The Hunger Games, Fortnite, or Squid Game and Best Battle Royale Movies of All Time Ranked

As much as we love The Hunger Games, it’s hard not to feel like the franchise has sparked a whole subgenre of its own. And when it comes to spotting and enjoying the best in this genre, it’s hard to go wrong with a well-crafted battle royale films.

Whether you are into The Hunger Games or Fortnite, you are probably aware of how popular the game is. The popularity of this type of genre shows no signs of slowing down. With a new show coming out on Netflix called Squid Game, it is a good time to take a look at some of the other movies that have been inspired by the popular competition series.

One of the best examples is The Hunger Games, a movie that paved the way for many of these types of films. Another great example is Battle Royale, which set the standard for this subgenre. Both of these films deal with a group of people who are forced to participate in a deadly contest. The last person standing wins a prize and the others are killed. This is a great movie that has some interesting themes about survival and what it means to be human.

And while The Hunger Games eschews the loud satire of Battle Royale to instead become a political allegory for class warfare, these movies both work because they each present their respective worlds with such stark and captivating clarity. So if you’re craving a new battle royale to watch, check out our list of the 13 best to date.

For our purposes, we confined this list to battle royale films that feature at least nine participants and that have been filmed in a single location. We then ranked them based on the quality of their storytelling, their execution, and the underlying themes that drive their action.

List of Top 13 Best Battle Royale Movies of All Time Ranked

1. Battle Royale (2000)

Kinji Fukasaku is one of the very few directors that can not be placed into a specific genre, his movies often blurring the lines between drama and action. However, it is with his 2000 film Battle Royale that he really made his mark as one of the greats of Asian cinema. Based on a novel by Koushun Takami, the movie follows a near future Japan where juvenile delinquency and political unrest have lead to extreme measures. The government has opted to send groups of teenagers to a deserted island and tell them to kill each other. The last person standing is allowed back into society.

The film caused a lot of controversy when it first released as the premise is pretty far fetched but it is surprisingly effective. Much of that comes down to the fantastic young cast; they all make a solid impression in what is a rushed production with some moments of real inspiration. Tatsuya Fujiwara is believable as the narrator/leader Shuya Nanahara and comedic actor Takeshi Kitano delivers some truly inspired moments as the games sadistic organizer.

Also worth mentioning is the work done by director Fukasaku to convey the personalities of the 42 students. He does so by embedding multiple plots that show how everyone interacts with each other. The character of Gogo Yubari, played by Chiaki Kuriyama (Quentin Tarantino’s partner in Kill Bill), is especially effective as she shows an uncharacteristic moment of courage or cowardice.

2. The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games is a big, entertaining battle royale film that doesn’t skimp on action or emotion. Jennifer Lawrence – who dyed her hair for the role of Katniss Everdeen – is terrific as the feisty young heroine who’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to survive and protect Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), costume designer Cinna, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) all shine in supporting roles.

The setting, a future North America called Panem and divided into 12 districts kept under tight control by the all-powerful Capitol, is easy to buy into. Collins has a sharp eye for the way our culture’s relationship with food feeds into our notions of violence and whimsy. The Games are a constant reminder that the things we think of as luxuries – like plenty of tasty foods – can be deadly.

When the tributes are tossed into the arena, an enormous topographically varied stretch of wilderness, a number are butchered at the outset in a mad dash for weapons and supplies. But the surviving Tributes quickly find their wits and do what they can to stay alive. Among the highlights: Katniss and Peeta forge an alliance after they’re both wounded; the gamemakers change the rules by allowing two victors from one district; and Crane plants a talkshow host (Caesar Flickerman, played by Stanley Tucci) in front of the adolescent fighters to frame their battle as a romance story.

3. The Running Man (1987)

Despite not being as talked about as other big Arnold Schwarzenegger battle royale films like Terminator, Predator and Total Recall, The Running Man has a certain charm to it that sadly hasn’t been lost over the years. It’s got a bit of social commentary about the media being liars fuelled by the public’s love of violence, some sly humour and epic Arnold one-liners. Plus it’s a sci-fi thriller with a dystopian vision of a future ruled by reality TV that seems to be sadly coming true in our own world at the moment.

Paul Michael Glaser directed the film that adapted Stephen King’s novel about a wrongly convicted cop being forced to compete in a futuristic game show for his freedom. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, a former police officer and helicopter pilot who is framed by the ICS Corporation for killing rioters in Bakersfield. Rather than fight back, Richards is coerced by amoral ICS creator and game show host Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) to participate in The Running Man.

The movie is essentially the modern version of the classic Ridley Scott gladiator film, with Richards battling every staged battle to survive and take down the system that controls him. However, unlike Russell Crowe’s character who fights every battle to avenge his family and reclaim his homeland, Richards seemingly takes pleasure in fighting every battle because it gives him the thrill of committing excessive violence.

4. Guns Akimbo (2019)

Guns Akimbo 2019 is a frantic, balls-out action thriller that delivers thrills, spills and some genuinely spectacular kills. Its premise may be tainted by the controversy surrounding writer-director Jason Lei Howden’s online behavior, but those who can separate it from its frenzied pace will find plenty to enjoy here.

When spineless video-game programmer Miles Lee Harris wakes to discover that his hands are bloodily bolted to a pair of guns, he realises he’ll have to use them to save his ex-girlfriend Nova (Hayley Stowe) from a criminal organization known as Skizm, which pits maniacal criminals against each other in live-streamed death matches. But when Miles coerces a coffee-shop patron into hacking his phone to retrieve Nova’s location, he learns that the psychopathic Riktor (Dennehy) is waiting for him.

In an obvious nod to the influence of video games, Guns Akimbo revels in its frenetic pace and slick editing, constructing scenes that feel like they’re playing out in a violent platformer – complete with suitably ridiculous end-of-level bosses. In addition, it’s not afraid to offend, with Miles frequently delivering snide remarks and gay panic jokes that will turn off some viewers.

Although Radcliffe gives it his all, transforming from meek and clumsy into a lean, mean killing machine, the film belongs to Samara Weaving, who takes badassery to new heights as Nix. Having already impressed in Mayhem and Ready or Not, she shows that she’s the real deal here with a jaw-dropping performance that will have audiences cheering her on, despite what she does to her victims.

5. 2001: Series 7 The Contenders

In 2001, the world seemed a very different place. Roger Ebert might have called Series 7 The Contenders “a one joke movie” but, in hindsight, the film’s hyperbolic warning of the media’s commodification of white rage and violent opposition seems remarkably prescient.

The film, written and directed by Daniel Minahan, is set in a fake reality show in which six random citizens are drafted to hunt down and kill each other until the last person left alive wins the competition. Dawn (Brooke Smith), the reigning champion, has to kill another set of contenders—Tony (real-life New York cop Michael Kaycheck), a cokehead construction worker; Connie (Marylouise Burke), a God-fearing nurse who enjoys killing people; Lindsay (Merritt Wever), a media-savvy teenager whose parents are eager to see her compete; Franklin (Richard Venture), an old conspiracy theorist with a tenuous grasp on reality; and Jeff (Glenn Fitzgerald), who is dying of testicular cancer and once was Dawn’s boyfriend.

Minahan has a background in documentary work and it shows; the entire film plays out as extended episodes of the imaginary television show, with voice-over narration and interview segments. It’s effective and sometimes unnerving. But at the same time it can also make the battle royale film seem relentless; there’s no break from the gruesome violence. When it’s working, however, Series 7 is a thought-provoking and entertaining satire that is probably only now becoming relevant. It might not last long, though. Just as reality TV is a thing of the past, so too will be this kind of movie.

6. The Belko Experiment (2016)The Hunt 2020

A twisted social experiment turns the white collar Belko staffers into Lord of the Flies savages. It’s Office Space meets Battle Royale with a bloodbath to match.

It’s just another day at the office for 80 American employees of the company Belko in Bogota, Colombia — until a mysterious voice over the intercom announces that they will play a game in which many of them will die. The voice gives them the first task: kill two coworkers within 30 minutes or face repercussions. But that’s not all the workers will be asked to do. The voice then reveals that all the workers have tracking chips in their heads ostensibly to prevent corporate kidnapping, but they also explode when activated. The employees soon figure out that the building is locked down with steel doors and that any attempt to signal for help will only invite the armed guards inside to shoot them.

The resulting ruthless kill-or-be-killed game devolves into a brutal bloodbath in which old grudges and workplace tensions come to a head. The Belko Experiment is a relentlessly gory thrill ride with a big cast (including John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, and John C. McGinley) giving solid performances that make them believable as a group of real people in a truly terrifying situation. The battle royale film is directed with skill by Greg McLean and written with sly flair by James Gunn, who made his name writing for the Guardians of the Galaxy films. But without a major star in the lead, it’s unlikely to become a significant theatrical performer and will most likely find an audience on cable and VOD.

7. The Hunt (2020)

Last summer, before it even hit theaters, the low-budget B-movie The Hunt became a political hot potato. Its trailer was seized upon as grist for the perpetually grumbling media mill as it imagined rich liberal “elites” hunting down red-state “deplorables” like wild game. Distributor Universal yanked it from its Sept. 27 release date, citing the Dayton and El Paso massacres as reason to take a closer look at how this battle royale film was being promoted.

Despite the best efforts of its director, Craig Zobel and co-writer Damon Lindelof, The Hunt is more headlines than movie, with its cliched snobbery, salt-of-the-earth working class and slo-mo close-quarters combat. There are whiffs of George A. Romero’s tawdry class warfare and the blood-soaked glee of various Purge instalments, but this movie can’t match Jordan Peele’s darkly satirical, wildly entertaining 2020 offering. This is head-splattering nonsense, a centrist’s idea of biting commentary but everybody else’s idea of a big stinking bore. And that’s a shame, because Gilpin is truly sensational as a woman who defies the odds and proves her mettle. It’s just a shame the rest of the cast hasn’t had the chance to shine.

8. Death Race (2008)

The first Death Race was a B-movie made for about $300,000. This 2008 remake with its Tom Cruise producer and major studio – Universal – behind it has a budget 10 times that amount but doesn’t hide the fact that it is incomparably stupid. There is not one minute in the whole film that doesn’t contain an isolated example of stupidity. The film lacks a good build up and the early races to get the audience involved, it does not have any interviews with the drivers to keep viewers engaged as they race along and there is no commentator to explain what’s happening to viewers who are at home watching the action on their television screens.

9. The Condemned (2007)

Produced by the good natured battle royale film arm of WWE (the folks responsible for last year’s duo of see no evil/The Marine), The Condemned tosses a selection of action movies into a blender, and serves up the resulting mush. The result is an unrelentingly violent, but surprisingly meager flick that only adds to the growing canon of crappy action films that proudly embrace a style of violence that equates bloodshed with profundity.

The plot involves a bunch of death row convicts from around the world being shipped to a remote island by an insane Internet magnate to participate in his Web-exclusive reality show. The goal is for each inmate to kill the other nine competitors in 30 hours or less, and the winner gets freedom. This set-up is more or less ripped from the Japanese Battle Royale Film (2000), which pitted an entire class of bad-tempered high school teenagers against one another on a deserted island with a similar result.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, who earned his nickname in the ring by his uncanny ability to break necks and kick heads with ease, is a perfectly competent action hero here, but even he can’t elevate this material above its mediocrity. In fact, the script requires him to play down his natural persona, and he’s all but mute for much of the film (while Rick Hoffman is an ideal second-in-command Goldman, Robert Mammone is hateable as the show’s sleazy producer).

10. Circle (2015)

The dark and unique sci-fi thriller Circle is a fascinating look at the human nature in a tense survival situation. Written and directed by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione, the film features 50 people waking up in a dark room arranged in circles around an ominous black dome with red lights. They don’t know what happened and they don’t have long to find out – every two minutes one of them is killed by the machine at the center of the room.

The movie starts with nervous chaos – people trying to figure out who they are and how they got there. Then they start figuring out that there are some basic rules – if you step outside your circle you will be killed by the machine at the center of the dome. There is also a vote every two minutes, where the group decides who should die. The people in the room are a diverse group: young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, and disabled. The diversity of the cast makes it easy to identify with the characters and think about what you would do if you found yourself in their situation.

The people in the room soon divide into two groups. One group (led by Eric, the Marine, and a cancer survivor) believes that they should save a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. The other group (led by a bearded man and the banker) thinks that everyone is equal and no special privileges should be allowed.

11. Mean Guns (1997)

Mean Guns is an entertaining B-movie that demonstrates a refreshingly sure grasp of its unsophisticated material. Despite a plot full of one-liners and disconnected shock scenes, it retains a sense of purposeful urgency. And while it’s a bloodbath, the violence is never graphic, thanks to a surprisingly restrained use of gore.

A crime lord (Ice-T) contrives a massive gunfight, offering a $10 million prize to the last three hoods left alive. But the criminals aren’t exactly sitting ducks: they’re mobsters who have betrayed their syndicate by snitching, stealing, or seeing too much. So the crime lord schedules a no-holds-barred shoot’em-up inside his state-of-the-art prison, whose opening coincides with the criminals’ last paychecks.

Christopher Lambert and Ice-T make the most of a script that doesn’t give them any good lines to work with. They bring an energetic chemistry to their leads, as well as a distinctly street-wise humor. The film also benefits from the contributions of Michael Halsey, who makes the sinister Marcus into a sort of cynical Mick Jagger character with a hypnotic Micky drum personality.

Director Albert Pyun choreographs multiple high-body count shootouts with the acrobatic aplomb of Sergio Leone or John Woo, but without the overtly operatic flourishes. And the cinematography is surprisingly effective, especially when Lambert uses fencing tricks from his Highlander movies and series to blast away at a roomful of bad guys with a baseball bat. Ultimately, this is the kind of movie that you’ll enjoy if you have a good sense of humor and a respect for the genre.

12. Triggered (2020)

Triggered 2020 is a gore-filled thriller that delivers what it promises. Director Alastair Orr and writer David D. Jones do have some fun poking at ‘woke’ millennials and aggressively convoluted boomers, but that is hardly the main thrust of this movie. Instead, a surprisingly solid cast of characters – including Liesl Ahlers’ wallflower Erin and Reine Swart’s headstrong valedictorian Rian – battle it out in a twisted game of survival that takes place deep in the woods.

While Triggered staggers around its campsite setting at first, it eventually hits its stride as the friends figure out how to play this deadly twisted game. Despite the fact that their cell phones have been smashed and there is no help within walking distance, it is easy to root for these people and feel invested in their ultimate fate. It also helps that Russell Crous leans into drooling manic bloodthirstiness mode as Kato and spits out enough hacky gallows humor one-liners to make Arnold Schwarzenegger turn up his nose.

13. House of 9 As Battle Royale Films

Films that involve fighting to the death as part of a competitive game are known as battle royale films. They have a long history going back to Mean Guns (1997), which featured Ice-T as gangster Vincent Moon gathering 100 people in an empty prison, equipping them with guns and giving them six hours to kill each other. This film was a precursor to the wildly popular Battle Royale (2000), which took the concept one step further by limiting the number of survivors to three or fewer.

Fukasaku’s movie is often dismissed as an unintentional satire, but it’s more than just blood-soaked teen entertainment. It’s a story about the frustration of youth who feel let down by adults, and their desire to forge independent, resilient identities. The themes are ingrained in every kill, every flashback, and even some of the more mundane interactions — particularly anything involving the program’s administrator, played by Takeshi Kitano.

The movie also showcases some inspired filmmaking. Although it often feels rushed and b-movie quality, there are several moments that stand out. The acting, while not perfect – especially the sobbing main character – is generally believable, and the film’s cinematography is edgy and inventive.

Another film that was a precursor to Battle Royale is House of 9 Idiots (2004). It follows nine people who wake up in a mansion, with all the doors locked and sealed. A voice then announces that they’re in a game and the last person standing will get $5 million. Greed and distrust drive the action, which is less like a satire than some other battle royale films.

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