The Lego group is thought to be the world’s most valuable toy company. It’s created sets on just about every theme imaginable in the past 80 years and shot to fame around the world. From pirates to police headquarters, from airports to the Hogwarts Castle – if you can name it, you can probably build it with a Lego set. There’s also a full selection of specialty sets where you can build real-life sights such as the Taj Mahal, the White House or the Statue of Liberty.
Although it’s sold at toy shops, Lego also captures the attention of many adults. This is hinted at in The Lego Movie released in 2014, where comedian Will Ferrell plays a father who is reluctant to let his son touch his cherished Lego city. Richard Hammond, who is co-host of British TV show Top Gear, has said that he used Lego to help him recover from a serious car accident in 2006. David Beckham shared his love for Lego with the Daily Mail in February 2014, saying that it helps him relax and unwind. Lego even built David and Victoria Beckham Lego figurines as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. Other celebrities to be turned into Lego figurines include Amy Winehouse, Simon Cowell, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The Lego group has been around since the 1930s, when it was founded by Ole Kirk Kristiansen. The word “Lego” is a combination of two Danish words “leg godt” which means “play well” in English. The company has grown significantly during its 80-year history. It is worth an estimated $14.6 billion as of 2013 (more than toy company Mattel Inc) according to reports by Bloomberg. Every country tends to have a different best-seller at any one time, but there are some themes that have truly captured the hearts of Lego fans all over the world. Take a look at our list of the top 10 most influential Lego sets of all time to see what’s most popular.
10. The Simpsons – Just Hit the Shelves
Lego fans all over the world are recreating episodes of one of the most popular TV shows, with the help of Lego. This year is the 25th anniversary for The Simpsons and Lego celebrated by releasing The Simpsons house and a bunch of mini figures. The house costs $199 at most retailers and is marketed as “the perfect collector’s item” by Lego. It’s been an instant hit among Lego fans old and young, with Lego representatives commenting that they know “fans will love the challenge of building the Simpsons’ family home in great detail and the ability to collect quintessential characters…will let them showcase their love of the show”. A Lego-themed Simpsons episode is expected to air in May 2014.
9. The Lord of the Rings – Lego Did it Justice
Lego’s Lord of the Rings theme first came out in May 2012 and is the newest of the themes on our top 10 list. This is based on the Peter Jackson fantasy movies (and the books by J.R.R. Tolkien). When they announced the licensing agreement, Warner Brothers said: “Only Lego, with their expertise in the construction category, is capable of doing justice to the incredibly imaginative environments depicted in the world of The Lord of the Rings.” There are multiple sets and characters which make up this line, the biggest being the Tower of Orthanc which contains over 2,000 pieces. The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is one of the highest grossing trilogies of all time, and sits among the likes of The Godfather and Star Wars.
8. Batman – Still Super Popular
First introduced in 2006, Lego has released a full line of Lego based on the superhero Batman. Warner Brothers has publicly stated that these sets have had great success worldwide. They said that the Batman line (and others such as the Harry Potter line) introduced them to “loyal audiences who love great stories, strong characters and the toys that they inspire”. It was so popular that Lego went on to release a line called Lego Super Heroes: DC Universe, which includes other superheroes aside from Batman, such as Superman.
7. Castles – Started 35 Years Ago
With the Lego Castles range, users can create their own medieval adventure complete with castles, dragons, wizards, knights, princesses and secret treasure. Since its introduction in 1978, it has become one of Lego’s core themes. It is the third longest-running theme after Town and Trains and is similar in popularity to the Space line of Lego. The 375 Castle (known also as the Yellow Castle) is a classic in the minds of Lego fans around the world, and has gained its spot as one of the most influential sets of all time.
6. Indiana Jones – Sold Extremely Well
Lego Indiana Jones was based on the film franchise and was first released in 2008 and related to the first two films (Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade). Although this line of Lego went out of production in 2010, these sets ended up as one of Lego’s most popular and was credited (alongside the Star Wars sets) as helping Lego avoid financial strife during a stagnant period for toy sellers. As reported by the company itself, the Indiana Jones line sold “extremely well” particularly in North America. There’s always the slight possibility that it could be back in the future. George Lucas reportedly plans to make a fifth Indiana Jones movie.
5. Pirates – Dating Back to the 1980s
Pirates have a long history in Lego sets (and all children’s toys for that matter). The Pirates Lego system was out from 1989 to 1997 and grew in popularity in part thanks to the comic book The Golden Medallion which came out in 1989 too and boosted the storyline. The story was centered on Caribbean pirates and soldiers of colonial empires, and new features were released every year during 1989 to 1997. After a long break, this theme made a comeback in 2009 but has since been retired again. In the meantime, the Pirates of the Caribbean Lego sets were released in 2011, based on the Disney movies.
4. Bionicle – Discontinued but Famous
This popular line of Lego was launched in the early 2000s, using Technic pieces, and reportedly helped “save” Lego from financial crisis from 1999 to 2001. It was named as the most innovative toy of the year in 2001 by the Toy Industry Association. Bionicle refers to the term “biological chronicle” and revolves around bio-mechanical characters such as the Toa (the good guys), the Makuta warriors (the bad guys) and more. Although production was stopped in 2010, it remains one of the most influential Lego kits to hit the market and is known by Lego users for being extremely popular while it was on the market. In its first year of sales, it made $161.7 million.
3. Star Wars – A Cultural Icon
Lego has been releasing Star Wars themed sets since 1999 and now has a huge collection of MicroFighters as well as characters and scenes from the Clone Wars, Episodes I-VI and the Old Republic. Originally, Lego was only licensed to produce Star Wars sets from 1999 to 2008, but this was extended several times, including in 2012 when they signed a 10-year agreement. The Star Wars Millenium Falcon is the biggest Lego set to date, weighing in at six kilograms and containing 5,195 individual pieces. It’s no wonder that Star Wars Lego has become such a huge hit – after all, Star Wars is deemed to be one of the world’s biggest cultural icons ever. Its popularity has endured over many decades, despite the big range of space-themed TV programs and movies available these days.
2. The City – Most Versatile
Undoubtedly one of the top Lego themes is the city edition. What kid (or adult) wouldn’t want to build their own city – and rule it – given the opportunity? It is a very versatile Lego theme, made up of many sets including airports, fire stations, farms, town squares, railway tracks, coast guard operations, police headquarters and more. Some of the newest additions to the city include a monster truck and a camper van (which includes a canoe and life vests for lake-side stops).
1. Mindstorms – Best Selling of All Time
Lego has been selling Mindstorms robotics sets for about 15 years and it has become the top selling – and therefore most influential – Lego themes of all time. It has been praised worldwide, and according to the Lego group, it has “fueled the imaginations and satisfied the inner tinkerer of generations of Lego and robotics enthusiasts”. The most recent wave of Mindstorms sets was released in late 2013, which include some of the newest Lego technology. Users can now create (and command) Lego robots such as the TRACK3R, R3PTAR, SPIK3R, EV3RSTORM and GRIPP3R. They’ll walk, talk – and pretty much do anything you can imagine.