Ever since LEGO first introduced its Automatic Binding Bricks in 1949, the company invited fans to create impressive builds. However, they quickly realized that they needed to invite new builders by creating sets with instructions. So, by 1963, they introduced boxed and bagged sets that included instructions on how to build objects out of their bricks.
As LEGO continued to innovate with their bricks, they introduced more interesting and complex builds that used unique bricks like wheels and technic designs. Moreover, by 1978, LEGO introduced the minifigure to their bricks, allowing them to represent general and specific types of people that could bring the builds to life. As the variety of builds expanded, the company introduced themes that also prompted customers to complete the themed sets.
Now, there are dozens of themes, both active and discontinued. LEGO fans can decide to build a world filled with realistic skyscrapers to a world filled with unicorns. They could even mix and match the themes to create a scene that no one else ever dreamt of. Since LEGO has also created multiple licensed sets, fans could also create a wide range of crossover by mixing the themes.
Even though there is a wide variety of themes to choose from, some have created a larger impact on LEGO than others. So, join us as we explore the greatest LEGO themes that have hit store shelves.
Presenting the top ten themes for LEGO bricks
10. Indiana Jones
As Indiana Jones returned to cinema screens to hunt down a Crystal Skull, LEGO signed on to create licensed LEGO sets. Thus, Indiana Jones raided the LEGO aisle in 2008, bringing various scenes from all four films to life. Thus, Indy could raid through the streets of Cairo before slipping away in the Temple of the Crystal Skull.
Along with Indiana Jones, LEGO created a wide range of minifigures that reflected characters from the franchise. For instance, the airplane mechanic, Willie Scott, Elsa Schneider, and many more characters appeared in LEGO form to complement the various builds. There was even a minifigure of Indiana Jones in a grey suit, as he would wear while teaching.
Beyond the brick sets, this theme also came to life in two games from Traveller’s Tales. The first LEGO Indiana Jones game came out in 2008, including scenes from the first three Indiana Jones films. Later, in 2009, the adventures continued by including several new levels based on the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As with all other LEGO games from Traveller’s Tales, these games featured drop-in/out co-op that welcomed cooperative play. These games even included LEGO versions of characters that never appeared in the toys, like Major Toth.
Unfortunately, the adventures for LEGO Indiana Jones ended in 2009. Since the theme was discontinued, there have been no new sets nor video games of the globe-trotting adventurer.
9. Lord of the Rings
As Peter Jackson prepared to overindulge in the world of the Hobbit, LEGO began releasing licensed Lord of the Rings sets in 2012. Even though these sets came out nearly a decade after the films hit theaters, they still resembled the look of Jackson’s films. These sets depicted the various sets, battles, and famous scenes from the trilogy. They even included a LEGO version of Shelob, the giant spider.
Likewise, LEGO also created several sets based on The Hobbit trilogy. This subseries followed the travels of Bilbo Baggins and the troop of dwarves as they attempted to retake their ancestral home. Thus, one of the greatest sets from the theme was 79018, The Lonely Mountain, which featured a LEGO version of Smaug.
In tandem with the brick sets, Traveller’s Tales also created a LEGO Lord of the Rings video game in 2012, which retold the events of Peter Jackson’s film. Likewise, the studio also created the LEGO Hobbit game in 2014. Unfortunately, this game only presented events from the first two Hobbit movies. Furthermore, the DLC that would have presented the events of the Battle of the Five armies never came out. So, gamers never had a video game version of the final Hobbit film to explore and build in.
However, Lord of the Rings returned to store shelves in 2015 as LEGO Dimensions included the theme in its line-up. This video game featured several toys to life figures featured characters like Legolas, Gollum, and many more.
8. Jurassic World
While Jurassic World became an official theme in LEGO in 2015, It was not the first film to be LEGOized. Back in 2001, LEGO experimented with the dinosaur park as they created various sets for Jurassic Park III. Since there were only two sets at the time, Raptor Rumble Studio and Spinosaurus Attack Studio, LEGO had yet to fully realize the potential of this theme. These two sets also fell under the Studios theme at the time.
So, Jurassic Park fans had to wait until 2015 to fully indulge in their love of dinosaurs. Along with presenting builds of scenes from the three Jurassic World films, the new series trod back to create sets based on the original trilogy. Beyond the iconic videos and buildings from the Jurassic Park and World films, these sets presented fans with Lego versions of dinosaur minifigures, like Dilophosaurus.
As with many of LEGO’s popular licensed properties, Traveller’s Tales gave LEGO Jurassic World the video game treatment in 2015. This video game featured the plot of the original three Jurassic Park games in addition to scenes from Jurassic World, which was the newest movie in the franchise at the time. In addition to playing as characters like Allan Grant, the game also gave players the ability to play as LEGO versions of the dinosaurs.
LEGO Jurassic World also became a world area for the crossover game, LEGO Dimensions, in 2015. Since the game strongly relied on toys to life figures, this game also gave characters new figures of Owen, Blue, and other famous Jurassic World characters.
Since 2006, LEGO has lit the Bat-Signal to welcome the Dark Knight into its line-up of themes. While most of the sets from this theme have harkened back to the Fox Kid’s 1992 animated series, there are also multiple builds based on the various films. Moreover, most of these sets set the stage for Batman to tangle with one of the dangerous foes from his rogues’ gallery. For instance, one of the earliest sets, The Batmobile: Two-Face Escape, featured both the Batmobile and a dual-toned van for Two-Face to drive in.
Beyond the toys, LEGO Batman also made his video-game debut in the 2008 game from Traveller’s Tales. The success of the first LEGO Batman game led to two follow-up games, LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes in 2012 and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham in 2014. Later, there even was a spin-off game, LEGO DC Super-Villains, that Traveller’s Tales created in 2018. Each of these games featured the same core gameplay, where characters had special abilities depending on the skill classes they fell into.
Beyond the toys and video games, LEGO Batman also created huge waves when he appeared in 2014’s The LEGO Movie. To many, this character stole the show each time he appeared on the screen. Thus, The LEGO Batman Movie debuted in 2017, featuring only characters from the various incarnations of Batman.
From the onset, LEGO bricks offered builders the chance to create brilliant works of architecture. Some fans have even used the bricks to build structures as large as multi-story houses. However, the average builder looks to create miniatures of their favorite structures. Thus, LEGO decided to treat their fanbase in 2008 by officially releasing sets that challenged fans to create famous structures from across the world, LEGO Architecture.
From the onset, LEGO offered famous landmarks, like the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, in Chicago. While this set only had sixty-nine pieces, LEGO sculpted these pieces so that they created a realistic depiction of the tower. With this standard in place, the rest of the theme continued to offer both simple and complex builds that created realistic miniatures.
As the years passed, LEGO introduced city skylines and streets, such as Las Vegas, London, and New York City. Thus, rather than buying the Empire State Building and Chrysler building separately, fans could buy the larger sets to create a large display. These cityscapes also featured structures that never appeared separately, like the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1989, LEGO introduced one of its most popular themes that have returned multiple times throughout the decades. The original run for the Pirates lasted from 1987 up to 1997. After several years of slumber, the Pirates returned to sail the seas in both 2009 and 2015. When this theme began, it mostly featured the stereotypical Caribbean pirates that often appeared in media. Naturally, pirates would be nothing without treasures to pillage. So, the theme also included several treasure hunts and small outposts of imperial soldiers.
By 1992, the Pirates theme saw the first major change when the imperial soldiers moved aside to allow the imperial soldiers to take on the pirates. These new guards wore red coats instead of the blue coats that the soldiers wore. The imperial forces saw one more change in 1996 when the imperial armada arrived on the scene.
Later, a new group also arrived on the scene, the islanders, who lived in the Caribbean. Thus, the pirates now had a group to harass and pillage. Likewise, the imperial guard had a group to protect and tax.
When the Pirates theme returned to store shelves in 2009, it returned with the largest ship to date. LEGO treated fans with the 10210 Imperial Flagship that featured nine minifigures. To build this set, builders put together 1664 pieces to create the three-mast ship.
4. Star Wars
Before 1999, LEGO did not include any licensed properties in their brick sets. However, that all changed when Star Wars returned to theaters with the Phantom Menace. Jumping in to celebrate the hit science fiction series, LEGO introduced their first and strongest licensed theme, Star Wars. As the decades passed, LEGO continued to create sets based on the various Star Wars movies and series, including Rebels.
This theme also featured some of the largest builds to date, including the Death Star from 2008. To build the Death Star, builders used 3803 pieces to create the multi-room sphere. Rather than create a solid sphere, the build offered rooms that the various minifigures could roam through. Thus, LEGO advertised this set at the “Battle Inside the Death Star!”
As the years passed, LEGO entertained both experienced and newer builders with their selection of Star Wars builds. Collectors could try their hand at complex builds like the Imperial Star Destroyer and AT-AT. Meanwhile, both younger and new fans could still enjoy simpler versions of the same vehicles.
In addition to being the first licensed theme from LEGO, Star Wars also became the first series that Traveller’s Tales transformed into an entertaining video game. In 2005, LEGO Star Wars for PC, PS2, and Xbox hit store shelves. The first game included retellings of events from the prequel films, from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith. Seeing that fans wanted more Star Wars, Traveller’s Tales soon returned in 2006 with LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Since then, the complete series has compiled both games for various systems throughout the years.
As LEGO expanded its catalog of themes, it quickly saw that its fans would love to travel back to the times of castles and knights. Thus, they introduced the Castle theme in 1978, which has since become one of the core themes. Since this theme remained active from its inception until 2014, it holds the title as the third-longest living theme from LEGO’s catalog.
In the beginning, the Castle theme focused only on castles and forts that resembled the dark ages to the renaissance era. Likewise, the knights and other minifigures carried LEGO versions of historical weapons, such as axes and bows. However, the company decided to open the theme to the world of fantasy in 1993 when the Dragon Masters flew onto the scene.
With the introduction of the Dragon Masters, wizards and dragons began popping up in the Castle sets. One of the greatest examples of this turn toward sorcery was the Fire Breathing Fortress from 1993. The Dragon Masters also introduced the wizard Majisto to the Castle theme. Later, dragons and sorcery returned to the forefront when LEGO introduced the Fright Knights in 1997.
Since the Castle theme became a core theme, it also spawned several subthemes of its own. Thus, this theme moved through various areas around the 1600s, including feudal Japan with the Ninja subtheme. There even was a subtheme that featured Viking raiders.
Also starting in 1978, LEGO introduced yet another theme that became one of their core themes, Space. This theme featured both realistic and science fiction vehicles that could travel through space. So, both fans of NASA and fans of Science Fiction could find a set that fit their likes.
Along with introducing the imaginative spaceships, the Space theme became the first to feature a minifigure, the astronaut. This small figure prominently displayed Space’s emblem, the ship whipping around a sphere, on his chest. He also wore a visored helmet, which resembled the helmets for hazmat suits and astronaut spacesuits. Since this minifigure holds an important part of LEGO history, he also prominently appeared in 2014’s The LEGO Movie.
As the years passed, Space expanded to include new subthemes that also reached for the stars. These new subthemes also introduced factions into the theme, giving builders the chance to create epic space battles. For instance, the Space Police first appeared on the scene in 1989 to battle the forces of Blacktron. Later, the Roboforce also appeared to battle criminals and rescue civilians.
Since Space also included science fiction elements, it was only a matter of time before UFOs and aliens began to pop up. The UFO subtheme began in 1996 featuring multiple humanoid aliens. Later, the Insectoids also invaded Space in 1998.
When it comes to LEGO’s themes, none can hold a candle to the dominance of the Town theme. Officially beginning in 1978, Town offered builders the chance to create both rural and cityscapes with LEGO bricks. While the theme’s name is Town, it spans a wide array of locals, including tropical paradises. As the years passed, the City theme emerged to take the torch and continue innovating the city filled with bricks.
As Town developed, the theme began adding subthemes to build and collect. For instance, the Rescue subtheme, introduced in 1991, featured the police and other rescue services on the scene. Along with the police came an array of robbers and crooks. Meanwhile, townsfolk who wanted to get away on vacation required transportation. Thus, Airport provided planes, helicopters, and other flying vehicles starting in 1985.
While Town ended in 1996, many agree that 2005’s City theme took on the mantle. While the City exponentially expanded the scope of the Town builds, it kept the core concepts of down-to-earth builds alive.
As City took over, it introduced new subthemes of its own, such as Train. While LEGO had made a train set as early as 1965, City’s Train subtheme gave a new home for the passenger and freight trains. These trains also gave the population of Town and City a way to commute.
What were your favorite LEGO set themes?
We have explored the longest-lasting and most significant themes from LEGO’s catalog today. We picked each of these themes due to the impact they had on the LEGO scene.
However, we want to hear from you. What were your favorite themes from LEGO? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below.
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Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!