14. The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games series never really lets you forget that it’s set in a science fiction dystopia. There’s weird genetically engineered animals, very odd fashion choices, and the strong hints that the characters are living in a North American landscape devastated by some long-ago disaster. Oh, yeah, and that whole “throw innocent children into a Thunderdome sort of situation”. You know, the Hunger Games.
Even in this strange world, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the film series) stands out. Unlike some of the other characters on this list, she isn’t a scientist or politician. In fact, she isn’t even very emotionally demonstrative. Instead, Katniss is a teen girl who is stoic and detached beyond her years.
But who could blame her? She’s had a hardscrabble life growing up in the impoverished District 12, a sector that focuses largely on mining. Her father has died, her mother has become nearly useless with grief. When her younger sister, Prim, is selected to travel to the Capitol as a “tribute”, Katniss volunteers in her place.
This is a move that takes some serious bravery. Tributes participate in the Hunger Games, a high-tech and brutal mix of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Battle Royale. Children compete to make it through the vicious obstacles in the Hunger Games arena. They’re also obliged to kill each other; only the single survivor is able to claim victory. Obviously, it’s no place for Katniss’s sister.
Though, really, it’s no place for anyone. That leads Katniss to become a leader in an underground rebellion, fighting against the quasi-totalitarian leadership of the land. Though the Hunger Games series raises some intense questions about the nature of rebellion and heroism, it’s clear that Katniss is ultimately an admirable character.