Top 5 Single-Setting Films

There is nothing more hit and miss than a single-setting film; without the fancy scene changes and glamorous locations these films rely purely on engaging dialogue, well-rounded characters and plot development. When they go right they are brilliantly intense masterpieces, on the other hand when they go wrong they can turn into a total snoozefest. Liam Neeson’s newest thriller, Non-Stop, thankfully fits into the category of brilliant. With the exception of a few brief minutes at the airport at the beginning, the whole film is shot on-board the New York to London flight that is midway across the Atlantic ocean when Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) begins to receive anonymous messages that threaten to kill somebody on the plane every 20 minutes. To celebrate the DVD release of Non-Stop on 30 June, we decided to take a look at some of the best single-setting films to date, enjoy!  

5. Non-Stop (2014)

Liam Neeson has become much-loved for his action-packed, edge-of-your-seat thrillers and Non-Stop is no different! Neeson plays a troubled Air Marshal Bill Marks who receives a series of threatening text messages during a transatlantic flight. The anonymous terrorist vows to kill somebody on board the plane every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into his account. However, as Bill attempts to find the culprit he realises that others believe he is the terrorist. Non-Stop is all the more intense due to the fact that the vast majority of the film takes place on board the airplane, making for claustrophobic viewing as the audience feel almost as though they are on the plane as well. The intrigue and mystery is expertly played out as it becomes impossible to guess who the terrorist with all the red herrings that are constantly thrown in. The clever use of cinematography makes the airplane more than enough of a setting to leave you with bated breath and a pounding heart, cementing Non-Stop as one of the must-see action films of the year!

4. Open Water (2003)

Open Water faced a mixed critical response but is worthy of a space on this list for not only being set in just one location, but for that location being the ocean. Yes, aside from the opening shots all the film consists of is two characters stranded in the middle of the ocean with no props or gimmicks, just each other to bounce dialogue off. The film is loosely based on a true story and despite being so minimalist the two characters do an incredible job of transferring their fear through the big screen and into the hearts of the audience. The film’s simplicity only strengthens the psychological anguish and terror that will make you think twice about swimming too far off shore again!

3. Phone Booth (2002)

Perhaps the smallest of locations, aside from the usual intro and outro the majority of this 2002 thriller takes place with our central character Stu (Colin Farrell) held hostage in a phone booth! Held captive by an apparent vigilante, Stu answers a call from the phone booth only to be told that if he leaves the booth, calls the police or hangs up he will be killed. The high tension situation is only amplified by the fact that it is set in real time; so the time span in which the film takes place is also the length that it takes to watch; making it seem all the more real and all the scarier! Clearly the King of single-setting films, Larry Cohen originally pitched the idea for Phone Booth to Alfred Hitchcock in the 60s and despite liking the idea Hitchcock was unable to think of a sufficient plot to carry the film forward. It wasn’t until the 90s that Cohen revisited the concept again and came up with the film we all know and love today!

2. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Arguably the most famous single-setting film to date, all but three minutes of 12 Angry Men’s 96-minute run time takes place inside the jury room in a courthouse. A shining example of the importance of powerful dialogue and engaging performances, it is the actors who carry this film as each nameless character’s personalities and prejudices come out during their deliberation over a man’s guilt or innocence of murdering his own father. The film is based on the play of the same name and was remade in 1997, before being preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2007 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

1. Rear Window (1954)

In 1948 Alfred Hitchcock was the first to break many traditional filming techniques with his single-setting crime thriller Rope. Hitchcock himself went on to label the film as “an experiment that didn’t work out” but it still proved to be a learning curve for the legendary director as just six years later he released the hugely successful single-setting thriller Rear Window. The suspense film follows Jeff (James Stewart), a man who is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment after breaking his leg; whilst housebound he begins to spy on his neighbours and becomes suspicious that one of them may have murdered their wife. The film is set entirely in Jeff’s apartment but the simplicity only adds to the tension within the narrative and Rear Window ended up being nominated for no less than four Academy Awards. Having since been dubbed one of the greatest thrillers ever made, Rear Window proves one thing for sure – Hitchcock was quick to set the bar high when it came to single-setting films!

You can get your copy of Non-Stop on DVD or Blu-Ray from 30 June 2014 from Amazon at