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The 30 Best Movies Set in a Single Location

15 July 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Shane Scott-Travis

JÜRGEN PROCHNOW (Kommandant), "Das Boot", 1981.  31240/#

One of the most rewarding and contrasting cinematic detours for audiences is the chamber piece, sometimes referred to as a chamber drama or chamber film. This diversified genre is discernible by its use of a small cast of characters, often meshed over a short period of time, and in a limited environment, often times just a single location.

Also, though not always, chamber films are based off of plays and/or have their derivation due to a modest or micro budget. Because of these impediments, which can also be very creatively vitalizing, the resulting films are often subversive, risky, and incredibly innovative.

 

30. Clerks (1994)

Clerks

The film that started it all for Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse, this shoestring budgeted, foul-mouthed entrée was partially financed by Smith’s comic book collection. Shot at the convenience store and neighboring video store where Smith worked, the DIY inventiveness, crass humor, matter-of-fact black-and-white photography, and deadpan comic panache is hard to traverse.

A film that helped define the slacker tenets of sarcasm and censure, with loads of pop culture posturing, Clerks is a welcome sale, and a cult classic.

 

29. Cube (1997)

cube 1997

Like a Twilight Zone episode dreamed up by the likes Jorge Luis Borges, Canadian filmmaker Vincenzo Natali’s psychological thriller/horror/sci-fi pastiche is the ultimate in high-concept and low-budget.

A small group of strangers awaken in an elaborate prison maze of joining cubic cells that seem to go on to infinity, each with no memory of how they arrived in such strange perplexity. As they traverse the cube they soon find that each cell is booby-trapped, the meaning behind their impasse is scrutinized intelligently, and the allegorical and metaphysical payoff is as satiating as it is fist-pumping.

 

28. 127 Hours (2011)

127 Hours movie

Danny Boyle’s zero cool telling of the real-life survival tale of Aaron Ralston (James Franco), an experienced mountaineer who, while exploring a far-flung canyon in Utah, becomes immobilized by a boulder that has crushed and pinned his arm.

Stylish and visually stunning, despite it’s fixed locale, 127 Hours is a rush of adrenaline, and a euphoric blast of beauty that’s sure to leave audiences open-mouthed and astonished.

 

27. Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool (2008)

A fright flick in the vein of genre gods John Carpenter and George Romero, Bruce McDonald’s take on the zombie uprising is shockingly unconventional, as well as brazenly literate and erudite. Adapted from the Tony Burgess novel, “Pontypool Changes Everything” (Burgess also wrote the screenplay), it’s set in a rural Ontario radio station where shock jock Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) broadcasts his show during an incident of apocalyptic proportions.

Centering on William S, Burroughs’ “word virus” dictum, here used to breathtaking and bloody extremes, Grant and his dwindling team must outthink the undead hordes fighting to overcome them, if such enterprise is even possible, with results that are equal parts visceral and cerebral.

 

26. Rope (1948)

rope

Based off Patrick Hamilton’s play, Alfred Hitchcock’s film certainly has the feel of live theater as it’s essentially one fluid, continuous take, in real time, during a dinner party hosted by Philip Morgan and Brandon Shaw (Farley Granger and John Dall, respectively).

Shortly before their guests arrive, Brandon and Philip commit a murder and hide the body in their apartment, viewing their act as a psychological treatise, they antagonize their guests, suspiciously dropping clues which Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) begins to elucidate. Hitchcock’s long takes are a wonder to watch, technically very adventurous, and while experimental and not considered one of his classics, Rope is still  polished and inventive.

 

25. Misery (1990)

Misery

Populist director Rob Reiner, adapting Stephen King’s 1987 novel, makes an engrossing, and often hair-raising picture. Romance novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan), famous for trashy novels featuring his fictional creation, Misery Chastain, is vacationing in a remote area of Colorado when a snow squall sends him careening off the road, where he’s rescued by one Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates, in an Oscar-winning performance).

Annie takes Paul home where he is essentially made a prisoner, as Annie’s super fandom for the Misery series is made preternaturally clear. Paul’s recovery is determined by Annie’s deranged whims, the ensuing ordeal is in turns harrowing, hilarious, and grievously life-threatening (there’s a scene with a sledgehammer that’s unforgettable), making Misery a demented delight.

 

24. Coherence (2013)

Coherence

An elegant middle-class dinner party in the Santa Monica suburbs is the seemingly banal setting for James Ward Byrkit’s mind-winding debut, Coherence. The night of the fete, hosted by Lee (Lorene Scafaria) and Mike (Nicholas Brendon) coincides with a cosmic phenomena, Miller’s Comet, a mysterious night sky aberration last seen over Finland in 1923, where it yielded minor mass hysteria.

As this subtly adverse tale unfolds, Lee, Mike, and their guests are soon and startlingly made aware of an exact duplicate house, matching their own, just down the lane. This carbon copy casa comes complete with doppelgängers, and this creepy perplexity is intensified as each journey outside is followed by confusion and cosmic corrugation. A web of complex time-travel paradoxes arise, as does a friable and touching love story, making Coherence a shrewd showpiece and a promising debut.

 

 

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  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Why did you leave out Fireman’s Ball?
    It’s a better film and is closer to the list’s concept then most of the others.

  • Igor Marques

    i wouldn’t say Gravity, for example and among others on the list, is a “single location” movie.
    The Russian Ark should be on the list.

    • shane scott-travis

      The introduction defines the list that follows to be chamber-pieces and details what that is. By that definition all the films listed apply.
      🙂

  • Nizar Samman

    saw I should be here !

  • Fassbinder, not Fassbender 😉

  • Ted Wolf

    neither glengarry nor reservoir are truly single locations. As you said stage adaptations are the easiest since they are designed as single location (Sleuth or Deathtrap for example).

  • Deweb

    How can you forget Phone Booth and Burried in this?

  • lando

    great picks, but no tape (2001)?

  • Rubén Martínez

    You should check out the mexican movie “Temporada de Patos”. It fits into this category and it’s great.

  • Jessica Rogers

    Glad to see moon on here cuz its underrated but think bug should b added

  • Bryton Cherrier

    Soon, The Hateful Eight. ;]

  • Chandradeep

    Persona ,Kant, Exterminating Angel above Rear Window for me

  • Kalesh Govindan

    man from the earth should have been there.

    • Jagi

      You mean that average Twilight Zone episode?

      • m77

        hahhhaaaa, just HAD to log in to give a “like” to your comment, Jagi! :DD
        your sentence pretty much sums it up.

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    Clouds of Sils Maria – single location? C’mon….

  • Nodar

    Burried and Panic Room also.

  • Sandokan

    last year at marienbad
    man from earth
    brake
    buried
    stoic
    force majeure(kinda)
    dogtooth(kinda)

  • Stephani Ann Chapman

    surprising to see that Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf isn’t on this list

  • Mohamed Ahmed Ismail

    Exam (2009)?!

  • Biff Bifferson

    How about Silent Running or The Old Man and the Sea? The top picture is Das Boot which doesn’t do justice to the book so it wouldn’t be on my list. Many movies have a setup scene and then become restricted to one location, like Moby Dick and The Flight of the Phoenix. Alien too I guess.

  • Nancy Hall

    I think it’s an interesting list…well done. I might have tried to squeeze Venus in Fur or Dogtooth in there somewhere. Would Birdman qualify? He does venture out into the street, once in a while, but I think everything else takes place within the theater and he always seems tethered to the theater even when he’s roaming.

  • Jagi

    I liked Bug. A good recent one would be Circle (2015)

  • This List Is Invalid W/O Buried.

  • Melinda

    The Descent wasn’t too bad, and how can you forget Clue? Kinda don’t agree with reservoir Dogs.

  • Robin Aerts

    Burried!

  • Allister Cooper

    Interesting list! Don’t forget Exam ;). That, along with Celebration and The Descent, are my top three. Rope wasn’t bad, too!

  • Richard McLin

    The Big Kahuna
    Evil Dead 2
    Saw
    Event Horizon
    Buried
    Mallrats
    Albino Alligator

  • Anand Shenoy

    Amour(sort of, if you don’t consider the first scene)

  • JackiePaper

    while not particularly ‘cinematic’, i’d add The Man from Earth

    • JackiePaper

      someone got there first it seems

  • Andy Hall

    Venus in Fur > Carnage

  • Steppenwolf

    Shane,
    I was wondering, wheather you also write for Wonderful Cinema since your introduction is basically copy-pasted https://wonderfulcinema.com/chamber-piece-definition/

    I don’t agree on The Clerks. There are many other places besides the convenience store (and video store) that contribute to the story, like e.g. the funeral, the roof, and the streets.
    Gravity fits that definition way better, I just don’t think it’s a good movie.
    I was wondering why you didn’t mention Alien. Except their short expedition to the alien planet, it takes places exclusively within the Nostromo.
    Carnage is a great and obvious pick. I like to recommend “What’s in a Name?” aka “Le pronom”, which is similar to Carnage

  • Sadat Faisal

    La belle noiseuse (1991) sorta

    What Happened Was… (1994)

  • Manuel Theo Dover

    sunset limited should have been there

  • Ian Paul

    Well done list

  • Paul Olsen Beierly

    SLEUTH Michael Caine , Laurence Olivier omitted ? This is BS

  • Ted Wolf

    Sleuth?

  • Davejon

    WHAT?! Why isn’t ‘THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE”
    starring a young Jodi Foster & Martin Sheen on this list?? About 95% of
    the movie takes place in the living room.
    You could also include the above-average-for-a-MOW-thriller “BAD RONALD” from the novel. About 90% of
    it takes place in the bathroom/living room.
    Lastly, while it’s inferior to the play, the great Ira Levin’s play-within-a-play
    ‘DEATH TRAP’
    should be at
    the top of any one location movies.