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Where to stream The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes for free

Return to Panem as the Hunger Games prequel arrives on Prime Video

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is heading to Prime Video. (Lionsgate)

Get ready for more twisted games in dystopia as the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, arrives on Prime Video.

Using Suzanne Collins' 2020 novel as source material, the Francis Lawrence-directed film focused on a teenage Coriolanus Snow, 64 years before the events of the Hunger Games series that starred Jennifer Lawrence.

As we learnt in the original franchise, the gaudy Capitol of Panem maintains its vice-like grip on the 12 districts by forcing them each to select a boy and a girl, called Tributes, to compete in a sadistic, televised event known as Hunger Games.

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The brutal and bloody games take place every year to remind the districts of their failed past insurrection and to never stage a rebellion again. Every single citizen must watch as the youths fight to the death until only one remains and is crowned the victor.

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, we return to Panem decades earlier, while the games are very much in their infancy. The plot predominantly follows the origin story of Coriolanus Snow, as he attempts to save his family's fading legacy, after the ruin of war.

As the prequel becomes available to stream from home, here's everything you need to know.

Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. (Lionsgate)
The film was originally released in cinemas in November 2023. (Lionsgate)

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is now streaming on Prime Video in the UK. New subscribers can sign up for a 30-day trial.

The prequel is also available to buy and rent on Apple TV and Sky Store, as well as on DVD, Blu-Ray, 4K Ultra HD and Steelbook.

The film originally landed in cinemas and IMAX in November 2023, and grossed more than $337 million worldwide.

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Critics have delivered mixed verdicts on the Hunger Games prequel. (Lionsgate)

The Hunger Games prequel has received mixed reviews from film critics, and currently holds a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Yahoo Movies UK praised the film's "fascinating and thrilling story" and called it a "welcome return" to Panem, but The Guardian called it a "pointless new iteration of IP content" and the Evening Standard rued the absence of Jennifer Lawrence. Read the verdicts below:

Yahoo Movies UK: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes marks triumphant return to Panem (4-min read)

The Guardian: Back to an empty future (3-min read)

Evening Standard: Jennifer Lawrence’s hard-bitten gladiator is sorely missed (3-min read)

The Hollywood Reporter: Jennifer Lawrence is sorely missed in dour prequel short on excitement (8-min read)

Rachel Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Rachel Zegler was cast after her breakout role in West Side Story. (Lionsgate)

Set six decades before Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen was born, the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes features a whole new cast of tributes, mentors and Capitol cronies.

Tom Blyth – sporting a bleached crop – plays the film lead, a young President Snow before he becomes the ruthless President of Panem. Portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the original franchise, Snow is a stone-cold tyrant, who rules the districts through fear. The 29-year-old Blyth has had few roles to his name so far and is best known for his role in the Epix original series – Billy the Kid and a memorable guest role in the HBO series, The Gilded Age.

West Side Story's breakout star Rachel Zegler plays Lucy Gray Baird, a defiant young tribute from impoverished District 12, who disrupts the Reaping ceremony. "The character is bold, independent, and defiant, but also vulnerable, emotional, and loving. Rachel will make this character unforgettable," said director Francis Lawrence when she was cast.

Jason Schwartzman in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Jason Schwartzman plays Lucretius Flickerman in the prequel. (Lionsgate)

Jason Schwartzman portrays Lucretius "Lucky" Flickerman, the host of the 10th annual Hunger Games. The actor made his film debut in Wes Anderson's 1998 film Rushmore and went on to appear in multiple Anderson films including The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage plays Casca Highbottom – Dean of the Academy, who unintentionally created the vicious Hunger Games.

Also in the star-studded cast is Oscar winner Viola Davis, who plays Volumnia Gaul, the twisted head game maker of the 10th annual Hunger Games. The multi-award-winning actress is best known for her celebrated roles in The Help, Doubt, and Fences.

The first full trailer for this Hunger Games prequel arrived in April 2023, giving us our first real glimpse into the world of the movie. In it, we see Dinklage's game creator Casca Highbottom before getting to know our new heroine, Lucy Gray Baird, played by Zegler.

"You seem like a good man, Coriolanus Snow..." In September 2023, we got another look at this colourful new world in the movie's second trailer, where Blyth as a young Snow and Schwartzman as Flickerman take centre stage and explain how the deadly Hunger Games came to be.

Tom Blyth and Rachel Zegler in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Coriolanus Snow is tasked with Lucy Gray Baird for the Games. (Lionsgate)

A prelude to the Hunger Games trilogy and set in a post-war Panem, we follow the journey of an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, years before he becomes a ruthless, rose-clipping president.

In this timeline, a teenage Snow is the last hope for his fading lineage, a once-proud family that has fallen from grace in a post-war Capitol.

With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, Snow is alarmed when he's tasked with mentoring a young girl tribute for the upcoming Games – Lucy Gray Baird.

Lucy comes from hugely impoverished District 12, the same district our Mockingjay champ Katniss Everdeen hails from.

Tom Blyth and Viola Davis in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Oscar winner Viola Davis plays Dr Volumnia Gaul. (Lionsgate)

Not unlike Katniss, plucky Lucy Gray commands Panem's rapt attention by disrupting the reaping ceremony, when she starts singing.

Upon hearing free-spirited Lucy defiantly sing, Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favour and sees her victory as a way to secure his, and his family's future. The unlikely duo team up to try to win the Games – while developing mutual and complicated feelings for each other.

Uniting their instincts for showmanship and with newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy's race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.

Francis Lawrence at the premiere of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
Francis Lawrence directed The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. (Getty)

Director Francis Lawrence, who helmed three of the four movies from the original Hunger Games series, returned to direct the stand-alone film. Michael Lesslie and Michael Arndt penned the screenplay.

Lawrence expressed surprise at returning to the $2.97bn (£2.38bn) franchise, as he assumed author Suzanne Collins had no interest in really writing a prequel. "It didn't seem like she was going to write anything else," he told Collider in 2022.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is streaming on Prime Video