Containment: 16 Great One-Location Movies to Stream Right Now

Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club (1985).
Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club (1985).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

For better or worse, isolation has become the new normal for most of us—and movies and television have become an opportunity to escape. But even without breaking that fourth wall into theaters and our living rooms, movies have sometimes limited themselves to single spaces as a matter of creativity, cost, and ultimately storytelling.

As audiences sit restless in their homes, these are some of the best movies in the medium’s history that similarly kept their characters in tight spots—trapped, contained, and trying desperately to get by, get out, or just get away from the circumstances shackling them on screen.

1. Rope (1948)

Alfred Hitchcock’s inventive storytelling catapulted to a new level with Rope, a drama about two scheming young men who attempt to stage the “perfect murder,” only to encounter their endlessly curious prep-school headmaster, played by Jimmy Stewart. Taking place not only in the single location of their apartment but in real time using a series of continuous, invisibly-assembled long takes, the film meticulously builds suspense even as it showcases Hitchcock’s dazzling, unparalleled creativity.

Where to watch it: Amazon

2. Rear Window (1954)

One of Hitchcock’s signature films, this 1954 thriller follows a photographer in a wheelchair whose curiosity about his neighbors turns into a possible murder mystery. The reliable, endlessly inquisitive Jimmy Stewart plays Jeff, whose growing obsession with a traveling jewelry salesman (Raymond Burr) eventually enlists his socialite girlfriend Lisa (the breathtakingly beautiful Grace Kelly) in an investigation that lands them both in very mortal danger. A meditation on the voyeurism of the movies themselves, Jeff’s endeavor to explore the outside world with an imagination that outpaces his physical abilities feels especially relevant right now.

Where to watch it: Amazon

3. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Adapted from a teleplay of the same name, Sidney Lumet’s iconic drama joined the National Registry in 2007 for its complex, enduring portrait of jurors deciding the fate of an 18-year-old on trial for murder. Questioning evidence that initially seems crystal clear, Henry Fonda leads an amazing cast of character actors including Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, and E.G. Marshall, as each man makes his case to the rest, wrestling with individual prejudices and the rule, and principle, of law to come out the other side changed—as the audience is too, even today.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

4. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Nearly two decades after 12 Angry Men, Sidney Lumet directed this oddball drama, based on a true story, about a pair of inept bank robbers who mount a confrontation with the authorities after their half-baked plans fall apart. Featuring Al Pacino and John Cazale as the crooks and Charles Durning as the cop assigned to negotiate with these increasingly feckless criminals, Lumet captures the strange, amusing, and oddly relatable relationships that evolve throughout the film—first as motives to put the plot in motion, but eventually they underscore the choices, paths taken and abandoned, that lead us all to inevitable crossroads in our lives.

Where to watch it: Amazon, Vudu

5. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Writer-director John Hughes reached the peak of his popularity—and skill capturing the personalities of teenagers—with this 1985 dramedy, which remained a template for high schoolers for decades to come. When a diverse group of kids are locked together for detention in their school library, they start off making mischief before quickly beginning to learn some unexpected lessons about each other—and themselves. The movie’s success certainly opened up the careers of its cast to new heights, but there’s something about its concentration of very specific teenage clichés and broader universal truths, forced from that compressed space and time in detention, that allows it today to endure, and transcend.

Where to watch it: Amazon, Hulu, Vudu

6. Clue (1985)

As the first ever movie based on a board game, Clue takes all of the classic tropes of the one it’s based on and scrambles them up into a delightful romp that has since become a cult classic. Set in a secluded New England mansion, the film features an all-star cast including Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael McKean as characters who all have a reason to kill, an instrument to do it, and an alibi when they become the prime suspect. Three different endings were created to keep audiences in the dark (and offer different options for multiple viewings), but the big thrill is getting locked inside that creaky mansion and trying to figure out the mystery.

Where to watch it: Amazon, Vudu

7. Die Hard (1988)

An action formula so popular it not only spawned four sequels but created a set-up that literally dozens of other films would follow, John McTiernan’s Die Hard tells the story of a scruffy cop fighting against a team of international thieves in a Los Angeles skyscraper where his wife works. The basic premise—locking the hero in a confined space, and robbing him of his usual tools—has been poached with varying success over the years, but from John McClane’s lack of shoes to his marital dilemmas, McTiernan’s film does it all flawlessly, exerting ever more pressure on the hero to survive, prevail, and just maybe take away a few life lessons himself.

Where to watch it: Hulu, Amazon, Vudu

8. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino’s directing debut was a bracing blast of cold water to Hollywood, a riveting, character-rich drama about a group of thieves assembled for a heist that devolved into violence and infighting. Taking place almost exclusively inside a warehouse, the various members of this motley crew exchange profane barbs as they attempt to work out what happened during the job, and what to do now that it’s over. Featuring one of the most gruesome scenes Tarantino ever wrote (which, notably, you actually don’t ever see), the film feels as powerful and revelatory now as back in 1992, as you’re trapped inside that room while the dogs turn on each other.

Where to watch it: Amazon

9. Clerks (1994)

Shot for a little over $25,000 at a pivotal moment in the growth of independent cinema, Kevin Smith launched his career with this film set inside the convenience store where he used to work. Featuring two twenty-something nobodies musing about romance, adulthood, and pop culture, Smith captured the voice of a generation even as he conceived an escalating series of side-splitting scenarios and created his own C-3PO and R2D2, Jay and Silent Bob, who became the eventual observers and connective tissue of the View Askewniverse.

Where to watch it: Hulu, Amazon, Cinemax On Demand

10. Panic Room (2002)

David Fincher was still working his way through the Hitchcock playbook when he directed this delightful nailbiter about a divorcée (Jodie Foster) and her daughter (Kristen Stewart, in case you forgot) hiding from home invaders in the one room they most want to enter. Ratcheting up tension as Foster’s Meg tries to reach the outside world and even the burglars fall at odds with their plans, Fincher employs clever storytelling and inventive camerawork to keep the audience not just locked inside the elegant townhome that provides its setting but keeping them connected to each corner and cranny where the action takes place.

Where to watch it: Hulu, Amazon, Vudu

11. Pontypool (2008)

Directed by Bruce McDonald from an adaptation of Tony Burgess’s novel written by the author himself, Pontypool conceives a uniquely fascinating idea: what if an infection or virus could be caused not by blood or bacteria but the human voice? Stephen McHattie plays a shock jock trapped inside his radio station after people in his audience—and the outside world—begin succumbing to this unknown, unexplainable phenomenon. A zombie movie that takes that familiar epidemic from a uniquely intellectual perspective, McDonald’s film creates both visceral tension and the unique existential terror of an unseen, detectable, and yet impossible-to-pin-down threat.

Where to watch it: iTunes

12. The Raid (2011)

Gareth Evans put Indonesia on the action movie map with this brutal, beautifully violent movie about a cop trapped inside a run-down apartment building that serves as a stronghold for a crime lord. Fighting his way from one floor to the next as dozens upon dozens of gun-, sword-, and fist-toting opponents try to take him out, Iko Uwais showcases blindingly fast choreography that absolutely seems like people died or were seriously injured making the film. Meanwhile, a slender, elegant emotional thread keeps the action rooted in emotional dimensions that carry the audience forward as they watch him fight to escape, and for his very life.

Where to watch it: Amazon, Vudu

13. Dredd (2012)

Before moving on to direct Ex Machina and Annihilation and create FX’s Devs, Alex Garland wrote this franchise reboot for Judge Dredd in which the comic character (played here by Karl Urban) gets locked inside a high rise run by crime lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, as ruthless as on Game of Thrones). Brutally violent but visually gorgeous, Garland and director Pete Travis reinvent the character for a new generation in a decidedly more serious and imposing way, but it’s the looming building containing all of the characters that creates a pressure cooker that cannot help but explode in the biggest, most glorious way possible.

Where to watch it: Amazon, Vudu

14. Locke (2013)

Writer-director Steven Knight helmed this acting showcase for Tom Hardy about a construction foreman attempting to juggle the biggest job of his career while dealing with the fallout from a one-night stand. Set entirely in his car as he drives to the hospital where the woman is giving birth, Hardy’s title character wrestles with his own moral obligations and fears while navigating his job duties, his marital expectations, and his financial responsibilities. As uninteresting as it might sound for a guy to take 36 phone calls in his car over 85 minutes, Hardy’s performance lends a level of exasperation, pathos, and humanity that is absolutely mesmerizing to watch.

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon, Vudu

15. The Invitation (2015)

Karyn Kusama directed this thriller about a man named Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who attends a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), only to learn that she and her new partner David (Michiel Huisman) have quietly locked guests inside their home for mysterious, possibly deadly purposes. Kusama maximizes both Will’s claustrophobia and the cinematic possibilities of the pristine, modern home—a beautiful, threatening prison that the grieving father wants desperately to escape as he uncovers a sinister plot taking place not just to him, but across the city around them.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. Gerald’s Game (2017)

Mike Flanagan is easily one of the great journeymen of the modern era of horror, and his adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game expertly captures the feverish, hallucinatory uncertainty of a woman left to fend for herself—and figure out a way to survive—when her husband dies of a heart attack after handcuffing her to a bedpost. Carla Gugino gives a showstopping performance as Jessie, stuck in frantic circumstances that propel her through some particularly unhappy reflections, repressed memories, and (possibly?) real visions as she attempts to escape the prison of a beach-house bedroom.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10 LEGO Sets For Every Type of LEGO Builder 

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

If you’re looking for a timeless gift to give this holiday season, look no further than a LEGO set. With kits that cater to a wide age range—from toddlers fine-tuning their motor skills to adults looking for a more engaged way to relax—there’s a LEGO set out there for everyone. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sets on Amazon to help you find the LEGO box that will make your loved one smile this year. If you end up getting one for yourself too, don’t worry: we won’t tell.

1. Classic Large Creative Gift Box; $44

Amazon

You can never go wrong with a classic. This 790-piece box contains dozens of types of colored bricks so builders of any age can let their inner architect shine. With toy windows, doors, tires, and tire rims included in addition to traditional bricks, the building possibilities are truly endless. The bricks are compatible with all LEGO construction sets, so builders have the option of creating their own world or building a new addition onto an existing set.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Harry Potter Hogwarts Express; $64

Amazon

Experience the magic of Hogwarts with this buildable Hogwarts Express box. The Prisoner Of Azkaban-inspired kit not only features Hogwarts's signature mode of transportation, but also Platform 9 ¾, a railway bridge, and some of your favorite Harry Potter characters. Once the train is built, the sides and roof can be removed for play within the cars. There is a Dementor on board … but after a few spells cast by Harry and Lupin, the only ride he’ll take is a trip to the naughty list.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars Battle of Hoth; $160

Amazon

Star Wars fans can go into battle—and rewrite the course of history—by recreating a terrifying AT-AT Walker from the Battle of Hoth. Complete with 1267 pieces to make this a fun challenge for ages 10 and up, the Walker has elements like spring-loaded shooters, a cockpit, and foldout panels to reveal its deadly inner workings. But never fear: Even though the situation might look dire, Luke Skywalker and his thermal detonator are ready to save the day.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Super Mario Adventures Starter Course; $60

Amazon

Kids can play Super Mario in 3D with LEGO’s interactive set. After constructing one of the courses, young designers can turn on the electronic Mario figurine to get started. Mario’s built-in color sensors and LCD screens allow him to express more than 100 different reactions as he travels through the course. He’ll encounter obstacles, collect coins, and avoid Goomba and Bowser to the sound of the Mario soundtrack (played via an included speaker). This is a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and creativity in addition to gaming smarts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Gingerbread House; $212

Amazon

Gingerbread houses are a great way to enjoy the holidays … but this expert-level kit takes cookie construction to a whole new level. The outside of the LEGO house rotates around to show the interior of a sweet gingerbread family’s home. Although the living room is the standout with its brick light fireplace, the house also has a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outdoor furniture. A LEGO Christmas tree and presents can be laid out as the holidays draw closer, making this a seasonal treat you can enjoy with your family every year.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Elsa and Olaf’s Tea Party; $18

Amazon

LEGO isn’t just for big kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can start their LEGO journey early by constructing an adorable tea party with their favorite Frozen characters. As they set up Elsa and Olaf’s ice seats, house, and tea fixings, they’ll work on fine-motor, visual-spatial, and emotional skills. Building the set from scratch will enable them to put their own creative spin on a favorite movie, and will prepare them for building more complicated sets as they get older.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Collectible Art Set Building Kits; $120

Amazon

Why buy art when you can build it yourself? LEGO’s Beatles and Warhol Marilyn Monroe sets contain four options for LEGO art that can be built and displayed inside your home. Each kit comes with a downloadable soundtrack you can listen to while you build, turning your art experience into a relaxing one. Once you’re finished building your creation it can be exhibited within a LEGO brick frame, with the option to hang it or dismantle it to start on a new piece. If the 1960s aren’t your thing, check out these Sith and Iron Man options.

Buy it: Amazon

8. NASA Apollo Saturn V; $120

Amazon

The sky (or just the contents of your LEGO box) is the limit with LEGO’s Saturn V expert-level kit. Designed for ages 14 and up, this to-scale rocket includes three removable rocket stages, along with a command and service module, Lunar Lander, and more. Once the rocket is complete, two small astronaut figurines can plant a tiny American flag to mark a successful launch. The rocket comes with three stands so it can be displayed after completion, as well as a booklet for learning more about the Apollo moon missions.

Buy it: Amazon

9. The White House; $100

Amazon

Reconstruct the First Family’s home (and one of America’s most famous landmarks) by erecting this display model of the White House. The model, which can be split into three distinct sections, features the Executive Residence, the West Wing, and the East Wing of the complex. Plant lovers can keep an eye out for the colorful rose garden and Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, which flank the Executive Residence. If you’re unable to visit the White House anytime soon, this model is the next best thing.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Volkswagen Camper Van; $120

Amazon

Road trip lovers and camping fanatics alike will love this vintage-inspired camper. Based on the iconic 1962 VW vehicle, LEGO’s camper gets every detail right, from the trademark safari windshield on the outside to the foldable furniture inside. Small details, like a “Make LEGO Models, Not War” LEGO T-shirt and a detailed engine add an authentic touch to the piece. Whether you’re into old car mechanics or simply want to take a trip back in time, this LEGO car will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

How It's a Wonderful Life Went From Box Office Dud to Accidental Christmas Tradition

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Director Frank Capra's 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life is sacred in the holiday movie pantheon. It's not as quotable as A Christmas Story (1983) or as lyrical as 1966's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, but the story of George Bailey has a universal message behind it that endures more than 70 years later. Though the movie is the quintessential Christmas tale today, when it was first released in 1946, audiences and critics were lukewarm toward the picture, resulting in a box office disappointment that killed Capra's nascent production company, Liberty Films. In a strange twist, decades after it was first released, an unlikely clerical screw-up managed to turn It's a Wonderful Life into the Christmastime staple we know today.

In the 1930s, Capra became a magnet for Academy Awards, directing movies like the screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). After Pearl Harbor, Capra knew he could contribute something to the war effort, so he took a post in Washington overseeing the development of U.S. propaganda films for the government—most notably the award-winning Why We Fight series of documentaries.

Upon returning from Washington in 1945, Capra—along with other wartime directors William Wyler and George Stevens—helped finance Liberty Films, an independent production company poised to give filmmakers the one thing they all dreamed of: freedom. The company's first film would be an adaption of a short story titled "The Greatest Gift," which would also appear in Good Housekeeping under the title "The Man Who Was Never Born," and would be adapted for the screen as It's a Wonderful Life. It's one of the few movies Capra also received a screenwriting credit for, and with a proposed budget of $2 million, it was a huge gamble for Liberty.

Something akin to a nightmare

In the book Five Came Back, writer Mark Harris describes It's a Wonderful Life's production process as something akin to a nightmare. Script rewrites, a bloated shooting schedule, and an ever-changing crew cost the studio nearly all of the original $2 million budget—well before filming was even wrapped. The spending became such a concern for Capra's partners at Liberty that George Stevens remarked, "Why the hell couldn't it be springtime?" when he saw how much it cost the production to produce fake snow for shots. Capra bet Liberty's future on audiences looking for some comforting nostalgia after the war, but he was about to see firsthand just how much the world had changed since he came back.

The original plan was to release It's a Wonderful Life in January 1947, after the Oscar deadlines, but when RKO—the film's distributor—needed a movie to release in time for Christmas, Capra's project was the easy solution. It opened just weeks after William Wyler's major studio film The Best Years of Our Lives, a hard-hitting drama about a U.S. soldier coming home after the war to pick up his life again. The two films couldn't be any more different, and the reviews reflected that.

Even at nearly three hours long, The Best Years of Our Lives was an absolute hit with critics and at the box office, recouping its budget multiple times over. It's a Wonderful Life, with its inflated budget and saccharine tale touting old-timey values, was met with a whimper, making only an estimated $3.3 million against a $3.7 million budget. Wyler beat Capra in every way: reviews, box office, and awards. The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, while It's a Wonderful Life received only a lone technical award—ironically for the fake snow Stevens loathed.

Liberty Films had borrowed more than $1.5 million to make the film, and with such a disappointing box office return, the production company was soon sold off to Paramount. Capra only directed five feature films afterwards, none of which ever reached the heights of his pre-war work. As unlikely as it seems today, It's a Wonderful Life was seen as a flat disappointment destined for anonymity—until a clerical error changed its fate.

A Wonderful free-for-all

In 1974, the movie entered the public domain after the film's copyright holder simply forgot to file for a renewal. This meant that TV stations everywhere could play It's a Wonderful Life all day and all night and not have to pay a cent for it. Networks aren't necessarily shy about exploiting free Christmas content, and the film's reemergence on television gave Capra's story new life. While a post-World War II crowd may have rejected the movie's sentiment, subsequent generations seem to revel in the opportunity to visit the nostalgic whimsy of it all.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” Capra once told The Wall Street Journal about the film's revival. “The film has a life of its own now and I can look at it like I had nothing to do with it. I’m like a parent whose kid grows up to be president. I’m proud ... but it’s the kid who did the work. I didn’t even think of it as a Christmas story when I first ran across it. I just liked the idea.”

Legalities rewrote the history of It's a Wonderful Life yet again in 1993. The Supreme Court's previous ruling in Stewart v. Abend established a precedent that allowed the film's original copyright owner—Republic Pictures—to regain its ownership of the movie. The ruling claimed that since Republic owned the copyright on the original short story which the movie was based on, and the score for the film, they, in essence, still owned the movie. So what was once a near barrage of networks airing It's a Wonderful Life has since been pared down to just one: NBC.

The network paid for exclusive rights to air the movie, which is why you'll only see It's a Wonderful Life on TV once or twice during the holidays. But the movie's modern appeal exists because of that scarcity. The film that killed a production company 70 years ago is now an annual television event and part of countless family traditions around the globe. It turns out Capra always knew what audiences wanted, he just needed to wait for the right clerical error to prove it.

This story has been updated for 2020.