The best Lego sets can completely change your mood. That satisfying mix of creativity, tactile play, and mindfulness is all but unique to Lego, and you'll come out of building a new set a happier, calmer person. Lego is perfect for passing the time when stuck indoors, for entertaining kids, or even for creating display pieces.
We've put together an exhaustive list of twenty of the best Lego sets for any fan: there are Lego sets for kids, Lego sets for adults, and even Lego sets which take Lego in completely new directions, like the super-cool and ultra-relaxing Lego Art range, or the newly-resurrected Lego Mindstorms robotics system. So if you're looking for a way to invest in calm this Black Friday, or you're searching for the perfect Christmas present for children, teens or adults, Lego is it. It always has been, hasn't it?
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From James Bond to NASA, Lego has managed to license some of the biggest names in the world and turn them into plastic brick form.
But it's not just movies, Lego loves everything from tech-fuelled robots, to theme park attractions, to architecture, so we've rounded up the ones that you'll want to splash out on this year. Don't worry, you can always say you got it for the kids.
These are the best Lego sets you can buy:
This has been a smash hit for Lego since it came out, and will probably be one of the most popular sets this Christmas: it's a full recreation of the famous coffee shop from Friends, complete with every little touch you could hope for: the menu, the wall hangings, the muffin display, the carpet… and, delightfully, Lego has designed it to look like a TV show set, including supporting pillars and studio lights. Most importantly, it comes with all six friends, in lookalike versions that range from the fun (Rachel's and Monica's season 1 hairdos) to the uncanny (everything about Ross).
As if a Lego Aston Martin DB5 isn’t cool enough on its own, this set lets you build Bond’s tricked-out model, complete with gadgets. Yes, once built, you can rotate the licence plate, raise the bullet-proof screen, pop out front machine guns and tyre-bursting blades from the wheels and eject unwelcome passengers, naturally. There’s even a detailed six-cylinder engine to view under the bonnet. At 24cm long when built, this is big enough to be a showpiece without taking up tons of room.
Made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, this fantastic set was made with help from NASA to get the details (including the correct shade of gold) just right. It's a great-looking display piece, especially with the clever lunar surface, complete with craters and square footsteps for your figures. The lunar module itself has an inside with instruments, and the escape portion comes away for a return to orbit (or just to show off, more accurately).
Oh, and here's a little NASA bonus suggestion, because it's one of the best Lego sets of all time: The Lego Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V Rocket. It's recently been retired, but there's still stock around for not outrageous prices – it originally sold for £110, and we've seen it selling for £150-£180. If you can get it for that price, we still thoroughly recommend it – it's an amazing recreation of the iconic rocket, and is over a metre long when fully built. Everything is to scale, too, so it comes with microfigure astronauts, a little moon landing diorama and a little successful splashdown diorama, while the rocket itself breaks down into its individual stages. It's utterly spectacular, but if you want an example of just how much love went into it, how about the fact this set celebrating the moon landing is exactly 1,969 pieces…
This Lego-ised version of Michael Keaton's Batmobile (AKA the best Batmobile) is remarkably movie-accurate, considering the real version has all kinds of flowing curves and Lego… does not. For Bat-fans, it's kind of an essential buy: not only does it give you a big project get stuck into, but it's an excellent showpiece at the end – it even comes with a little turntable so you can easily view it from all angles. We also love the minifig versions of Batman, Vicki Vale and the Joker it comes with – the Batman figure has a rubbery cowl and cape combo straight out of the movie.
You should also check out the brand-new Lego 1989 Batwing the completes your Burton Bat-vehicle collection – it's also impressively detailed, comes with more great minifigures, and has either a cool angled stand, or can actually be wall mounted.
The iconic 1960s car gets a Lego version that's one of the company's most enticing sets of all time. From the meaty front grille (complete with horse motif) to the barred rear lights, everything about it screams Steve McQueen levels of cool. The interior is detailed, plus there's a boot that opens, and you can see the detailed engine under the bonnet. Best of all, you can keep it road-ready, or swap in a super-charger, a duck-tail spoiler, beefier exhausts, and more.
We love this recreation of the Statue of Liberty, because it looks undeniably Lego-y and made of bricks, yet somehow the unmistakeable flow of the Statue's robe feels fully preserved, and the detail in the pedestal is astounding. It stands 44cm high when finished, with a subtle display plate underneath.
This Beetle, complete with beach gear, is a really impressive model. The authenticity stretches to being able to see the engine in the rear, having the spare tyre in the front, and you can fold the seats. It comes with a bunch of licence plates, so you pick the right one, and you can choose whether the stack up to surfboard and coolbox or not.
If you're looking for an epic adult build which has a bunch of play potential for kids, look no further. Lego's minifig-scale Diagon Alley is absolutely huge, featuring the majority of what made the boy wizard's favourite street what it is: everything from Flourish & Blotts to Olivander's to the office of the Daily Prophet is here, with incredibly detailed inners, outers, and a massive collection of minifigs to boot. The only thing missing is a full-scale Gringott's, or perhaps a Knockturn Alley for Harry to stupidly flue powder himself to; maybe those are in the works?
Don't get this confused with the somewhat rudimentary Diagon Alley promo set (40289), a rather basic 374-piece build which (by virtue of its theme) nonetheless manages to command upwards of £140 today. Or, indeed the older Diagon Alley (10217) set which is now being sold for over £600.
At 1.1m long, this giant model is nearly as menacing as the original Star Destroyer was on-screen. It looks incredible – using the Lego studs to add surface texture, but also packing in a mind-blowing amount of specific detail, from laser cannons to engines to even a bay underneath that houses a TIE Fighter, ready to launch. Adorably, it also comes with a tiny Tantive IV ship that it can overshadow, remaking the opening of the first film. There's a stand underneath that is part of the internal skeleton structure that holds the ship together – make no mistake about what a beast this is, and how good (and satisfying) it looks in person. We've built it, and it's genuinely awe-inspiring.
It's been a while since Lego released a Mindstorms kit. Actually, it's been a full seven years. But just as we were losing hope, along comes the Robot Inventor set, including a whole bunch of sensors and motors, instructions to build five unique robots, and compatibility with Lego's Robot Inventor programming app. Inspired by the language powering Boost sets which landed in the interim (and more than a little reminiscent of learning language Scratch) it vastly increases the scope of what you can do with Mindstorms, and gives kid coders the perfect jumping off point for creating the deathbots we will so sorely need in the near future.
We love these little Skyline sets, that let you build iconic buildings in adorable miniaturised form. This London set includes Nelson’s Column, the London Eye, the National Gallery, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. We’re also very partial to the New York, Tokyo and San Francisco skyline sets, if you want to start a city collection…
For the Lego fan with an artistic bent, here's the company's take on pixel art in probably the most relaxing and therapeutic form Lego has ever taken. This is Lego with a custom soundtrack, which is less bananas than it sounds. There are over 3,000 pieces, although the vast majority of them are round 1x1 plates so the tip of your right thumb may well be in agony by the time your three portraits of Iron Man are done. You won't be unhappy, though: the finished thing looks superb.
If you're not a Marvel nut, the Lego Art range also includes portraits of some Star Wars Sith favourites, pixel pics of the Beatles, and an Andy Warhol set which replicates his famous Marilyn Monroe pop-art pics.
One the one hand, this is a fun playset for kids to mess around with minifigs (including, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Draco Malfoy, Dumbledore, Professor Quarrel and, for the first time ever, Hagrid) in recreations of Hogwarts’ iconic dining hall, as well as a potion room and moving staircase. On the other hand, the meticulous detail that makes it look just like the movie vision of Hogwarts’ grand exterior makes it an excellent collectible for fans of the series of any age. There are also other great Hogwarts sets that it connects with to form a bigger castle.
If you're a serious Harry Potter fan, though, the above won't be quite true enough to the books/movies. What you need is the epic Hogwarts Castle set, which is a recreation of the entire castle as it appears in the films to microfigure scale (and it comes with loads of microfigures), complete with some rooms around the back and Hagrid's Hut plus Whomping Willow. It's absolutely spectacular (and huge), and there's no better buy for hardcore fans.
This is not just a great-looking recreation of the Defender – it's also an hugely impressive Lego Technic engineering build. There's the moving in-line six-cylinder engine, there's the independent suspension for both axles, there's the most complex gearbox Lego has made so far with functional gearstick, there's the working winch, there's the folding seats… and it all fits into a model so accurate, it has specially made rims and emblems, plus the bodywork finished in the exact right colour.
This is one of the best-selling sets, and it's easy to see why: it's an attractive price, it's dinosaurs, and is actually three sets in one. You have the option of creating a menacing T. rex, powerful Triceratops or a terrifying Pterodactyl. That's great value for money, which is why this set is such a meteoric success!
• Read our full Lego Mario review
The Lego Mario sets are a collaboration between Lego and Nintendo, where you can use Lego to build levels for the special smart Mario character to traverse – he's got a bunch of sensors in, so can you can take on special skill-based obstacles with him, and he detects what kind of terrain he's on (and reacts to them on his little LCD screen face). You collect coins as you play through a 'level' of Lego – the idea is that it can be competitive as to who traversed a level the best. Kids can build levels for each other (or parents to take on), and you can expand from the Starter Course with loads of add-on packs that all add cool new ideas. This pack has the all-important Mario figure, and gives a great flavour of what the system does.
If you, like so many people, have fond memories of the Lego Pirate sets from the late ’80s/early ’90s, this set inspired by them will be hard to resist. Its main build is of a ship that's been turned into an island outpost, packed full of ingenious details. It looks fantastic, and actually splits in two so you can see all the little touches (or just play with it). But it can also be built into a classic-style ship inspired by the 1989 Black Seas Barracuda ship set. It's an absolute blast to build, and is worth it for the return of the classic Lego shark alone.
The Lego Creator 3-in-1 series is, obviously, excellent value for money when it comes to giving kids (or adults) plenty of stuff to do. The main build from this set is a sweet little toy store, complete with rocket ride outside and tiny goods inside, plus a whole living area above the shop. Or you can build it into a cake shop plus workshop… or you can build it into a flower store!
Yes, it’s a Lego Store made of Lego! Turn around the detailed storefront to find an open back with detail inside, including tiny Lego constructions and Lego blocks with stickers on to make them look like Lego product boxes. This is Lego-ception, and it’s an amazing gift for a big Lego fan.