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7 Most Diabolical Arena Challenges Across All The Hunger Games Films

Across the four original The Hunger Games films, the Head Gamemakers and President Snow unleashed some terrible live-or-death challenges. 

By Tara Bennett
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Spoilers below for The Hunger Games film saga!

It's been eight years since The Hunger Games film series came to a close with what everyone thought was the last chapter in the film franchise. But creator and novelist Suzanne Collins surprised everyone in 2020 by releasing the prequel novel, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. It tells the story of young Coriolanus Snow's turning point choices during the year of the 10th annual Hunger Games.

Much of his story is centered on Panem's waning interest in the games, and his role in amping up the showmanship of the Tributes to make them more personal and engaging. Young Snow — under the mentorship of Head Gamemaker, Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) — steps on the path towards concocting the diabolical challenges inside the Arena for the Tributes to try and survive. 

RELATED: Long Live Panem! The Hunger Games Timeline Explained

Audiences see how President Snow's (Donald Sutherland) theatricality and deadliness have come to evolve over the decades in The Hunger Games film series. Watching Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her fellow Tributes scramble for their lives inside the various Arenas, or the pod-rigged Capitol in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 , remain some of the most memorable and sobering of the quadrilogy.

So lets revisit some of the traps set for the forced participants that left us on the edge of our seats. 

7 most diabolical Arena challenges in the four Hunger Games films

The Hunger Games (2012) YT

7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The Arena is a Clock

The Quarter Quell features previous Hunger Games victors as the event's Tributes, including Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). In the jungle, the duo ally themselves with former District 4 winners, Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Mags (Lynn Cohen). And then on the beach, they work together with District 3 Tributes Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer), and District 7's Johanna Mason (Jena Malone). Out in the water, it's Wiress who figures out that the Arena is actually a clock with segmented, recurring threats the Tributes will have to conquer. It's a chilling concept and reveals how committed Snow and his Gamemakers will go to capture and audience's attention. 

6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Poisonous Fog 

At the start of the Quell, Katniss, Peeta, Finnick and Mags band together to try and survive the open of the games. They have to traverse a jungle with myriad threats, including a poisonous gas that threatens to overtake them all. Having lived a longer life than she ever expected and a believer in overthrowing Snow, Mags sacrifices herself into the gas so Finnick can escape it and help Peeta. The gas takes out a hero but also proves that the Capitol is not holding back against these respected Tribute legends. 

RELATED: The Hunger Games Tributes Who Could Have Bested the Games

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: Peeta Hits the Forcefield

Inside the jungle portion of the Quarter Quell Arena, Katniss, Peeta, Finnick and Mags are figuring out their surroundings. Using a machete to get through the undergrowth, Peeta takes a whack and ends up getting blown off his feet by a massive electrical charge. He accidentally found the edge of the cloaked Arena so when the metal of his knife connected, it created a charge that just about killed him. What's surprising about this twist is that it reveals that even the boundaries of the Arena have been weaponized against the Tributes. For every audience member wondering, "What happens if they reach the end of the Arena, and can they escape that way" this moment answers that seemingly harmless question with a nasty definitive. There is no backdoor to the games. 

4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 - The Black Ooze

Once the war between the Capitol and District 13 begins in earnest after the premature end to the Quarter Quell, there are no more games in either Mockingjay Part 1 or Part 2. However, the Capitol itself, under the orders of Snow, is rigged with Arena-like traps, called "pods," that are set to wipe out the advancing rebellion in dramatic fashion. The Star Squad — including Katniss, Peeta, Gail (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick and others — encounter several of the pods as they try to infiltrate the city to get to Snow. Stepping on a floor plate ends up closing off a building area that traps the Squad into a makeshift Arena scenario. A black oil substance is released like a tsunami that swamps anything it touches. What this pod shows is that the rebuilding of the Capitol after the first war included self-defense traps meant to prove a dramatic point to anyone who dared go against the regime. 

RELATED: The 10 Greatest Moments from The Hunger Games Saga

3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 - The Mutts Attack 

A potent display of the Capitol's scientific ingenuity, the genetically engineered "mutts" look like humanoid, albino xenomorphs that singularly track down their prey. Snow and his Gamemakers unleash them on the Star Squad for a relentless attack in the Capitol's sewers. In the dark, confined space, they prove to be a terrifying threat that keeps advancing no matter how many they take down. The mutts also raise the question if the Capitol has been experimenting on District agitators to make these monstrosities. 

2. The Hunger Games: The Cornucopia Bloodbath

At the official opening of the Hunger Games, the Cornucopia Bloodbath references the place where the Tributes are inserted into the games. Over the years of the evolving games, this starting point has become a bloody place of carnage as the Tributes are all in one place before they spread out into the Arena. It gets its dire nickname because the Capitol stages necessary tools and resources in this one space that could help the Tributes survive. Their desperation ensures there will be hand-to-hand battles will violent outcomes. The staging of this very first Arena in the films is an impressive sequence of intense editing, sound design and naturalistic acting that makes it abundantly clear how awful these games are for the participants.

RELATED: Ranking ‘The Hunger Games’ movies

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 - The Parachute Bombs

Again, while there is no formal Arena in Mockingjay Part 2, the Capitol is essentially turned into one by Snow with his pods that are littered around the city. Katniss and the Star Squad encounter many of them in their goal to make it to Snow's seat of power, his mansion. When Katniss and Gale arrive, they watch as tiny, gleaming orbs attached to tiny parachutes rain down on the area. They turn out to be explosives that wipe out everything in the area from Peacekeepers to Katniss' beloved sister, Prim (Willow Shields). The event is blamed on Snow, but in the aftermath of the devastation, he says tells Katniss that he was not responsible. Rather, it was the equally diabolical work of President Coin (Julianne Moore) to turn his people against him. And so one terrible regime teaches the next how to kill in the most effective way to sow terror and pain. 

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay — Part 1, and Mockingjay — Part 2 are all streaming on Peacock.

Originally published Nov 16, 2023.

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