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. Briefly mentioned in the article is how when Rue dies in the book there is bread that is sent to Katniss that was meant for Rue. This was important because this had never happened in a game before; a different district sending out a present for someone. However Katniss clearly cared for Rue so she got her bread when she died. This is also followed up on in the book sequel when (small spoilers) Katniss thanks District 11 for the bread; which will have to be removed for the sequel.

    • Earlier in the book Peeta talks with Katniss about all the breads and how you can tell what district they are from; which is also not in the movie. Both these scenes were necessary for the bread present to work right; which I found very important and I’m disappointed that it isn’t there. It was a sweet gesture from another district and the sequel book follows up on it a little.

      • I think the bread distinctions can be better explained in Catching Fire, especially since they need those breads more distinctly there than in Hunger Games first movie.

  2. What about in the book Katniss is given her mockingjay pin by madge the mayors daughter not Greasy Sae as in the movie? There is an important connection there from memory that comes to light in the sequels. A connection with Madges mother? And I think in the later books she goes to the mayors house and sneaks in the Mayors room and sees something confidential?

    • {Warning Detailed Spoilers to Series}

      Madge, the Mayor’s daughter, from District 12, was Katniss’s continuous classmate from the beginning of her school years. Several times throughout the books Katniss reflected on her relationship with Madge who was her age with similar temperament. Yet as the Mayor’s daughter was among the highest social and economic status, not just managing to survive starvation as Katniss and the majority of those who lived on the Seam. Nonetheless the differences they had not only from each other but also from those they went to school with or the village they lived in. Created a type of closeness that could have been called friendship. Or at the time and place, were at least the seeds that such could grow from.
      Madge had inherited the golden encircled mockingjay pin from her Aunt, who was also a tribute from District 12 but had not survived the Capitols sadistic Hunger Games years past. When Katniss became the female tribute from District 12 Madge gave her the pin as a ‘Fare Well’ or ‘Good Luck’ gift.
      Over the time Katniss spends struggling to survive the Capitols ploys and plans, beginning with becoming tribute, many different people managed to find themselves in possession of the mockingjay pin yet it was always returned to Katniss.
      Upon reflection, the desire and means of all that returned lovely gold pin seemed to mold Katniss into the person she became more than food, shelter or training ever could.

  3. I was disappointed,because they portrayed Peeta totally wrong.
    In the movie he seemed week & like a scared little boy.
    Because they left out his humor side.
    But I don’t thin it’s Josh’s fault.

  4. HOW SHE GOT THE PIN !!!!! MOCKING JAY PIN !!! VERY IMPORTANT

    • Yes, in the book she gets the pin from Madge, the mayors daughter. This is an important connection becasuse in Catching Fire she see’s the bombing of the District 8 in the Mayor’s house, and gets told to go find Madge. This is very important for the bombings in District 8 are part of the revolution unfloding in Panem.

  5. In the book it takes more than one day to find water in movie only one day!!!!!!!

  6. Gifts from sponsors come without notes, and Katniss is left to interpret what each one means.

  7. Rue points out the Tracker Jackers, but more as a warning to Katniss as to their proximity in the tree.

  8. After Rue’s death, District 11 revolts against the peacekeepers

  9. No Goat Story or Recognition of Prim and Mom as Healers

  10. The mockingpin is given by the majors daughter in the book. In the movie Katniss actually buys it herself and then gives it to her sister, who returns it when Katniss has to go to the games.

  11. How is it possible that no one mentioned how the romance between Peeta and Katniss developed differently in the book and the movie? That is soooo pivotal to the storyline later on – and even to understanding their bond /connection and Peeta’s storyline in book 2. The cave scenes needed to be fleshed out more.

  12. Few of the scenes were even better than books, as they showed other sides too. But the movie didn’t interpret how close Rue and Katniss became, the stories being told by Katniss and Peeta in the cave(ok they couldnt get more steamy scenes, but atleast they should have mentioned the Lady Goat story and Peeta’s father’s and Katniss Mom’s story). And if there’s no Madge, how would they treat Gale in catching Fire? Because she’s got a part in it too. Also, the district 11 catches fire (of revolt) before the sequel?? And, i dont think Cato’s screaming and other bloodbath things in the finale(like Peeta’s tourniquet and all) would affect the children much.

    But all in all, i’m still glad that ‘atleast’ they didn’t ‘change’ the story, it was still same right? Hope to see the ‘same’ story in the sequel too!!

  13. Being a huge fan of the books, i was really excited about seeing the film and to be honest i think i am going to have to watch it a second time to find out if im happy or dissapointed.
    the most common point people are making is in relation to the mockingjay pin, personally i think it was a good change, realistically madge was one of the characters that could be left out and it helped show the bond between Katniss and Prim.
    I agree with what a lot of you are saying about peeta and Katniss’ relationship, it was dissapointing – the cave scene is so pivotal in the overall scheme of the trilogy, it showed katniss developing feelings for Peeta which sort of confused her and it was run through too quickly and you missed out one of the more heartwarming aspects of the tale. The ommision of the arguement on the train home is baffling, and I agree with the person who posted about katniss banging on the glass, would have been a very striking scene.The mental struggle Katniss faces in the sequels is so essential to the story as she weighs up her feelings for Peeta and gale anyone just watching the movies will be oblivious to this(from what we seen so far), although seeing gale as the games were going on was a positive.
    The riot in district 11 was a thumbs up from me, it will allow a more even flow to the movies, also the backstage aspects were good, and the inclusion of seneca cranes imminent death was good a clever change (although will prove difficult for the second book, where Katniss hangs a training doll in front of gamemakers and writes cranes name on it.)The halucination scene was very well done for me, showing the relationship between Katniss and her mother
    P.s they didnt show haymitch falling off the stage – thumbs down

  14. I was disapointed that Haymitch wasn’t as drunk as he should’ve been in the movie he seemed like he actually wanted to help. This is very sad because Woody Harrison is a great actor

  15. District 4 being a carrer

  16. OR YOU KNOW… The fact that peeta looses his lower leg in the book, but you know… It’s a minor detail…

  17. I think that the mayors daughter, Madge Undersee, is an important charactor yet she was taken out. She was Katniss’s only real friend in the book. She also gave katniss the mockingjay pin which is a major part in the following books. She plays a major role in the story. Madge should have been mentioned.

  18. Changing how katniss obtained the MockingJay pin is a huge butterfly effect of missing- important- honoring details. As some of you have mentioned. If there was no midge or mayor- then will katniss see the riots on tv beforehand? Will she see who haymitch went into the arena with when watching past hunger games in preparation for the quarter quell? Will peeta tell katniss his father was into her mother when they were younger?
    Also we know katniss and prim lost their father but not about his singing, and why it was so important for peeta to remember her singing. Her singing is an important memory to peeta in the third book.

    • They can easily explain Katniss wandering through the Mayor’s mansion and stumbling upon his office. She and Peeta were there getting dressed for the banquet at the end of the Victory Tour.

  19. Rue’sdeath. It is too PG-13 in themovie

  20. what about the hawthornes they only show gale and miss out rory,posy,vick and hazelle

  21. The biggest difference which wasnt mention is the fact that Peeta loses his keg at the end of the book!!!! This is something thst has many repercussions on not only the whole trilogy but also on his relationship with Katniss. The movie shows both of the completely healthy at the end…

  22. The biggest difference which wasnt mention is the fact that Peeta loses his keg at the end of the book! This is something thst has many repercussions on not only the whole trilogy but also on his relationship with Katniss. The movie shows both of the completely healthy at the end…

  23. The biggest difference which wasnt mention is the fact that Peeta loses his keg at the end of the book! This is something that has many repercussions on not only the whole trilogy but also on his relationship with Katniss. The movie shows both of the completely healthy at the end…

  24. The thing is that the book shares Katniss’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings. The movie does not show that and only shows the action in less details.

  25. Peeta’s hair is supposed to be curly.

    • Seriously? THAT was a concern for you?

      Sad.

  26. Worst movie ever

  27. On the whole I thought it was a pretty good adaptation. BUT – things that bugged me:

    1) Gale’s “Katniss, remember I-” being changed to “I’ll see you soon”. Erm whut?
    2) The argument at the end between Peeta & Katniss – it’s a major part of the book! Vital not only for Peeta/Katniss relationship, but also for the love triangle in general, as it helps to show that she didn’t love Peeta from the off
    3) Haymitch wasn’t drunk enough. And he didn’t fall off the stage
    4) The origin of the pin – not only is Madge a character that crops us regularly, but one thing that really bugged me about it: they struggle to get enough food, yet Katniss can afford to get the pin at the hob instead of much needed essentials? Wouldn’t happen, no matter how much she wanted to treat Prim.
    5) Peeta not losing his leg
    6) Katniss not having her hearing damaged

    I could keep going, but they’re the main ones

  28. Alice…probably one of the most important character’s in the book as she is the one who gives Katniss the mocking-jay pin not her sister. I was so disappointed she wasn’t included and i think her absence took away from the importance of the pin and didn’t allow Katniss to investigate what it meant.

  29. in the book katniss thought that she fell in a pit full of tracker jackers and other mutts because of hallucinations…..but in in the movie she didn’t……