate the tensions of District 11, was showing how Katniss and Peeta were affecting the games in ways that the Capitol was afraid of. The District 11 riot after Rue’s death made Rue that much more memorable to Katniss and was a symbol of their bond in their short sweet time.

  29. One of the things that I was dissapointed in was them taking out her interactions with the stylists. I remember feeling bad for the stylists and I think that the stylists really illustrated the connection between the people of the Capitol and the people of the USA. It helped to establish that the people of the Capitol weren’t necessarily evil, just detached from the people of the districts. One of my favorite things about the book was that it wasn’t completely black and white. I think that that point was lost in the movie.

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