As everyone from kids to artists have shown, Lego is only limited by your imagination. Of late, it seems like Lego’s own designers have big imaginations if the size of many current sets is anything to go buy.
But if you’re going to splash out on a flagship set, which should you go for? This round-up is our pick of the best big Lego sets — 1000 pieces or more; still available to buy; and the sort of thing you’d immediately want in your mitts.
UPDATED: 13 May with new Lego Haunted House set.
Brick-built cars and vehicles
If on hearing the word ‘Lego’ you immediately think of dinky oddly proportioned cars carting minifigs about, guess again. Lego’s Volkswagen Beetle (1167 pieces, £74.99) reimagines an icon in fine form, complete with curved fenders and those distinctive headlights.
Ford Mustang (1471 pieces, £119.99) is a stunning replica of the 1960s US muscle car, and regarded by some as the finest Lego set ever made. It can be customised, too, with a supercharger, ducktail spoiler, and beefy exhaust.
Harley-Davidson Fat Boy (1023 pieces, £84.99) is just the ticket for anyone who prefers zooming about on two wheels rather than four. Spin the rear tyre and the engine and dual exhaust pipes spring to life.
Taking brick-built vehicles in a rather more fantastical direction, 1989 Batmobile (3306 pieces, £219.99) is a lush take on the ‘Burtonmobile’ — still, in Stuff’s opinion, the best Batmobile of them all. You also get minifigs, although they’re obviously a bit small for the car.
Want something more quintessentially British instead? Then go for James Bond Aston Martin DB5 (1295 pieces, £129.99) — complete with tyre scythes, front-wing machine guns, and an ejector seat — or a bright red London Bus (1686 pieces, £109.99).
Star Wars Lego
We’ll be covering Star Wars Lego in more depth on May the 4th. For now, wrap your peepers around Millennium Falcon (7541 pieces, £649.99). Jam-packed with details, this 83cm-long monster also has two sets of minifigs to pop in the cockpit.
To instead unleash your inner Sith, try Imperial Star Destroyer (4784 pieces, £649.99). The final build is a frankly ludicrous 110cm long; and if you fancy a bigger challenge/driving yourself bonkers, mix up all the bags of grey pieces before you begin. (Don’t do that.)
Want to move beyond the plastic? Droid Commander (1177 pieces, £179.99) gives you a trio of Lego droids to construct and then set to work by way of a drag-and-drop coding app.
Lego space sets
Star Wars might spend much of its time going PEW! PEW! PEW! in outer space, but Lego’s also keen on blasting off from Earth, rather than a galaxy far, far away.
With NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander (1087 pieces, £84.99), you can fashion a beautiful centrepiece that comprises the Apollo 11 lunar lander, a crater and astronaut minifigs making a giant leap for Legokind.
Want something for the kids instead? Rocket Assembly & Transport (1055 pieces, £119.99) is part of the Lego City line, and has you create a NASA-inspired multi-stage rocket, launch control room, and more.
Microscale Lego buildings
The earliest Lego sets focussed on buildings, but 2020’s incarnations are considerably more elaborate than anything Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen and chums ever dreamed up.
For example, Old Trafford — Manchester United (3898 pieces, £249.99) is a beautifully detailed plastic take on an amazing stadium. (Unless you’re a City fan, in which case, it’s rubbish, obv.)
If you prefer non-footie landmarks, Lego’s Architecture line gives you plenty to choose from. When heading north of 999 bricks, you can build a desktop Trafalgar Square (1197 pieces, £79.99), or blocky takes on US landmarks like the Statue of Liberty (1685 pieces, £89.99) and the Empire State Building (1767 pieces, £89.99).
Movie and TV show Lego sets
1999 saw the first few Lego products based on movies and TV shows. The range has expanded somewhat since then. There’s Jurassic Park: T. rex Rampage (3120 pieces, £219.99), which features the film’s iconic gate, integrating tiny dioramas for minifigs. But mostly this one’s an excuse to build a massive T. rex.
Elsewhere, Stranger Things The Upside Down (2287 pieces, £179.99) gives you a unique flippable model set in two worlds; and with Friends Central Perk (1070 pieces, £64.99), you can yell “could this be any more 1990s?” until everyone nearby demands you stop.
Movies also mean castles, and Lego has two of the very best. Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle (6020 pieces, £349.99) is a vast and detailed set peppered with references, and with which you can fashion your own sequel by way of 27(!) microfigures and a brick-built dragon. (Let’s face it: whatever you come up with will be better than Fantastic Beasts.)
The House of Mouse also gets a similarly eye-catching plastic fortress by way of The Disney Castle (4080 pieces, £299.99). Within, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Tinkerbell can get up to all kinds of shenanigans, including scaring the cat by blasting ‘fireworks’ from the tower.
Lego sets for minifigs
Everything changed for Lego in 1978 when the minifig rocked up. Sets were suddenly built to house them, rather than merely echo real-world buildings. And with larger sets come far more ambitious locations.
Pirates of Barracuda Bay (2545 pieces, £179.99) recalls the classic Lego Pirates theme, but with a two-build set (ship plus island/shipwreck) that would have had any 1990s Lego collector’s eyes out on stalks.
Hidden Side’s Newbury Haunted High School (1474 pieces, £109.99) is a conventional school that becomes possessed when you reveal its ghostly elements — and there’s an app that merges real and virtual worlds so you can bust some ghosts.
Tree House (3036 pieces, £179.99) is a mite less scary — until you note just how many leaf pieces there are, and how long they’ll take to add. Still, this house blows away any half-hearted mini-shed you might have once hauled up a tree.
Back in the world of the conventional, Roller Coaster (4124 pieces, £299.99) nonetheless innovates in bringing stomach-flipping larks to Lego’s fairground theme for the first time. With or without power functions, you can send your minifigs for the ride of their life. And while your minifigs are trying to keep down their lunch, why not scare the wits out of them with the 68cm-high Haunted House (3231 pieces, £209.99), complete with free-fall lift ride, spooky ghosts, and brick-built pipe organ?
For anyone simply wanting to build a street scene on a shelf, Lego’s modular buildings are wonderfully realised layered fare with plenty of intricate details and hidden surprises. Assembly Square (4002 pieces, £179.99) celebrates the tenth anniversary of the line, drawing on previous models, and adding 50% to the typical modular building footprint.
Technic sets to challenge you
Standard Lego bricks might give you a warm fuzzy nostalgic glow, but grown up model-makers might fancy something a bit more technical — hence Lego’s Technic line.
Liebherr R 9800 Excavator (4108 pieces, £399.99) is a monster of a set in every sense. With seven motors, you get precise control over a range of functions, and can spend hours clearing up the pile of Lego rocks you’re supplied with — or that packet of crisps you accidentally dropped on the floor.
If cars are more your thing, the pinnacle of the Technic line is — suitably — Bugatti Chiron (3599 pieces, £329.99). This 1:8 scale replica mirrors how an actual Bugatti is assembled.
When you’re done, you can beam at the authentic interior, faff about with the 8-speed gearbox, and zoom the thing along a worktop while screaming VROOOOOOM when no-one’s looking. Should you hanker for more after all that, check out Porsche 911 RSR (1580 pieces, £139.99) and Land Rover Defender (2573 pieces, £159.99).
And a game of chess…
Whether you’ve got one of these sets or a dozen, someone at some point is going to scoff. “Toys?” they’ll say. “Really? At your age?” At which point, you can smugly plonk Iconic Chess Set (1450 pieces, £45.99) in front of them.
Just like a real chess set, you can stash pieces in drawers when you’re not playing — or go for draughts instead when your brain’s not feeling up to the demands of chess. Which may well be the case if you’ve spent hours juggling hundreds of tiny pieces to put this set together in the first place.