The Top 10 Best LEGO Ideas Sets
12th November 2022
Since its inception in 2011, LEGO Ideas has given us some unique and spectacular models. The quality of this theme is no surprise, as LEGO takes the most popular fan submitted projects, reviews them based on a number of criteria, such as build quality, playability, and expected demand amongst others, and then picks the winning design to be turned into an official set.
In this article we produce our list of the ten best Ideas sets LEGO have ever made. Deciding which made the cut and which didn't was an unenviable task, but we poured over each one and judged them based on originality, creativity, playability, display value, and design and build quality.
10. Vincent van Gogh - The Starry Night (21333)
This set is LEGO's first foray into recreating a work of classical art and they have done a brilliant job. We always like to see LEGO trying something new and delivering a never-before seen concept in brick form, which is what the Ideas theme should be all about. Taking a masterpiece and adding an additional 3D element was a good choice, rather than replicating it verbatim.
The textured finish of the original painting is well recreated and the contrast of colour is superb. Van Gogh's brushstrokes are cleverly captured through layers of stacked plates of different shades and the village foreground is also faithfully constructed. The building experience is thoroughly enjoyable too by using a variety of novel construction methods that have not featured before.
In Ideas sets there is typically less focus on minifigures, but the inclusion of van Gogh is excellent. His impressively detailed attire takes its inspiration from his famous self portrait, which art lovers will appreciate. He also comes with a display stand and easel containing a fine print of The Starry Night. Not everyone is keen on this addition, but we think it adds another dimension. The reason this set doesn't rank higher on our list is due to its lack of playability and limited appeal to non-art lovers.
9. Voltron (21311)
Voltron was released in 2018 and is based on the 80's US TV series, Voltron: Defender of the Universe. The series had limited geographical release and would have aired before many current LEGO fans were born. However, there are similarities to more recent franchises, such as Power Rangers and Transformers, so the set will still have some appeal to younger audiences.
Five mechanical lions combine to make Voltron, each of which are controlled by members of the Galaxy Alliance for the purpose of defending their planets, although we don't get minifigures of them. Getting five smaller builds to transform convincingly into one large model must have posed a significant challenge to the LEGO designers, but they have pulled it off remarkably well. However, one hurdle that could not be overcome was getting each lion to seamlessly morph into its component part. The central black lion needs its legs to be detached and reconnected, but this isn't a lengthy process. When fully assembled, Voltron looks fantastic and is much bigger than expected, standing a whopping 45cm tall. The combination of primary colours looks great and there are many shiny lacquered parts that add some fantastic decorative flourishes to the final model.
A downside is that when fully assembled, Voltron has little mobility. The legs are static, with just his shoulders, elbows, wrists, and neck being able to move. This is hardly surprising given the scale of the mech, as LEGO had to choose stability over function. His feet are also not flush to the ground, but regardless of these shortcomings, this is a very impressively designed set that delivers great playability and visual appeal.
8. Medieval Blacksmith (21325)
Medieval-themed sets have long been extremely popular with LEGO fans, so this set would have been at the top of many people's wanted list when it came out in 2019. Aesthetically, this set is very beautiful and would grace any LEGO collection. The picturesque house looks good from any angle, but its best side is clearly that with the chimney and forge. An excellent feature is the use of a light brick in the forge to depict the glowing coals, which is ingeniously operated by pressing the bellows.
The model has a good level of historical realism as the exterior portrays the wattle and daub in timber frame construction method that was used throughout the Middle Ages. It also has a nice lived-in appearance thanks to fine details, such as the smattering of missing roof tiles. As is customary with modern Ideas sets, there is a lack of stickers, so all the signs are printed pieces.
Just as much attention has been bestowed to the inside, with three richly decorated levels made up of a ground floor workshop, first floor dining room, and attic bedroom. Accompanying the main build is a charming horse drawn cart with two Black Knights. Two further minifigures of the blacksmith and his wife make up the inhabitants of the house.
Overall, this is an excellent looking set that offers plenty of playability and was well received by the legions of historical LEGO enthusiasts. While we love its quality and attention to detail, it's not the most original design, as it rests on the popularity of the medieval theme, rather than delivering something completely new. For that reason, it sits towards the bottom of our list.
7. Motorised Lighthouse (21335)
Lighthouses are often romanticised for their remoteness and benevolent nature, and this certainly adds to the charm of this set. The attractiveness and solitariness of these buildings has been well captured in this example.
The quaint lightkeeper's cottage also looks suitably traditional and makes clever use of red bullion bar pieces to create an eye-catching roof. Inside an LED has been installed behind the stove to add some cosy warmth, which is a great feature. There is also a mysterious cave with treasure concealed within the rocky outcrop on which the lighthouse sits.
The set's major selling point is the motorised light, although its effectiveness at warning LEGO ships of danger is questionable, as the beam is disappointingly weak. However, we still applaud LEGO for trying something different, and a set with any kind of illumination is always a plus as far as we're concerned. Achieving a beam of light required some clever design and the model has an abundance of unusual and rare parts.
Another major shortcoming is that the model isn't big enough to have installed connecting stairs between each level of the tower. Lighthouses are renowned for their spiral staircases and it's a shame we didn't get one here.
Overall, this is set with lots of visual appeal and some decent height, being just over half a metre tall, making it an impressive model to display. Playability is good too and the lighthouse would make a great addition to any LEGO city.
6. Tree House (21318)
When it was released, the Tree House was the largest and most ambitious Ideas set to date, with a gigantic 3,036 pieces. The set had, and still has, a very ambitious design as recreating a tree house is not an easy task. However, LEGO did a nice job of adapting the original design as the trunk, branches, and foliage look sufficiently organic.
The three octagonal cabins are also nicely integrated into the tree and look naturally positioned. The insides are all distinctly different, with cosy interiors that echo the model's outward facing charm. One of our favourite features of the build are the stairs and connecting walkways. The whole house is also completely accessible for the four minifigures, with plenty of space for them to walk around.
As a bonus, the green leaves can be swapped with yellow and orange ones to reflect an autumnal scene, and this is our favourite way of showcasing the set. The model makes our top ten for its originality, superb display value, and a design that's hard to fault. All in all, it's a place we would very much like to live!
5. WALL-E (21303)
Pixar has produced some brilliant movies over the years, and WALL-E is right up there among the best. Therefore, it was an inspired choice for a LEGO set that was bound to fly off the shelves. The completed model has a great likeness to Pixar's creation, with the shape and proportions being spot on. The orangey yellow livery also looks fantastic and is a relatively uncommon colour for LEGO bricks. Also true to the film, his front opens up to reveal a garbage crushing compartment, that's big enough to place a few small bricks in.
The set works equally well as a display model and a toy to play with. WALL-E's eyes and arms are very poseable which allows a wide range of emotions to be portrayed with subtle adjustments. His caterpillar treads also operate smoothly meaning he can be whizzed around easily. The only downside to the design is that WALL-E's neck joint is fairly slack, meaning his head often falls forward or backwards, which limits his poseability somewhat. However, overall this is a fantastically executed and high quality set.
4. Typewriter (21327)
This set has rich provenance, being the creation of a member of the winning 2017 team on the UK LEGO Masters TV show. It's certainly not to everyone's taste, especially those that want a LEGO set you can play with, or people that have no interest in antiques. However, you can't argue with the ingenuity and realism of the design.
At a glance you can instantly recognise it as a typewriter and could very easily be fooled into thinking it's the real thing. The sand green colour scheme is a gorgeous choice that gives the model a distinctive look.
Besides looking beautiful, the set also has good functionality as the design replicates many mechanisms of a real typewriter, such as the moving hammer that would strike the paper, the leftwards movement of the page upon typing, and the return motion, which is a staggering feat.
This set can be thought of as a particularly advanced Technic set masquerading as a System set. It's one that pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible with LEGO, so despite its limited appeal, it makes the top five.
3. NASA Apollo Saturn V (21309; 92176)
The Apollo Saturn V is so good that LEGO released it twice. First in 2017, and then again in 2020. When it was first revealed it created much excitement, partly because space exploration is a popular subject amongst LEGO fans, and partly because of the look of the set and its impressive proportions.
The model reaches a metre in height, which makes it a spectacular display piece. The detail is also fantastic, with the textures and colours closely matching the real thing. We especially like the printed pieces spelling out USA / United States and displaying the American flag. One of the most well-executed parts is the five Rocketdyne F-1 engines at the base that are constructed with some very clever use of existing LEGO parts. You would not know to look at it, but the rocket also splits into three sections, as would be the case during a real rocket launch. Needless to say, this functionality has also been superbly designed.
LEGO has produced a long run of space-themed sets, and this is one of the best due to its overall quality and faithfulness to its source material. Our only criticism of this set is that we would have liked a minifigure, instead of two microfigures, but this has been done to give a truer sense of scale to the model.
2. Pirates of Barracuda Bay (21322)
LEGO Pirates is one of the most celebrated themes that filled many childhoods with happy memories of waging maritime battles on the living room floor. Therefore, this tribute to one of the most iconic Pirate sets, the Black Seas Barracuda (6285), tugged on the heartstrings of older collectors when it came out in 2020.
The main model makes for a convincing shipwreck of the famous Barracuda, as it's nicely integrated into the surrounding sand banks and foliage. The set also cleverly weaves in references to past Pirates sets, such as the half-buried stone statue that is nearly identical in design to the original. You also get a minifigure selection that nicely draws on some previous characters.
As we've come to expect from modern Ideas sets, it is densely packed with detail, with not a bland surface in sight. This means it delivers very highly on the playability front, and looks great on a shelf. The set's display value is enhanced by its ability to be converted from wreck to magnificent vessel, which allows the Black Seas Barracuda to sail again!
The modernised Barracuda improves on the original in every way, with finer decorative flourishes and gorgeous colours, as well as being a more realistic portrayal of a pirate ship. Despite all the new innovations however, this set still captures the spirit of the classic Pirates theme, which is what we love most about it. Whether it's through the misty lens of nostalgia, or through the more discerning eye, this set is hard to fault and for that reason it narrowly misses out on the number one spot.
1. The Old Fishing Store (21310)
The Old Fishing Store was announced as the next Ideas set in 2017, and it was the most keenly anticipated addition to the theme. You only need to look at the set to understand the record levels of excitement, as it's arguably the best-looking LEGO Ideas set ever made. The design is also quite unlike anything else LEGO have done, with an unusual, but beautiful, colour scheme to boot.
From whatever angle you take, there is something of interest that catches the eye. The level of detail on the exterior surfaces is amazing and there are lots of accessories and creatures that make the set feel very complete. The whole rear wall hinges back to reveal the interior, which is also chock full of accessories so there's lots for the four minifigures to play with, and plenty of material for recreating a range of maritime scenes.
In summary, this is a unique and highly playable and displayable model that raised the bar for Ideas sets. What's more is that it fits in the same footprint as the modular buildings range, so it meant this set was a big hit with city builders. For these reasons it takes our top spot.
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