Remember The Hunger Games? It exploded on the cinema scene with an infectious spark of rebellion and female empowerment for a few short years. After that, a weak attempt to capitalize on Harry Potter’s successful two-part experiment – which worked for a 759-paged book, but was an ill-advised method for a novel half that length – practically ended the dystopian YA adaptation craze as we know it.
The Divergent series tried to pick up the pieces, and Maze Runner: The Death Cure is late to the party thanks to the injury of its main star. However, it’s safe to say that we’re unlikely to see a group of attractive 20-somethings posing as teenagers running around a post-apocalyptic world of the future any time soon.
Adolescent dystopia may be at its end, but The Hunger Games franchise was certainly popular enough to generate a few stars we still talk about today. Some have evolved from small parts and background roles into heartthrobs and sidekicks. Sadly, many of their careers have also gone the way of President Snow.
Here are our picks for the 9Hunger Games Stars Who Became A-Listers (And 7 Who Flopped)
16 Jacqueline Emerson (Flopped)
A former member of the failed Disney band Devo 2.0, Jacqueline Emerson left the band to pursue a career in acting when their debut album was unsuccessful. Before landing a sweet role in the first Hunger Games movie, she used her musical talents to gain recognition with singles released on YouTube. She was then cast as the District Five Tribute dubbed "Foxface" by Katniss.
Both the book and movie depict Foxface as a cunning opponent to Katniss, one of the shrewdest competitors, before succumbing to poison berries.
Despite Emerson’s substantial role, Foxface’s solitary nature warranted very few lines from the young actress, so any acting talent she may have had went ignored.
Despite appearing in the Video ETA’s list of upcoming A-Listers, since her appearance in the worldwide phenomenon, she has appeared in very few projects and has been largely inactive since 2015.
15 Mahershala Ali (A-Lister)
A close associate of the shady President Coin, Boggs eventually becomes a valued asset and friend to Katniss during the fight for the Capitol, during which he serves as her bodyguard. He suffers a deadly blow from an undetected landmine, losing his legs and, soon after, his life.
Initially a potential adversary before his shell crumbles to reveal a warm center, the cool and collected Mahershala Ali was chosen to portray Boggs. He is a versatile actor who can go from violent and intimidating to open and friendly at a moment’s notice.
Mainly known as a supporting or television actor, most notably for his main role in The 4400, Ali found a new level success post-Hunger Games. His Academy Award for his performance in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was the catalyst and you’ll soon be able to see him taking the lead role in the next season of True Detective.
14 Alexander Ludwig (Flopped)
After President Snow, whose villainous role really doesn’t get a chance to shine until the series’ later films, the main threat of the first Hunger Games is certainly Cato. A formidable District Two Tribute, Cato actively hunts for Katniss in the later stages of the games, and eventually becomes the last competitor standing in the way of victory.
Previously known for the YA fantasy flop The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, Cato catapulted Alexander Ludwig into potential A-List success. Unfortunately, Ludwig failed to find a role with a similar level of exposure after his short-lived stint on The Hunger Games.
He currently stars in Vikings, but hasn’t quite managed to find the same level of mainstream cinema success.
His last film role was in the embarrassing Blackway, a flop of a thriller that came and went, yet somehow starred Anthony Hopkins.
13 Elden Henson (A-Lister)
A lack of dialogue wasn’t a problem for this actor, who was cast as the franchise’s most well-known Avox. Avoxes are the Capitol’s slaves - former rebels who are stripped of their speech through the removal of their tongues and forced to serve the obscenely rich upper-class. In Mockingjay, Katniss befriends an escaped Avox, Pollux, who acts as her cameraman for anti-Capitol propaganda.
Pollux was played by Elden Henson, who, prior to his Hunger Games success, was perhaps best known for his childhood role in the three Mighty Ducks films. He also had small roles in She’s All That and The Butterfly Effect.
Now he is well-known as a key supporting cast member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Netflix series, Foggy Nelson. Beginning as the affable sidekick to Matt Murdock (Daredevil), Foggy has since appeared in both Jessica Jones, and the Netflix team-up event, The Defenders.
12 Wes Bentley (Flopped)
Residents of the Capitol are known for their dubious fashion choices, including garish colors, complex outfits, and ridiculous grooming. No one embodies this better than Seneca Crane, the Head Gamemaker for the 74th Hunger Games, who rocked the craziest stubble in cinema history. This is one role that would require an actor willing to look like a complete fool on camera.
Wes Bentley's career had been in a downward spiral since his breakthrough in the critically-acclaimed American Beauty.
The part was his first high-profile role after his confessions of substance abuse in 2009, and he has yet again struggled to find that same level of success. His performance in Pete’s Dragon and a smaller role in Interstellar, a TV role in American Horror Story. have been his biggest parts since. Here’s hoping his involvement in the new Mission: Impossible is substantial enough to launch him into the spotlight again.
11 Jena Malone (A-Lister)
A fake romance between Katniss and Peeta keeps them alive, but the following year she is made to compete again. Unfortunately, the 75th Games was a Quarter Quell, a special anniversary for the Games that institutes a new rule. That year, the Tributes would consist of previous winners.
In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Katniss meets Johanna Mason, the District 7 victor of the 71st Games, who outsmarted the other competitors by hiding her skills until the final moments. Played by Jena Malone, she makes a dramatic entrance to intimidate Katniss.
Although Malone’s roles haven’t been quite as substantial since, her appearance in three of the Hunger Games films have solidified her as a star. She has performed in a number of highly praised indie films, including The Neon Demon and Nocturnal Animals, as well as the Extended Cut of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
10 Amandla Stenberg (A-Lister)
One of the most heart-breaking moments of the first Hunger Games film was the demise of Rue. The youngest Tribute we see in the books, Rue was only 12 years-old when she was forced to compete in the 74th Hunger Games. Although she joins Katniss' alliances, she couldn’t escape the precision throw of District 1 Tribute, Marvel’s spear.
Amandla Stenberg’s performance as Rue brought many rare touching moments to the first entry of what became a rather dark franchise.
The role earned her a number of awards and nominations. Stenberg recently played the housebound protagonist in Everything, Everything, a reasonably successful YA adaptation. Her casting in the upcoming film based on the popular novel, The Hate U Give, is very promising, as is her leading role in the YA sci-fi franchise The Darkest Minds.
9 Natalie Dormer (A-Lister)
After her stunning breakthrough on Game of Thrones, it was only a matter of time before fan-favorite Natalie Dormer would make it to the big screen. Best known as the ambitious and seductive Margaery Tyrell, Dormer was quickly cast as Cressida, the director for Katniss’ propaganda films in Mockingjay Part 1 & 2. She rocked a trendy hairstyle that puts Seneca Crane’s beard to shame, as well as an elegant tattoo on her arm.
Cressida proved herself as a competent soldier and one of the fans’ favorite characters.
Although her further film appearances haven’t been quite as exciting, Dormer has retained her position as one of television’s most prolific actors.
Claiming a supporting role in Elementary as Jamie Moriarty, she’ll also be starring in the upcoming TV remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock.
8 Willow Shields (Flopped)
Primrose Everdeen was the soul of The Hunger Games franchise. She was Katniss’ younger sister who was initially chosen as District 12’s Tribute, before her older sister bravely volunteers in her place. A vital character in the books, the film adaptations needed to sell a powerful sibling bond with Jennifer Lawrence, enough that Katniss’ sacrifice was believable.
Willow Shields did this all perfectly - a huge feat for such a young actress. So impressive was her performance that she was mentioned in ETA’s list that also included Jacqueline Emerson as potential upcoming A-Listers.
After playing such an emotionally charged role in the series, it’s surprising that Shield’s most recent credits are extremely limited. Her most notable appearance was as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
7 Jeffrey Wright (A-Lister)
Wiress and Beetee, the victors from District 3 forced to compete in the Third Quarter Quell, became valuable assets to the rebellion against the capital. Despite Wiress’ unhinged demeanor, the two were technologically proficient - Beetee having already won the games by constructing an electrocuting device that dispatched multiple targets at once. Catching Fire introduced a number of seasoned performers to its already impressive cast, not least of which was Jeffrey Wright - well-known for Angels in America and Casino Royale.
The soft-spoken Wright was the perfect counterpart to Amanda Plummer’s fidgety Wiress.
Since The Hunger Games, Wright has been going from success to success. Although his appearance in this year’s Game Night was uncredited, it’s one of the funniest roles in the film. That’s not even mentioning his starring role in HBO’s blockbuster series Westworld, which is set to continue this year.
6 Sam Claflin (Flopped)
Described in Catching Fire as one of the most attractive Tributes of the Third Quarter Quell, Finnick Odair hails from the fishing town of District Four, and was introduced to us wearing nothing but a tightly-fitting net that left little to the imagination.
His good looks became a disadvantage for Finnick, however, as following his victory in the 65th Hunger Games, he was taken to the Capitol and exploited. Casting directors were therefore given the almost impossible task of finding an actor with ridiculously good looks who could also convey deep sadness.
Sam Claflin was an ideal choice, and portrayed the character with enough empathy that his departure in Mockingjay Part 2 was truly heart-breaking. Unfortunately, his most recent roles haven’t attracted the same level of attention, sticking to lesser known historical films and rom-coms. His upcoming project The Nightingale from Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) does sound promising, though.
5 Woody Harrelson (A-Lister)
Haymitch Abernathy provided much of the comedy for the Hunger Games trilogy as the drunken mentor of Katniss and Peeta. Initially surly and reluctant, he becomes a great teacher when he realizes Katniss may just have what it takes to win.
Haymitch joined the likes of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) - another well-established actor playing a memorable character.
Harrelson was already well-known amongst adults for his work with the Coen Brothers and his Academy Award nomination for The People vs Larry Flint, but this was his first franchise film. After The Hunger Games he starred in both Now You See Me movies and the latest Planet of the Apes. He’ll next be seen in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and there are reports that he may have also joined the cast of Venom.
4 Liam Hemsworth (Flopped)
We don’t like to take sides here, but Gale Hawthorne has to be one of the least interesting characters in the whole Hunger Games franchise, especially when compared to Katniss’ other love interest, Peeta. Yes, the two grew up together, but once Hawthorne passed down his bow and arrow skills to the series’ protagonist, he became practically useless.
Liam Hemsworth is perhaps the perfect casting then. A perfectly serviceable performance, but Hemsworth didn’t manage to introduce any life or personality to an already bland character, whose role in the films quickly becomes less and less important.
Chris Hemsworth is Thor, and the lesser known Luke Hemsworth has a particularly meaty role alongside Jeffrey Wright in HBO’s Westworld. Liam’s biggest role since was leading the box office bomb and much hated Independence Day: Resurgence.
3 Elizabeth Banks (A-Lister)
Introduced in the first book as the District 12 representative and chaperone for the games, Effie Trinket began life as a shallow Capitol resident with a bonkers fashion sense and a great head of hair. With a slightly expanded film role, Effie, despite remaining largely oblivious to the wrongdoings of the Capitol, ends up sympathizing with Katniss’ cause.
Elizabeth Banks proved to be the perfect casting choice for the character.
So popular was her portrayal, that her part in the final book was greatly expanded. Previously known for her small role as Betty Brandt in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, as well as various romantic-comedies, the part was a huge stepping stone for Banks' career.
She has since lent her vocal talents to The Lego Movie, playing the minifigure hero Wyldstyle alongside Chris Pratt, as well as playing the villainous Power Rangers antagonist Rita Repulsa in last year’s reboot. Banks took the directors' chair on the hit film Pitch Perfect 2, which she also acted in.
2 Josh Hutcherson (Flopped)
Peeta Mellark was flawless to a fault - the kind-hearted son of District 12’s baker who befriended and eventually fell in love with Katniss Everdeen throughout the 74th Hunger Games. Kind and selfless, the transformation of Peeta from the simple-minded romantic into a brain-washed stooge for the Capital is one of the series’ most gutting character arcs.
Josh Hutcherson was a natural fit for the character, poised to become a huge star after a run of appearances in various action films and kids' fantasy adaptations, such as Zathura: A Space Adventure, Bridge to Terabithia, Cirque Du Freak, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Sadly, his later career doesn’t reflect the huge amount of roles Hutcherson had as a child actor. His highest-profile role since was appearing in a small part alongside James and Dave Franco in The Disaster Artist and a starring role in the Hulu series Future Man.
1 Jennifer Lawrence (A-Lister)
Jennifer Lawrence was just coming off the success of Winter’s Bone and the successful X-Men: First Class, when she was cast as The Hunger Game’s fiery, rebellious protagonist Katniss Everdeen. She proved to be a role model for young girls everywhere, and the part catapulted Lawrence into stardom.
After her performance in the Hunger Games movies garnered so much attention and box office success, her role in the X-Men franchise as Mystique, was greatly expanded - almost to the point that she became the main character of X-Men: Apocalypse.
Although her most recent films have attracted a lot of controversy, namely Mother! and Red Sparrow, Lawrence continues to be one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. She frequently collaborates with David O. Russell, has appeared alongside Chris Pratt in sci-fi adventure Passengers, and will reprise her role as Mystique in the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Which Hunger Games star did you expect to see on the list? Let us know in the comments!