Before the Hunger: Four Movies That Feature Fights to the Death

With the recent success of the movie The Hunger Games, rabid fans may be clamoring for more movies that feature gladiator style combat. The good news is that there are plenty of great films out there that feature fights to the death, and a couple of which predate many of The Hunger Games’ target audience. So, if you are hungry for some more movies that have arena action similar to the blockbuster based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling book, read on.

Battle Royal (2000)

This actioner from Japan is the most similar to The Hunger Games concept. The movie features 42 ninth grade students placed on a deserted island by a futuristic Japanese government and given three days to kill each other until only one remains. Each student is given a bag with random weapons and supplies and is let loose. Critics give this film an average rating of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Series 7: The Contenders (2001)

This movie features a reality TV show where the contestants must kill each other off. In this satire of Survivor and its ilk, six randomly selected contestants must kill or be killed while the camera watches. The arena is a small town in Connecticut and among the contenders is the current champion Dawn, who is on the verge of being set free from the show and who also happens to be pregnant. There is also an old man, a teenaged girl, a middle-aged nurse, and a man recovering from cancer. The film features dark humor and a satire of the nation’s then-nascent obsession with reality TV. Critics give it an average score of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mean Guns (1997)

This movie is a bit more obscure. It features a gangster boss who rounds up 100 people who have wronged him and forces them to fight to the death in a large building. The last three survivors will split 10 million dollars. The combatants range from hit men, gangbangers, and thieves to accountants and secretaries. The battle begins with the combatants being set loose and scramble for a bunch of weapons–ranging from bats to shotguns–dumped in the middle of the room. Plot-wise, the movie isn’t a masterpiece, but the fighting and action are intense. The film stars Ice T and Christopher Lambert.

The Running Man (1987)

This classic is the father of arena combat TV show films. This movie features Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Ben Richards, an American cop in the year 2019 who is framed for killing civilians when he refuses to do the same. He escapes from captivity and, when he is re-captured, he is forced to compete in televised gladiatorial combat. The TV show is called “The Running Man,” and it forces convicts to compete against skilled assassins who each possess unique weapons. Critics give The Running Man an average score of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So if you are hungry for some fight to the death action, start by checking out some of these movies. And if there are any similar films that you recommend, be sure to chime in below.

Zack Mandell is a movie enthusiast and owner of He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.