Whether due to artistic inspiration or simply a tighter budget, many filmmakers have made the decision to set their screenplays entirely in one location. This can build suspense, humor, and plenty of other emotions, making the one-setting approach a very worthwhile option (especially when short on funds). These films challenge our expectations and keep us focused on a tighter, more personal look at a single location over a given sequence of time. So without further ado, here are seven sensational #movies that hardly take a step out their front door.
7. 'The Breakfast Club'
Few films have such a strong attachment to the 1980s as The Breakfast Club. One of the most memorable works from director John Hughes, the film takes place entirely in a high school setting as a diverse group of students are forced together for Saturday detention. The movie uses its setting to enhance its emotional impact, confining its characters together and forcing them to learn from each other. Hilarious, insightful, and strangely heartwarming, The Breakfast Club is an unquestionable classic.
#Hitchcock was known for challenging audience expectations. In his 1948 psychological drama Rope, he shoots an entire film seemingly in one shot. (That's right, Birdman, step aside!) The film tells the story of two university students who murder their friend, hide his body in a chest, and then host a dinner party atop his remains. The film is tense, twisted, and a delightful addition to the Hitchcock canon. It is also one of his most intellectual films, exploring various philosophical theories and providing a rich exploitation of the main characters' psyches, all from the comfort of a single apartment living room.
When this psychological thriller popped up on Netflix several years ago, it introduced many viewers to a unique one-setting drama like nothing they'd seen before. In Exam, eight candidates arrive for a written exam for a prestigious job at a mysterious corporation. When the exam papers turn out to be blank, the candidates decide to start communicating and unraveling the mystery behind the whole operation. The film is a well-crafted work of suspense with a clever premise to fuel its powerful moments, indicating a real potential for more great movies from the same vein.
The debut work from Kevin Smith and one of his most well-received films to date, Clerks is a humble look at the lives of two convenience store employees. The film takes place entirely in the convenience and video stores where the characters are employed. Famously filmed after-hours in Kevin Smith's actual place of employment, Clerks is a landmark work of independent filmmaking. Packed with hilarious dark humor and some strangely touching moments, this is a can't-miss film for indie #comedy fans.
A small Canadian zombie film from 2008, Pontypool was a movie with humble beginnings. However, its focused setting and clever direction have granted it tremendous popularity on home release and through streaming services. The film takes place in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario, set entirely in a radio station. On-air personality Grant Mazzy (played by Stephen McHattie) must uncover the truth behind a horrific epidemic that threatens human existence. While other zombie movies would show the global impact of such a catastrophe, #Pontypool makes the clever decision to tell only one man's story in one of the most fascinating settings that a horror movie has ever explored.
2. 'Reservoir Dogs'
Tarantino's debut film was famously afflicted by budget constraints, preventing this bank heist film from actually showing the heist in question. Instead, #Tarantino demonstrated his impeccable writing ability by setting the bulk of the story in a single room in a warehouse. Using artistic talent and visionary direction, Reservoir Dogs has become a classic film and embodies the independent spirit that inspires aspiring filmmakers even today. While the film has brought him widespread acclaim and far greater budgets, many Tarantino fans still consider Reservoir Dogs to be his most exciting film due to these production constraints.
1. '12 Angry Men'
It was Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men that first proved how thrilling the single-setting film could be, and few films have found such success since its release. Adapted from the teleplay of the same name, the film tells the story of a courtroom jury deliberating over a murder trial. Tensions escalate and intentions turn hostile as the jurors' world views collide. Beautifully acted and undoubtedly relevant today, 12 Angry Men is an American classic that uses its single setting as a powerful tool. The cramped spaces and plethora of characters make the film feel tense and frustrating, culminating in some of the most powerful scenes ever presented in cinema.
While sweeping landscapes and impressive skylines are perfect for some films, it's often better just to keep it simple. These films embody this principle, and they demonstrate how engaging a single location can be. Whether by building tension or simply forcing unlikely characters to make conversation, the single-setting approach often pays off resoundingly and produces a more focused, dynamic film as a result.
What are your favorite films with just one setting? Let me know in the comments below.