The success of the film adaptation of The Hunger Games falls on the young shoulders of Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who we are pleased to tell you ably steps into the role of heroine Katniss Everdine. Set in a dystopian future where the nation of Panem has risen from the ashes of what was once the United States, The Hunger Games follows Katniss as she volunteers to participate in an annual battle-to-the-death competition after her younger sister's number comes up in the government-mandated lottery. Katniss is set loose in a forest with 23 other children and teens for a televised contest where the prize is your life.
As popular as author Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games novel has become since first published in 2008, the story is hardly the first to feature humans hunting humans for sport on-screen. The 1987 action film The Running Man, which is loosely based on a 1982 Stephen King novel, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards—a military pilot forced to participate in the TV show The Running Man where convicted criminal "runners" must elude death at the hands of professional killers. This guilty pleasure is available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
The 2000 Japanese thriller Battle Royale is like what would happen if The Hunger Games was directed by Quentin Tarantino. Battle Royale was banned for years in some countries and difficult to find, but it not-so-coincidentally just became available on Blu-ray as The Hunger Games is opening in theaters. Battle Royale follows a ninth-grade class that is chosen by lottery to be outfitted with exploding neck collars and set loose on a remote island to hunt and kill each other until only one remains. Sound familiar? The ultra-violent teen-vs.-teen smackdown became one of the 10 highest-grossing films in Japan.
The 2003 sequel Battle Royale II: Requiem also recently became available on Blu-ray bundled with the original Battle Royale. In the equally bloody follow-up, the survivors from the first film have formed a rebel alliance called the Wild Seven and a new ninth-grade class is outfitted with exploding neck collars by the government and is tasked with taking out the Wild Seven's leader instead of each other.
"Are you not entertained?" screams Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) to the crowd after he kills a bunch of men for sport in Ridley Scott's Gladiator, a hunting-humans epic that won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. Maximus was a decorated Roman general who is betrayed by Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), sold into slavery and forced to fight his way up through the gladiator games in the Coliseum until given an opportunity to avenge his family's murder.
A few thousand years later and we are on the cusp of a TV show like the one depicted in the pitch-black satire Series 7: The Contenders actually happening, hopefully starring the Kardashians. Like The Hunger Games, random people are selected by lottery to participate in a reality show The Contenders that features "real people in real danger." The contestants are tasked with hunting each other down and killing the other contestants by any means necessary until only one remains. The film opens with pregnant champ Dawn Lagarto (Brooke Smith) gunning down a Contender at a convenience store before calling in the kill and getting ready for the new season, which brings her back to her hometown and forces her to face an old flame in the competition. This wickedly fun and little-seen gem can be tough to find on DVD, which is out of print, but you can stream it right now on Netflix Watch Instantly to fire yourself up before The Hunger Games.