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The Entire Hunger Games Timeline Explained

It's been years since 2012's "The Hunger Games," adapted from the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins, hit theaters. This blockbuster film went on to spawn three sequels, with the final book in the trilogy, "Mockingjay," split into two cinematic installments. Another prequel is on the way, adapted from Collins' 2020 book, "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes." The public simply cannot get enough of Panem and the warriors, spies, and tributes who live within it.

All these books and movies add up to a whole lot of story to keep track of. It can be downright easy to lose your place in Katniss Everdeen's saga — especially since "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" brings a young Coriolanus Snow's point of view into the mix. Whether you're looking to brush up on the sequence of events before "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" hits the cineplex, or you've just grown a little fuzzy on the finer details of the timeline since the films first came out, we've got you covered. From the events that led to the creation of the very first Hunger Games to the explosive happenings that follow the abrupt conclusion of the third Quarter Quell, here is the entire "Hunger Games" timeline, explained.

The Dark Days

There would be no Hunger Games without the civil war that rocked Panem. This era is known colloquially as the Dark Days. The Dark Days occurred around 75 years before the start of "The Hunger Games." They began with a rebellion of the 13 Districts which make up the country of Panem — once the United States — against the controlling Capitol, the central hub of the country's wealth and power. We don't know precisely how long the Dark Days lasted, but we do know District 13 led the rebellion, and that the war ended with the Capitol declaring victory. In the wake of this conflict, the Capitol lied to the public, claiming District 13 had been thoroughly destroyed.

Following the conclusion of the Dark Days, the Capitol implemented the first Hunger Games as a way to discourage future rebellion. The compulsory Games require each of the remaining 12 Districts to give up two of their children — chosen at random, unless someone volunteers — to fight to the death in a televised battle royale. The Hunger Games serve as both a punishment and a reminder of the cost of rebelling against the Capitol. Yet they also function as a display of the Capitol's "mercy," as the sole winner of the Games is lavishly rewarded with wealth, luxury, and fame.

Quarter Quells and devastated victors

Every year following the first Hunger Games, the annual competition was held. A new batch of 24 boys and girls were assembled to fight to the death in new and increasingly elaborate arenas. Notably, the winner of the 11th Hunger Games was Mags Flanagan (Lynn Cohen), a 16-year-old girl from District 4. Years later, she would become the oldest victor to compete in the 75th Games. 

After 24 Games, the Capitol decided to change the rules for the 25th go-round: They allowed Districts to select their own Hunger Games tributes through voting, instead of picking them through a Capitol representative. This rule was changed only for the 25th Hunger Games, as it marked the first "Quarter Quell," which would subsequently be celebrated every 25 years. Quarter Quells serve as a brutal "celebration" of the Capitol's victory over the Districts, and change up the rules in a memorable way.

During the second Quarter Quell, four tributes from each District were selected to compete in the 50th Hunger Games, rather than two. The victor was 16-year-old Haymitch Abernathy from District 12. Other notable victors of later Hunger Games include Finnick Odair from District 4, who won the 65th Hunger Games at the age of 14, making him the youngest victor ever, and Johanna Mason from District 7, who won the 71st Hunger Games at the age of 17.

Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute

When it comes time to select tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games, everything proceeds as usual ... until Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is drawn as the female tribute for District 12. Prim is only 11 years old, meaning this is her first year of eligibility for the Games, and has already had to endure the loss of her father in a mining accident years prior. Unwilling to allow Prim to be selected for almost certain death, her older sister, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), volunteers to compete in her place. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the son of a local baker, is chosen as the male tribute from District 12.

Although both Katniss and Peeta know only one of them will make it out of the arena, they grow fond of one another in the days leading up to the Games. During their training, Katniss establishes herself as an accomplished archer, while Peeta impresses his fellow tributes with his natural strength, although he lacks the cutthroat spirit so many competitors possess. Meanwhile, back in District 12, Katniss' best friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) looks after Katniss' mother and sister as they all watch the TV coverage leading up to the Games.

The 74th Hunger Games

As the 74th Hunger Games begin, Katniss ventures out on her own. She becomes convinced that Peeta is working with other tributes to kill her, but in fact, he's trying to protect her by throwing them off her scent. Eventually, Katniss teams up with Rue (Amandla Stenberg), the 11-year-old tribute from District 11 who reminds her of Prim. Unfortunately, Rue is killed, and Katniss mourns her by covering her body with flowers.

Following Rue's death, a change to the rules is announced: Two victors may be crowned this year, provided they're from the same district. Peeta and Katniss promptly team up to defeat the other tributes. This strategy wins the hearts of Capitol sponsors, who enjoy what they perceive as a blooming romance between the two. Thanks to the timely supplies they send, some very quick thinking, and a fair amount of luck, Katniss and Peeta become the final two tributes standing. 

But then the announcer reveals that the previous rule change has been undone: Only one of them will be allowed to leave the arena alive. Neither Katniss nor Peeta is willing to kill the other, so they resolve to kill themselves by ingesting poisonous berries. Panicked at the thought of not having a victor at all, the announcer changes the rules yet again to allow for two victors, ending the Games. Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) is subsequently executed by President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) for this decision.

Katniss and Peeta's Victory Tour

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" opens as the citizens of Panem prepare for the 75th Hunger Games. In the lead-up to each Games, it is customary for the victor of the prior bloodbath to go on a "Victory Tour" of the 12 districts to drum up enthusiasm, as well as demonstrate loyalty to the Capitol. But Katniss and Peeta's defiance in the 74th Hunger Games has stirred unrest ahead of the 75th Games. The people of Panem see Katniss as a symbol of resistance, and the Capitol isn't pleased. Before Katniss and Peeta leave on their tour, President Snow tells Katniss that unless she can convince the public that her attempt to subvert the rules by eating the berries was motivated solely by love for Peeta, he will kill her family.

Katniss and Peeta do their best to present themselves as a star-crossed couple during their tour. But nothing they do is able to quench the anger of the districts, which is spreading like wildfire. It doesn't help that Katniss is not a very convincing actress, and also prone to acting impulsively in the face of perceived injustice: She intervenes in several instances of Capitol-sanctioned brutality. This only strengthens the public's perception of her as the "Mockingjay," a potent symbol of freedom and rebellion.

The 75th Hunger Games

One year after Katniss and Peeta boarded the train that took them to their first Hunger Games, the altered rules for the third Quarter Quell are announced. Still seeking to smother the people's anger, Snow — along with newly appointed Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) — decides that instead of choosing tributes from the districts' children, they will be selected from the existing pool of victors. Since Katniss is the only female victor from District 12, there is no question that she will be among those forced to return to the arena.

This time around, even Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the Capitol representative for District 12, sees the injustice of the situation; she adopts a much more somber tone in her interactions with the tributes and during the Reaping ceremony. Of District 12's two male victors, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), victor of the 50th Games and Katniss and Peeta's mentor, is selected to compete. To Katniss' horror, Peeta quickly volunteers to take his place.

Preparing for the third Quarter Quell

Once they've arrived at the Capitol, the mood of the 75th Hunger Games' tributes is revealed to be markedly different than that of previous years. Already having survived one round of brutality, this group is rightfully angry that instead of being allowed to live out their lives in peace and comfort, they are instead being sent back into the arena. As they're older and considerably more experienced than the children typically selected for the Games, these tributes boldly try a number of tactics to get the Games shut down. Perhaps the most shocking one arrives when Peeta announces on live television that Katniss is pregnant with his baby.

Unbeknownst to Katniss, secret resistance ally Plutarch Heavensbee meets with Haymitch, as well as a number of other tributes, to conspire about what will happen if the Games proceed. Under instructions from president Alma Coin (Julianne Moore), leader of District 13 — which not only exists, but is actively plotting a rebellion — Heavensbee, Haymitch, and several tributes including Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Johanna (Jena Malone) devise a plan to extract Katniss and Peeta from the Games once they are underway.

Escaping the arena

The 75th Hunger Games' circular arena has a large lake in the center and is divided into 12 wedges. This time, Katniss and Peeta immediately team up, and are quickly joined by Finnick and elderly Mags, who volunteered in place of Finnick's girlfriend, Annie (Stef Dawson). Although Mags soon sacrifices herself to save the others, the rest survive and are joined by Johanna, along with Wiress (Amanda Plummer) and Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) from District 3.

An accomplished engineer, Beetee devises a plan to use one of the arena's precisely-timed traps to their advantage. Using a spool of copper wire, he intends to harness the electricity from a lightning strike to electrocute the other tributes. Presumably, his intent following the elimination of the other tributes is to trigger District 13's rescue plan — though of course, Katniss and Peeta know nothing about this. 

When the plan goes awry at the last second, Katniss wraps the end of the copper wire around an arrow and shoots it at the force field ceiling of the arena, right as lightning strikes. The current is drawn into the force field, causing it to short out and subsequently crumble. This allows a large District 13 ship to enter and extract Katniss and several other tributes. Unfortunately, Peeta and Johanna are left behind and sent to the Capitol, while Katniss is taken to District 13.

The Capitol reacts

Unable to be rescued by District 13, Peeta and Johanna are interrogated and tortured by the Capitol. Although Peeta doesn't know anything about the resistance, Snow rightly assumes he can use him as leverage to influence Katniss, as well as dissuade the districts from engaging in any further rebellion. Through a number of televised propaganda spots filmed in the Capitol, Katniss sees Peeta become ever more alarmingly brainwashed. Though she suspects he's being manipulated, she remains unnerved.

During this time, Annie and Johanna are also tortured by the Capitol, although they are not shown on television as Peeta is. While Johanna possesses information about the resistance (which she is unwilling to divulge), Finnick suspects Annie has been taken solely to use against him. Little do our heroes realize that the Capitol's actions are even worse than they think: When he isn't filming propaganda spots, Peeta is being subjected to vicious brainwashing techniques which cause him to become fearful of Katniss.

The Mockingjay is born

Although she would like nothing more than to go charging into the Capitol to rescue Peeta, Katniss is now subject to the administration of President Coin, who is determined to work more strategically. As "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1" opens, Coin convinces Katniss to embrace her persona as the Mockingjay and film a series of propaganda videos to inspire the people of Panem. With District 12 reduced to smoking rubble — retaliation by Snow for Katniss' defiance during the 75th Games — and Katniss' mother, Prim, and Gale now residing in District 13, Katniss feels she has no choice.

Unfortunately for Coin, Katniss is no more convincing when delivering scripted monologues for a cause she believes in than one she doesn't. However, she is occasionally inspired to improvise, and manages to give a few impassioned speeches that successfully rally the districts. This enrages Snow, and he finally orders an airborne attack on District 13. Peeta is able to regain control of himself just long enough to warn Katniss and the other residents of the district to take shelter, resulting in far fewer casualties than there otherwise would have been.

Walking into a trap

Finally, President Coin authorizes a mission to rescue Peeta and the other victors from the Capitol, though Katniss is not allowed to join the rescue team. Instead, she is tasked with filming a live TV spot, which will hopefully distract Snow and the rest of the Capitol from what is happening right under their noses. After Peeta, Johanna, and Annie are successfully rescued, Gale, who participated in the rescue mission, observes that finding and retrieving them was almost too easy.

The reason for this is made clear when Katniss eagerly rushes to reunite with Peeta, only to have him viciously attack her. At this point, it becomes clear to the resistance that Snow has brainwashed Peeta into wanting to kill Katniss, then allowed him to be rescued. While the resistance's doctors work diligently to counteract Peeta's brainwashing, Katniss is told she will have to keep her distance for the safety of them both.

Infiltrating the Capitol

As "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2" begins, Katniss is determined to seek revenge for Peeta's condition. Following a series of successful attacks by rebel forces, the Capitol troops withdraw from the districts to regroup within the Capitol itself. They place a number of lethal traps called "pods" around the outskirts of the city, to prevent resistance fighters from advancing. Fortunately, the resistance is able to procure a device which allows them to see the placement of most — but not all — of these pods, increasing their chances of being able to successfully reach the Capitol's center, where President Snow resides. Katniss and Gale are placed on a team dubbed the "Star Squad," which is meant to follow the combat troops and film propaganda videos showcasing the resistance's successes.

They've barely made it into the city when Peeta is added to the group under Coin's orders, allegedly to show the Capitol that he is still loyal to the resistance. However, Katniss suspects he's there to kill her, since her high-profile status as the Mockingjay poses a threat to Coin's power. Still, Peeta does his best to resist his violent impulses, and the group pushes deeper into the city. Unfortunately, between the pods and Peeta's violent programming, this mission proves deadly for most of the team, including Finnick. Only Katniss, Gale, Peeta, and a couple members of the camera crew make it to the center of the Capitol alive.

The attack on Snow's mansion

Realizing that the Capitol is losing the war, President Snow invites the remaining Capitol citizens to gather around his mansion and bring the children toward the gates, in the hopes that a human shield will dissuade the rebels from fighting their way inside. But as Katniss and Gale work their way toward the mansion disguised as civilians, fighting breaks out. They're separated when Gale is arrested by Capitol Peacekeepers.

Alone, Katniss nearly makes it to the gates of President Snow's mansion. But as the Capitol's citizens desperately pass their children forward through the crowd, bombs are dropped from a Capitol airship, blasting Katniss off her feet. When she opens her eyes, she sees many dead and wounded civilians, and the volunteer medics who have rushed in to treat them. Just as Katniss spies Prim among the medics, a second wave of bombs goes off, knocking Katniss out.

Betrayal begets betrayal

Katniss awakens to the news that the rebels have won the war, Snow has been taken into custody, and Prim is dead. After being given a room in the mansion, Katniss goes to the greenhouse where Snow is being kept and demands an audience. The condemned Snow gleefully reveals to her that it is Coin, not him, who is responsible for the Capitol bombing and her sister's death. Horrified, Katniss realizes that Gale was likely the one who gave Coin the idea, driving a permanent wedge between them.

Later, during a meeting with the leaders of the resistance, several of the remaining victors are appalled when Coin suggests a new Hunger Games. Capitol children will be the tributes this time, in order to satiate the people's need for revenge without giving in to massive bloodshed. Katniss votes in favor of these new Games, on the condition that she be the one to execute Snow. But when the time for this execution comes, Katniss kills Coin instead. She has realized that allowing Coin to remain in charge will only lead to more of the same oppressive conditions that got them into this situation. Snow is subsequently killed by the angry spectators.

A new Panem is born

Following the deaths of Presidents Coin and Snow, Katniss is placed under arrest, but is then pardoned and allowed to return to District 12. Commander Paylor (Patina Miller) of District 8 is quickly elected Panem's new president. She acts to abolish the Hunger Games, demolish the arenas, and build memorials to the many people who died. It is implied that henceforth, Panem will be governed by its people, who will select their leader through free and fair elections.

Sometime during the years that follow, Katniss marries Peeta and has two children with him. They both still suffer from PTSD, with Peeta bearing the worst of it due to the lingering effects of his brainwashing — he sometimes has to ask for Katniss' help in determining what is real. Though the scars that have been left by the Games and the Capitol's reign of terror linger, Katniss' decision to start a family indicates her faith in the future. Prior to the Games, Katniss swore to never have children, believing she could not bear to bring them into such a harsh world. Now, despite the horror she has lived through, she believes the world is worthy of hope.