The big release this weekend -- hell, it's one of the biggest movies of the year -- is the big-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, and it's a deviation on the science fiction / adventure story about an organized "hunt" in which actual humans are killed for sport and/or entertainment. This concept is, of course, not new, and I'll cite Richard Connell's 1924 short story "The Most Dangerous Game" as the modern forefather of the films listed below.
Like most of the finest short stories of a "genre" variety, Connell's was simple, enticing, and socially relevant -- and clearly it remains pretty topical in today's fast-paced world. (Admit it: you could probably fill a small island with people you don't like.) So if the idea of humans hunting humans sounds deliciously delightful, if only when wedged firmly into the realm of fiction, here are a bunch of flicks you might like.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932) -- The creators and stars of King Kong reunite in this first, and probably best, adaptation of Connell's source material. Joel McCrea, Richard Armstrong, and Fay Wray try to fend off the villainous Leslie Banks as he hunts them for sport. Definitely worth a look, and hell, it only runs 64 minutes!
A Game of Death (1945) -- Probably not the most memorable of the direct adaptations -- I'm not even sure if I've seen this flick -- but I've included it for two reasons: A) it's an early feature from the near-legendary Robert Wise, who is awesome, and B) it's presently available on Instant Netflix, which is convenient.
The Running Man (1987) -- Loosely based on the Stephen King novella of the same name, this mid-'80s relic features lots of colorful kooks, numerous violent murders, and a wonderfully entertaining performance from the late, great Family Feud host Richard Dawson. Here the "hunting humans" angle is brought to the "futuristic" age, and the results range from kitschy to stupid to simply fun. Bonus amusement: the various hunted and hunters are played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Yaphet Kotto, and Maria Conchita Alonso.
Hard Target (1993) -- This time it's Jean-Claude Van Damme, the setting is New Orleans, and the human-hunting bastards are Lance Heriksen and Arnold Vosloo. Noteworthy in that it was John Woo's first English-language film, and for some ass-kicking and the aforementioned villains, but this is some pretty mindless stuff. (Also on Instant Netflix.)
Surviving the Game (1994) -- This one makes Hard Target look like Die Hard. An early effort from Ernest Dickerson (Dexter, The Walking Dead), it stars Ice-T as a homeless guy who gets trapped in a murder game with Rutger Hauer, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton, and John C. McGinley. That's too much testosterone for one movie. (Another one on Instant!)
Battle Royale (2000) -- This audacious, fascinating, and powerfully entertaining Japanese import is about a random class of high-schoolers who are gassed, dropped on an island, and ordered to kill each other. Anchor Bay just released a 4-disc set of this shocking action / horror / adventure / satire, and I couldn't recommend it more highly.
Bonus pick: most of the Predator movies fall within the "humans hunting humans" parameters, only those flicks are more like "alien monsters hunting humans."
Staff suggestions: John Gholson offers up The Condemned (2007); Peter Hall kinda recommends The Pest (1997); my final pick is the crazy-ass 1982 non-epic Escape 2000 (aka Turkey Shoot.)
Final note: in addition to Mr. Connell's short story, I'd also highly recommend Stephen King's "The Long Walk," which uses a gripping "televised death march" idea in dark, masterful fashion. (Last we heard, Frank Darabont was dying to make a movie from this novella. I still have my fingers crossed on that one.)