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SYFY WIRE Features

When Are the Hunger Games Movies Set? 

Where doesThe Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes take place in the timeline of The Hunger Games saga?

By Tara Bennett
Jennifer Lawrence The Hunger Games

It's been 11 years since the The Hunger Games saga debuted in theaters with the original film based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling book. Remarkably, the latest installment in the cinematic series, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, is now in theaters. A prequel story centered on the unexpected origin story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth in the new film) and the 10th Hunger Games becomes the battleground for the soul of the young man who will eventually become Panem's totalitarian leader. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 opened in theaters eight years ago, so it's been a bit since audiences were last in Panem. While there's still time watch the original four films now streaming on Peacock, even the most attentive viewers can miss some mythology beats and details about the world. Especially, the big question of when the heck these movie take place, and is Panem in the past or the future? SYFY WIRE is here for you with answers that cover the four original films, and The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.

When and where do The Hunger Games films take place?

A hand holds a mockingjay pin

First thing to know is that author Suzanne Collins wrote the trilogy as individual installments comprised of The Hunger Games (2008), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2009) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (2010). After a decade break from publishing, she surprised her fandom with the release of the prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2020). All four books take place in the fictional world of Panem, which is the dystopian future of North America. 

RELATED: 5 Things You Need to Know About The Hunger Games Canon

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird and Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023).

In the books, Collins never declares when Panem is created in the wake of a global war spurred by a series of environmental disasters. An early draft of The Hunger Games script alludes to it happening about 300 years from our current future, so that's at least a window to work with. When all the world governments fall, Panem is born from the wreckage, and consists of 13 Districts that all possess a core natural resource mined or processed to be used by the the central government in The Capitol. 

Over time, The Capitol puts a tight leash on the Districts and rules by authoritarianism. It eventually incites a revolt from within as the Districts, led by 13, rise up in rebellion. The First Rebellion, or The Dark Days, lasts three years and decimates both the Capitol and the outside Districts with brutal warfare campaigns. A nuclear standoff between the two sides eventually opens the door for a deal between the Capitol and District 13 that allows the overall rebellion to fall apart. Districts 1 through 12 are then reunified under the iron thumb of a particularly vindictive Capitol regime. 

RELATED: Long Live Panem! The Hunger Games Timeline Explained

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes film opens during The Dark Days when an 8-year-old Coriolanus Snow and his slightly older cousin, Tigris, are scavenging in the decimated Capitol for food and water so they, and their Grandma'am (Fionnula Flanagan), don't starve. When the war officially ends, the Treaty of Treason mandates that the Hunger Games will become a mandatory annual event to commemorate the defeat of the Districts, and deter any future rebellions. 

Ten years later, the Capitol is slowly being rebuilt and the Games have been going for a full decade. The book and the film cover the pivotal year of Snow's impact on changes in the Hunger Games spectacle, and then his subsequent exile in District 12 as a Peacekeeper. 

The Hunger Games 

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) embraces Prim (Willow Shields) in The Hunger Games (2012)

The first book and film, The Hunger Games, takes place 64-years later and opens a few days before the "Reaping" ceremony for the 74th Hunger Games, where a male and female Tribute from each District will be chosen by lottery to participate in the annual fight to the death ritual. At this point, Snow (Donald Sutherland) is now the long-time President of Panem. At age 82, he has molded the Games, the Capitol, and the Districts to his will, but he still fears the seeds of rebellion. Having witnessed the wrath of the Districts as a child, he has tightened the rules and repercussions of dissent to keep the country in line. The events of the film take place in the summer and early fall in Panem.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) glance out a train window in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire picks up several months later with the Victory Tour for the 74th Hunger Games. District 12 Tributes Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are forced to travel to all of the Districts in a propaganda tour to help quell the pockets of rebellion incited by their threat to kill themselves at the end of their Games. Snow now demands they do the work to stamp out the growing dissension. The tour takes two weeks.

RELATED: 7 Most Diabolical Arena Challenges Across All The Hunger Games Films

In the Spring, Snow announces the 75th Hunger Games, or Quarter Quell, will consist entirely of Tributes who won their Hunger Games. District 12 victors Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Katniss, and Peeta train until the summer to be prepared for being called back to the Capitol. During the 75th Games, the destruction of the Arena by the rebels and the extraction of Katniss, Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) ushers in The Second Rebellion. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay

Suzanne Collins wrote Mockingjay as one book, but Lionsgate had the production team split the book to make two films, Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2. In both the book and Part 1, Katniss wakes up immediately after the Arena, in District 13. There she is reunited with her mother, sister Prim (Willow Shields), and best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and meets rebellion leader, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Coin asks Katniss to become the face of the Second Rebellion in exchange for District 13 making a concerted effort to get Peeta, Joanna (Jena Malone) and the rest of the captured Tributes out of the Capitol. She agrees and over the span of two weeks, the District 13 war effort is portrayed. Part 1 culminates in a hijacked Peeta, and the other tortured Tribute survivors, brought back to District 13. He tries to murder Katniss.

RELATED: The Hunger Games Director on Why He "Regrets" Splitting Mockingjay into Two Films

Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with a severally brainwashed Peeta undergoing treatment and a recovering Katniss agreeing to go out into the war zones to inspire the rebels and to get distance from the bleak hate the Capitol instilled in Peeta. She joins the Star Squad with Gale and Finnick. They make a final push into the Capitol in the autumn and eventually overthrow President Snow's regime, at great cost. In the winter, Katniss ends up killing Coin to prevent the reinstatement of the Games. She and Peeta return to District 12 in the spring. About 15 years later, Katniss and Peeta have their first child. 

All in all, the four books and five films encompass about 91 years of Panem history. 

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay — Part 1, and Mockingjay — Part 2 are all streaming on Peacock! The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes hits the big screen today, Friday, November 17.