Still from La La Land, Lionsgate
A good film has the ability to transport an audience straight into its fabricated world. From the screenplay to the cinematography, countless elements come together to make a movie great, and every year we honor all of those things at a little awards ceremony called the Oscars.
But nothing makes us feel immersed in a film quite like the sets. Whether they take us on a journey through outer space or make us imagine a magical, 1920s New York, these Oscar-nominated features win our award for sets with serious taste.
Nominated for an Academy Award in Production Design, Passengers brings high-luxury living and Vegas-style decadence to outer space. Set on a 5,000 room space shuttle, the designs range from glossy and contemporary to 1930s Art Deco.
A Grand Concourse bar lined in space-themed friezes gives off a Stanley Kubrick-esque vibe. Note the David Hicks-inspired carpeting that’s also used in Kubrick’s The Shining.
Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas went with a more feminine feel for the sweeping custom-built Olympic-sized swimming pool. If we could take a dip somewhere like this, we might even consider floating in space for a few years.
Indie film The Lobster’s eccentric plot is only furthered by its subdued setting. The kitsch hotel where it takes place feels moody and ominous, and for good reason. After 45 days, each visitor will be turned into an animal unless they have found a mate.
Production designer Jess Gonchor used many of the same set techniques employed in the 1950s to create the movie-making world of The Coen Brother’s Hail! Caesar. We’re swooning over those pink-upholstered shell chairs and gold-embroidered sofa in the scene above.
Though the film mostly takes place on a studio lot, this midcentury home overlooking the coast definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
In J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Oscar-winning production designer Stuart Craig makes New York in the 1920s feel magical. Gothic architectural details connect it to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but Art Deco accents and bustling working-class street scenes make it feel authentic.
A bit on the dowdy side compared to the rest of the set design, this apartment in the film is a fairly realistic interpretation of a New York brownstone in the 1920s.
The set of Arrival explores beautiful design in all its potential forms. While Amy Adams’ character lives in a mid-century modern dream home on a lake, she teaches classes as a professor in a Brutalist lecture hall.
Rather than taking a hard sci-fi perspective and making the extraterrestrial landscape look more like something out of Star Wars, production designer Patrice Vermette went for a more ethereal, high-art design.
La La Land
And last but certainly not least, La La Land blew us all away with its creative use of Los Angeles landmarks.
Griffith Observatory at night sets the stage for one of the most enthralling scenes, where the planetarium is used as a ballroom and gravity becomes non-existent.
A modern love story with an Old Hollywood twist, the film’s set is a technicolor dream world that blends the black-and-white moodiness of French New Wave films with the highly saturated look of old-school MGM musicals.