The Hunger Games series is coming to an end this week with Mockingjay – Part 2, so let’s have a look back at the genre that has exploded in the last few years around it, the best young adult movie franchises RANKED. (By the way, I’ve not seen some of the YA movies, so I have to thank Henry Eastham for adding his thoughts too!)
Just to clarify, the young adult franchises don’t include teen comedies or romances, generally they’re Hollywood-based sci-fi series mostly aimed at an audience between 12-19 (so no Fault In Our Stars etc.)
5. The Maze Runner (2014-17)
The Maze Runner began in September 2014, and was met with very lukewarm reception from everyone who saw it. This series was, and probably will be, the last to jump on the YA bandwagon, because we are all getting tired of it.
Put simply, The Maze Runner is incredibly boring. The first film featured a group of two-dimensional characters, played by young actors who can do so much better, stuck inside a random courtyard for the entire duration. What’s worse is that the first film didn’t even try to be its own story, it was just a set-up for the sequel, and that made it an incredibly slow-moving and even more dull watch.
Although the second film, Scorch Trials, expanded the world a little bit, and gave a small dose of intrigue and unpredictability, it was still filled with elongated scenes that meant nothing, sub-par performances and no sense of urgency that would get you properly engrossed.
One more film, The Death Cure, is set to be released in February 2017, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be able to redeem this series’ reputation what with such a dull main plot running throughout.
4. Twilight (2008-12)
Yes, you are seeing correctly, Twilight is not last on this list. Although it’s a collection of five atrocious films, it could be worse, and does at least do what it sets out to do well, unlike The Maze Runner, which just fell flat on its face.
Twilight is infamously one of the cheesiest and most ridiculous love stories ever told, and unfortunately the inspiration for the dire Fifty Shades Of Grey, however, it did get a strong reception from its target audience of 11-14 year old girls, thanks to its semi-gothic tone coupled with Hollywood hunks.
The films are full of bad acting, but it’s from people that we know can be so good. Kristen Stewart has proven herself to be a fantastic actress in recent years, whilst Robert Pattison is working well on the indie scene at the moment, so it’s clear that the writing in these films was simply appalling.
Featuring ridiculous dialogue, a stupid presentation of teen relationships, and the god-awful modernisation of vampires that’s inexplicably become so popular since, there’s very little to enjoy in these films, but if you are a 12 year old girl, you will likely enjoy it.
3. Divergent (2014-17)
As soon as Divergent was released in March 2014, everybody just dismissed it as a rip-off of The Hunger Games (except without the Hunger Games). That’s definitely true in part, but don’t forget that The Hunger Games is a rip-off of Battle Royale, so that argument isn’t quite watertight.
Despite that, though, the series is still pretty lacklustre. The first film had a completely non-sensical story that dragged on for ages, without ever really advancing beyond the cheesy message of: ‘you’re special, you can do it yourself’ and all that jazz, making it another disappointingly dull watch.
Although the second film, Insurgent, added some more excitement by introducing the political themes that have made The Hunger Games so great, it was still a slow-moving action movie with average performances and a preposterous Inception-like reality warping concept thing.
We’ve still got two more films left, Allegiant in March 2016, and Ascendant in March 2017, and they are promising to expand the world beyond the walled-off Chicago, but the way the movies are going at the moment, it’ll be tough to really make an improvement.
2. Harry Potter (2001-11)
People don’t like to put Harry Potter in the same category as the YA franchises, but strictly speaking, it fits the criteria.
It’s one of the highest-grossing movie sagas of all time, features eight films over the course of ten years, and made huge stars out of young actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, proving a titanic success during its run.
The films, based on J.K. Rowling’s novels, are full of magic, wonderment and imagination, and they are often a lot of fun to watch, particularly the earlier movies when it was all a fun kids’ adventure about a school for wizards.
The only issue is that as the series progresses, it gets a hell of a lot darker, before the final film just goes completely apocalyptic. This divides so many people, as some don’t find any enjoyment in the darker movies (particularly the lacklustre fourth, fifth and sixth ones), whilst others become more and more engrossed in the world as the series goes on. It’s really a matter of opinion, but it does show that despite its massive success, Harry Potter is not a perfect franchise.
1. The Hunger Games (2012-15)
And so, we come to number one, the best young adult movie franchise of all, The Hunger Games. Starring Jennifer Lawrence in the title role, it tells the story of a girl who is forced into participating in a dystopian America’s annual fight to the death, which gradually evolves into an all-out revolution against the brutal regime.
The first film starts off as a simple action movie, but with a lot of fun thrills as well as darker political subtext lurking beneath. It’s possible to watch as a stand-alone movie, unlike Divergent and The Maze Runner, and it is a very good film.
The reason, however, that The Hunger Games tops this list is because it evolves so convincingly over its course into a dark political thriller. The second film, Catching Fire, is an exhilarating set-up of the whole revolution, and is arguably one of the best blockbusters of the decade, whilst Mockingjay – Part 1, despite being a little slower while waiting for the finale, turns this series completely upside down into a really heavy-going but truly fascinating drama, that’s both captivating for ‘young adults’ and proper adults.
It may have rubbish fake fire effects, and some of the performances are a little off, but Jennifer Lawrence shines in the central role, whilst supporting players such as Donald Sutherland as the oppressive President Snow also flourish in this truly enthralling series that looks to be reaching an incredible conclusion.