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Long Live Panem! The Hunger Games Timeline Explained

Let's revisit the world of Suzanne Collins' best-selling dystopia The Hunger Games.

A collage featuring the five movies from the Hunger Games series.

Next week, Hunger Games fans around the globe will step back into the arena for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Adapted from Suzanne Collins' 2020 prequel novel of the same name, the film provides an ironclad explanation for how future Panem president — Coriolanus Snow (played as a young man by Tom Blyth) — became the heartless bastard readers know him to be.

What caused him to become a ruthless and murder-happy dictator? The answer may surprise you, because it was unrequited love that led to Snow's moral decay. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Here's a brief rundown of the franchise timeline to make sense of it all.

More on The Hunger Games:

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes' promises a 'new version' of Panem in 'Hunger Games' prequel
The Hunger Games Tributes Who Could Have Bested the Games

The Hunger Games timeline (briefly) explained

A hand holds a mockingjay pin

The origins of Panem are a little murky, as Slash Film astutely pointed out last month. The bestselling books never provide a clear backstory detailing the apocalyptic event led to the downfall of North America and its eventual reformation into a dystopian society, segmented by 13 different Districts and ruled over by the fascistic Capitol.

All we know for certain is that the Districts waged a full-scale rebellion against the Capitol and were defeated after a period of three years. Panem's ruling class decided to punish and consistently humiliate their subjects by creating the Hunger Games, a yearly event in which 24 young Tributes from each District must kill each other in combat until one is left standing.

When is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes set in The Hunger Games timeline?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place a decade after the conclusion of the failed uprising, against the backdrop of the 10th Annual Hunger Games. Now 18-years-old, an ambitious Coriolanus Snow hopes to restore honor to his once-great and affluent family by coaching District 12 Tribute — Lucy Gray Baird (played in the film by Rachel Zegler) — to victory. Something he never planned on was falling in love with this forerunner to Katniss Everdeen.

Suffice it to say, young Snow's romance with Lucy doesn't pan out, which explains why President Snow tries so hard to crush Katniss and the rest of District 12 when the events of the first book kick off 64 years later. He's a bitter old man.

How The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes leads into the events of The Hunger Games films?

The end of Snow's tyrannical regime begins with the final moments of the 74th Hunger Games, which inadvertently turns both Katniss and Peeta Mellark (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in the films) into symbols of rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss in particular becomes the reluctant poster child for the renewed insurgency, gaining the fiery status of "Mockingjay."

Hoping to quell the fomenting atmosphere of discontent among the Districts, President Snow tweaks the Hunger Games rules, essentially forcing Katniss and Peeta to compete for the second year in a row in the hopes of bringing about their deaths. By this time, however, the damage is done. A second rebellion is launched with the help of the mysterious District 13 and Snow is finally dethroned after several months of intense fighting, events that play out in the final films of the Hunger Games saga.

Catch up on the dystopian saga so far. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay — Part 1, and Mockingjay — Part 2 are all streaming on Peacock.

Originally published Nov 7, 2023.