The Best Deadly Competition Movies You Probably Haven't Seen

This is the week The Hunger Games officially takes over the world. Try as we might to fight the system, we can't escape – that is unless we kill every last one of you.

As I'm writing this I've yet to see HG, but I know I'll dig it because the concept of deadly competition is one I find endlessly fascinating. How does one form allegiances with others when each party knows that there can ultimately be only one victor? I don't know. It's also why I don't work in an office anymore.

There are a number of movies that deal with this topic, so let's get cookin' with this week's TBMYPHS. Note: I'm not including The Running Man. You've seen it already, I hope. (I'm also not including Planet Hulk.)

Battle Royale (2000); Kinji Fukasaku, director.

Like I said, I haven't seen HG yet and, despite downloading it to my Kindle a year ago, I haven't read the book. (I'd like to lie and say it is because I've been waist-deep in the lesser known work of Dostoyevsky, but, honestly, I'm just very caught up in The New 52.)

Nevertheless I know enough about Katniss, Haymitch and District 12 to realize that, yeah, there seem to be a lot of similarities between it and this psychotic Japanese flick from 2000. There certainly are differences (every single website I read has written-up a "how The Hunger Games is different from Battle Royale" piece) but this is all beside the point. Battle Royale is a fun, little nasty bugger of a film with a young schoolgirls killing one another in surprising and alarming ways. When I first saw it I thought it was a tad exploitative toward women – then a feminist friend told me to relax. "You don't understand," she said. "High School is combat for us."

You've certainly heard about the film, now is the time to actually see it.

Series 7: The Contenders (2001); Daniel Minahan, director.

Unlike The Hunger Games, which takes place in a dystopian future, Series 7: The Contenders is set very much in the here and now. Presented in the style of a packaged reality TV show, this flick about civilians picked at random to kill one another was a tiny bit ahead of its time when it came out. I recall there being resistance to seeing "a whole movie shot on video like that." That is hardly an issue now, so definitely hunt this one down.

Director Dan Minihan has since gone on to direct episodes of all your favorite HBO shows like Game of Thrones, Deadwood and True Blood, and was briefly in contention to direct Thor 2.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969); Sydney Pollack, director.

Yowza yowza yowza! Get in line to see one of the most nihilistic, depressing tales ever put to celluloid! Be the first to witness man's brutal inhumanity to man as greed and corruption debase good people into primal barbarians. Yowza yowza yowza! Popcorn, only 5 cents!

If you've watched the trailer and are still confused, TSH, DT? is about a group of desperate people taking part in an multi-day endurance "dance marathon." The scariest thing about this flick is that my grandfather, who survived the Depression, told me that he absolutely remembered things like this happening.

Movie-lovers bonus: this is one of the very few examples of a film being better than its book source material.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932); Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedscack, directors.

First: the word "game" is a pun.

Second: If you should ever get shipwrecked and end up on an island with one lunatic who rambles on and on about hunting, you should probably get back in your trunks and swim on down the line.

This classic tale of "outdoor chess" has been parodied so many times you may think you've actually seen it – but maybe haven't. I put the strange German teaser up top because I liked the narration, but you can watch the whole thing, legally, right here.

Gymkata (1985); Robert Clouse, director.

It's good to know that the cold war was won on the pommel horse.

A classic best worst movie contender, Gymkata has more that just one ridiculous concept propelling it. Firstly, in Eastern Europe there is a mysterious power that grants wishes to anyone who can survive "The Game." (Said game, it would seem, is to get attacked by people covered in dirty rags.) Uncle Sam wants to win the game, because they want to deploy a missile base there. (Why they don't, um, rent a place isn't mentioned.)

The only way they can win is to sent in THE BEST. And since Rambo was busy, they send in. . .Kurt Thomas.

Kurt Thomas has a skill, of course, and that still mixing badass martial arts with wussy gymnastics. Behold the Master of Gymkata!

The only thing that stinks about this movie was that there was no sequel in space: Gymkata on Ganymede!

Grand Prix (1966); John Frankenheimer, director.

Wait, this is a sport, not a deadly competition! Ah, clearly you haven't seen Grand Prix! They're dropping like flies in this fifteen hour slog of a movie that, for some reason or other, is considered a classic.

Why am I recommending a really, really boring movie? Because armed with the power of a fast-forward button you can skip past the dreadfully dated "talking parts" and skip right to the amazingly shot and edited racing sequences. Trust me, no one calls this movie a milestone for its love scenes.

Even through the osmosis of chapter skipping you'll pick up on the moral grey area of Formula One racers. They hold one another in the highest regard, but must only one can be the best. And they all seem to go flying upside down on fire into a ditch at some point.

The FP (2012); The Trost Bros., directors.

Formula One racing isn't the only sport with a body count. What about Dance Dance Revolution? What about Dance Dance Revolution in a parallel 1980s where the criminal element has such a tight grip on our culture there aren't even any ducks to feed in the park?

This whacked-out low budget flick with its own made-up language is actually a lot funnier that the one-note gag the trailer suggests. It is playing in select cities this very moment, so if you can catch a midnight show you'll be one step ahead of everyone else by the time the Blu-ray comes out.

Murder By Death (1976); Robert Moore, director.

Okay, I'm not really sure if this one fits, but dammit I'm including it anyway.

Neil Simon takes all the detective cliches, throws 'em in a pot and sets it to boil. Everyone begins to turn on one another, but there are too many corny jokes for this to turn into Battle Royale. In my memory, this movie is hilarious, but I think I saw it when I was ten.

Someone watch it and tell me if it holds up.

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