4 Cliche Things Every Dystopian Young Adult Movie Does

This year, fans of the young adult dystopian film genre will have four different movies from four different franchises playing in theaters. Besides the second Hunger Games, there's Divergent, Maze Runner, and The Giver, all based on novels from the same section of your local Books-A-Million. But don't worry if you can't afford to watch all of them -- if you've seen one, you can guess how the others go.

We're not kidding. Here are some weirdly specific things all these movies decided to include.

#4. Every Movie Begins With Youngsters in Drab Clothing Riding Trains

Apart from the love triangles and the overabundance of grayscale, the first surefire sign that you're about to watch YA dystopian sci-fi is to have a bunch of forlorn-looking teens standing around, all wearing the same grim clothes.

Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate Films, The Weinstein Company, 20th Century Fox
Is there a costume designer strike we don't know about?

Nope, these are not images from one depressing-ass movie about the worst high school prom in existence -- they're four separate movies. And despite the fact that most are set in futures where hovercrafts are a thing, for some reason the characters always have to travel by fucking train. Here's an example from the first Hunger Games:

Lionsgate Films
They changed this from the horse buggy in the novel.

And the second one:

Lionsgate Films
They finally arrive at the station in the third movie.

And again in Divergent:

Summit Entertainment
"No Wi-Fi? This truly is a hell world."

Heaven forbid they fly to their destinations, which might cut down on the two-and-a-half-hour runtime all of these movies insist on having.

#3. There's a Bizarre Game or Test That Runs This Universe

Next, the movies must put their young protagonists through some weirdly overly complicated game or test that will determine how shitty their lives will be (spoiler: pretty shitty, usually). In Divergent, every 16-year-old must undergo a mandatory death-vision drug trip -- how they react to their personalized death scenarios determines which faction they'll spend the rest of their lives in.

Summit Entertainment
"Your faction is 'Shat Pants During Test.'"

The same vocational nightmare happens in The Giver: All 16-year-olds must take part in a ceremony that decides what job they'll have to do until they die.

The Weinstein Company
"Your destiny is playing 16-year-olds in your mid-20s."

Then there's Maze Runner, which features a hugely monstrous, sword-wielding ear of corn that ... nah, just kidding, it's a giant fucking maze. A maze teenagers must get through while being chased by something that wants to eat them.

20th Century Fox
Is it Pac-Man? Because this looks like Pac-Man.

And finally, there's the actual Hunger Games from The Hunger Games, where the only outcomes are death or PTSD. At least teens in the future have a reason for being whiny.

#2. They Each Add in an Older Award-Winning Actor

While these dystopian young adult movies seem to be all about putting hot young bodies on the screen, they almost always hire wrinklier actors to give the movies some credibility (bonus points if they're also the main villain).

The Hunger Games has the combo of Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the creeptastic dictator President Snow and his subordinate, Plutarch Heavensbee:

Lionsgate Films
We thought that was added by a Wikipedia vandal before we double checked.

Divergent brought in Kate Winslet to portray villain and head of all factions Jeanine Matthews, a role that was made more prominent in the movie just for her:

Summit Entertainment
"Wait, where the hell is Jennifer Lawrence? Did I sign up for the wrong one?"

And The Giver threw down the gauntlet in this category, not only giving us six-time Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges ...

The Weinstein Company
And 12-time supporting winner, Jeff Bridges' beard.

... but the head honcho is somehow played by Meryl Fucking Streep, who we're pretty sure lives in the Kodak Theater by now.

The Weinstein Company
"I could just show a Vine of this scene and get a nomination."

#1. All of the Authors Are Pyromaniacs

The last step every dystopian YA adapted franchise must take is having the source novel emblazoned with flames, just to let the reader know there's some intense shit going down inside. First, The Hunger Games named its sequel Catching Fire:

Scholastic Press
"Can we put a match striker on the spine?"

Maze Runner said, "Hey, there's an idea," so its own sequel is called ...

Delacorte Press
The full quote is "Warning your grandma not to buy this for you by mistake is a must for fans of The Hunger Games."

At least those books actually have a word akin to fire in their title, but what's up with this burning eyeball on the cover of Divergent?

HarperCollins
Sauron gets royalties for this, right?

And check out all this hot flaming action happening in the soon-to-be-adapted Witch & Wizard series:

Little, Brown and Company
"Two down, 24 dull rehashes to go."

Finally, The Giver has a non-burning cover, since it came out in the '90s ...

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
When the trend was "hobo-chic."

... but since then, it's replaced the old dude with a crimson vortex, presumably to please the gods of the young adult dystopian adaptations.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Next step: books that spontaneously burst into flames.


Hillery has a Twitter account, which you can follow here.

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