In the last decade or so, fantasy films like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter have really set the bar when it comes to conceiving and constructing massive sets for actors to run around in. But the most impressive film sets aren’t always the biggest ones, and some of the the most innovative set design ideas have come from movies released before the invention of the ballpoint pen. From the financially ludicrous to the technically marvelous, here are some of the most remarkable movie sets ever built.
7. Metropolis’ City – Metropolis
By nature, filmmakers are masters of misdirection and optical illusion who will do whatever is necessary to get the perfect shot. As such, even in our CG-heavy age of green screens and texture mapping, the art of miniature set building is still quite prominent. Amazingly, one of the best uses of miniature sets on screen comes from one of the oldest movies—Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis. Although miniature might not exactly be the best word to describe a set that’s roughly 60,000 square feet, since it’s a scaled down version of an entire futuristic city—complete with planes, trains, and automobiles zipping across skyways—it’s actually quite fitting. Metropolis was the first film to ever use miniatures like this and, by doing so, pioneered a number of other special effects techniques; most notably the Schufftan process, in which mirrors are positioned to create the illusion that actors are actually occupying the miniature sets. This technique was employed just two years later by Alfred Hitchcock in the film Blackmail.