23 votes

What are the best movies mainly set in a single location?

I love single-location films, and use them as inspiration for my own very-constrained filmmaking endeavors. This is a space where great screenwriters and filmmakers shine, coming up with creative solutions to keep things fresh and enticing with little to no variation in ambiance. Some examples:

  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • Straw Dogs (1971)
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • El Angel Exterminador (Exterminating Angel, 1962)
  • Phone Booth (2003)
  • Coherence (2013)
  • The Invitation (2015)

But I want more! Any ideas?

I should add that my motivation for this question is research for my next production, and because of practical concerns I'm only looking for single-location films in which the main location is small and simple enough that its sub-divisions cannot be considered a location of their own. For example: according to my criteria, a large house or apartment would be a single location, because its subdivisions (living room, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc) can be considered as logical parts of the main one. A shopping mall, a large condominium or an apartment complex would not be a single-location, because its many buildings and apartments are distinct and independent enough to function as locations of their own. When in doubt, try applying production pragmatics instead of pure logic. If something is logically not really another location, but would be just as hard to manage as another location (a whole new set design), it is a location. Thanks!

49 comments

  1. [4]
    SuperGracchiBros
    Link
    Locke takes place within a car, as the protagonist, played by Tom Hardy, drives from Birmingham to London. The movie consists entirely of Hardy driving and making phone calls. It's absolutely...

    Locke takes place within a car, as the protagonist, played by Tom Hardy, drives from Birmingham to London. The movie consists entirely of Hardy driving and making phone calls. It's absolutely riveting, and one of those movies that's basically a stage play but in a good way. Apparently the whole thing was shot over the course of eight days.

    7 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Awesome! Incidentally, I'm planning on shooting my first feature film in a 4 to 6 days interval. It would be somewhat more complicated than that: probably a bunch of characters in a party while...

      Awesome! Incidentally, I'm planning on shooting my first feature film in a 4 to 6 days interval. It would be somewhat more complicated than that: probably a bunch of characters in a party while something shifty happens.

      But we're third-world, we're scrappy, we're used to making feature-films with 300 thousand dollars. I think we can pull that off!

      4 votes
    2. Crespyl
      Link Parent
      I came to the thread to post Locke, glad to see someone else had the same thought. It's one of my favorite movies, and Hardy's performance is just so captivating. I can't begin to imagine what...

      I came to the thread to post Locke, glad to see someone else had the same thought.

      It's one of my favorite movies, and Hardy's performance is just so captivating. I can't begin to imagine what that kind of performance is like to give, working with almost no one else on set to directly interact with, and knowing that the entire film depends on you absolutely nailing your role.

      4 votes
    3. tomf
      Link Parent
      The commentary from Stephen Knight (Director) is fairly interesting. Basically, they had everybody on the phone sitting around a table in a rented meeting room at a hotel (I think this is right)...

      The commentary from Stephen Knight (Director) is fairly interesting. Basically, they had everybody on the phone sitting around a table in a rented meeting room at a hotel (I think this is right) and they did the full drive three or four times to make sure that the scenery and all would be accurate.

      Great pick!

      2 votes
  2. [5]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    The Sunset Limited (2011) Rope (1948)
    5 votes
    1. [4]
      mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I thought about mentioning Rope, but forgot about it when I started writing. Hitchcock's attempt at a single-sequence film is, of course, entirely fake, but that is part of its charm. When it came...

      I thought about mentioning Rope, but forgot about it when I started writing. Hitchcock's attempt at a single-sequence film is, of course, entirely fake, but that is part of its charm. When it came to formal devices, fooling the audience was one of Hitchcock's greatest pleasures (he abhorred doing that when it came to the plot - and rightfully so).

      Sunset Limited is new to me, I'll check that out. Thanks!

      3 votes
      1. tomf
        Link Parent
        Rope is great. He was limited by film, but later on we had Russian Ark that did it for real. There's a decent little documentary on the making of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORMTAKh4NHI

        Rope is great. He was limited by film, but later on we had Russian Ark that did it for real. There's a decent little documentary on the making of it.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORMTAKh4NHI

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        'Rope' was actually based on a play, so even if Hitchcock didn't quite pull off the single-sequence filming for technical reasons, the story can be done in one location and a single sequence....

        'Rope' was actually based on a play, so even if Hitchcock didn't quite pull off the single-sequence filming for technical reasons, the story can be done in one location and a single sequence.

        Also, he came as close as he could to a single sequence, given the technical limitations he had to deal with. The cuts between shots were artificially inserted by Hitchcock so he could change film in the camera. He didn't have to pan behind people's backs every ten minutes or so.

        2 votes
        1. mrbig
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Yes, I knew about that. And these "tricks" do not diminish the film one bit (not that you said anything to the contrary).

          Yes, I knew about that. And these "tricks" do not diminish the film one bit (not that you said anything to the contrary).

  3. patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    Long list follows, can't promise they're great but they're mostly iconic or undeservedly obscure showcases of acting and direction. Feel free to dispute choices: Murder on the Orient Express The...

    Long list follows, can't promise they're great but they're mostly iconic or undeservedly obscure showcases of acting and direction. Feel free to dispute choices:

    5 votes
  4. [14]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Besides what you have already mentioned, the only ones I can think of are: The Man from Earth and My Dinner with Andre, which are both pretty good, mostly single-location, character pieces IMO....

    Besides what you have already mentioned, the only ones I can think of are:
    The Man from Earth and My Dinner with Andre, which are both pretty good, mostly single-location, character pieces IMO. And I don't really know if Cube qualifies, since I wouldn't really consider it "the best", but it also came to mind as well.

    Edit: And even though I haven't seen it yet, despite desperately wanting to, I suspect The Lighthouse will probably qualify as well.

    4 votes
    1. [11]
      tomf
      Link Parent
      Well, since you liked My Dinner with Andre then you might enjoy My Breakfast with Blassie with Andy Kaufman and Freddie Blassie. The Lighthouse is pretty great. Definitely not what I expected....

      Well, since you liked My Dinner with Andre then you might enjoy My Breakfast with Blassie with Andy Kaufman and Freddie Blassie.

      The Lighthouse is pretty great. Definitely not what I expected.

      I'll also add Dogville and Rear Window to the list.

      2 votes
      1. [5]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        LOL... oodles of faux egotism, braggadocio and obnoxiousness. Kaufman in a nutshell, basically. It got a few decent chuckles out of me once it got to the part with them talking shit about fans...

        you might enjoy My Breakfast with Blassie with Andy Kaufman

        LOL... oodles of faux egotism, braggadocio and obnoxiousness. Kaufman in a nutshell, basically. It got a few decent chuckles out of me once it got to the part with them talking shit about fans asking for autographs and shaking their hands, right in front of the fan who asked for an autograph and shook his hand, and then that escalating into a fight with them. But I had to call it quits after that, once they started talking about wrestling. Overall it was just a bit too dry and mundane for my tastes, but thanks for that... I had no idea it existed.

        And I haven't seen Dogville or Rear Window (shameful, I know)... so I will have to check them out at some point too. :)

        1 vote
        1. [4]
          tomf
          Link Parent
          We are among the few who have watched it. If anybody else did it, I’d hate it. Haha. Dogville is unbelievable. If you can, track down the Dogville diaries or something — it’s production footage...

          We are among the few who have watched it. If anybody else did it, I’d hate it. Haha.

          Dogville is unbelievable. If you can, track down the Dogville diaries or something — it’s production footage with a confessional. It’s like icing on the cake.

          Rear Window is one of the best. Not much else to say about it. It’s in my top ten (with about fifty other films, if I’m being honest)

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Also Kaufman in a nutshell. :P There is just something magical about him in particular that makes him being a dick to others more tolerable and funnier than if anyone else was doing it. Although I...

            If anybody else did it, I’d hate it.

            Also Kaufman in a nutshell. :P There is just something magical about him in particular that makes him being a dick to others more tolerable and funnier than if anyone else was doing it. Although I will admit that Jim Carrey managed to somehow capture that quality and portray Kaufman's essence quite well in the biopic too.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              tomf
              Link Parent
              Have you watched Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond? Carrey went almost beyond method while filming Man on the Moon, and they made a nice little documentary about it with a lot of footage. I absolutely...

              Have you watched Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond? Carrey went almost beyond method while filming Man on the Moon, and they made a nice little documentary about it with a lot of footage.

              I absolutely love Kaufman's work. Probably my favorite Inter-gender wrestling champion.

              2 votes
              1. cfabbro
                Link Parent
                I haven't seen that, no. But I was aware of the Carrey's insane commitment level to his method acting for that part... though I can't remember how/where I learned of it. :P I will have to check...

                I haven't seen that, no. But I was aware of the Carrey's insane commitment level to his method acting for that part... though I can't remember how/where I learned of it. :P I will have to check that Documentary out!

                I wouldn't necessarily say I'm a huge fan of Kaufman's work, per se, but I do find him incredibly fascinating as a person.

                1 vote
      2. [5]
        mrbig
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Because of its unique staging Dogville is a bit harder to classify, but I wouldn't say it fits the bill. Everything happens in a village, and its sub-divisions are sufficiently distinct to be...

        Because of its unique staging Dogville is a bit harder to classify, but I wouldn't say it fits the bill. Everything happens in a village, and its sub-divisions are sufficiently distinct to be considered locations of their own. Lars Von Trier uses set design and sometimes visual effects to make a bunch of places visible at all times, but they are separate nevertheless.

        Rear Window, on the other, is the ultimate single-location film, and I cannot believe I did not mention it on the OP.

        1 vote
        1. [4]
          tomf
          Link Parent
          I'd still say it's one location, even though the marked off areas represent other locations. But like you said, it can go either way :)

          I'd still say it's one location, even though the marked off areas represent other locations. But like you said, it can go either way :)

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            mrbig
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            What you say does make sense. But this is mostly semantics. I have a background in film production, and my view reflects that. If a set design requires just as much work as another location, to me...

            What you say does make sense. But this is mostly semantics. I have a background in film production, and my view reflects that. If a set design requires just as much work as another location, to me (as a producer) it is a location (see my update to the OP).

            On the screenplay level, something is a location when it has sufficient geographical distinction[1], or when changing locations is necessary to accurately position the action.[2] The bathroom of a house is a part of the house, but the front of the house is an entirely different location because it is outside (and filming outside is very different from shooting inside). There are rules to follow, but different stories and screenwriters usually require significant deviations.

            In Dogville, one could say that the Village represents the entire world in which the story takes place. And, because villages are usually reasonably large and reasonably complex, it doesn't make sense to treat it as a location in itself, so the locations will be the street X, the houses of characters A, B, and C, etc.

            That said, I'd bet good money Dogville's screenplay is a beautiful mess that only Lars Von Trier and his team can understand. The staging is too idiosyncratic for default screenplay formatting to be of any use. A mix of film and play formatting might be a good idea in this case.

            [1] There's a distinction between location on the screenplay phase and location in the production phase. When writing the screenplay, I position the action in the place where it happens within the fictional universe. So I write: "EXT. TATOOINE - DAY". When the producer actually finds a place to shoot the scene, the crew is obviously not going to move to Tatooine. So the field producer might write this in her planning documents (it doesn't really look like this):

            January 15, 07:00 hours
            Sequence 12: EXT. TATOOINE - DAY
            Location: Chihuahuan Desert
            

            I'm translating jargon from Portuguese, so they're probably different in actually English speaking countries.

            [2] This is, of course, more complicated than that. There's a whole set of rules and recommendations screenwriters must follow.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              tomf
              Link Parent
              I’m case you’re looking for some light reading :) Dogville script

              I’m case you’re looking for some light reading :)

              Dogville script

              2 votes
              1. mrbig
                Link Parent
                From a quick look, it doesn't seem bad. Rather default, actually. BUT I bet there are lots of things that are not on the script, but rather on Lars Von Trier's notes. Even on his mind. There's an...

                From a quick look, it doesn't seem bad. Rather default, actually.

                BUT I bet there are lots of things that are not on the script, but rather on Lars Von Trier's notes. Even on his mind. There's an advantage in being your own screenwriter.

                2 votes
    2. [2]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      Great answer, thanks. Cube is technically a single location movie, but it's many environments are large and distinct enough to count as locations of their own. So I'm gonna say no. All my friends...

      Great answer, thanks.

      Cube is technically a single location movie, but it's many environments are large and distinct enough to count as locations of their own. So I'm gonna say no.

      All my friends loved The Lighthouse, but sadly nowadays I cannot watch horror movies without getting terrible nightmares and disturbing episodes of somnambulism.

      I will check the others!

      2 votes
      1. cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        NP... but fair warning on the first two movies I mentioned; They are both remarkably slow and pretty pretentious (filled with pseudo-intellectual/philosophical wankery, basically), so they are...

        NP... but fair warning on the first two movies I mentioned; They are both remarkably slow and pretty pretentious (filled with pseudo-intellectual/philosophical wankery, basically), so they are definitely not for everyone, even though I enjoyed them. ;)

        And yeah, I was hesitant to mention Cube for that reason too. Even though it's technically single-location, it kinda pushes the definition of that a bit given how large the structure it takes place in is portrayed as being.

        1 vote
  5. RobertRies
    Link
    Buried (2010) - Mandatory mention in list of movies set in a single location. Starring Ryan Reynolds. Entire movie takes place in a dark wooden coffin. Better than one might expect.

    Buried (2010) - Mandatory mention in list of movies set in a single location. Starring Ryan Reynolds. Entire movie takes place in a dark wooden coffin. Better than one might expect.

    4 votes
  6. [2]
    ibis
    Link
    Does Moulin Rouge count? It’s one of my favourite movies of all time and the set design is part of what makes the movie so great. The location is presented as one place, but it’s no doubt actually...

    Does Moulin Rouge count? It’s one of my favourite movies of all time and the set design is part of what makes the movie so great.
    The location is presented as one place, but it’s no doubt actually a lot of different sets, so it might not be what you are looking for.

    3 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Technically yes, but it's too big of a location for it to contain several mini locations. By that standard Coherence and The Invitation wouldn't qualify either, but Moulin Rouge is on a whole...

      Technically yes, but it's too big of a location for it to contain several mini locations.

      By that standard Coherence and The Invitation wouldn't qualify either, but Moulin Rouge is on a whole other scale.

      1 vote
  7. [2]
    freestylesno
    Link
    127 Hours A movie about a guy stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    127 Hours
    A movie about a guy stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    3 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Great one, thanks!

      Great one, thanks!

      2 votes
  8. Eylrid
    Link
    Circle: Fifty strangers wake up in a mysterious circle and have to repeatedly vote on who dies, until only one is left. (sudden zap, no gore or torture porn)

    Circle: Fifty strangers wake up in a mysterious circle and have to repeatedly vote on who dies, until only one is left. (sudden zap, no gore or torture porn)

    3 votes
  9. [3]
    heady
    Link
    Das Boot could qualify as it largely takes place in a small submarine set. It takes a lot of advantage of the claustrophobic environment to control tension along with careful control of close...

    Das Boot could qualify as it largely takes place in a small submarine set.

    It takes a lot of advantage of the claustrophobic environment to control tension along with careful control of close shots and juxtaposition of outdoor shots to release tension much like 12 Angry Men.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      balooga
      Link Parent
      Great movie, I was just coming here to post this one. It's been a while since I've seen it, I couldn't remember if the whole thing occurs in the sub, or if there are other locations. But the...

      Great movie, I was just coming here to post this one. It's been a while since I've seen it, I couldn't remember if the whole thing occurs in the sub, or if there are other locations. But the claustrophobia of that place dominates the movie either way.

      2 votes
      1. heady
        Link Parent
        There is a prelude to the submarine trip and a scene that was on board either a ferry or cruise ship. But largely there are external shots of the submarine/ocean only when the submarine has...

        There is a prelude to the submarine trip and a scene that was on board either a ferry or cruise ship. But largely there are external shots of the submarine/ocean only when the submarine has surfaced and once submerged is all internal shots that become tighter the deeper the sub dives.

        2 votes
  10. [2]
    ReapersGale
    Link
    Exam - Eight candidates for a highly desirable corporate job are locked together in an exam room and given a final test with just one seemingly simple question. However, it doesn't take long for...

    Exam - Eight candidates for a highly desirable corporate job are locked together in an exam room and given a final test with just one seemingly simple question. However, it doesn't take long for confusion to ensue and tensions to unravel.

    Fermat's room - 4 mathematicians are invited to solve an enigma. Once there, they're locked in a mechanically shrinking room and given 1 minute to solve each puzzle via cellphone while also figuring out why they're there.

    Climax - French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.

    3 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Awesome suggestions. Thank you very much!

      Awesome suggestions. Thank you very much!

      1 vote
  11. [2]
    balooga
    Link
    A couple good sci-fi movies that come to mind are Moon and I Am Mother. Both feature isolated characters confined to facilities where AIs of uncertain motives protect and direct them. I'm not sure...

    A couple good sci-fi movies that come to mind are Moon and I Am Mother. Both feature isolated characters confined to facilities where AIs of uncertain motives protect and direct them. I'm not sure if either of these strictly qualify, but they're close. And worth a watch regardless.

    2 votes
    1. UniquelyGeneric
      Link Parent
      I don’t know if Ex Machina counts either, but it’s mostly based in one room, and is a good sci-fi movie, too. Also the hotel that it’s filmed in is gorgeous.

      I don’t know if Ex Machina counts either, but it’s mostly based in one room, and is a good sci-fi movie, too.

      Also the hotel that it’s filmed in is gorgeous.

      2 votes
  12. Five
    Link
    The hatful eight

    The hatful eight

    2 votes
  13. 0lpbm
    Link
    A hard film to watch, but it's stage concept mostly matches your request, is "Baby of Mâcon" by Peter Greenaway. It's shot in an almost continuous single shot in a setting that sometimes is the...

    A hard film to watch, but it's stage concept mostly matches your request, is "Baby of Mâcon" by Peter Greenaway. It's shot in an almost continuous single shot in a setting that sometimes is the stage of a theater and sometimes the world as seen on the stage of a theater.

    2 votes
  14. Wulfsta
    Link
    Reservoir Dogs is a must see that is mostly single location.

    Reservoir Dogs is a must see that is mostly single location.

    2 votes
  15. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    Cube takes place inside a mega-cube, and all scenes take place in various inner cubes which are all identical. In fact, they used only one and a half sets to film the whole movie: one full cube...

    Cube takes place inside a mega-cube, and all scenes take place in various inner cubes which are all identical. In fact, they used only one and a half sets to film the whole movie: one full cube and one half cube.

    It's effectively a single-location movie. And it's a great movie.

    1 vote
  16. envy
    Link
    The Booth at the End is an utterly gripping TV show set in one location with a handful of actors that sit and talk to each other.

    The Booth at the End is an utterly gripping TV show set in one location with a handful of actors that sit and talk to each other.

    1 vote
  17. envy
    Link
    In terms of highly creative movies with very low budget and 1-2 locations, One Cut of the Dead is amazing and Blair Witch Project was very effective.

    In terms of highly creative movies with very low budget and 1-2 locations, One Cut of the Dead is amazing and Blair Witch Project was very effective.

    1 vote
  18. [2]
    PetitPrince
    (edited )
    Link
    Does short counts? In Standby we watch in the span of 5 minutes how the relationship between two police constables evolve. It's available freely on Vimeo and I quite like it.

    Does short counts?

    In Standby we watch in the span of 5 minutes how the relationship between two police constables evolve. It's available freely on Vimeo and I quite like it.

    1 vote
    1. cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Awww, that was really cute... thanks for sharing it.

      Awww, that was really cute... thanks for sharing it.

  19. [4]
    UniquelyGeneric
    Link
    Late to the game as always. Some of my favorite movies have already been listed, but here’s a few that weren’t mentioned yet: Interview - A celebrity invites a reporter to her apartment so he can...

    Late to the game as always. Some of my favorite movies have already been listed, but here’s a few that weren’t mentioned yet:

    • Interview - A celebrity invites a reporter to her apartment so he can conduct an interview. Their relationship dynamic evolves over time as their true opinions of each other are revealed.

    • Tape - Three high school friends gather in a motel room to reminisce on old times, but they may have different recollections of the past.

    • Snowpiercer - In a post apocalyptic world, the only humans alive exist on a train perpetually in motion on an arctic loop. May not 100% be set in one location (the train moves, and there’s multiple cars on the train), but I think it still counts. Decent sci fi as well.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      mrbig
      Link Parent
      I have seen Snowpiercer and, while it does technically count, that freaking train is big enough to contain multiple locations inside it, so it kinda defeats the purpose.

      I have seen Snowpiercer and, while it does technically count, that freaking train is big enough to contain multiple locations inside it, so it kinda defeats the purpose.

      2 votes
      1. UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        Yeah, it felt a little like cheating, but wasn’t mentioned yet so I threw it in. Tape was actually due to a small stint where I got into movies that were set in “real time” where the events take...

        Yeah, it felt a little like cheating, but wasn’t mentioned yet so I threw it in.

        Tape was actually due to a small stint where I got into movies that were set in “real time” where the events take place at the same rate that time passes for the viewer (i.e. no jumps/breaks in continuity). Some of the other movies listed here I actually discovered through that brief foray (Coherence, The Man from Earth, Exam, My Dinner With Andre). You might want to check out those type of movies as well since they work in similar constraints and are typically dialogue-based. One that I omitted from mentioning is Mindwalk, which takes place in a castle (a little bigger than just the rooms in a house you have in your prompt), but only has 3 characters and is more of a mental exploration than a physical one.

        1 vote
    2. mrbig
      Link Parent
      Thanks, I'll check those out!

      Thanks, I'll check those out!

      1 vote