The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes parents guide

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Parent Guide

This surprisingly effective prequel fleshes out the franchise's backstory but does so at excessive length.

Overall C

Theaters: A young Coriolanus Snow is assigned to be a mentor for Lucy Gray Baird of District 12 in the 10th annual Hunger Games, as the games evolve from simple beginnings into a spectacle.

Release date November 17, 2023

Violence D
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use C

Why is The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes rated PG-13? The MPAA rated The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes PG-13 for strong violent content and disturbing material.

Run Time: 165 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Ten years after Panem was nearly destroyed by war, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) finds his once proud family brought low. Since the death of his father, General Crassus Snow, the entire Snow family has struggled to get by, basically squatting in their formerly luxurious apartment in the Capital District, and keeping up appearances by any means necessary. For Coriolanus, this means studying diligently to earn an academic prize that would allow him to attend university. This year, though, things are different. Instead of being awarded for academic merit, the prize will go to the student who most successfully mentors a tribute in the Hunger Games.

Coriolanus has been assigned to Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), a fiery musician from District 12. She’s malnourished, has no idea how to fight, and even less interest in slaughtering her fellow tributes for entertainment. What she doesn’t know – but Coriolanus does – is that the Games are about more than combat…

As a prequel, this is a surprisingly effective film. It fleshes out more of author Suzanne Collins’ fascinating backstory, but it’s set far enough in the past that we don’t keep bumping into younger versions of every major character from the original trilogy (or quartet, if you’re picky) – just some of their parents. On the other hand, at two-and-a-half hours in length, this movie feels like a long trip to get a little backstory. That extended runtime leaves a lot of space to fill.

Mostly, the production gets topped up with familiar elements from the other Hunger Games instalments – namely, kids butchering each other in an arena for a number of reasons, which boil down to authoritarian insanity. Since our protagonist is working for the authoritarians (and, spoiler alert, goes on to become President) it’s hard to get any kind of positive character development on his end. With that future in mind, this story is also about how Coriolanus settles into his future role as Psycho in Chief. Any emotional weight in the story is carried by Lucy Gray, and Rachel Zegler does a fine job of making her an exciting, empathetic character for the audience to grab on to.

As you might have guessed, a franchise about gladiatorial combat for kiddies as a form of war reparations contains some disturbing violence committed by and against children. Stabbings, impalements, bludgeonings, shootings, explosions…you get the idea. The only other real concern is a brief depiction of addiction, as the film has managed to avoid any sexual content or, as far as I noticed, profanity. It’s a dark, depressing, and thrilling look at an incredibly bleak dystopia, but don’t worry: you already know how it all ends.

Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Rachel Zegler, Tom Blyth, Viola Davis. Running time: 165 minutes. Theatrical release November 17, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes rated PG-13? The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for strong violent content and disturbing material.

Violence: Minors are repeatedly stabbed, beaten, cut, impaled, poisoned, blown up, and otherwise killed. Teenagers’ corpses are seen lying in an arena A number of adult characters are shot, killed in explosions, or hanged. Snakes pursue and bite teenagers. A woman fights off a drunk man. A character speaks about considering suicide.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are a few mild profanities.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are very briefly seen drinking socially. An adult character is shown to be addicted to opiates.

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This being a prequel, the logical next choice would be the original films: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay Part Iand Part 2.