As everyone from kids to artists have shown, Lego is only limited by your imagination. And Lego’s own designers have big imaginations if the size of many current sets is anything to go by.
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: 18 March 2021 with 20 new sets.
Brick-built cars and vehicles
If on hearing the word ‘Lego’ you immediately think of dinky oddly proportioned cars you shove minifigs inside, guess again. Lego’s Porsche 911 (1458 pieces, £119.99) reimagines an icon in fine form, complete with classic curves, angled headlamps and very brown seats.
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.
Should you prefer swooping bat-vehicles about, 1989 Batwing (2363 pieces, £179.99) is similarly impressive, with its removable canopy, detailed interior and posable flaps. It even comes with a mounting bracket so you can hang it on a wall – preferably a yellow one, of course.
Still in the land of movies, we’ve seen Lego ECTO-1 cars before, but Ghostbusters ECTO-1 (2352 pieces, £179.99) is far more impressive, letting you piece together a detailed 47cm long converted 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance with moving ghost sniffer, extendable rear gunner seat, working steering wheel and authentic logos.
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.)
Fancy something more stompy than swooshy? Try AT-AT (1267 pieces, £139.99), which comes with a speeder bike, two Snowtroopers and a Luke Skywalker minifig presumably thinking that, even with his Force powers, this battle’s a tad one-sided.
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.
If you prefer a brick-built take on the rocket that got humankind to the moon, there’s LEGO NASA Apollo Saturn V (1969 pieces, £109.99) – with its own endearingly diminutive lunar lander and lunar orbiter.
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, Colosseum (9036 pieces, £449.99) takes Lego architecture to new levels, reimagining the Roman landmark in a record-breaking 9036 bricks – no Lego set has ever had more. Nor has one had so many authentic Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, for that matter.
Closer to home, Old Trafford – Manchester United (3898 pieces, £249.99) was launched to coincide with the Theatre of Dreams’ 110th anniversary. With its brickified tributes to features such as the United Trinity Statue and the Munich memorial clock, it’s a beautifully detailed plastic take on an amazing stadium. (Unless you’re a City fan, in which case it’s rubbish, obv.)
If you want more manageable Lego landmarks than that previous pair, the 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 White House (1483 pieces, £89.99) The last of those splits in three for closer inspection, perhaps so you can keep a beady eye out for lurking ex-presidents.
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.
With Diagon Alley (5544 pieces, £369.99), you can turn Harry Potter into Harry Shopper on a set that’s apparently decided to rival an actual street’s dimensions. Fortunately, its shops are modular and can be rearranged, so you won’t need a Lego Room of Requirement to store and display the things.
Lego’s also working its magic to make a play for your childhood memories. 123 Sesame Street (1367 pieces, £109.99) is brought to you by the letters N, O, S, T, A, L, G, I and A, and is peppered with Easter eggs and recognisable minifigs. And Winnie the Pooh (1265 pieces, £89.99) brings a much-loved bedtime story to life, by way of the famous treehouse, several pots of ‘hunny’ and a surprisingly slimline Pooh.
Nintendo Lego sets
Having perhaps once feared it could be replaced by videogames, Lego’s decided to embrace them and wisely partnered with Nintendo. With that company known for unorthodox, original thinking, it should come as no surprise that Nintendo-themed Lego sets all do something a little bit different.
Nintendo Entertainment System (2646 pieces, £209.99) is the spit of Nintendo’s 8-bit console, and includes a controller, cartridge and working cartridge slot. Astonishingly, the tiny TV set has a crank that when turned animates a 2D Mario on a brick-build scrolling screen.
Bowser’s Castle Boss Battle Expansion Set (1010 pieces, £89.99) is the largest of the Lego Super Mario sets, a line that fuses plastic bricks, custom level design and brick-built Super Mario characters. You’ll find Mario himself in a starter pack, and he’s actually a battery powered computer. Connect him to the NES telly and he’ll react to what’s happening on the screen!
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. Also delving into history, the striking Medieval Blacksmith (2164 pieces, £134.99) brings the middle ages to life. The building is full of character and details and has a glowing forge. The pair of knights you get in the set evokes another much-loved classic Lego theme too.
Ninjago City Gardens (5685 pieces, £274.99), though, heads into more imaginative territory. Even if you’re not familiar with Lego’s ninja-themed line, your eyes will pop at this absurdly tall set. It’s packed with rooms including an ice cream shop, noodle house and museum – and all five tiers lift off so you can easily poke around inside.
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. Police Station (2923 pieces, £169.99) is the latest, packing into its three floors a jail cell, interrogation room and case board. Outside, you’ll find a kiosk with a copy of The Daily Brick newspaper warning about a nefarious crim. And next door to the station, there’s, naturally, a doughnut shop.
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.
Need some additional help on your work site? Then grab Mobile Crane (1292 pieces, £89.99) with its 78cm crane arm and the app-controllable 6×6 Volvo Articulated Hauler (2193 pieces, £229.99) as well.
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 Ferrari 488 GTE “AF Corse #51” (1677 pieces, £169.99) and Lamborghini Sián FKP 37 (3696 pieces, £349.99).
And a piece of art…
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 point them at Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe (3341 pieces, £114.99).
Our favourite from Lego’s mosaics line, it’ll nonetheless drive you dotty as you press down over 2000 circular pieces on to a 48×48 grid. Squint from a distance, though, and the finished article really does resemble a piece of art. Buy four sets to display all four variants simultaneously and it’ll cost as much as one too.