Suzanne Collins created one of the best dystopian worlds with her series The Hunger Games, which is genuinely a national treasure, and the recently released prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The Hunger Games follows a girl named Katniss, who volunteers for her younger sister Primrose in order to participate in the annual games put on by the capital. From there, her world is turned upside down as she becomes the face of the biggest revolution to ever take place, and she’s at the forefront of it. The novels were successfully adapted into a four-part movie franchise and showcased several characters throughout each film.
As for the prequel, fans of the franchise get a deeper insight into the beginning stages of the Hunger Games as well as the development of Panem and the Capitol itself. Most importantly, the story of the notorious President Snow is shown from a new perspective. Starting with Coriolanus Snow as a young boy, the process of his transformation from a young, determined student to a gruesome President with a twisted mind is shown. A counterpart to his poisonous journey is Lucy Gray Baird, a singer and a tribute from District 12, who significantly influences Snow’s thought processes and his transformation. The Hunger Games movies are filled with incredible characters, and here’s a list of the very best characters from the franchise, ranked.
Update December 29, 2023: This article has been updated following the release of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to include even more great characters from the franchise.
Gale is a controversial pick to include on this list since his character progressively became worse and worse throughout the movies, but at his core, he’s an ally to Katniss. In the first book/movie, we see how close the two are, often hunting together for their families and growing up together in the hardship that is District 12. The two of them understand each other on a deeper level, sharing similar struggles and supporting each other day after day. It becomes clear that Gale does not only care for Katniss as his best friend, but also has stronger, more romantic feelings for her.
His feelings for Katniss also surface when he wants to leave everything at District 12 behind in order to live a more peaceful life together. Gale, even though his character was ruined by the last movie, showing him blinded by hatred and the longing for justice, was essential to Katniss’ upbringing and was a faithful friend to her when she needed him the most.
Primrose is Katniss’s younger sister, and while she’s young, she’s very mature for her age thanks to where and how she grew up. When Prim is picked for the games, Katniss steps forward and takes her place, and before her older sister is whisked away, Prim begs her to win so that Katniss can come back to her. Katniss takes Prim’s love and hope with her throughout the games, and many times she’s referenced as to why Katniss is fighting so hard to come home.
Primrose is essentially one of the central characters of the franchise, incvoluntarily leading Katniss on a daunting journey and bringing about significant change in Panem’s rigid system. When Prim is killed in Mockingjay, Katniss takes it the worst and falls mute, highlighting just how much she loved her sister.
Thresh is a character we only saw in the first movie, but he is memorable all the same. He’s a tribute from District 11 and came with a very young girl named Rue, who eventually became Katniss’s ally. In the movie, Thresh’s death isn’t really highlighted, but he’s gruesomely devoured by dogs in the middle of the woods.
Thresh earns a spot on this list because of how he spared Katniss and saved her life when she was about to die at the hands of a different tribute. He avenged Rue for her untimely death and let Katniss live since he was aware of how she was taking care of Rue throughout the games, treating her like a little sister.
Coriolanus Snow’s cousin, Tigris, is not only one of the best characters in the Hunger Games franchise, but also a literal safe haven for young Coriolanus. When the two of them were still kids, fighting for survival amid a war-stricken Panem, surrounded by poverty and death, Tigris was the anchor that Coriolanus needed.
Tigris looked out for Coriolanus as though she was his mother, continuing to do so even during his time as a mentor. As caretaker for Coriolanus as well as their grandmother, Tigris continues to show her strength. However, when Coriolanus slowly but surely drifts away into the depths of greed and the Games, Tigris loses part of her spark. Sensing the loss of one of her closest loved ones, she tries to reel Coriolanus back in but eventually fails. Her strength and dedication, however, are reason enough to put her on this list.
Upon first character introduction, Finnick is described as handsome, arrogant, and known for having many lovers throughout the Capitol. However, once you continue to watch the movies and learn more about Finnick, you come to understand that he’s had much pain in his life, and President Snow exploited him by having him prostitute throughout the Capitol after he won his games.
Finnick proves to be a great ally to Katniss and Peeta after he saves the latter’s life with CPR and then bonds with Katniss over their trauma. As time goes by, Finnick’s softer, more approachable side comes to the surface, and he builds a true friendship with Katniss due to finally opening up. The revelation of his true self almost comes as a surprise, but it definitely is a welcome one. It’s a devastating moment when he is eventually killed in front of his friends.
Johanna is a force to be reckoned with, and she makes this list because of how unapologetic she was throughout the movies. Her first encounter with Katniss and Peeta is in an elevator, and to prove how carefree she is, she strips off her dress and stands naked in front of them. This bold move set the tone for her journey, obviously stating that she has no problem simply being herself.
Similar to Finnick, Johanna didn’t open up to Katniss right away, but after both of them had to endure immense hardship, they shared an understanding, and their friendship blossomed. Johanna was captured at the end of Catching Fire by the Capitol, then tortured and shaved bald for her defiance, yet after she was saved, it became clear that the spark within her was still there. She shows that no matter how hard something might get, there can still be a fire left within, waiting to be released again.
It’s easy to think that Rue saved Katniss throughout the games, especially since she reminded her so much of Prim. Rue was like a lifeline to Katniss when she needed the will to live, catching food for the young girl and protecting her while she slept. Rue genuinely did save Katniss’ life when she was stung multiple times by the tracker jackers, creating a special type of salve from nearby leaves and keeping her hidden.
Apart from that, the little girl also gives an immense amount of comfort to Katniss, reminding her of her wish to survive and the fact that her fellow tributes are also merely children, after all. Rue’s death came very suddenly and was very heart-breaking to watch, but it gave Katniss the fire to fight even harder and eventually leave the Games as one of the winners.
8 Casca Highbottom
As the founding member of the Hunger Games, Casca Highbottom played a huge role in the history of Panem and the districts. Even though his idea to send two teenagers from each district into an arena where they fight each other to death was coined on a drunken night and mistakenly taken in as a serious suggestion, Highbottom holds himself accountable, suffering under the heavy weight of guilt and regret.
Betrayed by his friend and father of Coriolanus, Cassus Snow, the resentment seeped through to the next generation, and ultimately caused a tense relationship between Coriolanus and Casca. Casca Highbottom works as a rare example, since he is a sympathetic figure, a fascinating character who holds empathy and an overwhelming amount of bitterness, despite being surrounded by the predominantly merciless citizens in the Capitol.
Effie Trinket, at first glance, is a lot to take in. Once you get past the wigs, the accent, and the colorful clothes, you realize there’s more to Effie than meets the eye. In the first movie, she’s deeply against District 12 and the way they act and dress, and is only kind to Peeta and Katniss because they’re her tributes to look after. She takes her job incredibly seriously, making it a point to constantly highlight how blessed the tributes are to experience the high society lifestyle in the Capitol. However, as you continue further with the franchise, you realize Effie does, in fact, have a big heart, especially when she’s imprisoned by the capital, and all color is washed away from her.
Cinna is one of the best characters in the entire franchise because of how much of an ally he became to Katniss and even Peeta. As a stylist of the Capitol, it’s easy to paint the tributes in a ridiculous light and make fools out of them, especially when they represent such a bleak district as 12, which specializes in coal mining. Cinna was inspired by Katniss’s bravery and decided to honor her as well as her district by making them memorable as well as desirable.
His outstanding talent and impeccable sense for unique fashion let the two tributes, but especially Katniss, appear in a different, more dominant light, carrying even more meaning into the depths of the rebellion. When he’s killed off in Catching Fire, it’s truly heartbreaking to know that Katniss is going through such a loss before entering the games once again, but his designs still resurface at later stages, keeping the memory of Cinna alive.
5 Coriolanus Snow
While adding the infamous Coriolanus Snow to this list might seem unreasonable, there are some valid reasons as to why he is one of the best characters. In the Hunger Games prequel, A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Snow is introduced as a young man, even a kid at first, highlighting his empathetic and caring side. It almost seems impossible that it is the same person who will cause immense pain and find joy within it. The way his mind is tarnished, the process of his twisted downfall, is incredibly well implemented.
In the beginning, Coriolanus is likable, shows his supportive side, and is aware of Panem’s grievances and the injustice towards the people from the districts. However, after he is unexpectedly thrown into the Games as a mentor and experiences heartbreak and, in his eyes, betrayal, his interest in creating the Hunger Games and ensuring their continuation to maintain order grows stronger. When taking a closer look, Coriolanus is a truly fascinating character, even though what stands out the most is his greed and ruthlessness when it comes to gaining power and prestige.
Although a drunk and sloppy mess, Haymitch was one of the best characters in the franchise solely because of how much he came to love and care for Katniss and Peeta. After he participated in the games himself and won, he was struck with PTSD after his family died at the hands of President Snow, thus forcing himself to drink every day for the next 24 years.
As you learn why he is the alcoholic he is, you start to feel for him and understand that he can’t bear the thought of mentoring more kids when he himself went through so much. He knows the difficulty, the fear, and the pain of being a tribute first-hand, which is why he is such a central part of the rebellion’s uprising. Even though Haymitch doesn’t burn much for his own life, he definitely burns to end the Games, saving the lives of the districts’ children.
Peeta is one of the main characters in the Hunger Games franchise, joining Katniss’s side as a tribute from District 12. While he sees the Games as his death sentence at first, believing he stands no chance of winning, Katniss makes him see that he can use his strength to his advantage. Peeta is a kind soul who immediately cares for Katniss at a young age and continues to stay loyal to her.
In the first movie, it is revealed that Peeta gave her bread when she was starving, and her family hadn’t eaten for days, which works as one of the many indicators that he is a truly genuine and kind person. He’s also smart and charismatic, playing the game of love interests, so the Capitol takes more interest in the two of them, but it backfires for him as he realizes that only his feelings are true and Katniss’s are fake. Even though it took a long time for Katniss to develop real feelings for him, he still supported her in any way possible. In Mockingjay, he’s brainwashed by the Capitol and made into a weapon against Katniss, placing her existence at the center of his anger and fear. However, over time, he regains his memory, and the two eventually grow closer again, marry and have kids several years after the war.
2 Lucy Gray Baird
Lucy Gray Baird is one of the central characters in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. As one of the tributes of District 12 and the love interest of her mentor, Coriolanus Snow, she surprises the Capitol with her singing voice and perfectly implements Coriolanus’s idea of using her talent to gain the crowd’s support. Despite her initial feelings for Coriolanus and following his ideas and suggestions, she stays true to herself and isn’t blinded by love.
Her sight is clear, and her skills at reading people are as prominent as ever. As a Covey, a group of travelers through Panem, she holds more openness than any person in the Capitol, living more connected to nature and the longing for freedom than anyone else. Due to her ability to read people and their intentions, she eventually also sees right through Coriolanus’s facade and reveals his completely merciless and sinister self. While Lucy’s fate remains unknown, her legacy lives on, and her song “Hanging Tree” will go on to inspire the rebellion that will burn down Snow’s power.
Katniss is the girl on fire, the central character of The Hunger Games franchise, and an inspiration to many young women around the globe. During her time as a tribute, Katniss reveals her outstanding survival as well as hunting skills, gaining quite a fanbase throughout the Games. However, her way of trying to survive the Games also creates some displeasure, as her behavior offers ground for a rebellion.
Since she constantly proves that she can fight and be just as tough as anyone else, she has become a role model for audiences since she made her debut in the first book, and being played by Jennifer Lawerence made her an even bigger pop culture icon. In a very short amount of time, Katniss’s life changes forever as she becomes a tribute in the Games and then an icon for rebellion within each district. Her character is so important, so monumental, as she survives the unthinkable and loses so many people she loves. Although Katniss goes through so much trauma, she’s able to end her story on a good note, leading a life filled with love and peace.