Top 10 chamber play movies set primarily in one room


2020 is a year filled with isolation, so what better movies to watch than those depicting the same theme? A movie with little action is one that has to rely more on character development and dialogue. It can be a breath of fresh air to see a movie that holds your attention without actually having much going on.

Simplicity is sometimes the best recipe, and such is definitely the case with these 10 movies. What makes a movie good? To me it’s usually caring about the characters, in some shape or form. And what better way to get to know a character than by eliminating all other distractions? Set a group of people in one room and let them figure stuff out. It works with all genres – I promise! This type of cinema is definitely not for everyone, but if you can stand long takes and awesome discussion for hours on end, then add these 10 movies to your watchlist!

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight taking place in one room

In 2015 Quentin Tarantino made his second attempt in creating a Western movie. I’m not a fan of Western, but The Hateful Eight brought Tarantino vibes that made it enjoyable even for me. I have to say I preferred Django Unchained though.

The Civil War has finally ended and bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth is transporting Daisy Domergue through wintery Wyoming to meet her justice in Red Rock. During their journey two strangers are picked up, bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren and Chris Mannix, who claims he’s Red Rock’s new sheriff. When a snowstorm hits the four strangers take shelter in a cabin in the mountains, but instead of being welcomed by the owners – yet another four strangers greet them. So there you have it, 8 unpleasant strangers stuck in a room with each other. What could go wrong?

In genuine Tarantino spirit, The Hateful Eight is a movie with chapters, unforgettable dialogue, long takes, amazing acting and lots of blood. The movie is a chamber drama, with 90% of it taking place in the cabin, so the chemistry, intrigues and dialogue between the characters are essential. Luckily Tarantino pulls it off and the 3h 7m goes by far quicker than you would have imagined.

Coherence (2013)

Coherence an intense chamber play

If I could erase 5 movies from my memory and re-watch them only to get the same “wow-factor-feeling” back, Coherence would be one of them. It’s a genius science fiction movie made on a tiny budget which makes it even more impressive. A one hit wonder from director James Ward Byrkit, who we’ve unfortunately not seen much from since.

A group of friends gather for a dinner on the same evening as a comet passes earth. Strange occupances start to happen. A power blackout causes some of the friends to wonder out in search for help, but nothing is any longer as it seems. Suspicions and uncertainty arise. Who can you trust? Can you even trust yourself?

Coherence is a creative mind bender that brilliantly explores the many worlds of quantum foundations. The movie received harsh critics for its camera work, but in my opinion the dogma-feel is essential for the overall vibe of the story. Don’t want to say too much about the movie, best to watch it and find out more for yourself!

Room (2015)

Room 2015 a masterful chamber play

You probably know Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, but I got to know her through the amazing movie Short Term 12, and her performance blew me away yet again with Room. Paired up with director Lenny Abrahamson, known for Frank, I was expecting something remarkable- and I wasn’t wrong.

The story follows 5-year-old Jack who lives with his mom in a 12m2 room. This room is where Jack grew up, it’s his entire world. He knows nothing else, never been anywhere else. 7 years earlier Jack’s mom “Ma” was kidnapped and locked up in this space. Their only communication to the outside world is an old TV, and the groceries the kidnapper brings each evening. Jack is happy with life, his mom has shielded him from the horror they live in by constructing a reality much more bearable.

If this is the first you heard about the movie, don’t look anywhere else! This is a movie that should be enjoyed with as little former knowledge and assumptions as possible. Skip the trailer and just watch it.

12 Angry Men (1957)

12 Angry Men set in one room

Media is flooded with news about wrongfully convicted people and a broken justice system. I don’t live in America, but I strongly believe every jury should watch this movie before putting a foot in court. I know it takes some extra will and patience to get through a 1950’s black and white movie, but I promise this one is worth every minute of your time.

The story follows a jury comprising 12 men, who together must decide the faith of a young man who stands charged for having murdered his father. They must reach a unanimous decision to find him guilty, and while 11 of the juries sees a crystal clear guilty verdict, the 12’th jury isn’t as convinced.

This is how justice should be performed, not by jumping to conclusions but by having thorough critical conversations and going through each piece of evidence with careful detail. 12 Angry Men showcases emotions verses rationality, while also displaying the part racism, prejudice and group pressure takes in the process.

The Man from Earth (2007)

The Man from Earth

at torments you, not your sight or your ears, but your brain!

John is moving away after 10 years of living in the same town. His plan is to leave unnoticed, but to his surprise his professor friends show up to say their goodbyes. The friends are noticeably older than John, and one of them makes the comment that he hasn’t aged one day since they first met 10 years earlier. The friends have many questions, and so John finally decides to tell them that he is in fact a caveman whose life began 14,000 years ago.

Is John a madman, playing a joke, or is he in fact telling the truth? The movie is a conversation between college professors, as they challenge John in his daring statement. It’s a movie as educational as it is intriguing. Get over the fact that literally nothing but dialogue will happen, and it will be a movie you’ll never forget.

Fermat’s Room (2007)

Fermat's Room 2007

I was really hoping for more of a brainteaser when I decided to watch this movie. Unfortunately, it was pretty straightforward and not the mind-bender I was hoping for. But aside from that, viewing it purely as a mystery thriller – it’s good film definitely worth watching.

Four mathematicians who don’t know each other receive a letter in the mail with an enigma. If solved they’re granted an invitation to a secret meeting, with a pretext of resolving yet another enigma. But the meeting turns out to be far more sinister than the 4 strangers had imagined, when they find out that the room is shrinking. The room is literally caving in on them and unless they find out what connects them, they will get crushed.

I really enjoyed Ferma’s Room, but I wish the director trusted the intelligence of its audience more instead of simplifying the story. It could have been even more brilliant, but the mathematical problems mostly act as an anecdote.

Cube (1997)

Cube 1997

The simplicity of Cube is its strongest element! It’s simple yet very complex, and with a tiny budget of under $400,000 the focus had to become the experiment itself: How does one react when faced with isolation, absolute terror and uncertainty?

Six strangers wake up in a mysterious square of a room, with futuristic wallpaper and doors that look like safes. Room after room linked together, only differing in colours – and most importantly, traps. Rooms that shreds, stabs, dissolve anyone who ends up there. With no idea why they’ve ended up in the cube construction, by who, or how to escape – they must figure out a way to survive. As tensions rise and panic increase, more and more ugly truths are brought to light.

Cube is a testament to that a low budget doesn’t equal low quality. The unknown cast made a stellar performance, which was essential since the movie is highly character driven. An innovative, original movie that has you in a state of anxiety from the beginning to the end.

Green Room (2015)

Green Room intense chamber play

Jeremy Saulnier became known for Blue Ruin, when he managed to shock and disturb audiences across the world with a shoestring budget. As his career advanced, he felt that it was “now or never”, thinking he’ll never get the chance to make a movie as ultra-violent again.

Pat, Sam, Reece and Tiger are all members of a punk band called ”The Ain’t Rights”. They’re basically unknown and can barely afford gas to their rusty van, so when they’re invited to do a small gig in the middle of Oregon’s deep forest they accept without hesitation, even though they know they’ll be performing for a group of skinheads. Things take a brutal turn when the band members accidently witness a horrendous murder. The neo-nazis wants no loose ends, and so the band members quickly become targets up for elimination.

Green Room is an adrenaline inducing masterpiece that plays with violence and never looses its pulsating, intense tempo. You know how most movies cut out the scene of the blade actually penetrating the body? Well, Green Room certainly doesn’t shy away from that. The gore is top-notch, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Exam (2009)

Exam 2009

Exam is a small budget film that focuses on the characters as it plays with their stress, anger and ambitions. It seems to be a movie you either hate or love, with reviews either being very harsh or incredibly praising.

Eight talented candidates have come to the final step in a selection process to work for a powerful organisation. Placed in a windowless room, they’re instructed by The Invigilator that the exam will be 80 minutes long and contain one question. The candidates must follow 3 rules. They are not allowed to talk to the invigilator or the guard, spoil their paper, or leave the room. However, the question sheet is blank – so in order to find the answer they must first realize the question.

A thrilling psychological mystery that explores group behaviour in an intense situation. It might be a bore to some, I saw a review describing it as “Saw but with none of the torture” – and that’s pretty much it. But brilliantly so! Instead, the movie focuses much more deeply on the characters.

Carnage (2011)

Carnage 2011

I watched this movie for the first time yesterday, and it baffled me that I’ve never heard of it before considering the stellar cast starring Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly. Carnage is entirely set in one apartment, playing out in “real time” and consisting only of dialogue.

Two sets of parents come together to talk through an incident after their sons were involved in a fight. One of the kids struck the other in the face with a stick. What starts out as an uncomfortable but civilized cordial meeting turn into a chaotic debate between a seemingly liberal couple, Penelope and Michael versus a seemingly conservative couple, Nancy and Allen.

This movie is a breath of fresh air, with its hilarious dark humour, epic dialogue and amazing character development. It really takes a stellar cast and a fantastic director like Roman Polanski to pull off something so minimalistic and still keep your interest throughout.

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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